International Students FAQs

Disclaimer: Please note that the FAQs Suffolk University has provided here come in response to current guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This guidance is subject to change at any time. We will update the below information as often as possible.

Overview

The normal, pre-COVID rule states that international students may only take one online course while studying in the United States.

On March 9, SEVP released new, temporary guidance permitting schools to adapt their policies and procedures to rapidly changing health and safety conditions. This guidance required schools to alert SEVP of any procedural adaptations within ten (10) business days of the change.

On March 13, SEVP issued an addendum to the March 9 guidance. In this addendum, and, given the extraordinary nature of the COVID-19 health crisis, SEVP allowed F-1 students to temporarily take more than one online from inside or outside the United States. Between March 13 and May 21, SEVP issued additional guidance via a series of FAQ documents for international student advisors.

On July 6, SEVP issued guidance for the Fall 2020 semester. This guidance would have required international students attending a school that planned to offer only online classes to transfer to a hybrid or in-person program or to leave the country entirely. This guidance was highly controversial, and Harvard University and MIT filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many U.S. states also filed suit. Suffolk University was also strongly opposed to the policy and joined an amicus brief filed with the court in support of the Harvard/MIT legal action.

On July 14, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security withdrew the July 6 guidance. The federal government decided to return to the status quo as established by the March 9, 2020 policy, which permitted continuing international students to study online and maintain status either inside or outside the United States. The guidance explicitly says it applies to current students and “is not intended for new or initial students who are outside the United States.”

On July 15, SEVP reissued an FAQ [PDF] that reiterates previously issued guidance stating that “If initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.”

On July 24, SEVP issued an updated FAQ [PDF] stating the following: “…per the March 2020 guidance, nonimmigrant students seeking to enroll in a program of study that includes in-person and online components beyond the limitations at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G), are able to maintain F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status if pursuing such programs during the fall 2020 school term.” According to the July 24 FAQ, while continuing nonimmigrant students can also take a course of study entirely online, new nonimmigrant students who are not yet in the United States and plan to take 100% of their courses online should remain in their home country.

On August 7, SEVP issued another updated FAQ that included some additional clarifying questions for the fall 2020 semester, added an archive of previous questions and answers, and updated several existing questions and answers to reflect the fall 2020 semester.

If you are able to obtain a student visa before departing for the United States and travel to Boston, you will be permitted to enter the country and begin your studies at the Suffolk Boston campus in a combination of online and face-to-face (F2F) classes. You should plan to take at least one F2F course, whether HyFlex, hybrid or traditional in-person. If you choose to take 100% of your Fall 2020 courses online, you can take your courses online from your home country. If you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Please remember that when attempting entry to the U.S., you must always be in possession of a valid entry visa and must not be from a country subject to any travel restrictions at that time.

Continuing international students are covered by the temporary March guidance. If necessary, you may take all of your courses online from inside or outside the United States. If you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Due to the fluid nature of this situation, the answers in this document may be subject to change. Refer to ICE.gov/COVID19 for the most up-to-date version.

Suffolk has adopted a “hybrid model” for the fall semester, which means that we will offer a mixture of online and face-to-face (F2F) classes. At Suffolk, F2F classes include HyFlex, hybrid, and traditional in-person courses. Please review the definitions of learning environments.

It is possible that there will be additional changes to the guidance. If any changes are made, we will let you know.

Please visit the Coronavirus Advisory website where you will find important, detailed information related to Suffolk’s response to the crisis.

New Students

New students who are already in the U.S. and in Active F-1 status may enroll in classes that are all online, all in-person or a combination of face-to-face (HyFlex, hybrid, or traditional in-person) and online classes.

If you are able to obtain a student visa before departing for the United States and travel to Boston, you will be permitted to enter the country and begin your studies at the Suffolk Boston campus in a combination of online and face-to-face (F2F) classes. You should plan to take at least one F2F course, whether HyFlex, hybrid or traditional in-person. If you choose to take 100% of your Fall 2020 courses online, you can take your courses online from your home country. If you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Please remember that when attempting entry to the U.S., you must always be in possession of a valid entry visa and must not be from a country subject to any travel restrictions at that time.

If you wish to remain outside the United States and take all of your classes online, you may do so. In this case, we will need to defer your I-20 to Spring 2021 and you will not be in Active F-1 SEVIS status during the fall semester. This option will allow you to begin or continue your academic program, stay on track for an on-time graduation, obtain your F-1 visa as soon as possible, and then join us in person in January. Please remember that if you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country. Please reach out to the ISSO office for more information.

Transfer Students

The current DHS guidance allows online instruction for students who choose to transfer their I-20. However, this guidance does not allow new transfer I-20s to be activated until you are present in the U.S. If you are already inside the United States or will be able to arrive by the start of classes, you will be permitted to engage in fully online instruction if needed. If you are not currently inside the United States, and if you cannot arrive, we will need to change the start date on your Suffolk I-20 to the spring semester. You will, however, be able to engage in fully online coursework from your home country, subject to any restrictions in your home country, and maintain continuous, Active F-1 status.

Change of Level & USCIS Change of Status Students

F-1 students who are undergoing an F-1 Change of Level or who are in the U.S. and have applied for a USCIS Change of Status to F-1 will be treated as continuing students and may engage in fully online instruction if needed.

Change of Status via Travel

If you are applying to change to F-1 via travel, you will need to depart the U.S., apply for an F-1 visa, and will need to re-enter to activate your F-1 status, which could be difficult and at this time.

For undergraduate students: In order to maintain your merit award or scholarship, you are required to register for and maintain a full-time course load. Please remember that taking a reduced course load may also impact your ability to graduate on time.

For graduate and law students: If you enroll part-time, your merit award will be adjusted accordingly. Please contact your admissions or financial aid counselor for more information.

It may. If you are not in active F-1 SEVIS status, you will not begin accruing time towards the one academic year required for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) internship authorization or Optional Practical Training (OPT) post-completion employment. To be eligible for CPT or OPT authorization, students must have been enrolled continuously for one academic year in active F-1 status.

Exception for some graduate students: The only exception is that CPT is available to graduate students for whom internship is a degree program requirement for all students prior to the completion of one academic year. No exception currently exists for OPT.

Unfortunately, the number of courses that we can offer F2F will be limited by the social distancing regulations that have been set by the state government, which will impact the number of students that we can have in a classroom and on campus. As a result, we have had to review our course schedule for the Fall and reduce significantly the number of F2F courses that we can offer on campus.

You can make changes to your schedule up until the add/drop deadline published on the academic calendar for your degree level or school.

As of July 24, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA) released new travel restrictions that require all individuals entering Massachusetts after 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 2020, including returning students, who do not meet an exemption, to:

  • Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health (see below).
  • Quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts.

If your COVID-19 test result has not been received prior to arrival you must quarantine until you receive a negative test result.

Failure to submit a completed Massachusetts Travel Form, when required, or failure to comply with the quarantine requirement, if applicable, may result in a $500 fine per day. Additional information about both the Massachusetts Travel Form and the 14-day quarantine requirement, can be found in this comprehensive guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Suffolk University residence halls and university sponsored housing will be available August 20 for students living out-of-Massachusetts to move-in early to complete the quarantine. Students may also self-quarantine with family in MA or in an off-campus apartment. Please be sure you carefully review the instructions on self-quarantining [PDF]. There will be no additional cost to self-quarantine and food will be provided for students in their rooms. You will participate in our testing program right away upon move-in. If your first test comes back negative, you no longer would have to quarantine. If your test comes back positive, the positive diagnosis protocol will take over.

As of July 24, if you are living living in Massachusetts, Connetcicut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island or Vermont, you would not need to self-quarantine. In this case, you should arrive by September 2, which is the official start of classes for undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Arts & Science (CAS) and the Sawyer Business School (SBS). If you are a law student, you should arrive by August 24.

Please note that the self-quarantine requirement could change at any time, so please be sure to check your email for updates.

If you are a new student and you begin attending your online and HyFlex classes from your home country, and you are then granted an F-1 visa, you can arrive up to 30 days after the start of your academic program. If you are a CAS or SBS student, you may enter the United States no later than Wednesday, September 30. If you are a law student, the latest you may enter the country is Wednesday, September 23.

At this time, you do not need a new I-20. If you would like to request a new I-20 that includes remarks about Suffolk’s hybrid model of instruction, please email the ISSO Office.

We continue to issue new I-20s electronically for you to print and use as needed.

Based on the most current guidance, if you have already entered the United States, you will be able to continue your classes online here in Boston or from your home country and also maintain your F-1 status.

Continuing Students

Yes. At this time, continuing international students that are already inside the United States or that plan to return to the United States for the fall semester may enroll in all online courses. Please remember that if you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Suffolk has adopted a “hybrid model” for the fall semester. According to the current guidance, on a temporary basis you will be permitted to take more than one course online.

At this time, you do not need a new I-20. If you would like to request a new I-20 that includes remarks about Suffolk’s hybrid model of instruction, please email the ISSO Office.

As a continuing student, you can remain outside the United States and take all of your classes online, or through a combination of online and HyFlex, and maintain your active F-1 status. You can then return to campus in January. Please remember that if you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Yes. HyFlex classes allow you to choose whether you will participate in person in Boston or online from your home country.

The choice is up to you. You will be able to study online in your home country, subject to any restriction on online learning in your home country, or return to Boston for on-campus programs. If you stay in your home country, your I-20 will remain in active status.

If you do not see one face-to-face (F2F) class (HyFlex, hybrid, or traditional in-person) in your schedule on July 13, please contact an international student advisor or an academic advisor, and we will discuss available options. It is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Before making any changes to your schedule, you should discuss them with an academic advisor and an international student advisor.

Unfortunately, the number of courses that we can offer F2F will be limited by the social distancing regulations that have been set by the state government, which will impact the number of students that we can have in a classroom and on campus. As a result, we have had to review our course schedule for the Fall and reduce significantly the number of F2F courses that we can offer on campus.

You can make changes to your schedule up until the add/drop deadline published on the academic calendar for your degree level or school.

As of July 24, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (MA) released new travel restrictions that require all individuals entering Massachusetts after 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 2020, including returning students, who do not meet an exemption, to:

  • Complete the Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival, unless you are visiting from a lower-risk state designated by the Department of Public Health (see below).
  • Quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to your arrival in Massachusetts.

If your COVID-19 test result has not been received prior to arrival you must quarantine until you receive a negative test result.

Failure to submit a completed Massachusetts Travel Form, when required, or failure to comply with the quarantine requirement, if applicable, may result in a $500 fine per day. Additional information about both the Massachusetts Travel Form and the 14-day quarantine requirement, can be found in this comprehensive guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Suffolk University residence halls and university sponsored housing will be available August 20 for students living out-of-Massachusetts to move-in early to complete the quarantine. Students may also self-quarantine with family in MA or in an off-campus apartment. Please be sure you carefully review the instructions on self-quarantining [PDF]. There will be no additional cost to self-quarantine and food will be provided for students in their rooms. You will participate in our testing program right away upon move-in. If your first test comes back negative, you no longer would have to quarantine. If your test comes back positive, the positive diagnosis protocol will take over.

As of July 24, if you are living living in Massachusetts, Connetcicut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island or Vermont, you would not need to self-quarantine. In this case, you should arrive by September 2, which is the official start of classes for undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Arts & Science (CAS) and the Sawyer Business School (SBS). If you are a law student, you should arrive by August 24.

Please note that the self-quarantine requirement could change at any time, so please be sure to check your email for updates.

If you are a continuing student that starts your classes online and/or HyFlex from your home country, and you are then granted an F-1 visa, you can arrive up to 30 days after the start of your academic program.

  • If you are a CAS or SBS student, you may enter the United States no later than Wednesday, September 30.
  • If you are a Law student, the latest you may enter the country is Wednesday, September 23.

If you are a returning student and you already have an F-1 visa, your visa will not be cancelled if you are studying online from your home country. Your SEVIS record and I-20 will remain active even if you are taking all online courses from outside the United States.

If you are currently inside the United States and prefer to take all your classes online from your home country, you should plan to leave before the start of the fall semester. Please keep in mind that you may have quarantine obligations when you go home. Your I-20 will remain active.

Since SEVP is allowing you to maintain your Active status in SEVIS, you still need to maintain full-time enrollment. If you wish to be enrolled part-time, we will need to terminate your I-20. We will issue you another I-20 for the following semester.

No. You can remain in Active status even if you are taking your classes online from outside the United States. This means that the fall semester will still count towards the time required to be eligible to apply for OPT. Please keep in mind, however, that in order to apply for OPT, you must be present in the United States. If there are any updates to this policy, we will let you know.

Based on the most current guidance, if you have already entered the United States, you will be able to continue your classes online here in Boston or from your home country and also maintain your F-1 status.

You should consult with an immigration attorney and consider other options.  You can also connect with one of the international student advisors in the International Student Services Office (ISSO) to discuss your options.

As a continuing student, you are permitted to remain in the United States and take your classes online.

INTO Pathway Students

Yes. Suffolk is offering face-to-face options (HyFlex, hybrid, and traditional in-person) in most academic programs.

The same rules will apply for students that progressed out of the INTO pathway program as to all continuing international students. You may take all of your coursework online whether you will be inside or outside the United States. If you choose to take your courses online from outside the United States, it is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

The choice is up to you. You may study fully online or in a combination of online and HyFlex courses from inside or outside the United States. Your I-20 will remain active. It is your responsibility to comply with any regulations related to online learning in your home country.

Additional Important FAQs

No. At this time, you will not be able to work remotely for Suffolk while living outside the country. If you will be inside the United States during the fall semester, you are permitted to engage in remote work for Suffolk University.

If there is any change in this policy, we will let you know.

Yes, provided that you meet all eligibility requirements for CPT, you are permitted to do a remote internship from outside the United States. Please contact isso@suffolk.edu for more information about applying for CPT.

Recent graduates on OPT may continue working. Since you are no longer a student at Suffolk University, the current guidance does not affect you.

You should discuss such a decision with your parents / family to make the best decision based on your personal situation. When deciding what to do, please pay careful attention to travel alerts and travel bans in effect in the United States and your home country. We cannot guarantee that you will be able to return to the United States given constantly changing travel restrictions.

Maybe, but we don’t recommend it. Anytime you travel, it is your responsibility to be aware of travel restrictions, health requirements, and to ensure that you have the proper entry visa.

If you have a valid F-1 visa and plan to study inside the United States this fall, then your spouse or children will be able to continue to receive their dependent I-20 and travel with you to Boston for your studies. If you decide to study online from outside the United States, then your spouse and dependents will need to remain with you in your home country