I need to renew my visa? Are the U.S. embassies and consulates open?

    The U.S. Department of State has announced the phased resumption of routine visa services on a post-by-post basis. Please review your U.S. embassy/consulate's website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.

    Is USCIS closed?

    On June 4, 2020, certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices resumed non-emergency face-to-face services to the public. Certain application support centers (ASCs) resumed services on July 13, 2020. USCIS will provide further updates as the situation develops and will continue to follow CDC guidance in response to this situation.

    USCIS Response to Coronavirus

    I have a pending OPT/STEM Extension I-765 application. How do I update my address with USCIS?

     If your address changes while you have a pending OPT or STEM OPT application, you will need to update your address with USCIS. To update your mailing address with USCIS, please complete an AR-11, Alien's Change of Address.

    • Please note that you must provide a U.S. mailing address, you cannot use an address outside of the U.S.

    Please be sure you also notify ISSS of any changes of address within 10 days of moving so that your SEVIS record can be updated.

    I am an undergraduate student. If I travel home and I am not able to come back by August, will I be able to take the fall 2020 semester off and continue my studies in the spring 2021 semester?

    Yes, if you are an undergraduate student and you don’t come back to CU Boulder for Fall 2020, you can return in Spring 2021 without having to reapply for admission. Under the University of Colorado Boulder Leave of Absence Policy, undergraduate students may take up to two semesters off plus summer after their last graded semester at CU Boulder without having to apply for a leave of absence. Please also refer to the return chart.

    If you are a graduate students you must apply for a leave of absence.

    For immigration purposes, if you will not attend CU Boulder in Fall 2020, please notify ISSS by completing our Leave of Absence Form (DocuSign). ISSS will terminate your F1 status for the positive reason of Authorized Early Withdrawal. When you are ready to return, please complete our Return from a Temporary Absence (DocuSign). You will need to register for Spring 2021 classes and provide new proof of funding. ISSS will issue you a new I-20. You will need to pay the SEVIS fee again. If your F1 visa will still be valid when you seek re-entry to the United States, SEVP guidance indicates that you should not need to apply for a new visa.  Sponsored students should speak with their sponsored student advisor about whether a new visa will be needed For further information, please see Returning to your F-1 Program after a Temporary Absence (Handout).

    Can ISSS help me if my visa has not been approved?

    ISSS cannot assist you if your visa has not been approved. ISSS recommends regularly checking the website for updates regarding visa processing services.

    Can I come back to the U.S. if I graduate while abroad this semester?

    If you completed all of your degree requirements and applied for graduation during the spring 2020 semester, your F-1 status was shortened to 5/6/2020 (the last date of the spring 2020 semester). 

    • A new visa (e.g., tourist, student for a new program) is required to re-enter the U.S.
    Does receipt of unemployment insurance payments classify me as a public charge?

    The list of public benefits considered in the public charge rule does not include unemployment benefits. Furthermore, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) website states that any benefits received by noncitizens related to COVID-19 will not negatively affect the public charge analysis.

    If I move, do I need to report my address change to ISSS?

    Please refer to this article that we ran in our COVID-19 newsletter.

    I am an international student on a F-1 or J-1 visa. Will I need to be present on the CU Boulder campus anytime between now and August?

    ISSS received guidance from the federal government on March 18, 2020, advising us that given the unique situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, international students will be able to maintain their immigration status while pursuing a full course load in spring and summer 2020 via distance learning from outside of the U.S. even if they are outside of the U.S. more than 5 months.

    SEVP guidance issued July 6, 2020 does not allow for nonimmigrant F-1 students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—a mixture of online and in person classes—like CU Boulder—in Fall 2020 to maintain their F-1 status from outside of the U.S.  F-1 students must be physically present in the U.S. and enrolled in at least one credit hour of an in-person course or hybrid course as part of the required credits for full-time enrollment status during the Fall 2020 semester.    



    indicates that international students in F-1 nonimmigrant status attending schools in the United States for Fall 2020 that are adopting a hybrid model, a mixture of online and in person classes—like CU Boulder, may take more than one class or three credit hours of online courses however they must still enroll in the required number of credits to be considered full-time and course work must include an in-person or hybrid course.  

    How can I maintain my status if the COVID-19 crisis continues and I cannot return within 5 months?

    ISSS received guidance from the federal government on March 18, 2020, advising us that given the unique situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, international students will be able to maintain their immigration status while pursuing a full course load via distance learning from outside of the U.S. even if they are outside of the U.S. more than 5 months during the spring and summer term.

    International students wishing to maintain their immigration status should intend to return to campus for the Fall 2020 semester.

    Federal guidance issued July 6, 2020 indicates that international students in F-1 nonimmigrant status attending schools in the United States that are adopting a hybrid model, a mixture of online and in person classes—like CU Boulder, may take more than one class or three credit hours of online courses however they must still enroll in the required number of credits to be considered full-time and course work must include an in-person or hybrid course.  


    How do I apply for OPT?

    Wondering how to submit your OPT application materials to ISSS for review? 

    For documents normally submitted to ISSS in-person or via the mail, please use the ISSS Document Submission Form

    • Please enter any notes including the mailing address for OPT I-20 in the Additional Information section of the form.

    You can scan and upload a copy of your OPT application materials in this form and it will be send to an ISSS advisor to review.

    Please also note the following:

    • Your academic advisor can sign your OPT I-20 Request Form electronically.
    • You do not have to submit copies of your passport photos to ISSS. Please confirm that your passport photos meet the requirements as listed on the Travel.State.Gov website prior to submitting your OPT application to USCIS.

    After ISSS reviews and processes your request, we will email you a list of suggestions we recommend you make to your OPT application, as well as the OPT Mailing Instructions and the OPT Reporting Requirements. We will also mail your new I-20 that recommends OPT to you at your local address as indicated in the Buff Portal unless other instructions are provided in the Additional Informaiton section of the Document Submission Form.

    • To ensure the document is mailed to the correct address, please confirm that your current local address is in your Buff Portal and update it if necessary. Please review the Updating Your Address in Buff Portal handout for more information on how to update your address. 
    Can I apply for OPT from outside of the U.S.? If I am outside of the U.S., can I give my OPT application materials to a relative and have them submit the application for me?

    ISSS advises against applying for OPT from outside of the U.S. or giving your OPT application materials to a relative or friend to have them submit the application for you. It is possible that USCIS will not accept your application if you are outside of the U.S. when they receive it. At this time, ISSS recommends waiting to leave the U.S. until USCIS has received your application. Please refer to the response to "I have already applied for OPT, it is pending, can I leave the U.S.?" for more guidance on departing the U.S. when your OPT application is pending. 

    I have already applied for OPT, it is pending, can I leave the U.S.?

    Yes, you can depart the U.S. with a pending OPT application. Be sure you have your I-20 with a valid signature, active visa and your Receipt Notice from USCIS that shows you have applied for OPT.

    There are a few things to be aware of if traveling with a pending OPT application. If your OPT application is denied while you are outside of the U.S., you cannot re-enter the US in F-1 status to re-apply for OPT. It may be possible to re-enter the US in another visa category (for example, ESTA or tourist visa) to prepare for departure, but you would no longer be eligible for OPT. 


    If additional information is needed for your OPT application, USCIS would mail you a request for evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE you would need to respond in a certain amount of time and you may have difficulty responding to any request(s) for evidence from USCIS while you are outside of the U.S. which could result in a denial. 


    Lastly, future travel restrictions could impede your ability to return to the U.S.; travel restrictions may change at a moment’s notice. You will need to carefully consult both the airline and the travel restrictions for the country to which you will be returning.  

    If your OPT is approved while you’re abroad, you should have your EAD card with you on your return. Please review International Student Travel FAQ for students on OPT 

    Is the OPT processing time with USCIS being delayed?

    You can check USCIS's OPT processing time by going to their processing times website selecting "I-765 Application for Employment Authorization" under "Form" and "Potomac Service Center" under "Field Office or Service Center". There you will be able to see their estimated time range for processing OPT applications.

    Can students with proper authorization participate in CPT while they are outside of the U.S.?

    If students are outside of the U.S. and completing their course of study remotely, they may engage in CPT during their time abroad, provided: 

    • They meet the CPT eligibility requirements; 
    • Their DSO authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date; and 
    • Either the employer has an office outside the United States or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.  

    As noted in SEVP’s March 13, 2020, COVID-19: Guidance for SEVP Stakeholders, this enrollment may be online. All other requirements at 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i) still apply.

    Can I apply for special work permission to work off-campus?

    F-1 students can apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) if they are in valid F-1 status, have completed one full academic year (Fall & Spring semester) of continuous full-time enrollment, and have a job offer directly related to their major field of study. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a temporary employment authorization for an “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for CPT authorization by submitting our CPT Agreement Form. CPT can only be authorized one semester at a time and we recommend submitting the agreement form 2 - 3 weeks in advance of your start date. You may not work off-campus without receiving authorization from ISSS. Please review our CPT handout for more information. In cases of severe economic hardship, a F-1 international student can also request special off-campus work authorization. You would be eligible for this if other employment opportunities are not available or are insufficient and the severe economic hardship is caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. You must also have been enrolled full-time for one year, have good academic standing, demonstrate that your employment will not interfere with you having a full-time course load, and demonstrate that on-campus work is insufficient. If you believe that you could qualify for Severe Economic Hardship, please come see an ISSS advisor to discuss the procedures to request this kind of work authorization. 

    Can I file for unemployment benefits if I have been laid off by my employer while using an authorized work authorization (OPT, CPT, other valid EAD, etc.)?

    The U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance programs provide benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet other eligibility requirements. Each state administers the program differently; check your own state’s program details (the state where you work). Workers in the state of Colorado can learn about Colorado’s program on the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website. ISSS cannot advise on your eligibility of unemployment benefits; please read the information and contact the appropriate state office for questions.

    Is the Social Security Administration open?

    In response to the challenge of the COVID-19 Pandemic, starting March 17, 2020, all local Social Security offices were closed to the public for in-person servicing (as stated in their Closings and Emergencies Statement). Therefore at this time, foreign nationals on nonimmigrant visas (such as J-1 Exchange Visitor, H-1B Temporary Worker, and F-1 Student) applying for a Social Security number (SSN) for the first time are unable to do so.

    • Students in F-1 status applying for Optional Practical Training are able to request a SSN on the Form I-765 which they submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    ISSS is waiting for guidance from the Social Security Administration regarding options for applying for SSNs, either by mail or online. Please continue to monitor the ISSS website as well as the Social Security Administration/Coronavirus website for updates.

    Please note: CU Boulder employees do not need a valid social security number (SSN) in order to be put on payroll and to enroll in benefits. If employees are filling out enrollment applications for benefits and are requested to put in their SSNs, the CU Benefits office recommends using a random number for the time being and asking the HR representative/personnel liaison to update it in the HCM system once the SSN is received.

    Has USCIS changed the unemployment day allotment for students on OPT in response to COVID-19?

    Please see our page OPT and Unemployment Concerns


    I was supposed to graduate this semester, what do I do?

    If you were planning on graduating and you maintain full-time enrollment in the courses that are required to complete your degree program, you will still graduate this semester.  

    You can complete your semester coursework inside the U.S. or outside of the U.S. ISSS received guidance from the U.S. government confirming that our F-1 students will be able to maintain their F-1 status while pursuing a full course load via distance learning from outside of the U.S.  This means you can go home and maintain your F-1 status, as long as you maintain full-time enrollment. Please make sure you can access the CU Boulder VPN from your home country so that you can fully access your course materials from outside of the U.S. Please reach out to reach out to the Office of Information Technology Services ( with any questions. 

    Please note that if you graduate this semester, your 60-day grace period will begin on 05/07/2020. During the grace period, you cannot take part in any studies or employment opportunities and also cannot exit and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. If you are outside of the U.S. when your grace period begins, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. after 05/06/2020 in F-1 status (unless you have applied for OPT). 

    The Spring 2020 in-person commencement ceremony on May 7, 2020 has been cancelled, as well as all college, school, and department-based recognition ceremonies. This decision was not made lightly and was done in the interest of ensuring the health and safety of our graduates, their families, and our community. CU is exploring virtual options that will enable our community to celebrate the latest class of CU Boulder graduates remotely. Campus leaders will follow up with more information as these plans develop. We encourage all students eligible to graduate this semester to apply for graduation via the Office of the Registrar by no later than April 30, 2020. For more information, see the Chancellor’s letter to campus. 

    How do I withdraw from the semester or permanently from CU Boulder?

    First, you will need to obtain immigration approval to withdraw from ISSS by completing our Leave of Absence Form (DocuSign). This first step notifies ISSS that you plan to withdraw so that ISSS can terminate your I-20 for the positive reason of Authorized Early Withdrawal, which should not cause you future immigration issues.  Please carefully read the information in our CU Boulder ISSS Leave of Absence webpage.   Second, if you are a Graduate student, you may be required to apply for a leave of absence . Finally, you must also complete the CU Boulder Registrar's Withdrawal Form.  On each form indicate whether you want to withdraw from the semester or permanently.

    Is CU accommodating significant time zone changes when it comes to online learning?

    ISSS encourages students to work with their professors and departments if they are experiencing time zone challenges. We recommend communicating with your professors about the specific challenges you are facing due to your time zone difference.


    Are there any restrictions on coming to campus after entering the U.S. from international travel?
    • The U.S. government recommends that everyone voluntarily stay at home or self-quarantine elsewhere for 14 days after entering the United States from other countries.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a map showing which countries are considered to have widespread ongoing transmission of COVID-19.
    • Due to the density of people living together in on-campus housing, the university strongly recommends that those living on campus and who have recently traveled to other countries follow CDC guidance and voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days before arriving on campus.

    Quarantine Hotel Information

    Will the residence halls close?

    Based on the latest guidance from public health officials to slow the spread of the virus, Student Housing is asking all residential students to begin checking out of the residence halls and moving back to their permanent homes, if possible. If you are not able to move out, for example because of financial hardship or inability to return to a permanent home please see the guidance listed in the On-Campus Living FAQs. On this page, you will find information about the following: 

    • How to check out of your residence hall  
    • What to do if you will be here over spring break
    • What to do if you plan to continue living on campus 

    If you have any questions, please email student housing.

    Will CU be closed this summer?

    All CU Boulder courses offered in Maymester (May 11–29), Summer A term (June 1–July 2), Summer C term (June 1–July 24) and Summer D term (June 1–August 7) will be taught remotely. A decision on Summer B term (July 7–August 7) will be announced no later than April 15, 2020, with a decision on Augmester (August 3–20) to follow. Fall registration will occur on March 30, as scheduled. Please continue to check the Coronavirus Updates and Resources webpage for the latest information.

    Will I get a refund for CU services that are no longer being provided?

    There will not be any adjustments to tuition and fees. Students are encouraged to work with their professor if they need additional accommodations to complete their course. CU Boulder is aware of the concerns that our students living on campus are experiencing and we want to support your decision to check-out early. Due to the evolving changes of COVID-19, and in efforts of providing further protective measures to our students, Housing Administration is providing 100% of room and board credit if you move out of the residence halls, preferably before spring break. This credit is 100% of your remaining room and board from the day you check out through the end of the semester. The credit will appear on your account for the next term, minus any outstanding charges, and minus the $300 housing deposit.

    I have to complete or extend my I-9. How should I proceed?

    Please see the "Employment Eligiblity Form I9" section of Human Resources COVID-19 FAQs.


    How do I get a travel signature if ISSS is closed?

    Please submit the Document Reprint Request Form (DocuSign) to ISSS and indicate the re-print reason as “Travel. ISSS will issue you a new I-20/DS-2019 and sign it for travel (please allow 2-5 business days for processing) 

    ISSS will email your new I-20 to you after processing your request. As of March 27, 2020, SEVP and USCIS issued guidance allowing I-20s to be signed electronically by DSOs and sent to students by email during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Do I need to let ISSS know if I am leaving the U.S.?

    No, you do not need to notify ISSS before you leave the U.S.  ISSS recommends that you read F-1 Students: International Travel Information which includes information about how to obtain a new I-20 with travel signature if you need one as well as other important information to consider.

    What do I do if I am a J-1 exchange visitor and I want to return home, but my travel plans are complicated by a lack of commercially available flights or by the fact that my home country currently prohibits all inbound travel?

    ISSS recommends that you reach out to your home country’s embassy or closest consulate in the United States as soon as possible. Your home country’s U.S. embassy may have information that could be helpful in your search for transportation home. 

    Please keep ISSS informed about your travel plans.  

    If you will no longer be participating in your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, please be sure you discuss with your department your last day of your employment or the last day you will be pursuing your J-1 program goals and objectives with CU-Boulder and then complete the J-1 Scholar Program: Completion, Early Completion, or Transfer Out Form via DocuSign. 

    Where is the most up-to-date information on travel and entry restrictions?

    For travel inquiries and up-to-date information on travel restrictions, please visit the department of state website. You should also regularly check the ISSS COVID-19 webpage and the CU Boulder COVID-19 webpage. 


    Can ISSS help me transfer my SEVIS record?

    Yes. Please read the information found on the ISSS Transfer webpage. You will need to complete the Transferring Your SEVIS Record From CU form including uploading proof of admission to your new school. You will need to choose a SEVIS release date. This is the date that ISSS will release your record to your new school. Your SEVIS record must be transferred before your F-1 program end date. Once your SEVIS record is transferred to your new school, you will work with them to receive your new I-20. 

    Will transferring my SEVIS record while abroad invalidate my visa?

    Transferring your F-1 SEVIS record does not invalidate your visa. As long as the visa validity date is in the future, it remains valid, despite the transfer. Your F-1 visa needs to be valid when you enter the United States.