COVID-19 Related International Student FAQs

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions and useful resources to help international students at Rutgers. Please be aware that federal and state COVID-19 health guidance, immigration and travel regulations, and Rutgers policies continue to evolve, and we will update this page and share additional information as it becomes available. We encourage students to stay informed and regularly track the news, government websites, and Rutgers websites, including this one.

Updated April 5, 2021

University and Government Announcements and Resources

International Student FAQs

(NEW - 4/5/2021) Rutgers Fall 2021 University Operating Policy and Vaccination Updates for International Students

How do the university's fall 2021 plans impact international students? +

Rutgers is planning to welcome all students back to campus, including our 8,000+ international students, for the fall 2021 semester. While we hope to provide an in-person experience for all students, we also understand that there are several variables that may impact an international student’s ability to arrive on-campus for the fall. Please be assured that Rutgers will continue to support you in your educational journey, on-campus as well as online.

On Thursday, March 25, President Jonathan Holloway shared his message Our Path Forward – COVID-19 Vaccination and the Fall Term, in which he announced that the university has updated its immunization requirements for all students to include COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized for use by the U.S. FDA and recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Rutgers has been a global leader in COVID-19 research and is confident that COVID-19 vaccination is one of the best ways we can provide a safe environment for students to thrive in both academically and socially.  

As an International student, we realize you may have many questions about this requirement. We have tried to answer some of your questions in the FAQs below and this will be supplemented as additional information becomes available.

Please note that as public health guidelines continue to evolve, additional information will be provided on changes/updates to this policy. 

Which COVID-19 vaccines will fulfill the Rutgers proof-of-COVID vaccination requirement? +

The university will accept any COVID -19 vaccine authorized for use by the U.S. FDA and recommended by the CDC ACIP (currently, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson). Rutgers will also accept other COVID-19 vaccinations that receive a U.S. FDA authorization and CDC ACIP recommendation before the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. For those international students who decide to get vaccinated after arrival in the US, Rutgers will provide whatever assistance possible that is consistent with NJ State public health guidelines.

New Jersey has been rolling out COVID-19 vaccines step-by-step to serve all adults who live, work, or study in the state.  Starting Monday, April 19, 2021, all individuals in New Jersey aged 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination.

What if I was already vaccinated for COVID-19 in my home country but it is not on the U.S. FDA and CDC authorized list? +

You will need to show proof of receipt of a vaccine authorized for use in the U.S. and recommended by the CDC ACIP upon arrival to Rutgers. We will assist international students to comply with the university’s requirement, as appropriate.

If I am unable to obtain one of the U.S. FDA authorized vaccines prior to my arrival in the U.S., will I be able to obtain a U.S. FDA authorized vaccine upon arrival to campus? +

Rutgers has received approval from the State of New Jersey to administer authorized COVID-19 vaccines at our three campus locations. As soon as an adequate supply is available, we will make vaccinations available to our students, staff, and faculty, consistent with public health guidelines. This should allow all international students to receive the vaccination at Rutgers once they arrive. However, you will not be allowed to be on campus until 2 weeks after the final dose of COVID-19 vaccine. More information about vaccination requirements and options will be provided to you directly in the coming months. 

Will there be a cost for the vaccine? +

The New Jersey Department of Health has advised that there will be no charge for the vaccine. 

Are there any exemptions to the vaccine requirement? +

Students may request an exemption from showing proof of vaccination for medical or religious reasons. More information on exemptions can be found on the Rutgers Immunization Portal

When should I arrive in order to start my semester on time? +

Based on current guidance, international students with an F-1 or J-1 visa may enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on their I-20 or DS-2019 forms. When making plans for arrival to the U.S., students are advised to factor in adequate time to receive the vaccine and quarantine. No student will be allowed to participate in campus events, reside in the residence halls, or attend classes without being fully vaccinated. The university is in the process of developing interim housing space for arriving international students to allow for vaccination wait times and quarantine. The university will be offering online programs and activities for international students during this period.

New International graduate students are advised to contact their academic program for information on school-specific orientation activities for international graduate students.

In advance of arriving to New Jersey, please review the Rutgers webpage on Updated Quarantine and Travel Guidance.

When is International Student Orientation? +

All new international first-year and transfer students are required to attend our International Student Orientation (ISO). This mandatory program will be offered virtually in August for all incoming students for the Fall 2021 semester. More information about the ISO will be made available at a later date through Rutgers Global International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

New International graduate students are advised to contact their academic program for information on school-specific orientation activities for international graduate students.

Immigration Status: Current/Continuing Students

UPDATED (3/26/21): How does the current government policy and Rutgers mode of instruction affect my immigration status? +

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not provided updated guidance regarding online instruction beyond Spring 2021, we are hopeful that the fall 2020 and the spring 2021 flexibilities will continue for fall 2021. Based on current guidance, continuing students who are in active SEVIS status, whether inside the US or abroad, can continue to maintain their legal status and enroll in 100% online coursework or any combination of in-person and online study to maintain legal status.

New international students and students who started their programs in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters from overseas are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to attend in-person classes. However, new students may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the U.S. for the fall semester. 

What are the implications of the Biden presidency on government policies impacting international students? +

We are closely monitoring recent changes to immigration policy as announced by President Biden’s administration. As more changes are expected, Rutgers Global will keep international students and scholars posted of any updates, and we remain steadfast in supporting our international community during this time of transition.

Review a summary of updates on the Rutgers Global Alerts page.

Review the Association of International Educators (NAFSA)’s Biden Administration Immigration Portal for the latest updates and information. 

For a complete listing of executive actions by President Biden, go to the Presidential Actions listing on

Will I be able to maintain my SEVIS status if I have been outside the US for more than 5 months? +

Yes, students who leave the country, but remain enrolled full-time making normal progress towards their degree by participating in modified modes of instruction (as offered by the university) will be considered to be in active SEVIS status. In this case SEVIS records for students who are outside the US, but maintaining their legal status will remain active. This guidance applies to continuing students in "active" SEVIS status during the Fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. This is a temporary measure put in place by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) due to COVID and is subject to change.

Please note that if a student withdraws from his/her program, the usual five-month rule would apply to their SEVIS status.

I would like to take a gap semester/year, what should I do? +

F-1 regulations refer to a gap semester or year as a Leave of Absence (LOA). If you are considering an LOA, contact the ISSS office for case-specific advice as this decision can have a significant impact on your F-1 student status. To initiate the process you will need to contact your program/school. Please review our website information on Leave of Absence or Withdrawal and returning to Rutgers. 

I am an F-1/J-1 student inside the US and in my final semester of study at Rutgers. What are my options at this time? +

Graduating students have the following options: 
* Optional Practical Training (OPT)/ Academic Training
* Transfer to a New Institution/Program
* Change of Status
* Leave the Country within the Grace Period

F-1 and J-1 students have a grace period, following the end of their programs which enables them to remain in the US legally during this time. 
* F-1 students - 60 days after degree completion date
* J-1 students - 30 days after degree completion date

Detailed information about these post-graduation options can be found on the ISSS website under Graduating Students.

I am an international student in my final semester, currently abroad and I cannot return to the US due to travel restrictions. Can I return after the situation stabilizes? +

International students who were expecting Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 to be their final semester of study and are not able to complete their programs should apply for an extension of their SEVIS program, if eligible.

International students unable to return to the US who are  in their final semester of study (completing their programs while overseas) are faced with the possibility of losing their ability to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students or Academic Training for J-1 students. There is currently no regulatory relief for students caught in this situation.

Please note that even if you have an I-20/DS-2019 valid until a later date, if you have completed all your program requirements, your status will  only be valid while you are actively pursuing a program of study (degree). Students intending to continue their study in the US may return with a new I-20 for that program. If you would like to return for any other purposes, you would need to do so with another visa classification (such as the B-2 visitor visa).

I am an international student in F-1/J-1 status and have submitted an application to ISSS for processing. When and how will I receive my new I-20/DS-2019? +

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has made special allowances for the issuance of electronic I-20s. We will process your application within our usual processing time and email you a digitally signed I-20. The electronic I-20s can be used for the purposes of travel, visa applications, and USCIS applications such as OPT. This is a temporary allowance and may be rescinded once the COVID crisis has passed. There may be certain applications (such as change of status) for which a wet signature is required on the I-20.

If you would like confirmation on whether the electronic I-20 will be acceptable for a specific application, we recommend you contact the specific government agency (e.g. USCIS for OPT, Social Security Administration for SSN, US Customs and Border Protection for travel/re-entry, or the US Department of State for visa applications) to confirm whether a digitally signed I-20 will be acceptable.

J-1 students will require an original DS-2019 for any formal applications such as visas and travel.
If you require a physical I-20/DS-2019 for a specific reason, please notify the ISSS advisor processing your application and our office will work on these requests on a case by case basis.

How does the pass/no credit (P/NC) grading option impact my status as an international student? +

Undergraduate international students in active F-1 or J-1 status will be able to maintain their F-1/J-1 status if they choose to change the grading option for their classes to pass/ no credit because pass/ no credit grades will still count toward the full-time enrollment requirement for SEVIS reporting purposes (e.g., continuing students who may be inside or outside the country with active F-1/J-1 records).

This option may not be available to graduate students - please check with your program to confirm.

New Students (Including students who started their programs outside the U.S. in Fall 2020)

UPDATED (3/26/2021) How does the current government policy and Rutgers’ method of instruction affect my immigration status and my ability to come to the US for Spring 2021? +

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not provided updated guidance regarding online instruction beyond Spring 2021, we are hopeful that the fall 2020 and the spring 2021 flexibilities will continue for fall 2021. Based on current guidance, new international students and students who started their programs in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters from overseas are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to attend in-person classes. However, new students may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the U.S. for the fall semester. 

Based on this guidance, we advised that first year international students, who are outside the US, should plan to enroll from outside the US for the Spring 2021 semester. With the situation developing, and based on President Holloway's latest message (March 25, 2021), we hope to welcome international students to campus if visa, travel and public health guidelines permit. However, in case students are unable to make it to campus in time for the fall semester, they may enroll in online classes offered by Rutgers or participate in some of the other available options such as the ROSE program or a Rutgers Study Abroad program (for undergraduate students).

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Please note that your F-1 or J-1 legal status can only be activated upon entry into the U.S. 

Do I need an I-20/DS-2019 If I am starting my program from overseas? +

You do not need an I-20 or a DS-2019 if you are starting your program from overseas. However, if you have received an I-20/DS-2019 and are unable to come to campus for the Spring 2021 semester, you will be issued a new document with an updated start date. You can enter the US next year with the updated I-20 and a valid unexpired F-1 visa when in-person classes resume. 

I have received my new I-20/DS-2019. Can I apply for a visa with it and choose to arrive later? +

Yes, you may use the I-20/DS-2019 you have to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. Your visa will remain valid until its expiration date, even if your I-20/DS-2019 dates change. Please remember that you will need a current I-20/DS-2019 to apply for a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. Check the start date on your I-20/DS-2019 to make sure it is current - the start date should be for a future semester (that you plan  to attend in-person).

If I start the spring semester online, can I come to campus mid-semester? +

If you start your semester fully online, you may not be able to come to campus mid-semester unless your program requires you to attend in-person. Please consult with an ISSS advisor to discuss your options.

I will enroll in Spring 2021 remotely and expect to be on campus in Fall 2021. When do I apply for my visa? +

You should apply for a visa when a visa appointment is available at the embassy or consulate close to you. If you are not able to get a visa in time for the start of Spring 2021 classes, you can apply for the visa later in the spring semester or summer. However, you will need an updated I-20/DS-2019 document from Rutgers to show a deferred start date. Updated or new I-20s for Fall 2021 will be issued during the spring semester; please wait for further communication in this regard. Feel free to reach out to the appropriate admissions office with any questions.

Undergraduate Students:
Graduate Students:
RBHS Students:

Transfer, Readmission, or Change of Status Students

I am a newly admitted student, inside the US, transferring my SEVIS record from another institution and planning to attend the spring term. What issues should I be aware of? +

Per the current guidance, you are able to stay in the US and take classes in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain your F-1 status. After receiving your transfer I-20, please review the transfer instructions on our website and make sure you complete the check-in process with ISSS so we can activate your transfer record. 

I am a newly admitted student, outside the US, transferring my SEVIS record from another institution and planning to attend the spring term. Can I study remotely? +

Yes, you may study remotely. As a transfer student, we are not permitted to make your F-1 SEVIS record ACTIVE while you are outside of the US. We will contact SEVP to maintain your SEVIS record and issue you an I-20 with an updated start date based on when you are expected to arrive in the US. We will contact you if we are not able to retain your current SEVIS record based on any change in government guidance and would then issue you a new I-20 in that case. 

I have received my Transfer I-20 and I am outside the US I am planning to return to the US for the spring semester. What issues should I be aware of? +

As a transfer student, you may return to the US and take classes in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain your F-1 status. However, given the current uncertainties regarding travel restrictions, be sure to check the Universitywide COVID-19 Information and all relevant travel advisories.

I have been re-admitted to Rutgers for Fall 2020/Spring 2021. How does the current crisis impact my situation? +

Students who are inside the US in active SEVIS status (possibly at another institution, e.g. a community college) can transfer their SEVIS records to Rutgers and enroll at Rutgers in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain their F-1 status. 

Please review the information on the Returning to Rutgers section of our website for more details. 

Students who are outside the US will need a new I-20 when they are able to return. Per current guidance, students with I-20s marked “initial attendance” will not be able to enter the US if their academic schedule is 100% online. Students who have been readmitted to resume their studies at Rutgers for the spring can do so remotely. If your program has in-person requirements, for which you need to be present in the US, please contact your academic program and an ISSS advisor for further guidance. 

What if I am currently in another immigration status and wish to apply for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 within the US? +

We highly advise consulting an immigration attorney to review this option. Please review information on our website for more information.

Enrollment Deferral and Cancellation

What is the process for deferring my enrollment at Rutgers? +

We understand that some students may choose to defer their enrollment at Rutgers to a later semester. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, several departments/programs/schools at Rutgers are offering this option to new students.

Undergraduate Students – please follow the instructions here.

Graduate Students – please discuss your enrollment options with your graduate program and the graduate admissions office.

RBHS Students- Please contact the RBHS Admissions office of the school you have been accepted into.

I have decided that I will not be attending Rutgers University. What do I need to do? +

If you withdraw or cancel your admission to Rutgers, we will need to cancel your I-20/DS-2019. Please contact the appropriate admissions office to inform them of your decision so your SEVIS record can be properly closed.

Undergraduate Students:
Graduate Students:
RBHS Students:

Travel and Visa Information

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 infection if I am traveling internationally? +

New CDC Guidelines for International Travelers

According to a new CDC policy, effective January 26, 2021, all international travelers coming into the US will be required to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. For more information on this testing requirement, see the CDC Frequently Asked Questions.

Review the CDC website for more information. Also check COVID-19 related rules and regulations at the country to which you are traveling.

Are there requirements or recommendations I should be aware of if I am traveling to NJ/Rutgers? +


For those that arrive in New Jersey from any international destination, or from out of the 5-state region (NJ, NY, CT, PA, DE), the CDC and NJ state regulations state:

  • Get tested for COVID-19 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days
    • If you test positive, self-isolate for at least 10 days to protect others from getting infected​​
  • ​If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Review the updated Rutgers Quarantine and Travel Guidance.

What are the current travel restrictions I should be mindful of? +

Please refer to the following resources. Note that the situation is changing daily and you should monitor the latest travel advisories carefully before making any travel plans. 

* Travel Bans and Restrictions on US Visas and Entry
* Immigration Executive Actions Under Trump Administration
* COVID-19 Country Specific Information from the US Department of State
* CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for International and US Travel
* Rutgers Global Travel Updates and Advisories

Review the travel and visa information section of our website for additional resources, information, and travel signature request procedure. 

Is it true that the Schengen area, the U.K., and Ireland are no longer banned from entering the US? +

The Department of State updated national interest exemptions for certain travelers from the Schengen area, the U.K., and Ireland on July 16, 2020.

Students traveling from the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 visas have been granted an exemption from the Presidential proclamations that suspended entry from these areas and do not need to seek an individual national-interest exception.

J-1 students should contact the nearest US embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.

Can I apply for a US visa right now? Are consulates and embassies open for applications? +

In response to the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 20, 2020 the Department of State suspended all routine visa services at all US embassies and consulates worldwide. As global conditions evolve, the Department of State (as of July, 2020) began a “phased resumption of routine visa services”. Students should check with the embassies or consulates near them as they prepare for their visa applications. We would also recommend checking the Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy where you intend to apply for a visa.

Please also be aware that global travel conditions remain highly impacted and could change rapidly with visa applicants facing serious delays. Students should continue to monitor the news, airline travel information, along with the Rutgers Global website for additional changes or updates. Please review the travel and visa application information on our website as well.

The visa stamp in my passport has expired/is expiring soon. Can I travel home or to a third country to apply for a new visa? +

International students should consider the following when they plan to travel out of the country to apply for a new visa:

* Students can remain in the US with an expired visa as long as they have legal status in the US The F-1/J-1 visa only needs to be valid at the time of entry into the US If your visa expires while you are in the US, you can still continue to stay here as long as you are maintaining your status. If your visa expires and you travel out of the US, you will need to apply for a new visa. 
* If students must travel out of the country, they should keep in mind the status of visa application operations at the embassy or consulate where they intend to apply, as well as travel and other restrictions in the destination countries visited while out of the US The following links should be closely monitored for the latest information on the status of embassies and consulates around the world:
      * The Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy where students intend to apply for a visa
      * Visa wait times at various embassies
* Students should also be mindful of US government-imposed travel restrictions that may lead to problems with re-entry into the US 
* Students should also consider the implications of their travel on immigration benefits such as OPT.

If I get an F1/J-1 visa, but cannot travel to the US because of travel restrictions, is the visa still valid? +

If you have an F-1/J-1 visa, it will remain valid until the expiration date on the visa stamp. You can use it to attend Rutgers for a later semester, even if you receive an updated/new I-20 from the university.

I am a student currently enrolled at another institution in the US. Do I need a new visa to begin study at Rutgers in the spring? +

You do not need a new visa to begin the new program at Rutgers if you remain in the US while between schools. If you choose to travel internationally, you will need to check with your embassy or consulate to determine if you need to apply for a new visa. If you have a valid visa (valid at the time of expected entry to the US), chances are you won’t need to apply for a new one.

Please review the information for transfer students on our website. 

I need to leave the US but have not received my I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature. Can I travel out of the US without the new I-20/DS-2019? +

Please know that you do not need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 document to either remain in OR to depart the US. You DO need a valid travel signature to return to the US in F-1 or J-1 status. A valid travel signature must be no more than 12 months old on the date that you return to the US. For F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT Extension, travel endorsements are only valid for 6 months. You will only need a valid signature to apply for a new visa if the F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport is expired and/or for your reentry into the US Review the Travel and Visa Information section of our website for more information.

Can I travel within the United States? +

Even within the US, different regions are experiencing travel impacts and restrictions. The CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the US website  has updated numbers per state, but this is changing quickly. If you choose to travel domestically, please be sure to consider your own health and safety. We encourage you to follow the CDC and local recommendations for travel. States may have their own travel restrictions/advisories, shelter in place orders, and disruption in infrastructure that you should take into consideration as well.

I want to leave the US but am unable to at this time. What should I do? +

We are aware that many international flights are being/have been canceled, and travel may be a challenge at this time. If you are graduating and unable to depart the US, please consider options post-graduation, and contact ISSS to let us know about your situation. If you are a continuing student (looking to register in the spring semester), your status remains active until the end of the fall semester, but you may need to consider other issues related to housing etc. if you are unable to go home. See the Health, Housing, and Other Resources section of this FAQ for more information.

We recommend that you contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the US for support and information regarding travel home.

What if I am unable to get a visa to start my Rutgers education in New Jersey? +

Should travel to the U.S. not be possible due to visa issues, we will work with you to provide a virtual experience until we can welcome you to campus as soon as feasibly possible. The university will continue to process I-20 and DS-2019 documents as students request them to ensure that you are able to schedule a visa appointment should one become available for you.

We realize there are concerns with getting a visa and arriving on-campus in time for the fall term. Students should check with the embassies and consulates near them as they prepare their visa applications. We also recommend checking the U.S. Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy or consulate where you intend to apply for a visa.  Please be assured that Rutgers, along with other U.S.-based universities, are strongly lobbying the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and we are urging them to take immediate action and allow international students to enter the U.S. in time for the fall semester. 

General Travel/Visa Support Letter for Spring 2021 Arrival   +

On July 24th, SEVP updated their guidance informing schools that letters of support are no longer needed when applying for an F-1/J-1 visa or when entering the US. If your embassy, consulate,  or port of entry officer asks to see a letter, you may present this “Travel/Visa Support Letter” with your I-20 or DS-2019 when applying for a visa and/or when you are traveling to the US and are being screened by a Customs and Border Patrol Officer either at the point of departure or entry into the US. 

Please note that this letter does not guarantee visa approval or entry into the US. Students are advised to follow SEVP/ICE guidance and monitor travel and visa restrictions to make informed decisions about travel to the US. 

Will I be required to get a visa if all my classes are online? +

The existing guidance states that new/initial students may only apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school only for a full course of study that is not 100% online. Please contact Rutgers Global International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for regulatory guidance, resources and information for international students. We will continue to update our websites as more information becomes available and notify you as changes occur.

Employment and Taxes

Can I work on-campus remotely and get paid by the University in my home country? +

Continuing fully supported PhD students who have active SEVIS records may receive tuition remission, stipends/pay, and Fellowship funds while overseas as long as they have been issued a Social Security Number (SSN), have a US bank account, and are able to be onboarded in the Rutgers HR/Payroll systems. The graduate program will ultimately determine if the student can carry out the duties associated with the academic appointment while overseas. There may be other factors influencing this decision which will be considered by the specific graduate program.

New students who were promised financial support as part of their acceptance to Rutgers (TAs/GAs/Fellows) can be provided with tuition waivers and a commitment can be made to them that other fellowships or scholarships they have been promised will be paid when they are able to meet the legal and payroll requirements. Final decisions on providing tuition remission or fellowship/scholarship/stipend funds rest with the department/programs/hiring units.

New students who are outside the country and do not have active SEVIS records, cannot be paid for on-campus work at Rutgers. There is no further formal guidance on other forms of funding/employment for continuing students (PTLs, hourly work, etc.) while they are overseas. There may be international tax and labor laws as well as US labor implications to these decisions. If you have questions about on-campus employment while in F-1 and J-1 status from outside the US, discuss your specific case with your employing unit and ISSS.   

Will I be able to work off-campus in an internship in Summer 2021 or earlier if I take my first/second semester at Rutgers outside the United States? +

Newly admitted students who were not previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States and who enroll in their first semester remotely outside of the United States, must complete two consecutive semesters in F-1 status in the United States to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Under these circumstances, students would NOT be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the summer following their first academic year, unless their program requires an internship or practicum during that summer. If it is permissible for students to complete their internship or practicum at a later time in their academic program, then CPT would not be possible for students who have not fulfilled their one academic year in F-1 status requirement.

Newly admitted students who previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States and transferred their SEVIS record to Rutgers are eligible to apply for either CPT or OPT during the summer following their first academic year at Rutgers even if they enroll in their first semester at Rutgers from outside of the United States (as long as their current SEVIS record remains active).

I am currently on OPT/STEM OPT or CPT. How does the current situation impact me and my ability to work? +

OPT/STEM OPT and CPT work authorizations, that have been authorized, remain valid for the dates of authorization. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has provided guidance and accommodation recognizing that changes to workplace requirements may impact students pursuing practical training. Students should consult with their employers and seek alternative ways (e.g. teleworking or other arrangement) to maintain employment as appropriate. Remote work is permitted as part of the temporary accommodations. DHS has indicated that you DO NOT need to update the employer address information in SEVIS nor on the Form I-983 for students working remotely. Students on OPT should be sure that the work continues to meet OPT requirements or STEM requirements for eligible employment.

If there are any substantial changes to OPT employment, living address, or unemployment, make sure you follow OPT reporting guidelines to report the change to ISSS so we can update your SEVIS record.

Students on authorized CPT should check with their employer about the viability of the employment/experience. If there is any change to employment dates, contact ISSS to have the authorization updated on your I-20.

Can I work on CPT from outside the US? +

SEVP has provided guidance that allows students to engage in CPT while abroad, as long as they meet all the standard eligibility criteria for the CPT and, either the employer has an office outside the United States, or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically. You should discuss the possibility of remote work arrangements with your employer.

I’m currently on an OPT/STEM OPT extension and I have been furloughed or laid off. What is the difference and how does this impact my OPT or STEM extension unemployment days? +

Furlough, leave of absence, laid-off, and termination have different meanings. You should confirm in writing with your employer exactly what your employment status is. 

A furlough or paid or unpaid approved leave of absence may still be considered employment for OPT/STEM OPT purposes. F-1 regulations allow for “time off taken consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer's similarly situated US workers in the area of employment.” If this is your situation, request documentation from your employer (usually your supervisor or human resources department) confirming your period of furlough or official leave of absence.

A termination or lay-off would be an ending of the employment and would result in the beginning of days of OPT or STEM OPT unemployment. You would need to follow the OPT reporting guidelines to report this change to ISSS so we can update your SEVIS record.

I am a J-1 student on Academic Training and I have been furloughed or laid off. What can I do? +

Please contact ISSS as soon as possible so we can discuss available options with you.

Have there been any changes to the overall OPT application processes? Does the 90-day unemployment rule still apply in light of the current crisis? +

At this time there have been no changes to the application process for OPT. There is also no revised guidance on the unemployment rule while on OPT. Please remember that you can also participate in volunteer/unpaid employment of more than 20 hours/week, directly related to your field of study and appropriate for your level of education. Make sure you follow the OPT reporting guidelines and report your employment in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in the termination of your record as a result of SEVP action.

Please continue to check the USCIS website for updates or visit the USCIS COVID-19 response page regarding any changes to USCIS processing of requests.

I cannot return to the US in time to apply for OPT. Can I apply for OPT from outside the US? +

Currently, regulations require you to be physically in the US at the time you submit your OPT application to the USCIS.

I am graduating soon and applying for OPT. Can I travel internationally after mailing my OPT application to USCIS from the US? +

Students are allowed to leave the US while their OPT application is pending at USCIS, but they have to make sure they get the receipt notice for the OPT application prior to traveling out. There is always an element of risk involved with international travel and return to the US (particularly when you have completed the primary purpose of your visa status – that is your degree program), and given these unprecedented times, the risks are further heightened.

If you do choose to travel, please make sure you have your receipt notice with you. If your application is approved while you are overseas, make sure it is delivered and received at a valid US address, and someone checking your mail sends you an electronic copy/image of the EAD card, which you can print and keep with you at the time of re-entry into the US Students are advised to follow the travel tips and OPT guidance on the ISSS website.

Do I need employment authorization to volunteer as part of COVID-19 relief efforts? +

No, international students who work without wages, taxable compensation or other remuneration are considered volunteers and are not required to obtain an employment authorization document. Check with an advisor at ISSS if you are not sure if the opportunity you are considering qualifies as volunteer work. It is important to be careful that the work does not violate any labor laws or your legal status. Visit the ISSS website for more detail.

Do I have to be in the US to file my taxes? Can I file them from abroad? +

You do not have to be physically present in the US to file your taxes. As long as you have the required documents, you may complete your tax return in your home country and mail it to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Please refer to this page for more information about the tax filing process and required documents.

Social Security Applications and Denial Letters

UPDATED (3/21): How can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) at this time? +

The New Brunswick SSA center, as well as all other SSA offices, are closed until further notice. ISSS has coordinated with the SSA office in New Brunswick and the following procedure is now offered for international students who are eligible to apply for a SSN.

Step 1. Students prepare their SSN application packet
Complete packet must include:
* Hard copy of completed SSN application
* Original valid passport with F-1 visa
* Printed I-94 record
* Original I-20 documents (both current and previous)
* Rutgers Global Social Security Letters, signed by the student’s Designated School Official (DSO) (you will need the SS letter even if you are applying based on OPT or CPT)
* Job offer letter (for students applying based on CPT or OPT)

Step 2. Call the SSA office at 877-803-6313 to schedule an appointment.

Step 3. At the scheduled appointment time, the student must come to the SSA office alone and be prepared to wear a mask before entering the building.
Social Security Administration
550 Jersey Ave, Suite 200
New Brunswick NJ 08901

Step 4. An SSA staff will review the SSN application packet and, if everything is in order, will provide a receipt notice for the application. The student should receive their SSN card in the mail within 7-14 days. 
Please note:
* It is not possible to apply online.
* Applications for replacement cards are not being accepted at this time.

Can I get an SSN denial letter? +

Yes, please complete the SSN application and mail it to the SSA. There is no need to submit any additional documentation like the I-20 or I-94 if applying for the denial letter.

Social Security Administration
ATTN: Mrs. Diouf
550 Jersey Ave, Suite 200
New Brunswick NJ 08901

You will receive the denial letter in the mail.

Health, Housing, and Other Useful Resources

NEW (3/26/2021): As an international student, if I have been vaccinated in my home country with a vaccine not approved in the U.S., can I still come to campus in the fall? +

We are eager to welcome international students to Rutgers campuses as we follow public health guidelines. Today, there are three vaccines authorized for use in the United States and recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and others may well follow between now and the fall. Those international students who can prove that they have been fully inoculated abroad with a vaccine authorized for use in the U.S. and recommended by ACIP (this list will be updated) will not need to be vaccinated upon arrival.

The university will accept vaccines that are authorized for use in the United States by the U.S. FDA and recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). We will assist international students to comply with the university’s requirement, as appropriate.

Source: Universitywide COVID-19 Information - COVID-19 Vaccine for Rutgers Students

Am I eligible for Fall 2021 on-campus housing? Where can I find more information? +

Students on the New Brunswick/Piscataway Campuses - The undergraduate housing application for fall is now open. Continuing students who would like to live on campus for 2021-2022 are required to apply for a Housing Selection number by April 19, 2021.  The application and timeline are available here.  Residence Life will also be sending an email with more detail about the application process.

Graduate student housing is available and information from Residence Life is forthcoming.

RBHS students in the Newark campus, please contact the Housing Office at the Health Sciences Campus - Newark

Do international students get any discounts on tuition and fees? +

The Student Health Insurance Premium will be waived for students who are outside the US, but attending from overseas in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. New students receive this waiver automatically, and continuing students are required to apply for the waiver.

The International Student Fee will be waived for new students who are outside the US for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 terms.

Students eligible for a refund can request it by following the procedure outlined on the student accounting website

For information about university policy on tuition and fees, please review the Universitywide COVID-19 Information.

What are some other resources and support services available for students at Rutgers? +

Students Participating in the ROSE China Program +

Students participating in the ROSE program, please visit the ROSE Initiative webpage for detailed information.

Related External Resources +

* SEVP COVID-19 FAQs - August 7 (for students in F Status)
* EVP COVID-19 Information (Exchange Visitor Program, for students in J-1 Status)
* NAFSA: Association of International Educators COVID-19 Guidance Sources