Coronavirus

Updates & Announcements - International Office

We understand that with the current situation surrounding COVID-19, things are changing frequently. As such, we’ve created this space to provide the latest updates, answers to common questions we’ve been receiving from other international students like yourself, as well as any other information and resources we think would be helpful. 

We remain fully available, Monday through Friday from 9 am PST to 4 pm PST, and can be reached directly at dso@sofia.edu or 888.820.1484 ext. 10361 should you have any additional questions. During this temporary transition, ISS will be offering remote services only. 

Online courses offered through Sofia University allows you the opportunity to learn from wherever you are right now. Start your online courses this semester, and transition to residential courses taken in the United States in the future.

May 11, 2021

Letter from the DSO

 

We are providing the latest updates for you below. 
 

General requirements for entry in the United States during COVID

  • All air passengers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the United States.
    • Test must be taken at most three days (72 hours) before travel.
    • Travelers must be prepared to present COVID-19 test results.
    • Additional COVID-19 testing details can be found here.
  • Passengers must complete and present a signed Passengers Disclosure and Attestation to the United States prior to embarkation.

If you travel from a country or region placed on the United States Restricted Travel List (below), additional guidance is provided elsewhere on this page.

  • People’s Republic of China (except SARs Macau and Hong Kong)
  • United Kingdom (excluding Overseas Territories outside of Europe)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Schengen Area
  • Federative Republic of Brazil
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Republic of South Africa
  • India

Travel documents required for entry into the United States

  • Valid entry visa
  • Visa supporting documents such as:
    • Form I-20. Ensure that you have a valid travel signature on your I-20. 
    • Passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the intended entry into the US.
    • Sofia’s Visa Travel and Support Letter

If you need assistance with your travel documents, please email dso@sofia.edu

 

General travel guidelines

  1. Arrange your travel
  2. Register your travel
  3. Research possible restrictions for the duration of your travel
  • Determine what is needed for you to comply with the relevant regulations for your travel (e.g. departure, connections, customs) according to your citizenship(s) and immigration documentation at each checkpoint.
  • Adhere to airlines’ COVID-19 safety requirements.
  • Be aware of the specific exit requirements from your point of origin and the entry requirements at any transit points, as well as the point of entry in the United States.
  • Pay special attention to:
    • Possible required quarantine periods at each point of travel.
    • Any test requirements or the need for proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.

If in doubt about any information, contact the relevant immigration or government authority of the countries of the travel.

NOTICE FOR FIRST-TIME UNITED STATES VISA APPLICANTS

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide are operating on a reduced schedule, which may create some challenges for those needing interviews to complete the visa application process. 

Certain U.S. diplomatic missions are currently processing non-emergency visa applications. Please check the U.S. non-immigrant visa appointment wait times to see which embassies and consulates are currently processing visas and the wait time for each location. Please note, the site is updated regularly, and information may change.  

Students requiring visas should check in with the closest U.S. embassy or consulate before looking at other locations. U.S. diplomatic missions might be unable to process non-emergency visas in your country of residence.   

If you attempt to travel to a third country for visa processing, please be mindful of the following: 

  • Make sure the U.S. embassy or consulate you are considering processes non-immigrant visas for non-resident foreign nationals.  
  • What is needed to enter the third country.  
  • How will you return to your primary residence country? 
  • How will you support yourself if you are required to wait for a visa or need to return to the third country to gather the visa at a future date.    

GUIDELINES FOR TRAVELING TO our Palo alto and Costa Mesa campus

General requirements for entry in the United States during COVID

  • All air passengers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the United States.
    • Test must be taken at most three days (72 hours) before travel.
    • Travelers must be prepared to present COVID-19 test results.
    • Additional COVID-19 testing details can be found here.
  • Passengers must complete and present a signed Passengers Disclosure and Attestation to the United States prior to embarkation.

ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES FOR FALL 2021 ACADEMIC TERM

This guidance takes effect on August 1, 2021.

Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, Schengen Area, the Republic of South Africa, and the United Kingdom 

Per the national interest determination by the Secretary of State of April 26, 2021, regarding eligibility for travel exceptions, students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE), which makes possible direct travel to the U.S. without needing to quarantine in a third country. No previously issued visas or NIEs will be revoked due to the new policy.

Be advised that the direct travel authorized by the national interest determination will only be possible after August 1, 2021. Keep in mind, travelers may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to beginning of their classes as listed on the I-20 Form. 

Students with valid F-1 visa who begin or continue an academic program that starts on or after August 1, 2021 do not need to contact US Embassy to seek NIE to travel. 

 

Travel from India 

In keeping with the Department of State’s commitment to facilitate legitimate travel to the United States, on April 30, 2021 Secretary Blinken announced that the same set of National Interest Exceptions applies to India.  

F-1 visa holders or applicants 

  • Students who already possess a valid F-1visa, and valid I-20 can travel without taking any additional steps.  
  • Students seeking to apply for new F-1 visa should check the status of visa services at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (using the U.S. non-immigrant visa appointment wait times site). Those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for an exception (NIE) to travel. 
  • If a National Interest Exception is approved, you may travel on either a valid visa or ESTA authorization, as appropriate. 

Please review the guidance on the website of your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for information on how to request a national interest exception (Example of NIE guidance: https://es.usembassy.gov/covid-19-related-faq/).

Please make sure the email includes the following information:  

  • Your full name as it appears on your passport and U.S. Visa, the country of citizenship, and birthdate;  
  • Attach a photo of your passport’s biographic page and valid unexpired U.S. visa page;
  • Provide an explanation of the justification for the request along with any evidence to support the request (please attach your support letter); and
  • Proof that the passenger contacted their home country’s U.S. Embassy/Consulate (the forwarded email should suffice).  

Please be advised that requirements to enter any country, including the U.S., are subject to change without notice. The university cannot confirm that you will be admitted into any specific country as entry into any country is at the sole discretion of the immigration/government authorities of that country, and the requirements may vary from country to country. 

We understand this is a lot of information, please do not hesitate to email us directly at dso@sofia.edu or give a call to 888.820.1484 should you have any additional questions. 

 

Thank you,

Raisa Velazquez
Director of International Partnerships and Recruitment
 

February 17, 2021

Letter from the Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs

 

Dear Sofia Community Member:

We are writing to let you know that all in-person classes for Spring 2021 scheduled for the Palo Alto campus will instead be conducted virtually. Mindful of the continuing public health crisis across the country, and especially here in California, we came to this decision after consultation with the Cabinet, faculty, staff, and students. We do believe that our foray into the virtual world, the combination of Zoom synchronous meetings and online course materials, since March has shown that Sofia faculty, staff, and students are adaptable, resilient, and know how to take a tough situation and turn it into a valuable learning experience. 
 
We really appreciate everyone’s patience and can-do attitude during this tremendously challenging time.
  
Sincerely,
 
Steven J. Gold, PhD
Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs
 

July 7, 2020

Letter from the Office of the DSO

Dear Sofia students,

As you are likely aware, yesterday SEVP issued additional guidance on Covid-19 exemptions for the Fall 2020 term. SEVP Guidance

At this time the Sofia university administration is working diligently to review our current SEVP approved operational plan which allowed for substituting Zoom meetings for face-to-face class time to see what adjustments need to be made to meet the updated guidance provided on July 6, 2020. Please note that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that the impact on our student body is minimal while remaining safe for all. This is an extremely fluid situation and we will continue to update you all as we have more information.

For specific questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email or phone.

Stay well.

March 13, 2020

Letter from the Office of the DSO

 

Sofia University does not recommend travel due to the changing nature of U.S. immigration policy, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts to global travel. For important information regarding current U.S. immigration policy, Executive Orders, and travel advisories, please revise CDC travel advisory website for answers to common questions about travel and support resources. 

Sofia University is closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and Presidential Proclamations suspending entry into the United States for those deemed to pose a risk of transmitting COVID-19, specifically travelers entering from Iran and China within the last 14 days.  Restrictions to travel to and from China, Iran, and other regions are rapidly evolving, as well as impacting Chinese Embassies and Consulates working with U.S. visa applications.  Be aware that travelers returning from CDC Level 3 countries may encounter serious difficulties returning to the United States.

Should you have urgent, emergency travel needs to or from this region, please contact your DSO: Raisa Velazquez at dso@sofia.edu and Rosalie Cook at student_services@sofia.edu so that the university is able to comprehensively advise and support you with your travel plans.

At this time, the CDC has issued no advisories or restrictions related to travel within any area of the United States.

We encourage you to read to read the CDC’s frequently asked questions and answers .

Please continue to review the CDC Website for updates as new information is available on a daily basis.

Reviewed: May 2021

Up to date information on COVID-19 and the effects on F-1 Students

Incoming Students

If I am a new or initial incoming F-1 student, what are my options?

If already in the U.S., new students (including transfer students) holding active F-1 status can begin their studies at Sofia University with online classes for the upcoming academic terms due to the current COVID-19 F-1 accommodations.

Please Note: that the new COVID-19 F-1 accommodations do not apply to new or initial F-1 students who are outside of the U.S. and do not currently hold active F-1 status.

Due to COVID-19, what is the requirement for Initial status students who have already arrived in the United States?

Initial students currently in the United States that have reported to their school should be made Active in SEVIS and follow the guidelines the school provides to all its F students related to COVID-19. If Initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.

Current Students

Since F-1 students are required to maintain full-time status with majority of courses offered on-ground, does the University’s transition to online delivery affect my visa status as a current student in the US?

During the COVID-19 F-1 accommodation period, current students in the US can take online or remote courses to maintain full-time status in their academic term because the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has approved this on a temporary basis due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This means you can study full-time online in the US and stay in good standing.

If I leave the U.S., are there any restrictions on being able to return to campus for the next academic quarter

If you decide to return to your home country or leave the US during the academic break, you can do so. We highly recommend you review current global public health advisories and keep track of any travel restrictions in place. Please also consider your ability to access online learning, travel limitations, and remember that this is an evolving situation that is subject to change.

If you decide to travel abroad during the academic break:

Make sure that your passport and F-1 visa stamp will be valid for your expected date of return.
• You should also check if you have a valid travel signature on your I-20. Travel signatures are valid for one year while enrolled in classes, or until your program end date. While on Post-Completion OPT, your travel signature is valid for six months from the date signed. Remember you do not need a new travel signature for each time you travel.
• To request a travel signature— reach out to dso@sofia.edu
• Please review current travel advisories at www.travel.state.gov.

Will any action be taken on my SEVIS record?

During this temporary COVID-19 F-1 accommodation period, your F-1 record will not be impacted because you are taking online courses or engaging in remote practical training as a current student. This COVID-19 F-1 accommodation period currently applies throughout the Spring 2020 Academic Quarter.

Students with Employment Authorization

I am currently on Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Can I participate in remote practical training and do I need to report changes to my practical training due to COVID-19?

Yes. You can participate remotely in practical training working with your employer to review available options.

I am currently on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Are there any accommodations if I am not able to work and exceed my 90-day limit on unemployment?

The Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has recognized that the spread of COVID-19 may impact students engaging in OPT. Changes to workplace requirements may impact international students engaging in practical training. SEVP encourages such students to consult with their employers to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other arrangements.

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