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University Releases Message to F-1 International Students

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The University has released a message to F-1 international students concerning recently announced policy applying to the the Student Exchange and Visitor Program. The message — signed by Jun Liu, Vice President/Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Dean of International Academic Programs and Services, Charles L. Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success and Eric Wertheimer, Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and Dean of the Graduate School — reads as follows:

Coning Back Safe and StrongOn Monday, July 6, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) released policy guidance for F-1 international students regarding fall semester study. After a thorough review of the guidance, the Office of Visa and Immigration Services submitted a request for clarification on a few very important points for our F-1 international students. SEVP provided additional guidance on Tuesday evening, however there are still uncertainties surrounding F-1 students who remain abroad for the Fall 2020 semester.

Based on the guidance provided on Monday, and the additional information provided on Tuesday, we would like to share with you what this guidance means for F-1 students, both undergraduate and graduate, with regard to the Fall semester

At present, Stony Brook University is moving forward with a hybrid instruction model for Fall 2020. As such:

F-1 Students Inside the U.S. for the Start of the Fall Semester:
(including those currently outside the U.S. but seeking to return for fall)

  • Your F-1 status will remain active and you do not need to depart the U.S. This applies to both new and continuing F-1 students.
  • To maintain your F-1 status, you must be enrolled full-time, which must include at least one (3 credit) in-person course. Hybrid courses that include both in-person and online components count as an in-person class.
  • SBU will provide all on-campus F-1 students the opportunity to fulfill this in-person requirement.
  • SBU will provide a new I-20 noting the hybrid instruction model.
  • SBU’s formal plan to move to online learning after Thanksgiving will not result in the requirement to depart the U.S.
  • As per SEVP, IEC students are not allowed any online enrollment, and therefore IEC students cannot remain in the U.S. in F-1 status for the Fall 2020 IEC semester.

F-1 Students Outside the U.S. During the Fall Semester

  • You are eligible to enroll in SBU’s online courses and maintain your degree progress, whether you remain in active F-1 status or not.
  • SEVP indicated on 7/6/20 that F-1 students outside the U.S., studying at hybrid model institutions, cannot maintain F-1 status while abroad; however on 7/7/20 additional information from SEVP indicates that universities may NOT be required to terminate the SEVIS records of F-1s who remain abroad. Therefore, at this time, we do not have clarity from SEVP as to whether the SEVIS records of F-1s remaining abroad must be terminated.
  • SBU will not terminate records of F-1 students remaining abroad unless required by SEVP. Students will be notified in advance once we have clarity on requirements.
  • New students who do not enter the U.S. will not be in active F-1 status. You may enroll in online courses and request a deferral of your SEVIS record to Spring or Fall 2021; or contact International Undergraduate Admissions or respective Graduate Academic Department if you wish to defer your academic admission.

F-1 Students Participating in Approved Study Abroad or Research Abroad During the Fall Semester

  • Your F-1 status will remain active for Fall semester.
  • You will be registered full-time at SBU and authorized through SEVIS for research/study abroad.
  • You will receive an updated I-20 notating authorized Research/Study Abroad.

As a next step, you will receive an email from VIS in the days to come asking all students to complete an e-form indicating your Fall 2020 plans. This form will be required to be submitted by all F-1 students in order to take appropriate action on your immigration record.

We understand the challenges you are facing, and want to assure you that SBU is vigorously advocating for our international student population on these matters, at every level. We also want to be unequivocally clear that Stony Brook University is working to protect you as students and researchers, while we attempt to get further clarity on what the SEVP guidance means in practice. If additional guidance or clarifications are provided by SEVP, the Visa and Immigration Services Covid-19 FAQ page will be updated and shared with our international students. If you have any questions, we encourage you to visit the site or email

Above all, please remember that Stony Brook is working on your behalf as we navigate these updated guidelines. We understand this continually evolving situation is stressful for you and your families, and hope this information will help guide you as you plan your next steps.

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