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Answers for International Students

We know it’s even more challenging right now for our students with homes and families outside the US, so we’re here to help. Current International Students Incoming International Students

Current International Students – Immigration Status

The F-1 Visa program normally does not allow students to remain in the United States if they are enrolled in online education. However, in light of COVID-19, the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) within the Department of Homeland Security has granted RISD flexibility allowing students with F-1 Visas and J-1 Visas the ability to temporarily switch to an online mode of learning.

Provided international students can continue to make normal progress in a full course of study, as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status are not in jeopardy. J-1 students in the Exchange Visitor program will also be able to temporarily transition to online coursework. Students’ participation in online instruction is permitted under specific circumstances and international students should follow the direction of their faculty members in consultation with the Office of International Student Services. Contact OISS at with specific questions regarding your visa status.

Current International Students – Visa Compliance

We have received government guidance that they intend to be flexible with temporary adaptations to classes. Provided international students continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status should not be affected. You MUST stay enrolled full-time (12 credits) in your online courses in order to continue to maintain your F-1 Visa Status in the U.S.- even if you are not currently physically present in the U.S. In addition, pass/fail grades are permissible during this time.

Yes, if you remain in the United States and are enrolled in a full course of study online, you are still eligible to apply for OPT. OISS is available to assist you with this process. Please note, you cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States.

Yes. If you remain enrolled in a full course of study online, you are still eligible to apply for CPT. To be eligible you must have maintained your F-1 student status in the United States continuously for a full academic year. OISS is available to assist you with this process. First-year international students are not eligible to apply for CPT until the summer after their sophomore year.

If you are thinking about or if you have been offered a summer internship, please stay tuned for more information about this. We are working with the Career Center on providing details about possible remote work, deadlines and other details in response to questions we are getting from many of you. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any slight delays. We want to make sure everything is clear and accurate for you. 

Current International Students – Travel

Yes. It is very important that you have all the required immigration documents when trying to reenter the U.S. If you have any questions, please contact OISS.

As you will be maintaining your student visa status while taking your full-time (12 credits) on-line classes, you should be able to reenter the U.S. unless you are seeking to enter from a Level 3 country. This situation is constantly changing so this information may change with very little advance notice.

Yes, as long as you maintain your student visa status while taking your full-time (12 credits) on-line classes, you can go somewhere else in the U.S. You must provide the address where you are residing using the OISS Google Form.

International students who have decided to travel home, or to another location, should refer to the OISS website travel page for information on the proper documents you will need for your return to the United States. Before you leave, make sure you have a valid travel signature. We have also received guidance from SEVP that they will temporarily be accepting electronic signatures. This means that we can issue you a new I-20 with a travel signature and scan it to you instead of mailing you the original. Contact RISD OISS with additional questions or concerns. Please help OISS prepare you for your next steps by completing this Google form.

Current International Students – OPT/CPT

You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you apply for OPT. You can leave the U.S. while the application is pending. You must provide a mailing address in the U.S. where USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services) can send any correspondence related to your application. It is essential that this address be valid for 3-5 months and the person receiving the mail must be at that address to receive the mail and forward it to you. If you wish to apply for OPT and you are currently outside of the U.S., please contact OISS.

At this time we have no way of knowing what might be affected as this situation is constantly evolving.

You cannot use an international address. You should locate another recipient within the U.S. Then you must update your mailing address with USCIS.

You should not have a problem reentering the U.S. before graduation since your Form I-20 will still be valid. Remember you must have all the required documents when reentering the U.S. If you want to re-enter the U.S. after graduation, you must have received your OPT approval from USCIS. There is a possibility that a student who has graduated may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. if the OPT application is still pending at USCIS.

Current International Students – SSA/Taxes

Yes, you can use Sprintax, print and sign the forms, and mail them. OISS emailed you the updated discount codes on March 11, 2020.

While you typically can apply for a Social Security Number or Driver’s License/State ID with the support of OISS, these offices are currently closed or experiencing delays. All Social Security Offices are currently closed due to COVID-19. Please visit the SSA Website for more details. The RI DMV has very limited services and their satellite offices are closed due to COVID-19. Please visit the RI DMV Website for more details.

Incoming International Students – I-20 Process during COVID-19

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is committed to ensuring that your visa application process goes as smoothly as possible. In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we have temporarily modified some of our processes. The temporary changes have been guided by the SEVP (Student & Exchange Visitor Program) Broadcast Message 2003-03: New Electronic Form I-20 Issuance Guidance on sent on March 26, 2020.

RISD will be processing I-20s as we normally do for our incoming international students, with the following considerations and modifications due to COVID-19:

  1. All Initial I-20s will be created, signed and uploaded into your student portal. You can print out the scanned copy, sign it at the bottom of page 1 and begin the process of applying for an F-1 Student Visa as outlined in the letter on the following page.
  2. As per the announcement made by the U.S. Department of State on March 20, 2020, routine visa services have been suspended worldwide. RISD is closely monitoring this situation and will continue to do so. If the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country allows you to apply for a visa appointment and puts you on a waitlist, we encourage you to do so- even if the appointments are further out than your start date. Each U.S. Consulate or Embassy may handle this process differently, so please continue to monitor the website in the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country- and we will be doing the same. If you hear of any changes happening in the consulates or embassies in your country in regards to the visa application process, please let us know. While we are staying up-to-date on everything, you may hear about certain updates faster because of your national news.
  3. We are currently planning to begin the Fall 2020 Term on campus as scheduled for September 3, 2020. This start date includes the Orientation programming we have begun planning for you. Should anything change due to the COVID-19 situation, we will be in contact with all incoming students as soon as possible with updated policy and procedures.
  4. Tourist visas (B) are not appropriate for travel to the United States to pursue full-time degree study. We only recommend F1 visa for full-time degree programs at RISD, even if this process becomes delayed for the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about Nonimmigrants: Who Can Study? (PDF)

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