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Covid-19 Updates

COVID-19: Answers to the frequently asked questions by Wheaton College F-1 Students
Reminder: general questions and answers can be found on the current Wheaton College COVID-19 FAQ Page (updated daily!)

Those departing the U.S. will need a travel signature if: 
  1. Their I-20 (page 2) does not have a travel signature; or,
  2. Their last travel signature was dated prior to October 1, 2019 (remember, these are valid for 12 months)

As an F-1 student aren’t I limited from enrolling in a fully - online program? How will my F-1 status be impacted by the college’s recent decision to only offer online classes for the rest of the semester?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is the authority over the F-1 visa program and they have released guidelines for all institutions of higher education that allow us to temporarily change instruction mode to online / virtual platforms. Your PDSO is properly documenting with SEVP the changes Wheaton College will implement so that your F-1 visa status will not be at risk if you choose to stay in the country and only participate in online classes. 

Should I leave the U.S. or stay on campus for the remainder of the semester? 
At this point, you and your families will need to make this decision after becoming informed. If your questions are not answered in this document or on the Wheaton College COVID-19 FAQ Page, please reach out to your DSO for assistance. 
In addition, it is not possible to predict the upcoming impact of the covid-19 pandemic both in the U.S. and around the world. While the current plan is for on campus classes to resume in the fall semester, this will not be determined until later this year. 

I am planning to leave the U.S. to finish my semester at home/elsewhere- what do I need to do regarding my visa status prior to departure?
All F-1 students who are planning on finishing their semester outside of the U.S. must ensure they have a valid travel signature on their I-20 document (see top of this page to determine if you need one). If you need  one, please contact your DSO (via phone or e-mail) to request a signature appointment. For urgent I-20 signatures, after hours, you may call or text (630) 923-7964. Please also review this list of all other travel documents that we recommend you have prior to departure. 

Please note, if you depart the U.S. to continue your classes from another country, and plan to return for the fall semester, you will not be subject to the 5+ months away rule that would require a new I-20 document. Your status will be considered “active” and enrolled through the first week of May.

I need to stay in the U.S. to finish this semester (or at least for some of it)- what do I need to know about staying here?
If you feel you need to stay at Wheaton in order to finish up the semester and you live on campus, the first thing you should do is submit a request for permission to stay on campus through Residence Life using this online application. If you live on campus, you will start by staying in your current living space and will have the option to continue to use your meal plan at limited campus locations. In addition, you will continue to be permitted to use CPO as your mailing address unless you hear from CPO via e-mail that they have to discontinue services. 

Over the weekend of March 21-22, Residence Life moved all students approved to stay from residence halls into campus apartments. The week after, they communicated instructions with students living in apartments already. If you have questions about your current housing space, or need to request on -campus housing still, please e-mail Residence.Life@wheaton.edu.

If you need off-campus housing but don't have any options, please e-mail isp@wheaton.edu and we can help! Faculty and Staff families have begun to volunteer open rooms in their homes for any student who prefers to live with a family instead of staying on campus. 

I am staying in the U.S., what are my employment options?
If you would like to continue to work at your on-campus job for 20 hours or less, you are permitted to do so.  You should check with your supervisor to verify if your position will continue for the remainder of the semester. You can check Handshake for any new postings if you are looking for campus employment. Or, you can stop by departments that often need help to inquire about job opportunities (ex: Buswell Library or Facilities, located at Chase Service Center). If you would like to pursue an internship please review our CPT website and discuss with your DSO to ensure your eligibility. 

How does this affect my current OPT application or hope to apply for OPT after I graduate in May? If you have applied for OPT or plan to, please e-mail your DSO to set up a meeting to discuss your options.

Am I permitted to continue participating in my current CPT placement / practicum / internship?
If your CPT site continues to offer you the opportunity to participate, you can continue with your CPT while staying in the country. Please ensure your I-20 shows your CPT approval and dates (page 2) prior to beginning your CPT hours. 

Am I allowed to do remote work while I'm on approved OPT? What if I lose my job? What if I want to leave OPT early and leave the U.S.?
If you are still employed, you are permitted to work remotely while on OPT. If you lose your job, be careful not to exceed your 90 days of permitted unemployment while searching for another opportunity. Make sure to use the SEVP Portal and e-mail your DSO to report a change in your employment dates. 
If you want to leave the U.S. and end your OPT early, please inform your DSO. Expect further communication from your DSO, but please feel free to email them with any questions regarding your current OPT.

If I am planning to return home to an international location in a different time zone, will I have to participate in the on-line classes at the posted time or can they be recorded? 
At this time, all faculty are busy preparing for the shift to on-line instruction and we do not have the full details. However, our current understanding is that class times will not change because of the impact on all other classes and their schedules. We do not want you to suddenly have two classes scheduled at the same time because of a shift! However, Wheaton is working on making most classes and lectures able to be recorded so that you can participate in more convenient times whenever possible. Yet some classes will still have some required assignments and aspects that may require you to participate at times that are inconvenient to you depending on your international time zone. 
If you are expecting to be in a country with limited access to online platforms or websites (ex: Gmail, Google platforms) please a) expect to use a VPN to access as much as possible b) notify your professor so they are aware of this challenge and c) use your student e-mail inbox settings to forward all Wheaton mail to another personal address. While Wheaton College will do what they can to make all distance learning accessible to you, they cannot control the limits set by specific countries. Please consider all the above factors as you decide whether or not to travel home. 

Is the testing and treatment for Covid-19 included in our international student's healthcare (LewerMark) plan?
LewerMark has responded to this and other coverage questions via your student e-mail. You can find a helpful summary of their response on the SHS "LewerMark Covers COVID-19" website.

If I am leaving the country do I still have LewerMark coverage? What if I leave and no longer want my Lewermark insurance plan, will I be reimbursed for this expense?
Lewermark and SHS have also provided a "LewerMark respond to COVID-19" website that details what out of country coverage looks like and who is eligible for a credit to their student account if they choose to unenroll from the LewerMark plan when departing the U.S.

Do I still need to file taxes?
The expectations for tax filing have not changed. Please review our Taxes page to determine your responsibilities. If you need a Sprintax code, please e-mail isp@wheaton.edu

What do I need to know about moving out of my campus housing? 
Please follow the emailed instructions you have received. To inform campus that you have moved out please ensure you complete the Residence Life Check-Out Form. Thank you for your patience and please continue to check your student email where updates will be communicated.

Will I receive a housing / meal plan credit or refund if I leave campus housing or stop my meal plan? 
Students can read more specifics about credits/refunds on the Wheaton College Covid-19 FAQs page, under the menu of “Student Accounts and Financial.” If you’d like to cancel your meal plan, you can email Housing.Services@wheaton.edu to let them know.

Don’t see your F-1 visa related question answered on this page?
E-mail isp@wheaton.edu and / or graduate.student.life@wheaton.edu and we will work on finding you an answer. 

Updated March 27th (3pm CST)