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Covid-19 FAQs Fall 2020

Answers to the frequently asked questions by Wheaton College F-1 Students

Reminder: You can find answers to general student questions on the Wheaton College Fall 2020 FAQ page. The following information is specific to Wheaton College F-1 visa students. Some of the answers below are also listed under "International (F-1 visa/MK/TCK) Students" on the college's FAQ page. 

Q: How will the College ensure that F-1 visa students can participate in the adapted in-person fall semester in compliance with the government regulations that limit online/remote learning for visa students in the US?
A: Similar to the spring and summer semesters, Wheaton College will use temporary Covid-19 SEVP guidelines to ensure visa students who return to campus for the fall 2020 semester are enrolled in a program of study compliant with all regulations. The campus DSO team will work with the Academic leadership team if SEVP issues new guidelines and notify students accordingly.

Q: What housing and dining resources will be available if Wheaton College has to change mid-semester to fully online classes due to a second wave of Covid-19?
A: Wheaton College remains committed to its international students and understands the unique needs in this situation. Similar to March 2020, international students will have authorization to remain in campus housing until the end of the fall semester. The College will also aim to continue providing food via student meal plans until these end on November 20th. Undergraduate international students who need housing during Christmas break (December 18th, 2020 to January 9th, 2021) will be able to request to stay on campus if they cannot return home. Between November 20th and January 9th, students staying on campus will be responsible for the cost and preparation of their meals. 

Q: How will my F-1 visa status be impacted if I choose to enroll remotely for classes this fall semester, outside of the United States?
A: Students whose I-20 status is “Initial” (new/transfer students) will need to notify their DSO to request a deferral for the program start date reflected on their I-20 document. Your DSO will send you a new I-20 to use when traveling to campus for classes the following semester/year. If you have already paid your SEVIS I-901 fee, you will not need to pay it again. 

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued temporary Covid-19 guidance during the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters that allowed continuing students to remain in “active” status while participating in online classes from outside of the United States. Continuing students would only need a new I-20 to return to campus if SEVP changes their guidance. This answer will be updated if that is the case.


Q: If I stay outside of the U.S. for the fall semester, will I need to participate in classes synchronously (CST timezone) or will there be an option to participate asynchronously (my timezone)?
A: Wheaton College faculty will work with students to provide quality, remote learning experiences. Faculty have been instructed to accommodate asynchronous class participation for international students if participating synchronously means that the student would need to join their class outside of 7am-10pm local time. We also ask you to email your professors to indicate that you will be participating from an international location. If needed, and whenever possible, the professor will give you details on how to participate asynchronously.

Q: What assistance is available to remote international students that are having technical difficulties accessing class lectures, recordings, materials, and/or finding electronic versions of textbooks?
A: Students are encouraged to notify their professors of any challenges they experience while participating remotely in their class. In addition, students should report technical difficulties to their professor and ait.service.desk@wheaton.edu for assistance. If students are unable to secure textbooks and reading materials outside of the U.S., they should notify their professor and note that the Buswell Library Subject Librarians are ready to assist. Please identify the librarian whose subject expertise matches your major or class and request assistance by emailing them directly.

Q: I’m planning to graduate December 2020 / May 2021, how will my OPT eligibility be impacted if I participate online for a semester outside of the US? 
A: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SEVP has temporarily allowed colleges to register F-1 students as active and enrolled while they are pursuing their studies remotely in the US or from their home countries.  Of course, F-1 students still have to be full time and maintain good progress toward their degrees.  F-1 students who choose to study remotely for the Fall 2020 semester will be registered as active students in the SEVIS system.  This will allow for no breaks in F-1 status and students who are graduating in December 2020 or May 2021 will be eligible to apply for OPT (students who apply for OPT must be in F-1 status for one full academic year prior to applying). If you have any questions about your OPT options, please email isp@wheaton.edu (undergraduates) or graduate.student.life@wheaton.edu (graduate students). 

Q: How do international students request permission to stay on campus and get meals in the dining hall after November 21st, when classes switch to fully remote? What if I also need a place to stay over Christmas break (December 18th - Jan 17th)?
A: International (F-1 Visa/MK/TCK) students that need to stay on campus, beyond the College’s transition to remote learning on November 21st, must request authorization using the forms published on the Fall 2020 Break Housing and Spring 2021 College website. This website provides information and applications to support students requesting:
  1. late departure housing after November 21st 
  2. housing for the remainder of the fall semester 
  3. meals for the remainder of the fall semester 
  4. housing during Christmas break, starting December 18th,  if needed
    1. If staying over Christmas break, students currently living in residence halls will need to move to a campus apartment for that portion of their stay, beginning December 18th. 
    2. Students staying over Christmas break will be responsible for their own meals.
  5. Early arrival housing for Spring 2021

Q: If I receive permission to stay on campus between December 18th - January 17th will there be a housing fee? 
A: International (F-1 Visa/MK/TCK) students who receive permission to stay on campus during break will not be charged a housing fee.

Q: If I receive approval to stay on campus over the Christmas break, will I need to show a negative Covid-19 test prior to the start of classes on January 20th?
A: All undergraduate students will be tested on campus prior to the beginning of the spring semester. This includes students returning to campus and students who lived on campus during Christmas break. Once students receive a negative test result they will be given a wristband to wear which displays their spring approval to enter campus buildings and the dining commons. Please read the November 9th campus email that announced this process and look for more information in the coming weeks.
 
Don’t see your F-1 visa related question answered on this page?
E-mail isp@wheaton.edu and graduate.student.life@wheaton.edu and we will work on finding you an answer.

Updated November 13, 2020