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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 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: How late can I arrive to campus if my arrival is delayed due to circumstances beyond my control (waiting on a visa, travel restrictions, recovering from illness, etc.)?
A: The College community understands and laments that this is a strong possibility for some new and continuing students. To best support the student transition to in-person learning and community activities on campus, please note that students must arrive by September 9th (undergraduates) or September 19th (graduate students). Those who cannot arrive by these dates must notify (undergraduates) or (graduate students) to ensure their visa records are updated accordingly. 

Q: Will students arriving in the U.S. from international locations be required to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to participating in orientation/on-campus activities?
A: CDC guidance currently advises that travelers arriving in the U.S. from international locations must self-quarantine and monitor their health for 14 days. Until the CDC guidelines change, students should plan their travel and arrival to the U.S. accordingly. Students may self-quarantine in off-campus housing, with family/friends, or request campus housing for this purpose. 
Q: What housing and dining resources will the College offer students who need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the U.S.? 

A: Students who plan to live in campus housing for the fall semester and are arriving from an international location, may request early move-in to campus housing to complete the 14 days of self-quarantine. Students may also choose to self-quarantine in off-campus housing or with friends/family. On June 26th, international students will be emailed the form to request campus quarantine housing, if needed.  

Students planning to participate in New Student Orientation should arrive by August 5th if needing to self-quarantine. Student leaders arriving early for training should arrive by July 28th. Returning students should arrive by August 12th to complete self-quarantine prior to the first day of classes. 

Students will have the option to request meals delivered to them, at a cost, while in self-quarantine (recommended for new students). The cost of meals for 14 days will be approximately $400. While completing the quarantine housing application form, students may opt-out of the meal delivery service if they prefer to coordinate their meals on their own. Information was emailed on June 26th.

Q: Do I need to bring proof of a negative Covid-19 test result if I have been approved to self-quarantine in on campus housing upon arriving from an international location? What if I am completing my self-quarantine off campus?
A: Students that have been approved to self-quarantine in on-campus housing, after international travel to campus, do not need to also bring proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test result. Completing 14 days of self-quarantine on campus meets this requirement for students. Students who plan to live on campus for the fall semester may use our online form to request on campus quarantine housing.

Students completing the self-quarantine requirement off campus, locally or outside of IL, will still need to bring proof of a negative Covid-19 test result (taken within 5 days of arrival) when arriving on campus in August.

Q: If I get a negative Covid-19 test result while in self-quarantine may I end my quarantine early?
A: No. Since the incubation period for Covid-19 can last up to 14 days, if you are required to self-quarantine due to international travel you are not able to end this quarantine early (even if you test negative while in quarantine).

Q: I already bought my ticket and now am learning that I have to self-quarantine.  Should I change my ticket to arrive earlier?
A: Each student and family will need to decide what is best in this situation. Until the CDC guidelines change, students arriving from international locations must complete the 14 days of self-quarantine prior to participating in-person for campus activities and classes. If you cannot arrive 14 days early, you can still begin the fall semester during your self-quarantine period in the U.S. by participating virtually in orientation programs and classes.

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 safe is it for me to return to the U.S.? My family is concerned about how the U.S. is responding to Covid-19 and news outlets in my country have shown videos of violent protests in Chicago and other major cities. 
A: Your concerns about safety are understandable. Students and families can monitor the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Restore Illinois websites to learn how our national and local governments are responding to Covid-19 and to view the guidelines Wheaton College is using to plan for the fall semester. 

We also understand the concern about the protests in the U.S. related to a nation-wide call for justice and equal treatment for all people in the country. While there has been violence related to the protests, it is important to note that the majority of national protests, and all the protests in the Wheaton area, have been peaceful, respectful, and prayerful. Wheaton College remains committed to the safety of students studying and living as part of our community.

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. The majority of our fall semester classes will have the option for students in international locations to participate asynchronously. If you choose to study remotely this semester please inform the College through this survey. 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: 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 (undergraduates) or (graduate students). 

Q:  I heard that the Presidential Proclamation of June 22, 2020 says that the US is banning entry to international students, is this true?
President Trump issued the Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020 titled Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.  There has been some confusion on who is restricted under this proclamation.  It is important to note that this does not apply to the F-1 student visa or the B-2 visitor visa categories.  Also, it should not apply to immigration benefits available to individuals currently inside the U.S. such as changing status to H-1B.  Here is a summary that is written by the NAFSA: Association of International Educators: Brief Summary from NAFSA.docx if you would like to read more.

Q: Where can I find the latest information for F-1 visa students regarding SEVP and ICE guidance for the fall semester?
Look for an email from your DSO team, sent on or near July 24th - which provides the latest update for F-1 students and Wheaton College. We realize this has been a difficult summer as the government guidance has changed multiple times. Thank you for continuing to read our updates and sending us questions as you have them!

Don’t see your F-1 visa related question answered on this page?
E-mail and and we will work on finding you an answer.

Updated August 7th