Immigration and Visa Q+A

The Office of International Affairs is fully committed to the education of our international students and to their success here at Lehigh and after graduation. We recognize that many international students have questions about their immigration status and the climate in the United States. This is an uncertain time, and we do not know how quickly things will change or to what extent. But we want to share with you what we know now, to the best of our understanding. We will keep this space updated as things change. If you have any questions, please contact our office or one of the numerous other resources on campus.

Updated March 6, 2017.

Visa and Immigration

1. What is the Executive Order on Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States signed on March 6, 2017, and does it affect me?

According to this executive order, citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are outside the United States and do not have a valid visa are prohibited from entering the United States effective for 90 days starting on March 16, 2017. This executive order replaces the one issued on January 27, 2017, and does not include current visa holders, green card holders, or Iraqi nationals. Students and scholars from those six countries who are currently in the United States on a visa should not travel outside the United States. Learn more about the executive order here.

2. Will there be changes to the H1B visa program?

As of April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions for up to six months. Learn more about this change.

3. Will I be able to travel to my home country and return to the United States with a valid visa?

Prospective nonimmigrants from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will not be permitted to enter the United States. Students and scholars from those six countries who are currently in the United States on a visa should not travel outside the United States.

4. I’m from a country that has a majority Muslim population but wasn’t listed on the executive order. Do these rules apply to me?

At this point, no, but this is a fluid situation and rules and regulations may change quickly. We advise that you consult with the Office of International Students and Scholars before traveling outside the United States.

5. How will Lehigh support students if they can’t get a visa on their way back from home?

We are committed to making sure our students remain in good standing at the university and can continue and complete their studies. If you have trouble reentering the United States, please contact the Office of International Students and Scholars and your academic department and advisor so we can work with you on any accommodations necessary. Each situation is different, but most of the time, we can work with you so you can continue your work.

6. Can your visa be canceled after you’re here?

It’s been known to happen. For example, the U.S. Department of State has said that if you get arrested for driving under the influence, your visa will be invalidated and if you leave the U.S., you will need to apply again and go through additional background checks. Please note that this is only relevant when you travel internationally as you can continue to remain in the U.S. in valid F-1 or J-1 status even if the visa in your passport expires or is terminated as long as your underlying Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 remains valid.

7. Will there be changes to OPT and F-1 extensions for graduate students, specifically for students who come from countries with majority Muslim populations?

At this point, no official changes to OPT and F-1 extensions have been announced.

8. Will there be any changes to filing invitation letters for family members to visit me for graduation?

Please continue to follow the usual process for inviting friends and family to visit. Parents and friends visiting on tourist visas or the Visa Waiver Program for short durations should not have any issues entering the United States. Please note that Chinese nationals holding a 10-year B-1/B-2, B-1 or B-2 visa are required to periodically update their biographical information in EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System) in order to successfully enter the U.S. with their valid tourist visa. Family and friends from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are prohibited from entering the United States for 90 days.

9. Will the new administration affect my chances of getting a job in the United States after graduation?

The ability of international students and scholars to get a job in the United States after graduation depends on whether there are changes to the regulations. At this point, we don’t anticipate any significant change between what current recent graduates experience and what future graduates will face. Career Services and Lehigh as a whole are committed to helping all students achieve success after graduation.

10. What is the university’s policy on sharing student information with government authorities?

We have policies and procedures in place to protect your personal information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. We may disclose, without your consent, “directory” information such as your name, home and University address, mailbox number, home and University phone numbers, date and place of birth, etc. (a complete list can be found under FERPA FAQ for Faculty at the link provided above). Otherwise, generally, we must have written permission from you in order to release information from your education record. However, there are certain exceptions to that rule that may be applicable with respect to government authorities. For example, we may provide information from your student record to comply with an order of court or a lawfully issued subpoena. We may also provide information to the Department of Homeland Security in order to maintain your status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS).

11. Do you anticipate restrictions on the ability of students to participate in research projects based on their country of origin?

The United States already has export control laws and regulations as well as economic sanctions regulations in place, but they do not typically impact the kind of research currently conducted by the university. If you’re not already subject to restrictions, they probably don’t apply to you. We don’t yet know if the U.S. government will expand these restrictions.

12. What can I do if my advisor is not familiar with working with international students and visa issues that affect academics?

The Office of International Students and Scholars works closely with advisors and administrators to help them learn about visa and immigration issues. Please contact our office for help. We can talk to your advisor.

13. How long can you stay in the United States after your visa expires?

A valid visa gets you into the United States. To maintain legal status while you’re here, you need to 1) keep your passport valid at least six months into the future at all times; and 2) have a valid I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) and maintain your full time student status. If you are a J-1 scholar, you must maintain required health insurance coverage and engage only in activities permitted under your program and category that are specified on your DS-2019.

F-1 students can legally remain in the US for up to 60 days following the completion of their program. If an F-1 student applies for and is approved for the Optional Practical Training (OPT), they are legally authorized to stay and work in their field of study in the U.S. after graduation for the duration of the authorized OPT. J-1 students and scholars have a 30-day grace period in which they can stay and travel within the U.S. J-1 students have the option of applying for Academic Training, which will allow them to work in the U.S. in their field of study for the duration of the authorized AT. Please always contact OISS with any questions.

14. What should I do if I get an email from the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service requesting a visit?

Please contact OISS immediately and we will work with you.

15. Has USCIS stopped adjudicating applications and petitions from residents of the seven named countries while the residents are in the United States?

This is a rumor and USCIS has not alerted us to any change in their process.

Campus Climate and Safety

16. What is Lehigh’s policy toward free speech if it is offensive?

Lehigh is committed to freedom of speech. The Policy on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry and Expression, And Dissent by Students, as outlined in the Student Handbook, applies to students. The Policy on Academic Freedom applies to faculty and is outlined in Section 2.1.1 (pp. 44-45) of the Rules and Procedures of the Faculty. And the Principles of Our Equitable Community affirm the value of freedom of speech and academic freedom.

But these freedoms are not absolute. Speech or actions that create a hostile or offensive environment are prohibited. The Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator investigates allegations of harassment or bias on a case by case basis and takes appropriate actions.

17. How do I determine if a comment or action is offensive and if I should report it?

The Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator (EOCC) oversees the investigation of all reports and complaints of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and sexual misconduct and the enforcement of university policies addressing these topics. The EOCC also oversees the university’s response to bias incidents. If you’re concerned about an interaction or have questions, please contact the EOCC—Karen A. Salvemini, Esq., at (610) 758-3535 or eocc@lehigh.edu. She can walk through the next steps with you.

You can also contact the Lehigh University Police Department at (610) 758-4200, especially if you feel unsafe.

Microaggressions are small, everyday insensitive comments or actions. They may be made with or without malice, but they’re still impactful. If you have questions about this, contact us and we can work through it. In addition, any time there’s a major change like this, you may be feeling uncertain, which leads to stress. If you’re feeling more stress or sadness, or otherwise need help, you can contact the Counseling Center, the Health and Wellness Center, or the Dean of Students Office.

18. Should I carry my identity documents in case I’m stopped by police?

You should keep your original documents in a safe place and avoid carrying them around. As always, you should carry some form of valid photo identification. Your Lehigh ID will suffice for many purposes other than use while driving and for air travel. You may also make a copy of your visa and passport and carry that instead.

19. What are my rights as a non-U.S. citizen if I'm stopped by the police or other law enforcement?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has created a helpful  video about your rights. If you go to their YouTube channel, they also have the video in Arabic, Farsi, Spanish and Urdu.

20. If I am concerned about my safety on campus, what should I do?

Lehigh University takes campus safety very seriously. The University Police Department, located at 321 East Packer Avenue, operates round the clock throughout the year. You can call them at any time at (610) 758-4200 (8-4200 from any university telephone). In addition, the EmergenSee smartphone app connects users directly with LUPD dispatchers in the event of a dangerous situation. Please follow these links for additional safety tips and emergency information.

Lehigh has also partnered with the city of Bethlehem on several initiatives to ensure that the neighborhoods surrounding campus are safe for students and other residents. These initiatives include the Community Ambassadors Program, community policing, and safety and security programs like the EmergenSee smartphone app.

21. How do I feel safe practicing my religion?

Everybody on this campus and in the United States has the constitutional right to practice their religion without interference. Islamophobia and violence against Muslims or any other religious group have no place at Lehigh. There is a Musalah (prayer room) for Muslim members of the Lehigh community in the Dialogue Center, which provides space and resources to enhance the “ethical and spiritual development” of all those who live and work at Lehigh. In addition, if you feel unsafe, you can contact the LUPD. The police are here to protect your constitutional rights.