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At the highest levels across the university, we are actively monitoring COVID-19 and taking measures to support the health and well-being of our campus community. This page answers questions that international students and scholars may have regarding Lehigh's response.

As of Monday, March 16, Lehigh is moving to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester and all students are expected to return home or remain home. You can read more information about the university's response on the Lehigh COVID-19 Information webpage.

updated March 23, 2020 at 10:00 am

Since the university is moving to online instruction for the remainder of the semester, can I travel back to my home country? 

This is a decision you have to make on your own but OISS recommends that you consider the following since everyone’s case is different:

  • Are you graduating in May of 2020?
  • Did you or will you apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training)?
  • Are you currently working on CPT until the end of the semester?
  • Will you experience difficulties returning to the US if you travel home (Travel bans/restrictions)?
  • Are you from a country that is currently on the Center of Disease Control’s list of places that are considered high risk?
  • Are you currently applying for a change of status in the United States?

Will my F-1/J-1 student status be impacted if I leave the United States?

As long as you remain enrolled full-time for the spring semester of 2020, your F-1/J-1 student status will not be impacted if you leave the U.S.

Will my J-1 scholar status be impacted if I'm currently outside the US and unable to return due to the travel restrictions (on China and countries in Europe including the UK and Ireland)?

No.  OISS will keep your DS-2019 active until the travel restrictions are lifted and you are able to return to the U.S.  Please be mindful of your J-1 visa validity dates.  You may need to renew your visa before returning to the U.S.

Will the five-month out of country rule impact my F-1 immigration status if I leave the United States?

As long as you maintain a full course load online, the five-month rule will not impact your immigration status

Since Lehigh is moving to online instruction until May, will I lose my F-1 or J-1 student status?

Fortunately, the government understands the extenuating circumstances that international students are currently facing. So, you will not be at risk of losing your F-1 or J-1 student status if you are taking classes online through the end of the semester

Can I get a travel signature before I go back to my home country?

In keeping with the Pennsylvania governor's order to close all non-essential businesses, the Office of International Students and Scholars is now closed. If you need to leave the United States to go back home, we can work out the travel signature before you return to the U.S.

I already left the U.S. Can I still apply for OPT if I am graduating in May?

Unfortunately, you must be physically present in the United States in order to apply for OPT. You cannot apply from overseas.

If my OPT application is pending with USCIS and I want to go back home, will I be able to return? 

You should consider the following before returning home while your OPT is pending:

  • Will the current travel restrictions affect you? 
  • Do you have a job offer?
  • What if USCIS sends a request for evidence?
  • Did you provide an address where your EAD could be mailed if your OPT is approved?
  • Did you use your personal mailing address when you applied for OPT?

Someone told me we will need to re-apply for F-1 visas if we leave the U.S. in the middle of the semester. Is that true?

No. Unless your student visa will expire upon leaving the U.S., you do not need to re-apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate. You can use your current visa and Lehigh I-20 to return to the United States.

I am planning to stay on campus. Will campus dining options be available?

Limited campus dining options will be available due to the small number of students who will be residing on campus.

If I am still in Bethlehem or able to stay in my residence hall, what services will be open on campus?

As of March 21, all campus facilities and buildings, with the exception of those housing and supporting the 230 students who must remain on campus, will be closed. This includes on-campus research operations. This action complies with Governor Tom Wolf’s order directing all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations. Only essential operations will continue on campus, and all other employees are being asked to work remotely as effectively as possible.

If I stay in the United States, is my university health insurance still valid?

Yes, when away from campus the Health and Wellness Center insurance is good nationally. Students who need medical care should always look for an in-network provider when possible.

If I decide to go home, how can I get the belongings that I left in my residence hall?

Housing Services will contact students to arrange for move out in a separate email. 

How will I access my courses in China?

Lehigh's Library and Technology Services is working to make sure Chinese students have access to a VPN that will allow them to access courses in China without interruption.

If I graduate in May and I am not in the U.S., will I receive my diploma?

OISS will be in touch with you and will share information on what you will need to do in order for us to mail your diploma

Am I able to return to the U.S. in May to attend commencement?

As of today, we don’t know if there will be a commencement ceremony or not. Keep in mind that you can only return for graduation if you are going to be on OPT and you have an offer letter and EAD. Otherwise you will need to apply for a visitor visa from a U.S. consulate.