In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lehigh University is limiting the number of students who can reside on campus for the fall 2020 semester. We are also advising that new international students traveling from other countries not travel to campus at this time.
On July 30, the Office of International Students and Scholars hosted a town hall discussion for international students to answer questions. You can watch that video here. This page provides additional information and resources for international students. If you have questions, you can contact the Office of International Students and Scholars at email@example.com.
Updated August 5, 2020
General Information About Fall
What is Lehigh advising new international students about returning to campus this fall?
Lehigh is advising that incoming international students remain in their home countries for the fall semester. This guidance applies to most newly admitted international undergraduate and graduate students. New students are defined as those individuals who are applying for their F-1 visas for initial study in the US. New international undergraduate and graduate students who are already in the United States are excepted from this guidance.
While recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security guidance has confirmed that international students can take a hybrid course load (with some classes online and some in person), Lehigh is making this decision independently as part of the institution’s COVID-19 response plan.
Will new international graduate students who obtain a visa be able to begin in person this fall?
The guidance is the same for undergraduate and graduate students. We advise that students remain in their home countries for the fall semester. However, doctoral students who are able to obtain a visa and desire to travel to Bethlehem may request permission from the advisor to begin studies in person. The decision to grant permission will be based on the intended mode of instruction for the program and conditions on campus. As per DHS guidelines, new doctoral students who are permitted to come will be expected to enroll in at least one in-person course for the fall semester.
What is Lehigh advising continuing international students who have returned to their home country?
Lehigh is advising international students to remain in their home country if at all possible. International students who have an extenuating reason to return to the U.S. (e.g. in order to remain eligible for OPT) may plan to do so. Undergraduate students who have extenuating circumstances that require that they live on campus will be able to request permission. The process to request will be announced shortly. Students who live off campus will experience the restrictions as outlined by the university. Graduate students with on-campus housing contracts do not need to petition.
What is Lehigh advising international students, including transfer students, who are already in the U.S.?
New international students who are in the U.S. are excepted from this guidance and may return to Bethlehem. Students may be subject to the quarantine guidance outlined by the university, depending upon the place from which they are traveling.
What is Lehigh advising U.S. passport holders (expats) who live abroad?
Lehigh is advising that all students whose living circumstances allow them to learn remotely should strongly consider doing so and wait until we can open campus more fully. This means that if possible, U.S. passport holders who live abroad should remain outside of the U.S. However, since U.S. citizens do not have to get a student visa or follow the same travel restrictions as non-U.S. citizens, students may choose to come to Bethlehem. All international travelers will be expected to quarantine for 14 days, as per the CDC recommendations and the university requirements. Other issues, such as access to campus housing and other facilities, will be limited according to the plans announced by the university for the fall.
If I cannot come to campus for the fall semester, how can I begin or continue my studies?
Courses in the fall semester will be offered remotely, in person and in a hybrid mode. Almost all courses for the fall semester will be accessible remotely. We have invested in expanding and improving our approaches to online instruction and remote learning, and faculty have risen to the challenge of teaching remotely.
In addition, we have several options for international students:
- Lehigh in Residence in Shanghai for new first-year students in China
- Other Lehigh in Residence options for other new international first-year students
- Study abroad in your home country for current undergraduate students
- Additional options for new graduate students
Do international undergraduate students who are in their home country have an option to study with a local university instead of completing online instruction?
Lehigh’s Study Abroad Office is working with students who have expressed interest in studying at a partner site in their home country of residence. This option may provide a residential experience and the opportunity to attend in-person courses. In addition, students are able to attend Lehigh courses remotely should courses required for their degree plan not be available at the partner institution. Click here for more information.
Information about Visas
Since Lehigh is advising that new international students remain in their home countries for the fall, how does this affect my visa?
If you already have your visa or you have secured a visa appointment, please continue with that process. Lehigh will issue new I-20’s for students entering the U.S. to begin in-person instruction in January.
I am an incoming graduate student whose I-20 was transferred to Lehigh from another U.S. institution. Am I able to take classes remotely?
Will the hybrid mode offered by Lehigh (a combination of remote and in-person) satisfy the SEVP requirements to obtain an I-20 or F-1 visa?
If my visa expired in June and I plan to return to campus in the spring, when should I apply for a new visa?
Students who need a visa to enter the U.S. in January are encouraged to apply as soon as the US.. consulates reopen for nonimmigrant visa appointments due to the anticipated backlog and possible delays.
Will I need a new I-20 if I am going to the U.S./Lehigh in January 2021?
If you are a continuing student, you do not need a new I-20. You will just need to make sure that you have a valid travel signature on your current valid I-20 and that you have a valid student visa to enter the country in January. If you are a new student and received an I-20 from OISS for fall 2020, we will need to send you an updated I-20 electronically with the spring semester start date.
Is there any special documentation I will need when entering the U.S. apart from the regular immigration documents?
It’s recommended to carry OISS’s letter attesting to Lehigh’s mode of instruction in addition to your I-20, valid passport and visa when entering the U.S.
I’m an international student and I choose to study remotely in the fall and hopefully go to the U.S. in January. If the consulate remains closed and I’m unable to get a visa to come in spring, can I defer for a semester or two or must I continue remote learning in the spring?
If you begin your coursework in the fall 2020 semester remotely or in-person, you become an active Lehigh student. You can request a leave of absence for spring 2021 if you are not able to continue remote learning from your home country.
Information about the quarantine requirement
Do students need to quarantine before coming to campus?
Lehigh is following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recommendations. All travelers from international locations and U.S. states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases must self-quarantine for 14 days before arriving on campus. We are asking that all students who elect to come to campus quarantine for 14 days in Pennsylvania or in a state that Pennsylvania doesn't designate as a "hotspot" before coming
Do students have to find their own place if the 14-day quarantine is required? Will Lehigh provide a place for the students?
We are asking that all students who elect to come to campus quarantine for 14 days in Pennsylvania or in a state that Pennsylvania doesn't designate as a "hotspot" before coming. Unfortunately, we will not accommodate or provide this space for arrivals on campus. OISS has compiled a list of local resources for students who choose to self-quarantine near campus. If you must quarantine during the first two weeks of classes, please be sure to communicate the need to your faculty or course instructors. You may begin your courses remotely from your residence while completing the quarantine. Students who need assistance should contact OISS for additional information.
Can I get tested as soon as I arrive in the U.S. and opt out of the quarantine?
No. A negative test for COVID-19 prior to arrival will not eliminate the requirement for quarantine. Per Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines, everyone who travels to Pennsylvania from abroad or these US states is required to complete a 14-day self-quarantine even if they have a negative test during this time.
Do I have to quarantine myself upon returning to Lehigh if I have been living in other parts of Pennsylvania since March?
No. Quarantine is only required for people coming to Pennsylvania from abroad or these U.S. states.
I am a Chinese student and will be traveling to the U.S. via a third country. I will spend 14 days in the third country before entering the U.S. Am I still required to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the U.S.?
Yes. The 14-day self-quarantine is required for anyone who will be traveling to the U.S. from abroad.
Can I arrive before August 17 (the move-in date) to begin self-quarantine on campus in my dorm?
No. You cannot move in before August 17 because Lehigh will not have the capacity to support students before that date. Students are expected to self-quarantine at an off-campus location for 14 days prior to coming to campus.
Information about housing
Will international students who are currently living on campus be able to continue to live in residence halls?
International students who are currently living in university residence halls will be able to submit a petition to request to remain. OISS and the Office of Residence Life will provide information about this process. Graduate students currently living on campus do not need to petition.
Will continuing international students who have housing contracts be able to continue to live in residence halls?
International students who have housing contracts will also be able to submit a petition to request to remain. These students will also have the option to cancel their housing contract without penalty.
Will there be on-campus housing available if I’m able to make it back to Lehigh during the middle of the fall semester?
If you are a new international student, it’s very unlikely that there will be housing available when you arrive in the middle of the semester. This is why we encourage first year international students to begin their studies in their home country and come to campus in January. If you are a continuing student, there will be no on-campus housing available this fall semester.
Will on-campus housing be converted to only single rooms or will there still be shared bedrooms?
In order to de-densify housing, the Office of Housing Services has had to adjust how many students can be in a room, suite, or apartment. All buildings are part of this de-densifying plan. All students approved to live on campus will live in a single bedroom within a traditional hall, suite, or apartment on campus. You will share a bathroom with no more than five other students.
Will the decision to move from on-campus housing to off-campus housing negatively affect my financial aid?
Students who are in this situation should contact the Office of Financial Aid for advice as soon as possible.
I’m a rising sophomore who will be returning to campus in the spring semester. How can I acquire on-campus housing for the spring?
The Office of Housing Services will issue more guidance regarding this process.
Will international students who live on-campus be asked to leave their dorm during and after Thanksgiving since Lehigh will be closed after Thanksgiving?
No, international students will be able to remain in their on-campus dorm during and after Thanksgiving.
What are Lehigh’s plans to contain the spread of the virus from social events ?
Based on Lehigh’s July 10 Update, all meetings and gatherings whenever possible should continue to be virtual/digital. Non-academic gatherings that cannot be accomplished virtually should be limited to 25 people and social distancing must be maintained. Face coverings must be worn in all public spaces and businesses (including educational institutions). This also includes outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible. At Lehigh, we consider this order to include all of our buildings as well as outdoor spaces such as campus walkways. A face covering is not a substitute for social distancing. Everyone should still be striving to maintain a six-foot distance between each other at all times.
Other Questions about Fall 2020
What is the Lehigh grading system like? Will it be flexible enough to accommodate students who are not in a normal/traditional educational environment on campus?
There will be a standard A through F grading system for the fall semester. Professors and instructors can decide how to assess student progress. Students who are taking courses remotely from outside the U.S. are strongly encouraged to discuss their particular circumstances (time zone, technology accessibility, etc.) with their faculty and instructors.
How will international students be able to access advising, services and other resources from the Office of International Students and Scholars?
The Office of International Students and Scholars will be offering very limited in-person service during the fall semester. However, requests can be made online or via Zoom with OISS advisors. Other campus units may or may not offer in-person service as well. However, service to students will still be available via Zoom and other methods deemed essential.
If a student cannot get to the U.S., can he or she still be a teaching or research assistant?
Students will not be able to do research, teaching or other duties associated with the assistantship while abroad as we are unable to arrange compensation. In most cases, students’ tuition will be paid. Students on fellowship might be able to be compensated. Students are advised to consult with their department chair or college manager to discuss their particular situation.
I’m a new graduate student and will be studying remotely from my home country in the fall. I have received both fellowship and a research assistantship. Will I be able to keep my fellowship?
If this is a Lehigh fellowship, yes, you may keep your fellowship while studying remotely from your home country. You will only be able to serve as an research assistant once you arrive on campus.
What should students who are not able to come to the U.S. this fall do with regards to their health insurance?
New international students will receive health insurance waivers for the fall semester. Current international students can contact OISS at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding health insurance.
Can I apply for Lehigh health insurance only for the spring semester?
Yes. If you are unable to travel to the U.S. in the fall, you can enroll in the Lehigh insurance program starting in the spring semester.