International Student Services
Deciding to study abroad and live in a country which may be far away, and where different customs are practiced, can be both exciting and daunting for the international student and his or her family. The International Student Programs & Services (ISPS) team at Iona University is committed to making sure our international students feel welcomed and part of the Iona University family and experience.
From the moment you start considering Iona University as your educational destination, the ISPS team will be with you every step of the way. You will never have to feel alone, and your parents can feel reassured that you will always have someone to go to for help. The Iona University ISPS team has only one priority – the international student!
F-1 International Student Information
In March 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued guidance for schools dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance provided schools the ability to move classes online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester and keep international students’ I-20s in Active status. This guidance was extended to summer terms. On July 6, ICE issued a directive that would prohibit these modifications to continue into the fall term. As a result of a lawsuit with Harvard and MIT, the July 6 directive was canceled. On July 24, 2020, ICE issued Clarifying Questions for Fall 2020.
SEVP has issued several Broadcast Messages to update the guidance for the Fall 2020 term, as well as maintain an FAQ section on the ICE website. These publications can be found at www.ice.gov/coronavirus under the heading for "Nonimmigrant Students and SEVP-Certified Schools." The issued Broadcast Messages and the FAQs guide Iona’s policies toward international student enrollment for the fall 2020 term.
Frequently Asked Questions
With the exception of courses that are designated as distance learning (DL), all courses will be offered in a hybrid format so that students can take any course, or portions thereof, online or in-person. International students will be able to meet their F-1 visa regulatory requirements by attending the in-person sections of classes.
Returning students: Iona University is offering in-person classes for the Fall semester. You must attend the in-person classes. The recent lawsuit will allow students to study online if the college or university is providing only online classes for the fall semester. This is not the situation at Iona University. If you choose to study online-only, you would be required to leave the U.S. and pursue your online classes from outside the U.S.
New Freshmen/Transfers: SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) has advised that students will not be granted entry into the United States to study online full time. You may begin your Iona University career with online classes in the fall semester from your home country and then join us on your F-1 visa for the spring term. An updated I-20 with a spring 2021 program start date will be issued to you.
Returning students: Continuing students who are abroad but are taking a full course load online will be registered in SEVIS for the Fall 2020 term and remain in “Active” status. A full course load is 12 or more credits for undergraduates and 9 or more credits for graduate students. If you are taking less than a full course load, your I-20 will be terminated and will need to be reactivated/reissued before you can return to the United States to study.
New Freshmen: An updated I-20 with a spring 2021 term start date will be issued to you. Your SEVIS ID would remain the same and as long as your visa was issued with an end date in the future, you would be able to use the visa and updated I-20 for entry into the U.S. in January.
Transfers: Transfers are required to enroll in the next available term. At this time, we would be required to terminate the current Transfer I-20 and issue a new I-20 for the spring semester.
With the updated guidance, continuing students who are enrolled in a full-time course load and studying online will keep their SEVIS records in Active status. If you are planning a late arrival in the United States, you must begin your classes online. The Active status will allow you to travel into the United States but please be aware that the Customs and Border Protection agents have wide latitude in allowing or denying someone entry to the U.S.
You would need a compelling reason for a 3rd country visa application and while the COVID-19 pandemic may seem compelling, it may not be considered as such for the embassy. Additionally, U.S. embassies worldwide were closed for visa processing and although some are beginning to open with limited services as conditions allow, there is no guarantee that you would be granted an appointment in a 3rd country. There is always a higher chance of denial of your application when applied for through a country that is not your home country.
The regulations require international undergraduate students to take 9 credits of in-person and/or hybrid classes out of a minimum of 12 credits, and graduate students to take 6 credits of in-person and/or hybrid classes out of a minimum of 9 credits. Because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery mode of courses at many universities, the guidance for new students arriving for the fall 2020 semester requires only that they are not enrolled in a course of study that is fully online. Thus, you are required to be in at least one in-person class of 3 credits or more. However, because Iona is offering a mixed-mode of teaching, we recommend that you take the minimums normally required if your program of study offers it. Attendance for all classes will be taken and will designate whether a student is in the classroom or online.
If you are traveling from a banned country to a non-banned country, you will have to prove that you were in that country for 14 days. This does not include travel days (day of arrival in the non-banned country and the day of departure to the U.S.). Your stay will actually be 16 days. There is always a risk that you would be turned away at the U.S. border if you cannot fully prove to the CBP officer that you were in the non-banned country for the appropriate amount of time.
You must have your passport, visa and updated I-20. It is also recommended that you have a letter from the PDSO stating that Iona will be operating in a mixed-mode method of teaching that will include an in-classroom presence. This will be scanned to all international students. It is recommended that you have your student schedule for the fall term and any information regarding where you will stay such as on-campus room assignment, off-campus lease, local family information.
For students flying into the U.S., it is recommended that you follow the Department of Homeland Security guidance and enter through one of the designated airports. The list can be found on the DHS website.
ISPS Team Members: