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COVID-19 FAQs for International Students

The Bechtel International Center remains closed  due to COVID-19. All staff continue to work remotely. Students, please do not mail your visa document to Bechtel for a travel signature.

(Updated November 4, 2020)

What are Bechtel’s hours?

Bechtel is currently closed for traffic due to the shelter in place order. Individuals with documents to pick-up will be sent an email with instructions on how to arrange to have documents mailed.  We are temporarily moving to advising primarily by email. Additional advisors are now dedicated exclusively to answering emails.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can reach us via email at

We are also currently offering very limited phone and zoom advising in order to allow student advisors to answer the very high volume of emails we are receiving now as quickly as possible.  Please read through FAQs posted on our website as well as on Health Alerts. If you still find your question unanswered, you can email or you can make an appointment to speak to a student advisor.

What should I do if I cannot avoid international travel?

Please check our travel page for more recent information. If international travel is unavoidable, please register your travel here and make sure you have a valid travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019. You do not need a valid travel signature on your visa document to depart the U.S., only to re-enter. Please request a new I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature here. Please review the travel signature request before you submit a request. Please note that the Bechtel International Center cannot advise on individual travel situations.

It is difficult to know at this point in time, when you will be able to return to the U.S. because of border closings (if you do travel internationally). Please check the Department of State website to see how you may be impacted.  The other issue that may be applicable to some is visa renewals. If you travelled internationally and your visa stamp has expired, please also know that U.S. consulars may have limited visa services and longer processing delays.

If I do travel internationally, will they record the virtual classes so that I can watch them in my time zone?

Requirements for synchronous attendance and availability of recorded lectures will vary from course to course. If materials available online are not clear about the structure and requirements of the course, please contact your instructor. To get information on how you can attend classes online using zoom, please go to Learn Anywhere.

What should I do if I am an international student in the U.S. and exposed to COVID-19?

Call the Vaden Health Center at 650-498-2236 if you are experiencing symptoms. You may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Will my visa be impacted if I am out of the country for more than 5 months?

If you enroll  full time for fall quarter and attend classes virtually, then your visa status should not be impacted by being outside the country. Department of Homeland Security has not announced guidance for winter quarter. Bechtel will let students know as soon as the announcement is made via email.

I still need to apply for OPT. Can I do this outside the US?

You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you mail your Optional Practical Training (OPT) application to USCIS. Bechtel will continue to process OPT applications requests submitted in Axess, and will email your OPT endorsed I-20. We will also provide guidance on assembling your OPT application and mailing your application to the USCIS. Please find more information here about OPT and please refer to our OPT videos for both an overview of the process and specific instructions on completing the application.

I have many questions  and concerns about my academic program as well as about housing and dining options.  Who should I reach out to?

You will find many answers here: 
For undergraduates: Information for undergraduates - Health Alerts
For graduate students: Information for graduate students and postdocs - Health Alerts

When does Bechtel International Center expect the US Embassy/Consulates to re-open around the world?

At this time there are limited consular services for F or J visas (or any other type of non immigrant visa categories). We have also seen scheduled appointments cancelled with little notice.  

If new students are unable to obtain their student visas by the program start date, and join on-campus in-person in a later quarter, will they need a new I-20? What logistical steps would they need to take?

Yes, a new i-20 with a new “initial” start date will need to be created. You will receive further guidance from the Bechtel International Center on how to request an I-20 for future quarters. Please note that immigration regulations will only permit a student to enter the U.S. 30 days before the start date of the initial I-20.

If students can’t obtain a visa prior to the program start date, can they start taking courses on-line in their country?

If you are new student: Yes, you may enroll full-time while outside the U.S.
If you are a continuing student: We are currently waiting for SEVP (Students Exchange Visitor Program) to publish new guidance for the Winter quarter.  (We anticipate it will be OK.)

Do I need to apply for the F1/J1 visa if I am not entering the U.S. this coming quarter?

The visa in your passport is only used to enter the U.S.  So you may obtain the visa at a later time if you are not entering the U.S. this coming quarter. (Canadian citizens are exempt  from the visa requirement.)

Can I apply for F1/J1 Visa outside my home country?

Yes, regulations allow you to apply for a visa as a third country national.  But be aware the consular officer must evaluate the applicant’s ties to a residence abroad, and consular officials of an applicant’s home country are in a better situation to evaluate your ties to your home country.

If new students are unable to enter the US and start a program, can they still apply for CPT next summer?

No, current immigration regulations require the student to be enrolled for one academic year (3 quarters) in F-1 status before qualifying to work off-campus. New students can only obtain F-1 status after being admitted to the U.S. by an immigration official.

If I cannot enter the U.S. this coming quarter, but can do virtual coursework in my home country, can I still receive my research assistantship from Stanford?

Please contact your department with this issue.

Can I enter the U.S. with a tourist visa and get my student visa status in the U.S.?

Immigration regulations prohibit a student to attend school full-time in tourist (B-1 / B-2, visa waiver, ESTA) status. (It is illegal to attend school on a tourist visa.)  Ideally, you will enter the U.S. using your student visa to obtain your student status upon entry to the U.S.  In the future, never enter the U.S. on a tourist visa since it will forfeit your F-1 student status.

I am a new student and will not be able to arrive in the U.S. on time for this coming quarter. Can I arrive in the U.S. after the quarter has begun?

It is our expectation-and the expectation of the U.S. immigration agencies- that students arrive before the program start date on their I-20/DS-2019. If it is not the case please reach out to Bechtel International Center and for graduate students your departments.           

I read on Homeland Security’s website that for my visa status to be maintained, I will have to attend a number of in-person classes.  In case international students are unable to  attend in-person, will I be maintaining compliance?

If you are not present in the U.S., you are not required to maintain your F-1/J-1 status. You may obtain the F-1/J-1 visa in your passport and not enter the U.S. until a later quarter.  Your F-1/J-1 status is officially obtained once a Custom Border Protection (CBP) official admits you to the U.S. in F-1/J-1 student status.  Bechtel will not register new students in the SEVIS data base if they have not entered the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status. So, you can obtain the visa in your passport, enroll while abroad, and then only after entering the U.S. will the enrollment rules apply to your F-1/J-1 student status.