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COVID-19 FAQs for International Students

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?

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 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). Currently the U.S. borders are closed to many foreign nationals.  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. consular services have been suspended temporarily worldwide.

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 and attend classes virtually, then your visa status should not be impacted by being outside the country.  This is true even if you do not re-enter the U.S. until Fall Quarter.

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 you about when to pick up your 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

I already received my I-20 with a start date of Sept. 21.  But now the school term will begin on Sept. 14th.  Will I receive a new I-20 from the Bechtel International Center with a new start date of Sept. 14th?

Our office will be sending PDF versions of the revised I-20 since immigration regulations now allow us to send you a PDF copy of a signed I-20.  Our office will send the document to your Stanford e-mail address.  You may then  print (sign your name on page 1 and date the form) and use the new I-20 for entering the U.S.  Do not discard the earlier issued I-20, always keep all of the copies of your I-20’s in a safe place.

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

At this time there are no consular services for F or J visas (or any other type of non immigrant visa categories). We have also seen appointments that were currently scheduled for July, which are now being cancelled. We are hearing that consulates will have appointments in September or October. So, there is no new information officially from the U.S. State Dept. on when they plan to open up their services.

Is there any assistance Bechtel International Center can offer to students who are unable to secure visa appointments before September, as well as to students whose requests for an emergency appointment are denied?

Regarding emergency appointments, our Center is looking into possibilities on how to assist students, and this concern is under discussion amongst senior administration personnel at Stanford at this time.

If new students are unable to obtain their student visas by the program start date, and must begin the program remotely in September and join on-campus in-person in a later month, 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. Bechtel will have a system in place by August to figure out who will need a revised I-20 with a Winter quarter start date. However, although students will be allowed to enroll while abroad for Fall quarter, the start date of the revised I-20 will be Jan. 4th. Please note that immigration regulations will only permit a student to enter the U.S. 30 days before the Jan. 4th Winter Quarter start date.

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 Fall school year.  (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 September?

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 Fall 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. Fall 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 to campus on time for Sept 14th beginning of classes. Can I arrive to campus in late October or November?

Oct.2nd will be the last day that international students can enter the U.S. for Fall quarter.  If you cannot enter by Oct. 2nd, you will have to wait to enter the U.S. for the following quarter. (NOTE:  Federal immigration reporting and compliance requirements set logistical registration time lines.)

Can international frosh arrive on campus later than the starting date, which means missing NSO and ISO, due to visa issues?

For incoming frosh, the last date of arrival is now being decided.

I read on Homeland Security’s website that for my visa status to be maintained, I will have to attend a number of physical classes during Fall quarter.  In case international students are unable to physically attend the Fall quarter, will it effect the eligibility of our visas?

If you are not here by Fall quarter, that should not affect your ability to obtain a student visa in your passport. You may obtain the F-1 visa in your passport and not enter the U.S. until a later quarter.  Your F-1 status is officially obtained once a Custom Border Protection (CBP) official admits you to the U.S. in F-1 student status.  This past Spring and Summer quarters, immigration regulations were relaxed due to COVID-19, permitting students to take all courses virtually, or a combination of physically attending and distance learning.  We are waiting for Fall quarter guidance at this time.    Bechtel will not register new students in the SEVIS data base if they have not entered the U.S. in F-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 student status.