COVID-19 Updates for Students on OPT

The Kearney Center staff continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation and strives to provide the most accurate and updated information for international students. Updates may be frequent, so please check back often for new information.

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No— when reading through the recent guidance from yesterday, there wasn’t anything that changed with OPT. The guidelines mostly affect current and new students who must register for courses in Fall 2020. 

No. If you are working remotely due to COVID-19, then you do not have to update your work address on your SEVP Portal Account (for Post-Completion OPT students) or update your Form I-983 (for STEM OPT students).

The IRS differentiates “Nonresident Aliens” from “Resident Aliens” using the Green Card or Substantial Presence Test.

“Resident Aliens” may be eligible for stimulus payments if they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements set forth in the CARES Act.  https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center

The CARES Act states that “Nonresident Aliens” are ineligible for stimulus payments.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text#id1C21ED5E4A7C4A349BD80BDF95C774FF

Examples of tax returns that international students might file include:

If a student believes they may have received a CARES Act stimulus payment in error, you may recommend that the student contact a licensed tax specialist for guidance. For example, a specialist can provide the student with guidance on how to file a Form 1040-X, Amended U.S Individual Income Tax Return if necessary.

If you are not able to start working by 90 days of unemployment, we advise you to depart the US and request your immigration advisor to complete your SEVIS record. 

For clarification or further assistance, please reach out to your immigration advisor for additional support. 

Being laid off means you do not have a job to come back to and will be asked to reapply. If you are placed on leave – whether paid or unpaid – means that your workplace is temporarily suspending services, but will keep your position for you and expect you to return when the company reopens. When in doubt, ASK YOUR BOSS DIRECTLY if you are being laid off or placed on leave, as this is a very important distinction. If you are being placed on leave in accordance with an official policy, then the days you are not working will not count as unemployment and will not count against your 90-day maximum period of OPT unemployment (your "unemployment clock"). If you are being laid off, however, you are required to report this end in employment within 10 days. These days will count against your 90-day unemployment clock. It is important to note that the international community has asked SEVP and USCIS to issue guidance on this issue and consider a temporary halt in counting of unemployment days – if any update is released (and we hope it will be) we will share it with you. In the meantime, we have to operate under the normal rules. If you are not clear on how many days you have left of your 90-day unemployment clock, please contact your immigration advisor for an update.

Although the Kearney Center would like to provide further information, the situation and policies are changing rapidly. To receive the most up-to-date and accurate information, we encourage you to reach out directly to USCIS. 

Before you formally apply for any COVID-19 related benefits including, unemployment benefits that your employer may have notified you of, consult with an immigration attorney to determine how accepting such benefits could impact your present or future immigration status (green card, H1B, etc.).