FAQs for Fall 2020 due to COVID-19

I want to take a Leave of Absence.  What is the process and the duration of time that I can take a Leave of Absence for?

Please see the RISD Leave of Absence Policy. You can get the Leave of Absence Form from Student Affairs at: studaff@risd.edu.


What is the process for a Leave of Absence with OISS?

You will start the Leave of Absence process with Student Affairs (studaff@risd.edu). OISS will need to sign off on your Leave of Absence Form and you will also need to complete the Leave of Absence Implications for F-1 International Students Form for our office.  Once the Form is complete and you have received all necessary signatures, you will submit it to the Registrar's Office for processing. Once processed by the Registrar’s Office, OISS will terminate your SEVIS Form I-20 and your F-1 Student Visa will become invalid.


When is the deadline to request a leave of absence?

A Leave of Absence Form may be submitted prior to the start of the semester up until the course withdrawal deadline (The Fall Semester deadline is: November 4, 2020). For the Fall of 2020 – we hope to know students’ decisions for the fall by July 15.


If I take a Leave of Absence, what happens to my Form I-20 document?

Your Form I-20 (SEVIS Record) will be terminated and you will be issued a new one when you get reinstated to return to RISD.  Please see Reinstatement Process for more details.


Do I have any financial obligations during my LOA to remain a RISD student?

If you take a leave of absence, you will not be responsible for any charges as long as the leave is processed before the start of the semester - September 9, 2020. You will not be responsible for any charges while you are on leave. Please see the Refund Schedule for additional information.


Can a student still request a LOA even after they have already paid tuition?

Yes, you may request a Leave of Absence after paying tuition; however, students who withdraw or take a leave from RISD after the Fall or Spring semester begins are charged a portion of tuition, room and board. Please visit Student Financial Services or email them at: sfs@risd.edu for additional information.


Will I lose my visa if I take a leave of absence?

Yes, it is likely you will need to apply for a new visa at the embassy/consulate in your home country in order to return to RISD once you are reinstated. Please contact the embassy or consulate in your home country for more details on what their policies and procedures are. 


Can you keep my LOA Request on hold until I can determine whether or not I can renew my current F-1 visa?

It is possible for you to begin the LOA request process (begin gathering signatures and complete the exit interview with Student Affairs). Student Affairs would then be able to keep your application on hold until you decide to proceed for certain. OISS will not terminate your SEVIS record until the Registrar approves your leave of absence request.


I am a new student (Undergrad, Grad, Transfer); if I am unable to travel or obtain a visa, how can I defer my admission?

First-year students may defer their admission for one year pending the approval of the Admissions Office. Deferrals are granted from fall semester to fall semester as it is not possible for first-year students to begin in the spring. To request a deferral of admission, admitted students must first submit their nonrefundable enrollment deposit. Once submitted, admitted students should access their applicant portal and follow the prompts to defer admission. Please visit: https://welcome.risd.edu/deferral-faq/ for additional information.

When is the latest date that I can arrive back on campus for the fall semester?

The latest that you can return to campus to begin the fall semester is September 2, 2020.  Due to the required 14-day quarantine, we cannot allow students to arrive after the September 2nd date.  This also ensures that we as a community are able to plan for proper distancing and campus procedures.


If I can get my visa, if travel restrictions are lifted and I can get a flight to the United States, can I come to RISD in October or November and start in-person classes then?

No. Even if things open (consulates/embassies, travel restrictions and flights) in the middle of the fall semester, you cannot begin in-person/on-campus courses.  The manner that you begin the fall term is how you should finish it – through the end date of December 15, 2020. This is due to immigration reasons (Customs & Border Protection/US Department of Homeland Security) as well as health and safety reasons.


I cannot enter the US due to travel restrictions. What can I do?

OISS is closely monitoring all updates in the immigration world that affect our students. In the meantime, please continue to check your email for our monthly newsletters with important updates, and you can also find information about the possibility of remote Fall 2020 Instruction at RISD's COVID page, in the event that you are unable to return to RISD in-person for the fall.  If you need to request a remote, online semester please submit your request by email to: remote@risd.edu.  


Travel restrictions are subject to change without warning. For up-to-date travel and visa information, we recommend that you visit the website of the US Embassy in your home country. If you have questions about restrictions on entry to a country you are traveling to, we recommend that you contact the airline you are flying or the government of that country to learn of any restrictions or quarantine requirements upon your arrival.


What if my flight arrives late in the evening? Can I still access Residence Life?

Yes, you can check into your on-campus housing if you arrive late in the evening.  Please email Residence Life at: housing@risd.edu so they can be prepared for your late arrival and provide RISD Public Safety with your ID card/key access.  The Residential Life Staff, OISS, and Public Safety will assist in accommodating late night flight arrivals.


How will RISD/OISS support students who are returning from a leave of absence, particularly as they will have to apply for a new visa with uncertainty with embassies/consulates?

Once your request for reinstatement has been approved, OISS will provide you with a new I-20 to make a visa appointment. OISS is closely monitoring all updates in the immigration world that affect our students. We will be in frequent contact with you to provide information and supporting documents for re-entry.


What does quarantine mean at RISD and Rhode Island, what am I permitted to do?

Self-Quarantine periods are to help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease. You are permitted to leave your room during the quarantine period to take a walk, however all activity should be alone until the 14-day quarantine has passed. Visit covid.risd.edu for more details on quarantine.


If I cannot return to the US because of the travel ban or other reasons (for example I cannot find a ticket) and therefore I have to take my fall classes entirely remote in my home country, how is it going to affect my F-1 Visa and I-20?

In regards to remote learning and your F-1 visa, we are currently operating as we did in the spring where an online mode of learning was temporarily acceptable to maintain F-1 status; however, we are still waiting on guidance from SEVP on whether they will allow us to keep students' records Active through the Fall with remote learning. As soon as this guidance is shared with us, we will let students know.


As a returning student, am I permitted to take remote (online) courses for Fall 2020?

Please contact your department for details on how they will proceed and whether or not you can take remote courses.  This is department-specific.  If you are unable to speak with your department directly and need to request a remote, online semester please submit your request by email to: remote@risd.edu.  


Once I choose fully online classes or in-person learning on the Enrollment Confirmation Form, can I still change my mind (given that I was able to get a visa/other changes in the summer?

It is our understanding that once you declare your intention to register for a fully remote Fall semester, it is best not to change your decision, as student responses allow us to adequately prepare for Fall 2020 campus life and development of online/hybrid teaching material. Admissions may provide you with further guidance on this matter.


Would we be unable to work a summer internship in 2021 if we defer fall 2020, due to OPT/CPT 1-year requirements?

To be eligible for OPT or CPT you must be enrolled for one full academic year (Fall, Winter, Spring) from the start date of your new I-20. Unfortunately OPT/CPT options would not be available if you take a Leave of Absence during Fall 2020.

Transition of School Closure Due to COVID-19

Immigration Status

How will online classes affect international students’ I-20/DS-2019 and visa status?
The F-1 Visa program normally does not allow students to remain in the United States if they are enrolled in online education. However, in light of COVID-19, the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) within the Department of Homeland Security has granted RISD flexibility allowing students with F-1 Visas and J-1 Visas the ability to temporarily switch to an online mode of learning.

Provided international students can continue to make normal progress in a full course of study, as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status are not in jeopardy. J-1 students in the Exchange Visitor program will also be able to temporarily transition to online coursework. Students’ participation in online instruction is permitted under specific circumstances and international students should follow the direction of their faculty members in consultation with the Office of International Student Services. Contact OISS at oiss@risd.edu with specific questions regarding your visa status.

Visa compliance

Q. Will online courses affect my visa status?
A. We have received government guidance that they intend to be flexible with temporary adaptations to classes.  Provided international students continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations, students’ legal immigration status should not be affected.

If I’m graduating in the Class of 2020 can I still apply for Post-Completion OPT (Optional Practical Training)?
Yes, if you remain in the United States and are enrolled in a full course of study online, you are still eligible to apply for OPT. OISS is available to assist you with this process. Please note, you cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States.

If I’m interested in participating in an internship in the United States over the summer can I still apply for CPT (Curricular Practical Training)?
Yes. If you remain enrolled in a full course of study online, you are still eligible to apply for CPT. To be eligible you must have maintained your F-1 student status in the United States continuously for a full academic year. OISS is available to assist you with this process. First-year international students are not eligible to apply for CPT until the summer after their sophomore year.



Q. If a student leaves the U.S., or is currently outside the U.S., and wants to return, will they be able to do so?
A. Yes. It is very important that you have all the required immigration documents when trying to reenter the U.S.  If you have any questions, please contact OISS.

Q. What if I go to my home country, on-campus classes resume, and then I can’t get back to the U.S.?
A. As you will be maintaining your student visa status while taking your full-time (12 credits) on-line classes, you should be able to reenter the U.S. unless you are seeking to enter from a Level 3 country. This situation is constantly changing so this information may change with very little advance notice.

Q. Instead of traveling back to my home country, may I go elsewhere in the U.S.?
A. Yes, as long as you maintain your student visa status while taking your full-time (12 credits) on-line classes, you can go somewhere else in the U.S.  You must provide the address where you are residing using the OISS Google Form.

Q. I am required to leave campus.  If I depart the US and my visa has expired how do I obtain a new visa to return to campus for the fall?  Should I anticipate any problem?
A. You should contact OISS to discuss your situation.

What should I do to prepare to travel home?
International students who have decided to travel home, or to another location, should refer to the OISS website travel page for information on the proper documents you will need for your return to the United States. Before you leave, make sure you have a valid travel signature. Contact RISD OISS at oiss@risd.edu with additional questions or concerns.

Please help OISS prepare you for your next steps by completing this Google form.

What if I cannot return to my permanent residence?
We will consider exceptions to allow students to remain on campus. However, to remain, you must receive official permission by filling out the Residence Life extension form. Students will receive direct communications about this process in a follow-up email.
All requests will be reviewed on a case by case basis as soon as possible.

Exceptions may include:

  • International students who have concerns that they would not be allowed to return to RISD due to visa issues.

  • International students who will have difficulty returning to their home country if it has been affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

  • Students who are unable to return to their permanent residence for personal reasons.

We understand being asked to leave campus may pose a financial hardship. Students will receive follow-up communication on this matter.

Please note, students who are permitted to stay on campus will be required to relocate to another residence hall on campus.


Q. Can I apply for OPT outside the U.S.?
A. You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you apply for OPT.  You can leave the U.S. while the application is pending.  You must provide a mailing address in the U.S. where USCIS (US Citizenship & Immigration Services) can send any correspondence related to your application.  It is essential that this address be valid for 3-5 months and the person receiving the mail must be at that address to receive the mail and forward it to you.

Q. Will USCIS processing times for OPT be affected by Coronavirus closings?
A. At this time we have no way of knowing what might be affected as this situation is constantly evolving.


Q. I used my friend’s address to have USCIS mail my EAD and now they are leaving campus/their apartment. What should I do?
A. You cannot use an international address.  You should locate another recipient within the U.S. Then you must update your mailing address with USCIS.

Q. I applied for OPT already.  Will I have a problem if I re-enter the U.S. before graduation?
A. You should not have a problem reentering the U.S. before graduation since your Form I-20 will still be valid.  Remember you must have all the required documents when reentering the U.S.  If you want to re-enter the U.S. after graduation, you must have received your OPT approval from USCIS. There is a possibility that a student who has graduated may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. if the OPT application is still pending at USCIS.

Q. Can I still apply for CPT from outside the U.S.?
A. Yes.

SSA / Taxes

Q. Can I file my U.S. taxes outside the country?
A. Yes, you can use Sprintax, print and sign the forms, and mail them.  OISS emailed you the updated discount codes on March 11, 2020. 





F-1 Status

I am beginning my studies at RISD soon. How long will it take to get my I-20?

Once your application is processed and you pay your deposit to reserve your space in the program, please allow about two weeks for your I-20 to be issued. We will send the I-20 to you using UPS, which usually takes about 3 to 5 business days for delivery.

I am coming to the U.S. soon to begin my program of study. When can I arrive?

You may enter the U.S. as early as 30 days before your program begins.

What is my I-94 record?

Your I-94 is a record of your arrival into the U.S. made by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). A specific number is assigned to each I-94 record and the record is annotated with your name, date of birth, passport number and country of issuance, the status you entered the U.S. in and the expiration date of your status. It is important to check your I-94 record every time you enter the U.S. to make sure your arrival status was accurately recorded. It should always be "F-1, D/S." If it says anything other than that, make an appointment to visit OISS. Check your I-94 record at cbp.gov.

My visa is expired or will soon expire. What should I do?

Your visa stamp in your passport is an entry document so it only needs to be valid when you enter the U.S. If it expires while you are in the U.S., and your I-20 is still valid, there is nothing that you have to do. However, if you plan international travel, you must make sure you have time while outside of the U.S. to apply for and get a new F-1 visa.

I just changed my major. Do I need a new I-20?

Yes. Any student who changes major need a new I-20 to reflect the correct major. Complete an I-20 Update Form to request an updated I-20.


I'm traveling outside of the U.S. soon. Do I need a new travel signature?

Your travel signature on page two of your I-20 is valid for multiple entries for one year (except if you are on OPT--It is valid for only 6 months). If the travel signature will be more than one year (or 6 months if on OPT) on the date you are returning to the U.S. you should get a travel signature at OISS. Please allow 3 to 5 business days to obtain that signature.

How often do I have to get a travel signature?

You only need a travel signature when you travel internationally. Travel signatures are valid for multiple trips for one year.

What happens if I am detained in secondary inspection?

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official will ask you more questions than if you were just going through customs. It is important that you always answer truthfully. If there is a bigger issue, you can contat our office Monday through Friday between 8:30am and 4:30pm. If you are traveling outside of normal business hours, you should contact Public Safety at 401.454.6376. They will know how to reach an International Student Advisor to help you.


I want to drop a class. Is that ok?

You may drop a class as long as you remain full-time at 12 credits. If dropping a class takes you below 12 credits you should visit OISS before dropping the class. There are only a few ways to drop below full-time status and this requires authorization. You must meet with an International Student Advisor. To schedule an appointment, contact oiss@risd.edu.

I need a transcript. Where can I get one?

The Registrar's Office will be able to provide you with your transcript.

Where can I get confirmation of enrollment?

The Registrar's Office website has information on how to obtain enrollment verification.


Do I have to file a tax return?

It is our understanding that international students are required to file a tax return in the U.S. even if they have no income. OISS offers a tax return filing software, Sprintax, to international students to file their Federal tax returns at no cost and their State tax returns at a discounted price. The software is generally available mid- to late March. You must come into the office located in Carr House, 3rd Fl, Rm 304 to obtain your access code. For more information about Federal taxes, visit irs.gov and for State of Rhode Island tax information visit www.tax.ri.gov.

Where can I find information for off-campus housing?

RISD's Residence Life website is a great resource.

How do I change my meal plan?

Please visit RISD's Dining website for instructions on how to change your meal plan.

How can I get a Social Security Number?

You must find a job in order to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). Please visit our SSN web page for more information on how to file for an SSN.

I don't want to carry my passport and risk losing it while I'm in the U.S. What can I do?

You can apply for a Rhode Island State Identification Card (RI State ID). To apply for the RI State ID, you must go to the RI Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Cranston, RI. You will need your passport, I-20, I-94 record, proof of residence, and a letter from OISS. To request our letter, please complete a Letter Request Form and allow us 3 to 5 business days for us to prepare your letter. You may follow this same procedure to apply for a RI State Driver's License. Please see the Instructions/Checklist for more information.

Contact Us:

(Tel) 401.277.4957

(Fax) 401.454.6605

Email Inquiries:



210 Benefit Street, Room 304

Providence, RI 02903

Mailing Address:


2 College Street

Providence, RI 02903


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