The people around the globe have not been through such a stressful time in the past so many years as they are going through right now due to COVID-19.
Caused by the “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2)”, COVID-19 or Coronavirus Disease 2019 has claimed thousands of lives in different parts of the world. The outbreak of this global pandemic has not only disrupted the global economy but also the routine life of people.
Amidst the shock of the rapid spread of this disease and the hope of living without fear once again, international students in the USA are facing a multitude of problems. Having top-notch universities, dedicated faculties, and best-in-class facilities, the United States of America is a widely preferred destination for higher education.
Therefore, considering the present circumstances, educational institutions in the USA have to behave responsibly for ensuring the health and safety of their international students. Needless to say, the US government and institutions are making collaborative efforts to find appropriate solutions.
However, no one would like to live in a foreign land miles away from their family members in this situation of crisis. But the ongoing travel restrictions have made it difficult for international students to return to their home country. Students who are able to leave the USA and enter their home country cannot pursue this as they are not sure whether they will be allowed to return to the USA for continuing their education.
Many students who were in their home country for spring break couldn’t come back to the USA due to the travel restrictions. Students who wish to leave the USA, but cannot afford flight tickets for flying back to their home country are provided financial assistance from their universities and faculties.
With every piece of news spreading like wildfire, it’s important that international students show prudence and research a bit before believing anything.
Accommodation for International Students
As you might be aware, ‘social distancing’ has been recommended by the medical experts to put a halt to the spread of coronavirus disease. So, people are avoiding to visit crowded places and mass gatherings. As students gather in a large number in colleges, administrators decided to cancel the classes.
While some universities have suspended the classes till the end of March 2020 or the mid of April 2020, others have resorted to virtual classroom training. Now, unlike indigenous students who have already left the campus and returned to their home, foreign students are stuck on campus, and therefore, in the USA.
Though universities have instructed students to vacate campuses, they are handling the exceptional cases very efficiently. International students, who cannot leave the campus, due to travel bans, unavailability of flights, fear of catching coronavirus in their homeland, or any other reason are allowed to stay in the dormitories or other campus housing.
Facilities like library and dining halls will also be available to such students, though not in a full-fledged manner, due to the decrease in the number of staff members working on the campus. Universities have put application and approval procedures in place for letting the students stay on campus.
OPT and CPT for International Students
Optional practical training (OPT) and curricular practical training (CPT) are two ways through which foreign students pursuing education in the USA can undertake training or employment opportunities. The curricular practical training of eligible students has been suspended.
Many eligible students of fall batch who would have finished their last semester at the end of the year 2019 might have applied for optional practical training. Some of them might even have worked until their employer discontinued the operations.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, they can no longer work. Such students need to contact their employers for discussing work arrangements. Being unemployed can even lead to losing the validity of an F1 visa. Students can consult the international student center of their academic institution to seek help and guidance.
Lawful F1 Status for International Students
As per the regulations set by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, international students can take just one class in a semester. But now, as the majority of the universities are imparting education through online mode, international students are worried about maintaining lawful F1 visa status.
However, as the authorities also understand the fact that social distancing is necessary to contain coronavirus, they have announced that taking more than one online class will not jeopardize the F1 visa status of foreign students enrolled in the US institutions.
Housing Facilities & Accommodation expenses
‘Humanity is not dead’ – It can be witnessed from the instances wherein the domestic students in the USA are helping the international students by providing them with a home to live in or storing their belonging safely until they return from their home country.
As an answer to the question asked by media houses, some USA based universities have said that they will reimburse the accommodation expenses paid by students who couldn’t take advantage of the campus housing facilities due to leaving the campus.
Compensation for International Students
It’s a known fact that many international students accept on-campus jobs while studying in US universities to earn some pocket money. A few universities have given reassurance to students by guaranteeing to pay wages or salary to them even if they have not worked.
Education for International Students
The permission to live on the campus might have given relief to international students who cannot or do not want to go to their home country. But, still, problems haven’t ended for them. They do not possess the required equipment or facilities for attending online classes.
Assistance for International Students
Universities are putting their best foot forward to assist international students and keep them updated. For example, Harvard University has created a webpage for posting essential information and the latest news related to COVID-19 on their website. You can check it here. Universities are also resolving queries through international student services office, phone, and email.
The experts are referring to the present environment as unprecedented due to the absence of an example wherein similar circumstances would have taken place. However, the US government, educational institutions, visa authorities, and citizens are trying to help international students in every possible way. Some universities have even advised Chinese students to report incidences of racial discrimination.
In the end, we will just like to say that the situation is difficult enough, and so, you should not complicate it by spreading rumors. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we will soon get rid of coronavirus.
Max Troy is the Career Counsellor as well as a passionate Author. Well, he has years of experience in the Career and Jobs industry. As a part of his career at OPTnation, he helped various OPT and CPT candidates to shape their Career. Through his knowledge and writing skill, he is contributing to the students to find the best Career advice and immigration topics. Do share the information if you like it.