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ISO Student News: 11/15/2021

Table of Contents

  1. ISO Holiday Hours (more)
  2. New US Policy Allows for Electronic I-20s (more)
  3. Travel Reminders for Thanksgiving Break (more)
  4. Thanksgiving Gathering for International Students & Postdocs (more)
  5. Join Interstride – New Resource for International Students (more)
  6. Upcoming UCC & UHS Programming (more)

ISO Holiday Hours 

The ISO will be holding adjusted office hours around upcoming University holidays in November and December. We will continue to monitor inquiries and provide advising support to our international populations throughout the academic break. Please see our ISO Holiday Hours flyer for our modified service schedules and closures around Thanksgiving, winter holidays, and upcoming staff meetings. Please note that service schedules may vary for phone coverage, ISO Service Desk hours in College Town, and Virtual Drop-In Advising for students. Otherwise, we will follow our standard service hours. If you will require ISO services around the holidays, please review the posted schedule and coordinate with our office in advance. For urgent immigration emergencies when ISO is closed, UR Public Safety remains available to connect students and scholars with our staff (+1-585-275-3333).


New US Policy Allows for Electronic I-20s

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently announced a formal policy for the use of electronic signatures and transmission of the Form I-20 to international students and their dependent family members. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools shifted to remote work operations and faced challenges in the issuance and distribution of printed eligibility documents. In March 2020, SEVP released temporary guidance allowing authorized school officials to sign and send the forms electronically. Citing efficiencies and efforts to reduce unnecessary burdens, SEVP will now retain these options even once the temporary pandemic guidance is lifted.

Accordingly, ISO will continue our current practices to 1) issue the Form I-20 with an electronically reproduced signature, and 2) send the document via email or secure platform directly to the student. Upon receiving the document, students are required to print and sign your new document for use during a visa interview, travel, or other official purposes. SEVP has not extended electronic signature permissions to F-1 students, only to school officials, nor the option to present an electronic document when demonstrating your eligibility as an F-1 student. When appropriate and upon request, designated ISO staff remain able to sign a printed I-20.

Note: As a reminder, this policy does not apply to the J-1 Exchange Visitor program for the Form DS-2019. An original paper document with ink signatures is still required.


Travel Reminders for Thanksgiving Break

Many international students may be traveling domestically or internationally for Thanksgiving break, Thursday, November 25th – Sunday, November 28th! If you are traveling outside of Rochester in the coming weeks, please review your travel documents in advance.

Travel Signatures

Be sure to check the latest travel validation from ISO on your F-1 I-20 (page 2) or J-1 DS-2019 (page 1). For J-1 Exchange Visitors and currently enrolled F-1 Students, travel signatures remain valid for one calendar year. For F-1 students on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT, signatures are valid for 6 months.

If you need an updated travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, we recommend that you request a new document from ISO through URcompass. Once you have logged in, navigate to the menu for ‘ISO COVID-19 Operations’ and complete the form for I-20 / DS-2019 Reprint Request. The new document will include the updated travel validation and is frequently the most efficient means for processing and distribution. If you intend to visit ISO for a signature on your existing printed document, please note that you will need to leave the document for processing and collect it again the next available business day.

Domestic Travel

For students who will traveling within the United States, ISO recommends that you carry your original immigration documents during your trip. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are often present at travel hubs such as airports and train/bus stations, and may approach you even if you are not traveling internationally. Recommended documents for domestic travel include:

  • Passport – valid at least 6 months into the future
  • I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature within the last year
  • Printed copy of your most recent I-94 record

International Travel

Before you travel internationally, be sure to check entry requirements for your country of destination. ISO cannot advise on other countries’ immigration requirements or visa application processes. In addition, please check to make sure you will have appropriate, up-to-date travel documents when you re-enter the United States. For currently enrolled students, these include:

  • Passport – valid at least 6 months into the future
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa sticker in your passport – unless you are traveling only within North America and are eligible for automatic revalidation
  • I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature within the last year

In addition to these essential documents, you may also want to carry additional documentation in case you are questioned, such as your student ID card, evidence of full-time enrollment, financial documents, and/or your SEVIS I-901 payment receipt.

If your F-1 or J-1 visa is currently expired and you would need to renew your visa while abroad, we advise that you contact ISO about your plans as soon as possible.  Attempting to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa during a short break is not usually recommended, given that any unexpected visa processing delays can impact your ability to return to Rochester and resume your program. 

Please review ISO’s updated Executive Action Summary on COVID-19 travel restrictions and continue to visit our page on COVID-19 Immigration Information.

Need More Info?

If you have any questions about your travel plans, please review our travel resources online. You can also contact ISO by phone, by appointment, or during our Virtual Drop-In Advising Hours. When ISO is closed, should you experience an immigration emergency (such as being arrested, detained, or refused entry to the United States), you may call Public Safety at +1 585-275-3333 to be connected with an ISO staff member.


Thanksgiving Gathering for International Students & Postdocs

The International Student and Scholar Advisory Board (ISSAB) members invite all international members of the University of Rochester community to our Inaugural Thanksgiving event! Please join us on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, 2021 for a Thanksgiving meal provided at both the River Campus and the Eastman Campus.

Dining Hours on Thanksgiving Day Are:

  • River Campus: Douglas Dining Hall (11:00 AM-1:30 PM)
  • Eastman Campus: Student Living Center (11:30 AM-1:30 PM)

All meals will be paid for by ISO, so please take advantage of this opportunity to meet others from the international community, while sharing a meal.  The event is limited to 300 people, if you are interested please RSVP!


Join Interstride - New Resource for International Students

Interstride is now available to students! Interstride is an interactive platform that empowers international students to thrive through a variety of features including visa & immigration support, tailored job opportunities, webinars, and so much more. Login using your Rochester email to get started and check out this tutorial to learn how to best use the platform for your career journey.

In celebration of International Education Week, students who join by November 21st will be entered into a raffle to win a winter swag bag!


Upcoming UCC & UHS Programming

PAWS for Stress Relief

Come pet some dogs on Monday, November 22nd at the Goergen Athletic Center from 6-7:15PM! Peer Health Advocates from the Health Promotion Office also provide stress-relief giveaways such as lavender sachets, quote cards to hang up in your dorm, information about upcoming wellness events, and answer any questions you may have about UHS!

AAPI Voices: A Mental Health Discussion

We invite and encourage everyone to join a discussion on AAPI mental health on Saturday, November 20 from 4:00-5:30pm in Haven’s Lounge. We will be screening a video featuring various AAPI UR students sharing their mental health stories and holding a conversation about mental health stigma and seeking help. The first 10 people to show up will receive a prize bag including Asian snacks, stress balls, lavender sachets and more, so make sure to come early and bring your friends!

Brought to you by the UHS Health Promotion Office. Open to all Undergraduate AAPI students and allies! Register here!

Prepared by: ISO Student Services