UMD: A Globally Connected University

Scholar FAQ During COVID-19

Scholar FAQ During COVID-19

Last Updated 05/19/2021

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CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC) RESOURCE:
COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country 

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This page contains information about immigration regulations for international scholars and faculty that can be useful during the COVID-19 situation.

General

Where do I find information about how the University of Maryland is managing COVID-19?

Please visit the Return portal, the 4Maryland webpage, and the COVID-19 Dashboard.

How do I reach ISSS Faculty & Scholar Advisors during this time?

 

Travel

What is the university's COVID-19 protocol for individuals entering the U.S.?

Anyone coming to work, research, or study on campus must follow the university guidance for returning to campus. 

Visit the Return webpage and follow the instructions required of all employees returning to campus. Once you have satisfied all requirements, you will receive a message indicating, “You are cleared to come to campus.”

What countries are affected by the travel proclamations and restrictions?

Restrictions remain in effect for those traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, Schengen countries, the U.K., Ireland, South Africa, and India. However, National Interest Exceptions are being made for J-1 Exchange Visitors. H-1B beneficiaries are still subject to these travel restrictions.You can view the Department of State press release about the National Interest Exceptions for China, Iran, Brazil, Schengen countries, the U.K., Ireland, and South Africa here. The Exception Press Release regarding India is here.

Individuals interested in applying for a National Interest Exception should contact their U.S. consulate or embassy for further details, for the process does require an application.

I've been fully vaccinated and plan to travel soon. Does this guarantee that I can travel and return to the U.S. without issue?

No. While being vaccinated reduces your personal risk of falling ill with COVID-19, travel is still not recommended due to restrictions and limited visa appointments at U.S. consulates and embassies. Please review the information above regarding issues to consider when traveling and remember that travel restrictions can change at any moment regarding re-entry to the United States.

What do I do if I need a new travel signature?

We understand that it has been incredibly difficult to be away from your families and loved ones during this pandemic. However, we still cannot advise travel at this time. There are many travel restrictions in place, and it is still very difficult to obtain a visa renewal appointment at U.S. consulates and embassies.

That being said, we will issue travel signatures to J-1 exchange visitors. Please discuss your travel plans with your supervisor, department chair, and ISSS advisor. If your department chair and supervisor support your travel plans, please login to iTerp and, under J-1 Scholar Services, submit the "Travel Signature" e-form. Someone will be in touch with you shortly after submission of that form.

H-1B beneficiaries do not require a travel signature to travel. However, before you travel, we recommend that you reach out to your ISSS advisor about your travel plans.

Will I be able to obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy?

At this time, we cannot guarantee visas, visa appointment availability, or the reopening of consulates and embassies abroad. We recommend that you use this website to check the status of appointment availability at your local consulate or embassy. We have also found that individual consulate or embassy websites may provide additional details about what that consulate/embassy is offering.

Is there no way to apply for my visa within the United States?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to obtain a visa in the U.S. All visas, including the J-1 visa, are issued by U.S. consulates outside of the country. The purpose of the visa is to allow you entry to the U.S. Once you enter the country, you do not need to have a valid J-1 visa. To hold a valid J-1 status, you need a valid DS-2019 form and the I-94 electronic arrival record, which demonstrate J-1 status and D/S (duration of status) as the end date of your J-1 program. As long as you have these two valid documents, your status in the United States is legitimate and lawful.

If your visa expires, your presence in the U.S. is not impacted. However, if you travel after the visa has expired, you would need a new visa to reenter the U.S. This is not currently possible given the closure of U.S. Consulate offices for nonimmigrant visas.

As you already know, at this time, travel related to University of Maryland work activities is not permitted. We do not advise personal travel outside the U.S. since you will not be able to reenter in the near future. Please let us know if you have any travel plans; this will impact your stay at UMD.

My travel plans are complicated by a lack of commercially available flights. Or: my country doesn't permit me to enter, and I'm unable to depart within my grace period. What should I do?

Please contact your ISSS advisor about your situation.

My passport is expiring soon and I cannot get an appointment at the embassy. What do I do?

Please contact your ISSS advisor immediately so they can help you assess the situation.

 

Upon Arrival

Will I need to quarantine once I arrive in the U.S.?

The 4Maryland website keeps the most updated information about what is required to enter/return to campus. You can check your clearance to come to campus using your Return dashboard.

Will I need a COVID-19 vaccine to come to the University of Maryland campus?

New international faculty and scholars can find more information about COVID-19 vaccine requirements on the 4Maryland webpage.

 

J-1 Scholars

I am an international scholar and my J-1 program will end shortly. Can I request an extension?

Yes, you may request an extension from your department supervisor. Your department will coordinate the extension process with International Student & Scholar Services. If any additional information is needed for the extension, ISSS will contact you and/or your department.

If we cancel the current J-1 program and a new request will need to be submitted in the future, can I use the SEVIS I-901 payment from the previous program? How does that process work?

It is possible to use the same SEVIS fee if you experience a program delay and you have not received your J-1 visa. The SEVIS I-901 payment is valid for 12 months from the date it is paid. Instructions on how to transfer the SEVIS fee are available on www.fmjfee.com.

Are we able to enroll in medical evacuation and repatriation insurance through the UMD Health Center? If not, what are the options?

Yes, you can enroll in medical evacuation and repatriation insurance online.

Can I purchase comprehensive health insurance coverage (SHIP) through the UMD Health Center? If so, how can I do that?

If you have external funding for your J-1 program at UMD or you are ineligible for UMD benefits, you can enroll in SHIP online. If you are paid by UMD and meet eligibility requirements, you will enroll in health insurance via UMD benefits. If you have health insurance from UMD benefits, you can also enroll in medical evacuation and repatriation insurance (AES) online.

Will SHIP cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?

All COVID-19 testing on campus is free of charge. For information about the benefits of the SHIP plan, please visit their website.

Can I end my J-1 program early and return home? What is the process to do this?

Yes, you may end your J-1 program and depart the United States early. Please first discuss this with your department. The department will notify ISSS of your departure by submitting the J-1 Early Termination form in iTerp.

I would like for my family to come join me in the United States. Can ISSS issue a DS-2019 for my J-2 dependents at this time?

We understand that this is a difficult time and you may want to be with your family. ISSS is issuing DS-2019s for J-2 dependents on a case-by-case basis and nonimmigrant visa processing is currently very limited at U.S. Consulates/Embassies. Please check this link for information regarding visa processing wait times: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html

When will J-1 processing resume?

At this time, ISSS is processing J-1 initial requests, extensions, amendments, and transfers; for non-paid appointments, the J-1 program start date can be no earlier than September 7, 2021.

Can I travel back to my home country and continue my J-1 program there?

As a reminder, please review the University’s travel guidance below. If you decide to return home to continue your collaborative research work, please review your plans with your supervisor for approval. Department Chairs and Deans have the authority to review travel requests for exceptions to this following University policy. As of March 10, 2020, the following travel guidance is in effect. This guidance applies to all upcoming travel, including any that previously has been approved.

  • All university-related international travel is not permitted.
  • All personal international travel is strongly discouraged. We strongly urge extreme caution and judgment for your personal travel decisions as it may not be possible to return to the United States.
  • All university-related, non-essential, out-of-state domestic travel is not permitted.
  • We strongly urge extreme caution and judgment for your personal domestic mass transit travel. Take into account the possibility of travel delays or the potential need for self-isolation in the future.
  • Any UMD faculty member, staff member or student returning to the United States should stay away from campus, self-monitor and self-isolate for two weeks post-return.
  • President Biden’s proclamation from January 25, 2021 regarding travel restrictions can be found on the ISSS immigration update page. Some U.S. embassies and consulates are now issuing J-1 visas, therefore it is important to go to the U.S. Embassy website to confirm the availability of visa processing. Additionally, all people entering the United States by air will need to present a negative COVID-19 test (or proof of having recovered from COVID-19) that was taken within 3 days of their flight to the United States.

How long can I remain in the United States after my J-1 program ends? What if travel restrictions at that time prevent me from going back to my home country?

Under J-1 regulations, you are eligible for a 30 day grace period. If travel restrictions prevent you from returning to your home country, please notify your department and ISSS immediately.

What happens with employment if I overstay my current visa?

Your employment and J-1 status is not impacted by your visa. Remember, the visa is only an entry permit from outside the U.S. If you already have a valid DS-2019 form and an I-94 electronic record with J-1 status and D/S for the duration of stay, you will be in valid J-1 status and your employment is fine.

To be certain, please check your most recent I-94 arrival record to make sure it has the correct status (J-1) and D/S. You are permitted to remain in the U.S. as long as the DS-2019 form is valid.

If I travel to a nearby country, e.g., Canada, I’ll have to pay again for the visa application fee (which is charged by the embassy in each location). Can my department/UMD cover that?

At this time, we do not advise travel outside the U.S., since some travel restrictions are still in place. We are not sure when the situation will be resolved. Work-related travel within or outside of the U.S. is not permitted. In addition, we don't advise personal travel. Please let us know if you have any intentions to travel.

 

H-1B Faculty

I am an H-1B faculty member and need an extension of my status. Is ISSS open, and can you help me with the extension?

ISSS is open and staff continue to process H-1B extension, amendment, change of status, and transfer petitions. Please contact your supervisor for an approval of your extension request; after your supervisor approves the extension, your department’s visa coordinator should begin submitting your extension e-forms on iTerp. USCIS recently resumed the premium processing option for H1B petitions.

I am currently in F-1 OPT status and it will expire shortly. I need to change my status to H-1B. Can ISSS help?

Please contact your department’s visa coordinator to ensure that your request for an H-1B has been submitted to ISSS for processing. ISSS is processing H-1B applications for a change of status from a non-immigrant visa to H-1B. USCIS resumed the premium processing option for H1B petitions. The regulations allow you to remain in the U.S. once your H1B petition is filed with USCIS, however, you may not work until the I-797 approval notice is received by the University. ISSS continues to monitor changes in USCIS policy and will keep you and the department informed of any changes.

 

Health & Support

I am really worried and stressed. Where can I find support?

Mental health is vitally important for your overall well-being. The Faculty Staff Assistance program at UMD offers short-term counseling services to all university employees. Additionally, your health insurance plan may include mental health benefits. If you have enrolled in UMD benefits, you should check the details of your specific plan. If you enrolled in SHIP, then you can refer to their website for a summary of your benefits.

ISSS advisors also are available to meet with scholars & faculty via online appointments. Please schedule appointments here.

I am experiencing xenophobia, racism, harassment, or bullying. What can I do and where can I find support?

Bias Incident Support Services (BISS) provides services to community members affected by a hate-bias incident. BISS can talk with you to explore options and provide ongoing support and check-ins.

ISSS advisors also are available to meet with scholars & faculty via online appointments. Please schedule appointments here.

 

Departments

What start date should I push an initial J-1 program to? What start dates can we use for J-1 programs?

We are currently processing initial requests for J-1 programs in which the J-1 exchange visitors will be paid or unpaid by the University of Maryland; for unpaid appointments, the J-1 program start date cannot be earlier than September 7, 2021. In accordance with Department of State regulations, we must determine that each individual scholar to whom we are issuing J-1 visa documents will perform research activities in-person at the site of activity, and that there are plans in place to ensure that the J-1 scholar can perform their in-person research activities in compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines.

When possible, we ask that paid J-1 exchange visitors have PHR start dates on the first of the month to simplify the health insurance process for the exchange visitor. Additionally, we would like to remind departments that we ask for all J-1 requests to be processed with a start date of at least three to four months into the future to allow for visa processing and COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Our J-1 exchange visitor decided not to come at this time due to COVID-19. Can we cancel the current J-1 program? What is the process to cancel? What do we need to do if we need to submit a request in the future?

If your J-1 exchange visitor has decided not to come to UMD, please send an email to an ISSS Scholar and Faculty Advisor to confirm the cancelation of the DS-2019. ISSS will cancel the program in SEVIS.