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Frequently Asked Questions on Coronavirus/COVID-19

Revised: August 22, 2021

ATTENTION: On July 24, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued further guidance regarding Fall 2020 enrollment requirements for F-1 students, with particular focus on clarifying options for new students in Initial SEVIS status. This followed their rescission of guidance from earlier in July and the reinstatement of previous ICE guidance from March 9, 2020. The newest announcement addresses the need for clarifications for Fall 2020.  ISO has prepared a summary of the supplementary guidance. 

Please continue to consult the UR Coronavirus Update website for updates and details of current University action. Given the evolving nature of this situation, things continue to change quickly and frequently. Summaries to the latest information and recent announcements can be found on ISO's COVID-19 Immigration Information page. The topics below are intended to provide general guidance and context for important decisions UR’s international populations are facing at this time. For specific advising, please contact the ISO directly at


ISO Operations & Services


Maintaining Status
Academics & Online Study
Employment Issues
Travel & Visas


New Students & Document Processing
US Taxes & Stimulus Payments 


General - ISO Operations & Services

  • 1) Will ISO remain open and operational during the COVID-19 response?

    Yes, ISO is operational and focused on immigration advising, support services, and compliance functions for the University as our top priorities. Our team remains accessible and ready to assist! Please see our Contact page for updated details on hours, location, and advising services for Fall 2021. Beginning September 16th, our office in College Town will offer ISO Service Desk hours for in-person support, alongside remote services maintained since the beginning of the pandemic. Staff will be working on-site and virtually throughout each week. We continue to maintain various communication channels and timely processing of SEVIS updates, authorizations, and benefit recommendations.

    Within a variable climate of immigration considerations and public health guidelines, response times may be slowed while staff gather the appropriate information for your inquiry, but please know that ISO remains committed to serving UR's international populations!

  • 2) What is the best way to contact ISO right now?

    ISO has revised our service schedule and options for the new academic year. Please review details on our hours, location, and advising services.  As of August 23rd, we welcome calls to our University phone: +1 (585) 275-2866, as well as messages to our main email account:

    For forms & other documentation, please consider using our new secure platform for submitting your information online: URcompass Client Portal. You will need an active NetID or other login permission to access your record. Alternatively, we continue to receive forms by mail/courier, direct email to a staff member when appropriate, or drop-off during ISO Service Desk hours (as of 9/16).

    POTENTIAL DELAYS: During this challenging situation, we appreciate your patience and understanding! Upon receiving your inquiry, our team will assess your situation and coordinate the appropriate resources or recommendations. However, since some immigration matters are more urgent than others, we may need to prioritize our efforts accordingly. Duplicate inquiries typically delay our ability to respond effectively. Please use discretion, and allow at least 2 business days for a response or 1 week for processing of routine immigration requests.

  • 3) Can I still meet with an ISO Advisor?

    Yes, routine appointments and other advising services continue to be offered virtually! Please contact us to identify an appropriate staff member to assist you or to schedule an advising appointment around your availability.

    ISO Student Services offers Virtual Drop-In Advising Hours most weekdays: Mondays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays - 1pm to 4pm; Fridays - 9am to 12pm (Eastern time). Drop-in Advising is meant for quick questions, typically limited to 5-10 minutes. Upon joining the session, you will remain in our waiting room until an ISO Advisor can admit you individually to take your question. Please monitor your Zoom app while you wait and connect your audio upon entering the meeting.To participate during designated hours, please access ISO's Drop-Ins at:

  • 4) How is ISO managing distribution of required immigration documents?

    Despite the ongoing challenges of remote coordination for some, required document distribution is still a critical component of ISO operations. When ISO Service Desk hours open on 9/16/2021, staff will be available for pick-up in College Town each week. Our office can also distribute documents remotely using a combination of UR Mail Services, the US Postal Service, and Express Courier providers (for a fee) to deliver shipments locally, domestically and internationally.

    For items mailed to ISO on your behalf, you will receive an email notification and guidance on how to collect your documents. When pick-up is not possible for government documents that are difficult and costly to replace, ISO will require shipment through a courier service with a tracking number. If you expect additional documents to arrive, you have the option to postpone distribution temporarily for a combined shipment. When possible and appropriate, ISO will provide documentation electronically via email, either in lieu of an original (i.e. Form I-20s or letters) or to facilitate more urgent documentation needs while we coordinate a shipment. Please contact our office for more information.


Immigration - Maintaining Status

  • 1) Do I need to get an updated Form I-20 or DS-2019?

    Not necessarily: At this time, most changes resulting from COVID-19 accommodations (new address, remote/online study, modified work arrangements, etc.) do not require a new I-20 or DS-2019. Your current document remains valid until it expires or other program changes take place.

    However, all other F-1 and J-1 regulatory requirements remain in effect. We ask that you continue to use relevant ISO Forms for immigration requests and to coordinate with your academic program for any recommendation or certification needed. Common examples include: Program Extension, F-1 Practical Training (CPT, OPT, STEM), Immigration Transfer, Reduced Course Load, Leave of Absence, etc. When necessary, ISO will issue a new document once these updates are reported in SEVIS. To request a replacement I-20 or DS-2019 from ISO, please use URcompass to submit the appropriate form online.

    J-1 SCHOLARS: The US Department of State did take action in SEVIS to adjust program dates for some records in light of COVID-19, resulting in a new DS-2019. If this impacted you, you should have received information and instructions already. If you have questions, please contact ISO’s Scholar Services.

  • 2) When ISO issues a new I-20 or DS-2019, is it possible to receive it electronically?

    Yes, as of 4/30/2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) indicates that digital signatures and electronic distribution are permitted for the F-1 Form I-20, and that such forms will remain valid after the resumption of normal operations until a new document is needed. As needed, please reference a saved copy of SEVP's guidance from 4/30; updates to the FAQs for SEVP Stakeholders will be posted online when available.

    ISO is now issuing the Form I-20 with digital signatures on page 1 and page 2 for the travel endorsement. Students will receive the electronic document via their official university email, or an appropriate alternative previously reported to ISO. This practice is expected to continue until staff are able to return to our offices on a regular basis, but will be subject to any changes in government guidance or policy. Electronic distribution streamlines our delivery of the new Form I-20. However, sufficient ISO processing time is still needed to ensure accurate and timely reporting in SEVIS for our F-1 populations.

    Currently, the J-1 program still requires an original Form DS-2019 be issued with ink signatures. These forms will be printed and routed for shipment, according to our current document distribution practices. We understand that this issue remains under review for the J-1 Exchange Visitor program.

  • 3) What information am I required to report to ISO during this time?

    F-1 and J-1 reporting obligations are largely unchanged due to COVID-19 accommodations. Therefore, please review available resources and update tools for full-time students or J-1 scholars, as they relate to your personal plans.

    ADDRESS UPDATES: Many international clients frequently forget to report timely updates to their US or foreign addresses. As a reminder, any change should be reported to ISO within 10 days! This is more important than ever, given that some activities may be performed remotely during the current health crisis. As needed, please review ISO’s student address reporting requirements or use the scholar address reporting form.

  • 4) Can I still request an Immigration Transfer to study at another school?

    Yes, provided your F/J student status and SEVIS record remain valid, an Immigration Transfer Out to another school should follow normal processing requirements. If you are admitted and considering enrollment at a new school, please confirm their current policies and practices in consideration of their local requirements around COVID-19.

    NOTE: Recent guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) suggests that schools may need to handle SEVIS records differently based on whether an incoming immigration transfer student will begin their new program from within the US or while they are located abroad. This pertains to courses delivered online and may be complicated by various travel issues this summer and fall. Schools will be working to understand and develop relevant procedures, but it is also possible that SEVP guidance may develop further in the weeks to come. We recommend that you alert your new school of any plans to depart the US prior to beginning your studies there.


Immigration - Academics & Online Study

  • 1) Am I permitted to enroll in online classes as an F-1 or J-1 student?

    Yes, due to temporary governmental changes in response to COVID-19, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will permit schools to adapt their F-1 programs and school operations to manage current public health needs. Similar guidance has been issued by the US Department of State overseeing J-1 programs. Normally, international students are limited in taking online classes to count toward their full-time enrollment requirement. Until schools are able to resume normal operations and deliver in-person classes, international students may be viewed as maintaining their immigration status, even if their full-time enrollment and course activities take place online/remotely.

    The University of Rochester has notified SEVP of our intention to resume in-person classes for most programs for the 2021 academic year, with options to retain remote enrollment from abroad for students who are unable to arrive in Rochester as scheduled. These options may vary within UR by school and/or program; please seek clarification from your department. In accordance with academic approval, ISO will continue reporting via SEVIS for international students who are enrolled online but otherwise maintaining their immigration status and enrollment requirements

  • 2) Are there limits on maintaining my immigration record while outside the US?

    No, there are no specific limits on how long students can remain abroad and maintain their F/J record during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) indicates students can temporarily engage in online study, whether in the US or abroad, and still maintain their student immigration record. Unless the school needs to suspend certain courses or programs, this requires students to remain enrolled full-time and make progress toward their academic requirements. ISO will maintain your SEVIS record according to your UR enrollment status, including any eligible summer vacation term. While you are outside the US but still reported as Active, regulatory provisions restricting a temporary absence greater than 5 months will not apply.

  • 3) What if I am unable to complete my courses or degree requirements as scheduled?

    Students needing to extend the program completion date must follow standard ISO processing requirements; the COVID-19 pandemic has not directly impacted these procedures. Extensions must be reported in SEVIS prior to the current completion date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. For students who had expected to graduate and already applied for work permissions, the program extension could have significant impact on your eligibility to obtain or use those employment benefits. Please contact us to speak with an ISO Advisor as early as possible.

  • 4) What happens if I am unable or uninterested to maintain a full-time course load?

    Even during the current health crisis, all active F-1 & J-1 students must continue to maintain a full course of study during the academic year (excluding an eligible vacation term). For students who are struggling with the realities of remote study and online courses, please utilize UR resources available to support your academic success, such as: advising services staff, faculty, virtual tutoring and study skills, University IT for connectivity issues, etc. If you are unable to maintain a full-time load due to health reasons or suspension of certain programs or courses, whenever possible, please consult with the ISO before taking action to adjust your enrollment status.

    For students who would be able to enroll full-time but prefer not to for the time being, action will be required to terminate your SEVIS record for a withdrawal and you must prepare to depart the US (if not already). When you are prepared to return to Rochester, you will need to obtain a new Form I-20 or DS-2019 to document the remainder of your studies. Again, please consult with an ISO Advisor before taking official action.

  • 5) Will I be able to resume my studies this summer or fall?

    Yes, for the duration of the pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will allow continuing students to pursue their full-time classes as scheduled, whether they are delivered in-person, online, or some appropriate combination. In terms of institutional planning, the University is closely monitoring guidance from local government and public health authorities to develop plans for safely restarting certain academic operations. As instructional plans and SEVP guidance evolve, ISO will continue to assess immigration options for UR international students enrolling this summer and/or fall.


Immigration - Employment Issues

  • 1) Am I authorized to continue my on-campus or other UR work activities?

    Yes, while maintaining F/J status according to modified operations during COVID-19, your current on-campus work permissions and other benefits remain in place. You retain authorization to work for the University of Rochester, as your immigration sponsor, up to 20 hours per week during the academic year and full-time during annual vacation periods. However, as an employer, the University of Rochester has had to implement some temporary adjustments to standard work and hiring practices. Given that so many students are engaged in their studies remotely, certain work functions may be able to shift to a virtual environment, while others cannot. Additionally, there are important considerations regarding work that is performed domestically outside of New York State, and restrictions on work performed internationally. While non-service graduate awards can still be paid to students located abroad, other service-based activities may need to be postponed or shifted to others while you are home. Additionally, certain University policies may limit what types of research or other employment can take place during a phased resumption of academic activities. Therefore, it is important that you have an explicit and shared understanding with your department and any UR employer(s) regarding your payments, responsibilities, schedule, location and travel plans, etc. As needed, please consult with UR Student Employment and/or Human Resources for additional guidance.

  • 2) Is F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) still viable for an academic internship?

    Yes, if you are eligible, F-1 CPT is still a viable option for internships and other off-campus employment opportunities for matriculated students. For eligible students, ISO continues to process recommendations for CPT work authorization. However, based on local government and public health guidance, evolving US work environments could limit on-site interviews and work activities. If your work activities are temporarily postponed due to COVID-19, please contact your UR department or service office to determine whether any modifications are appropriate for the academic components of your internship. If you are still considering available opportunities, please consult the dedicated career services team within your academic program, or review the Greene Center’s available resources.

    Note: Questions on J-1 Academic Training should be addressed to ISO on an individual basis.

  • 3) Will I still be able to apply for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

    Yes, F-1 OPT and STEM Extension OPT benefits remain available for eligible F-1 students, but personal travel plans and application timing may pose challenges for some. An F-1 student must be present in the US in order to apply for F-1 Optional Practical Training, but it is generally permissible to depart the country after that application has been received by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

    When possible, ISO recommends that graduating students interested in OPT work permissions remain in the US until you are eligible and can successfully file your application with USCIS. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of COVID-19, students who departed the country with current OPT work permissions (either pending or approved) may have difficulties securing return travel to pursue US-based work opportunities in the coming months. Individual situations may vary; please discuss with ISO as needed. We will continue to monitor and share relevant guidance from government agencies, especially if application eligibility rules change.

    NOTEQuestions on J-1 Academic Training should be addressed to ISO on an individual basis.

  • 4) Can I work remotely using F-1 CPT or OPT authorizations? Can I work from abroad?

    Yes, temporary government guidance supports arrangements to work remotely as an F-1 student. Among the procedural adaptations allowed during COVID-19, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recognizes that changing workplace requirements may impact students pursuing practical training. Specifically, F-1 students with authorized employment are permitted to work remotely provided the employer is able to assess their engagement/learning electronically. This includes work performed remotely from your residence within the US, or from abroad.

    REPORTING: If you will be pursuing your work activities remotely, please let ISO know so that we can include an appropriate remark in your SEVIS record (which does not print on the I-20). However, SEVP has clarified that a remote work address should NOT be reported in SEVIS, nor on the Form I-983 for STEM Extension OPT activities. For your own records, ISO recommends that you obtain documentation regarding the plans and execution of your continued employment via remote work arrangements. This may prove useful for future immigration purposes, and is typically easier to obtain in the present.

  • 5) What is the impact of a layoff, furlough, or other break in employment?

    Many US employers are needing to make significant workforce adjustments right now. If you are subject to a reductions or suspension of your work activities, it will be important to understand how the layoff, furlough, or other unpaid leave may relate to any sustained employment relationship. ISO recommends that you obtain documentation of the relevant arrangements.

    During the COVID-19 emergency, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) indicates that F-1 students working fewer than 20 hours per week are still considered to be engaged in their authorized OPT activities. Therefore, a reduction in work hours or partial leave may not have a direct impact on your F-1 status or employment eligibility. In such cases, students should maintain their employment details reported in SEVIS and will not accrue days of unemployment toward their relevant F-1 regulatory limit (90 days during OPT; aggregate 150 days during STEM).

    In situations where the employment relationship is fully severed and students will not maintain any work hours, the guidance suggests that unemployment accruals may take effect. Consultation with an immigration attorney may be helpful to evaluate whether certain conditions would reasonably influence that interpretation. SEVP indicates that the agency is reviewing whether an extension or suspension is appropriate regarding the F-1 regulatory limits on OPT unemployment is appropriate, but no decision has been published to date.


Immigration - Travel & Visas

  • 1) How can I obtain a new travel validation signature on my I-20 or DS-2019?

    During remote work operations, ISO is currently issuing a new document with updated signatures for travel purposes. Please reference your current I-20 or DS-2019 to determine if you might need a new validation. Since signatures are valid for one year (6 months during periods of OPT/STEM), we are recommending an update if your most recent signature was issued in 2019 or earlier. To request a new document for travel, please use URcompass to submit the form online for a document reprint.

  • 2) If my F/J visa expires, can I remain in the US? Will I be able to renew it?

    Yes, you can remain in the US with an expired visa sticker in your passport, as long as you are maintaining your F/J immigration status. However, once you depart the US and your visa has expired, you MUST renew the visa before you will be allowed to re-enter the US in the F-1 or J-1 category.

    There is a lot of uncertainty around travel and visa processing for the time being. Currently, the US Department of State has closed most consular locations and/or suspended certain visa services; additional restrictions are possible based on local conditions. As visa processing begins to resume, please consult your intended Embassy or Consular Section for updated guidance on their nonimmigrant visa application procedures. There is uncertainty about processing backlogs and possible delays. If you are unable to obtain the visa before your scheduled return, you will have to adjust your travel plans.

    Depending on various personal circumstances, some students may prefer to remain in the US with an expired visa to preserve immigration permissions and options. Please continue to monitor University communications, guidance from your academic program, and online resources for travel implications.

  • 3) Are there international travel restrictions to be aware of?

    Each country has various travel restrictions and protocols for entry, so please ensure that you check the website of your embassy or the country where you plan to travel. Additionally, the US still has travel restrictions for most countries, so please check the US Department of State for updates on travel and entry permissions. The ISO will continue to monitor developments in this space.

    You may consider using additional resources to research current travel restrictions, such as:

    International SOS (ISOS)
    ISOS provides resources and information on global travel restrictions for every country, including flight operations.
    International Air Transport Association (IATA)
    IATA is the trade association for the world’s airlines. They built a webpage to provide access to COVID-19 measures taken by governments as reported to IATA.
    Worldcue Trip Planning Tool (Net ID required)
    Members of the University can access updated, destination-specific intelligence information from our intelligence provider via the Worldcue Planning Tool.

    The University also has a Travel Assistance Services provider that can provide travelers with a wide range of informational services before they depart. This includes country travel restrictions, airline restrictions, visa/passport requirements, immunization requirements, etc. For more information, please dial +1 888 331-8310 and reference Policy #US1221943

    GENERAL TRAVEL ADVISORY: For continuing students, traveling outside the US is not recommended except for emergencies, due to current entry restrictions and closure of US Embassies and Consular posts in most countries.

  • 4) While flights are so limited, how can I make travel arrangements to depart the US?

    While flights to destinations abroad have been significantly reduced, there are still carriers that fly to many destinations from the US. You should expect a more complicated and lengthy itinerary to get home, though. Due to the reductions, the University recommends that travelers book tickets as soon as possible to secure their seat, and also recommends the purchase of additional trip cancellation insurance when available. Most carriers are currently offering flexible reimbursements if your flight is canceled or a new travel restriction makes it impossible to travel. This is all subject to change, of course, as the situation progresses here in the US, so do not delay.

    Some foreign embassies are assisting to coordinate chartered flights for their citizens to return home from the US. Among their COVID-19 resources, the Department of State Exchange Visitor Program is maintaining country-specific repatriation information: You may click the link for ‘EMBASSY CONTACTS’ and access the file for Repatriation Assistance. Please consult with your respective embassy for additional information.

    If coordinating your own travel, please consider booking tickets through one of the University’s preferred Rochester-based travel vendors. Using a local agency gives you an advantage over online booking services because they can more easily and quickly support a change of ticket if needed. Having a real person to help is very advantageous under current circumstances, therefore we recommend the following agencies.

    DePrez Travel Bureau, Inc.
    145 Rue De Ville
    Rochester, NY 14618
    Phone: 585-442-8900, option 3
    Town & Country Travel
    732 Pittsford-Victor Rd
    Pittsford, NY 14534
    (585) 381-2850 / fax (585) 381-1987


Special Topic - New Students & Document Processing

  • 1) How long will it take ISO to process my I-20/DS-2019 request?

    For newly admitted students, the issuance of your I-20 or DS-2019 is a primary focus of our staff. Once we receive the completed New Student Intake Forms (NSIF), our normal processing time is 2 weeks to create your new immigration document. Certain situations may require more time to gather additional information or coordinate a transfer of your SEVIS record, etc. During COVID-19 remote operations, this processing is also subject to some delays based on increased caseloads, evolving guidance from US government and University authorities, and variable work conditions. However, with permissions to send the Form I-20 electronically (see Maintaining Status above), the University is actually able to distribute F-1 documents much more quickly than during normal operations. For this year, we expect that most new students will receive their UR immigration document sooner in the process. Please alert us to any imminent deadlines or challenges you are facing:

    As needed, please coordinate with your UR admissions staff on the timing of the NSIF submission to ISO. Within ISO’s expected processing times (2-3 weeks), emailing to inquire about the status of your I-20/DS-2019 actually delays our ability to process your document request quickly.

  • 2) Who should be listed as the School Contact on the DS-160 visa application?

    When completing the DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, you will be prompted to enter a US Point of Contact, as well as SEVIS Information. You are welcome to use a UR faculty member or academic advisor for this section, or you may use the School Official and School Address details printed on your Form I-20 (or program details on your Form DS-2019). The program and address details for your SEVIS Information are also printed on your immigration document.

  • 3) When can I schedule a visa appointment? Will this impact my arrival?

    As most US embassies and consular posts are closed for routine visa services, your ability to schedule or attend a nonimmigrant visa appointment may be difficult to gauge. The US Department of State has not issued clear communication on when posts will resume their operations, but it is expected to vary based on local conditions worldwide. Please visit the DOS Bureau of Consular Affairs and check respective embassy communications for updated information on consular services and visa processing times.

    If you are subject to US visa requirements, you will not be able to travel to Rochester in the F-1 or J-1 student category without obtaining the physical visa sticker in your passport. So yes, it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties in scheduling a visa appointment may impact arrival plans for some students. ISO is able to defer the program start date in SEVIS to reflect a later arrival, and would coordinate this in conjunction with your UR admitting department when appropriate. However, for UR classes and programs delivered online, you may be able to enroll in your studies remotely as scheduled. In this case, the government has indicated that policy review is already underway related to immigration permissions and SEVIS recordkeeping as a result of modified academic operations during COVID-19. ISO will continue to monitor these developments and offer guidance to the University of Rochester international community as available.

  • 4) How should I coordinate a SEVIS Immigration Transfer of my F/J record?

    If you are currently maintaining an Active SEVIS record at another US institution, the SEVIS Immigration Transfer will allow you to retain your F/J immigration status and eligible benefits in order to enroll in your new UR program. Please contact an international student advisor at your current school regarding the transfer and required documentation to initiate this process. During COVID-19, the University of Rochester continues to welcome and coordinate immigration transfers of records in SEVIS.

    NOTE: Recent guidance from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) suggests that schools may need to handle SEVIS records differently based on whether an incoming immigration transfer student will begin their new program from within the US or while they are located abroad. This pertains to courses delivered online and may be complicated by various travel issues this summer and fall. Schools will be working to understand and develop relevant procedures, but it is also possible that SEVP guidance may develop further in the weeks to come. We ask that you alert ISO of any upcoming plans to depart the US prior to beginning your studies here. Our office will provide additional guidance on this as it becomes available.

  • 5) What should I do if my visa is delayed or denied, following an interview?

    Once visa processing resumes, US Consular officials will still need to evaluate an individual’s eligibility for their requested visa category. If your application is subject to delayed administrative processing or denial, please review the information on our website and plan to submit information to ISO for our awareness. The University is rarely able to intercede in the visa application process, but we will monitor your case and may be able to provide additional information and guidance on next steps.

  • 6) How should I submit required UR enrolling documents at this time?

    During COVID-19 remote operations, UR offices are having to modify their business practices to accomplish required data collection and processing. Please monitor online resources for up-to-date guidance regarding the variety of forms and information new students are required to submit prior to arrival and/or enrollment. Some procedures and deadlines may be subject to change.

    HEALTH INSURANCE & IMMUNIZATIONS: In addition to their high-quality, confidential health care services, the University Health Service (UHS) oversees institutional compliance with local/state health regulations and administers the Student Health Insurance Plan. Since certain information must be received via original paper form, please review UHS Requirements for Full-Time Students for submission instructions. You also will find helpful information regarding UR immunization requirements and the Online Health Insurance Process (to enroll in UR student insurance or to waive this option for an alternative plan that meets specific criteria).

    For other common inquiries (unrelated to our current global health crisis), please visit ISO’s Frequently Asked Questions for Incoming Students. 



Special Topic - US Taxes & COVID-19 Stimulus Payments

  • 1) Am I eligible for the stimulus payment?

    According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), individuals are eligible for the COVID-19 stimulus check from the federal government only when they were considered a Resident Alien for tax purposes in 2018 or 2019. As a nonimmigrant, your US tax residency category is calculated based on your time in the US and your immigration history. Please access your GLACIER Tax Summary to confirm your tax residency and evaluate your eligibility for the stimulus payment. Based on recent reports, some individuals were incorrectly identified and have received a payment, even though they do meet the eligibility criterion. If you were a Non-Resident Alien for tax purposes in 2018 or 2019, but filed a regular Form 1040 (instead of a 1040NR) by using Turbo Tax or other software that does not recognize the nuances between resident and nonresident tax residency, the IRS may presume that you are eligible for the stimulus funds. If you receive a payment IN ERROR, please read through the questions that follow to determine next steps.

  • 2) What should I do if I received a check?

    If you receive a paper Treasury check in error, please do NOT cash it or deposit it in your bank account. You must mark the check as “VOID”, written across the face of the check, and return it by mail within 21 days to the IRS.

    If you already deposited/cashed the payment, you will need to submit a reimbursement of the payment amount. Please prepare a paper check or money order payable to IRS. You should include: the phrase “Payment of Erroneous Refund”, the relevant tax period for the refund (2019), and your Social Security Number (SSN) or your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

    MAILING INFORMATION: Please visit for the appropriate IRS mailing address for your voided stimulus check or valid reimbursement payment. You are advised to include a note mentioning the reason for returning the payment: "Refund received in error due to incorrect filing".

  • 3) What should I do if I have received a direct deposit?

    If you receive a direct deposit of stimulus funds in error, please contact your bank or financial institution and request that they return the funds to the IRS within 21 days of receiving the funds. Additionally, you should call the IRS at +1-800-829-1040 to explain the reason for the returned direct deposit payment.

  • 4) What should I do after I return the stimulus payment?

    If you received the COVID-19 stimulus payment in error, the IRS believes you are an eligible Resident Alien for tax purposes based on how you filed recent income tax forms. Therefore, separately from returning the stimulus payment, you must also file an amended income tax return for 2018 and/or 2019. As a UR Non-Resident Alien for tax purposes, information about how to amend an incorrect filing is available through GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP); additional guidance can be found within GTP by selecting FAQ from their menu.

  • 5) Where can I find more information? Can ISO assist with this process?

    The IRS has posted detailed information on the eligibility for COVID-19 stimulus payments, as well as extensive and precise information on the process of returning erroneous payments. Additionally, ISO has solicited a detailed summary from CPA Alejandro Young regarding Coronavirus Information for F-1 & J-1 Student and Scholars. Since ISO staff are not trained as tax professionals, we are unable to assist beyond this basic information and identified resources.