International Students

This page was updated 7/25/20.

On March 9, 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigrations and Customs (ICE) announced that it would relax the rules governing the number of online classes that an international student with an F-1 visa could take, permitting international students to take all their classes online. 

On July 6,2020, ICE rescinded this, requiring international students with an F-1 visa to take at least one class in person. 

On July 14, 2020, ICE rescinded the July 6 announcement and returned to the rule it had announced on March 9, 2020.

On July 15, 2020, ICE issued an updated FAQ, based on the March 9 rules, summarizing its current approach for international students with an F-1 visa in light of COVID-19. These FAQs are based on the March 9 rules and the July 15, 2020, FAQs. We will update these FAQs if ICE issues new rules or guidance.

On July 24, 2020, ICE issued clarifications for initial/incoming international students. These clarifications do NOT affect or pertain to continuing international students. See new guidance shared with all 2020 incoming international students on July 25, 2020.

  • If I have a current F-1 Visa, can I take all classes online in the Fall 2020 Semester? Does it matter if I am in the United States or outside the United States?
    • Yes, an international student with an F-1 visa can take all classes online in the Fall 2020, regardless of whether the student is in the United States or outside the United States.
  • If I have an F-1 visa and take courses online, do I have to take a full course of study to remain in F-1 visa status? 
    • As a general matter, yes, a student must take a full course of study to remain in F-1 status.  If a student is unable to take full course of study because of COVID-19 considerations such as the unavailability of required courses online or internet connectivity issues, the student should contact their academic dean for guidance. The academic dean should contact Duke Visa Services if it is determined that the student cannot maintain full-time enrollment.
  • I am a new international transfer undergraduate or graduate student transferring to Duke from another F-1 academic program in the United States, I am taking all my classes online in fall 2020. Am I eligible for OPT/CPT in summer 2021?
    • Yes, if you are currently inside the United States AND you physically report to Duke Visa Services on a timely basis, your SEVIS record will be changed from transfer pending to active. You will be eligible to apply for CPT/OPT for summer 2021 if you remain in valid student status. If you are in the United States but not able to physically report to Duke Visa Services, please contact us at  visahelp@mc.duke.edu
  • I am a continuing student and I will pursue online classes outside the U.S. in fall 2020. Am I eligible for CPT/OPT in summer 2021?
    • Yes. Continuing students with ACTIVE SEVIS files can enroll for online courses outside the U.S. for Fall 2020 and will be eligible to request CPT/OPT for Summer 2021.
  • Can I study at another university in my home country and get the credits transferred to Duke?
    • F-1 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, currently in their home countries and interested in remaining at home and studying abroad on Duke-approved study away options should contact the Global Education Office at globaled@duke.edu. Students interested in other study options in their home countries should contact their academic deans to discuss institutional transfer credit options.

  • I am an incoming master’s student, but am having issues obtaining my visa. Can I still enroll in online courses?
    • Yes. Students who do not have a visa may take courses online from outside of the United States. Self-paying master’s students can register for online courses and pay their own tuition. Students receiving tuition scholarships can apply those scholarships to their tuition bill. Consult your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) about potential online coursework.
  • I am an incoming doctoral student, but am having issues obtaining my visa. Is there a way for me to enroll in online courses and begin my degree program?

Perhaps. Although the immigration laws do not prevent you from taking courses, there are elements of a typical doctoral program that make this a complicated scenario. In particular, it is not always possible to present doctoral courses online and many doctoral programs include research or teaching components, which present complex issues if you are not at Duke. 

Accordingly, each doctoral program will make this decision itself depending upon:

  • Whether online classes are a practical option, considering content, effectiveness, timing and resources.
  • Whether the program can take place without the teaching or research component.

For any program that chooses to go ahead:

  • You will not receive compensable income (you might be able to receive non-compensable stipends).
  • You will not be enrolled in Duke health insurance.
  • You must be in residence no later than Fall 2021 to continue in your degree program.
  • I am a returning Master’s student or returning doctoral student with a current visa, but I need to participate or work remotely. What are my options?
    • Yes, but you cannot be paid compensatory stipends for this. If your research requires a compensatory stipend you cannot continue it.
  • What if an international student has health concerns and cannot attend class? What should they do?
    • We ask that you report your illness to your academic advisor and Duke Visa Services so your concerns can be addressed and information provided so your SEVIS file will remain active.
  • What happens to my SEVIS record if I take a personal leave of absence for the semester?
    • If you take a personal leave of absence for the semester, your SEVIS record will be made inactive.
  • I plan to study at Duke Kunshan University this fall – what will happen to my SEVIS record?

In addition to allowing international students with an F-1 visa to take online classes, the March 9 ICE COVID-19 rules also allow international students to take remote classes (classes not on Duke’s campus) and remain in F-1 status.  It does not matter if the classes are Duke classes or DKU classes. As discussed above, you should take a full course load, but if COVID-19 prevents you from doing this, you can contact Duke Visa Services to explore an alternative arrangement (no guarantees).

At present, China is not allowing foreigners to enter the country to study as a student and we do not expect that to change in time to permit non-PRC citizens to study at DKU in Fall 2020.  We will provide an update if the situation changes.

  • I am a newly admitted international student who does not have a F-1 visa and I plan to start my Duke education at Duke Kunshan University this fall.  Can I?
    • Yes. Incoming (new) students to Duke who study at Duke Kunshan University in the fall and do not have a F-1 visa, or who have a F-1 visa but will not enter the U.S. for Fall 2020 are not subject to United States immigration regulations and can take a full-time course load of Duke courses online or Duke Kunshan University courses.
  • What happens to my SEVIS record if I take a personal leave of absence for the semester?
    • If you take a personal leave of absence for the semester, your SEVIS record will be made inactive.
  • Duke has restrictions on travel to certain countries. What is the update on this issue?
    • With the continued spread of COVID-19 globally, all students are expected to observe health and travel restrictions to protect each other and the most vulnerable members of our community.  If you are in Durham, you are asked to remain until the end of the semester.  More information will be available soon. 
  • What if an international student has health concerns and cannot attend class? What should they do?
    • We ask that you report your illness to your academic advisor and Duke Visa Services so your concerns can be addressed and information provided so your SEVIS file will remain active.
  • I have additional questions about visas. Whom do I contact?

If you have additional questions or need support please contact the International House at 919-684-3585 or ihouse@duke.edu

Please go to Health Guidance: Students travelling to Durham this month for details on testing and health guidelines this semester

  • I am arriving to Durham outside after the 4:00 p.m. testing close time. What should I do?
    • The Office of Student Affairs, in collaboration with Office of Undergraduate Education, is managing a small number of bed spaces for students who have been assigned on-campus housing yet are not able to arrive by 4 p.m. due to circumstances beyond their control.  These bed spaces will be available for a one-night stay only.  All students given this accommodation will check in at Penn Pavilion at 7 a.m. the following morning and the relocate to your residence hall. 
    • These spaces are reserved for students who are traveling without family, from overseas or have a demonstrated financial need .  If you do not meet this criteria, it is highly likely this will not be an option for you.  You can find a list of hotels within walking distance to Duke here
    • If you do meet the criteria and want to be considered for this option, fill out this form. 
    • If you are approved, you will be notified by email with information about the hotel & logistics for check in. 
  • I am an international student, I cannot download the app to schedule my testing appointment. What do I do?
    • International users who are unable to see the Transact app will need to change iTunes/App Store from international to the US market.  Before making that change, users should make sure they complete a backup so that you do not lose the international data. For technical support with this process, you can contact dukecard@duke.edu.