The OIE has compiled the following Frequently Asked Questions as it relates to COVID-19’s impact on the spring semester, grading options, F-1 status, travel, employment, and more.

This information is more for current F-1 students. 

F-1 Advisors:

Berkeley City College (BCC): Matthew Jones at mjones2@peralta.edu

Laney, Alameda, Merritt (LAM): Michael Goldberg at mgoldberg@peralta.edu or 

Admissions: please email international@peralta.edu.

The information below is for students in Active Status for the fall 20 semester. 

Q:  Are all classes online this semester?

  • A: Yes, with few exceptions, all classes will be online

Q:  Will taking all online classes affect my F-1 status?

  • A:  No, you will be allowed to take all online classes due to new COVID-19 regulations.

Q:  If all of my classes are online, can I return to my country and take classes from home?

  • A:  Yes, you will be permitted to return to your country while keeping your F-1 status. Before leaving please inform your F-1 advisor (see above) and let them know if/when you plan to return.

Q:  Do I still need to enroll full-time for the fall 20 semester to keep my F-1 status?

  • A:  Yes, you must enroll full-time (at least 12 units) unless you have been approved for a Reduced Course Load to keep your F-1 status.

Q:  How can I get a Reduced Course Load and take less than 12 units?

Q:  I don’t want to take all online classes, can I take a semester off / leave of absence?

  • A: Yes, you can take a a semester off. Per USCIS regulations, our office must Terminate your F-1 status for Authorized Early Withdrawal. 
  • When you are ready to study in person, please contact your F-1 advisor (above) so they can let you know the process to receive an Active I-20. 

Q:  Can I stay in the United States if I don’t want to take classes?

  • A:  No, F-1 students who do not plan to enroll in classes must be Terminated for Failure to Enroll. We encourage that you leave the country prior to the semester if you have no intention of studying this fall. 

Q:  Who do I contact if I have more questions and need help?

Q: Can I come meet with you at the Office of International Education ?

  • A: All staff are working remotely and cannot assist in person. Your F-1 advisors can arrange a zoom meeting
  • Please check any updates for office hours here: https://web.peralta.edu/international/  

Q: Can I meet with an international F-1 advisaor?

  • A: Yes. Our Program Managers have drop in Zoom Office Hours. Please email for the link 🙂
  • Michael Goldberg: Alameda, Laney, and Merritt
    • Monday at 11am | Tuesday 1pm | Friday 3pm
  • Matthew Jones: Berkeley
    • Wednesday 1pm | Friday 2pm

Q: If my spring 2020 classes are now all online, does that impact my F-1 status?

  • A: No. Online classes are permitted during the COVID crisis.

Q: Can I leave the U.S. to complete my classes from home and when can I return?

  • A: Yes, you may leave the U.S. and complete your classes from home. Please check the CDC Travel Advisory site for more information and to make sure there are no flight restrictions. You can return any time before the Fall semester.

Q: What if I am outside the United States for longer than 5 months?

  • A: International students must normally re-enter the country within 5 months of their departure date in order to remain in F-1 status. Now, however, this 5 month rule does not apply during this time. To keep your status, please make sure you have an I-20, valid F-1 visa, enroll full-time, and arrive to the United States by August 24, 2020 – the first day of our fall semester.

Q: Do I need a travel authorization signature on my I-20 to reenter the United States?

Q: If I lost my I-20 can the office send me another one?

  • A: Yes. We are now able to email I-20’s (see link above).

Q: If I need more time on my I-20, what can I do?

Q: Will I need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again?

  • A: Only students who are issued a new (Initial) I-20 would have to pay the I-901 Fee.

The OIE is continuously monitoring updates in regards to tuition and the possibility of refunds. 

Q: If my class was permanently cancelled for the Spring 2020 semester will I receive a refund?

Q: If I chose an “EW” grading option will I receive a refund?

Q: If I am experiencing a financial hardship, can I make my payments in installments?

  • A: Payment plans are available for the current semester. You can request one by emailing paymentplan@peralta.edu

Taxes:

Every international student, along with their dependents, will need to file Form 8843 separately.If you have received income in the last calendar year then you will need to file Form 8843 and Form 1040NR-EZ. Please follow the International Student tax instructions here. 

Q: What happens if I test positive for COVID-19?

  • A: Contact our office as soon as you are able to or when your physician permits it.

Q: Where can I get my health insurance card?

Q: What if I did not receive an email with my health insurance information?

  • A: Call Relation Insurance at 1(800) 537-1777

Q: Where can I find information about my Health Insurance?

Q: How can I find health care providers covered by our insurance plan?

Q: Where can I get tested if I’m showing symptoms of COVID-19?

  • A: Please review CDC’s Testing for COVID-19 site for more information about symptoms and guidance.
  • The nearest facility to the Peralta Community College District is: Alta Bates Hospital:  2450 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705 (510) 204-4444
  • There may be drive thru testing and other sites available. Please check your local area and requirements.  

On Campus Employment:

Q: Can I still be paid for on campus employment?

  • A: Yes, international students with approved on campus employment are still permitted to be paid during the campus closure.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Q: Will my CPT end date change?

  • A: No. CPT for the Spring 2020 will still end on May 22, 2020.

Q: If my employer cannot pay me, can I volunteer for my CPT employer while school is not in session?

  • A: Students may volunteer without pay anytime. However, paid employment is prohibited without proper work authorization.

Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Q: Can I still apply for Post Completion OPT if this is my final semester?

  • A: Yes. We do encourage you to reach out to Drew Gephart at dgephart@peralta.edu about specific questions you may have.

Q: I am graduating this spring semester. When is the earliest I can apply for Post-Completion OPT?

  • A: You may apply as soon as now, however, we are recommending that you wait until May 2, 2020 to begin filing their applications for OPT. 

Severe Economic Hardship

Q: What does Severe Economic Hardship mean?

  • A: Students will have to demonstrate the nature of their economic hardship, how it was unforeseen, and provide documentation that proves they are facing an economic hardship. 

Q: What does this allow me to do?

  • A: If approved – which may take about 6 months – students can work for up to one year: part-time during school and full-time during breaks. 

Q: Where can I learn more about it?

  • A: Please contact an international advisor. For the application, you may visit https://www.uscis.gov/i-765. This contains the application, required documents, filing fee and mailing address. DO NOT FILE until an F-1 advisor provides you an I-20. 

Q: How can I apply for Severe Economic Hardship?

Q: Will classes only be offered online starting April 6?

  • A: Yes. All classes continuing in the Spring 2020 semester will only be offered online.

Q: When will the Spring 2020 semester end?

  • A: The semester will still end on May 22, 2020

Q: How do I access my online classes? 

  • A: To access online classes, login to your Peralta Portal and click “Canvas”. Resources for online learning can be found on this link.

Q: How can I contact my instructor?

Q: Which grading options are available during the Spring 2020 semester?

  • A: For most classes, students may choose: Graded, Pass/No Pass,  Excused Withdrawal*, or Incomplete (with instructor approval). 

Q: What is an Excused Withdrawal and how is it different than a regular Withdrawal?

  • A: Please see the Grading Options and Impact section below.

Information below can be found on Peralta’s Safe FAQ’s for Students:

Excused Withdrawal (EW)

  • “Excused Withdrawal” (EW) occurs when a student is permitted to withdraw from a course(s) due to specific events beyond the control of the student and affecting his or her ability to complete a course(s). This includes any COVID-19 related issues.
  • Excused withdrawals are not counted in progress probation and dismissal calculations.
  • Excused withdrawals are not counted toward the permitted number of withdrawals or counted as an enrollment attempt.
  • Excused withdrawals do not result as F grades on student transcripts. Instead an “EW” will be on the students’ permanent record and transcript.
  • Excused Withdrawals are not calculated into your GPA (Grade Point Average).
  • Excused Withdrawals will not impact your Financial Aid SAP (Student Academic Progress).

Q: Does an Excused Withdrawal allow me to drop below 12 units?

  • A: No. International student who receive an EW and fall below 12 units would no longer considered to be maintaining status. F-1 students must maintain full time enrollment or be eligible for a Reduced Course Load (RCL).

Incomplete

  • Incomplete Grades (I) may be provided to students where faculty agree. If the faculty agrees to give an I grade, there is a form HERE that must be completed and signed by the faculty and student. The form must describe what course work the student is to complete to replace the I grade with a final course grade. An I grade allows students one year to complete the work. Remember, that not all faculty can or will agree to give an I grade.
  • Students do not have to re-enroll in the course or pay fees again to complete a course where an “I” was assigned.

Pass/No Pass Option

  • Many classes can allow a student to change to a Pass/No Pass grade option. This may provide you with a sense of ease in this transition. Please contact your instructor(s) to see if this is an option for your course.  The UC and CSU institutions recently updated their policy on accepting Pass/No Pass classes as credits. See an update here.

Cancelled/Suspended Classes

  • The OIE is working with the colleges to learn which classes or programs may be cancelled/suspended. Loss of enrollment due to Cancelled/Suspended classes do not negatively impact your F-1 status.