COVID-19 & Immigration Frequently Asked Questions

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has made planning for travel, class enrollment, and status maintenance very difficult for our international students.

Please review the responses to many Immigration Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) below, and email if you have questions.

Am I allowed to take all online classes as an international student?

Students who are entering the U.S. on an Initial Attendance I-20 must be enrolled in at least one in-person or hybrid course. For those who are already here in the U.S. and continuing their enrollment, in order to maintain your I-20 and F-1 status:

  • Winter 2023: Students must enroll at least one Web-Enhanced (in-person) or Hybrid class. All online classes is not allowed.
  • Spring 2023: Students must enroll at least two Web-Enhanced (in-person) or Hybrid classes. Only one online class is allowed.

Can I return home while classes are online? Will my F-1 visa and I-20 remain valid if I travel?

Yes, you can return home during this time if you wish. Students who are in 12+ credits or are approved for a vacation quarter will maintain an active I-20 record regardless of their physical location. You can take full-time online classes from your home country and still be considered to be following the F-1 enrollment rules.

Before you travel internationally, please check the travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 and contact our office if the signature is older than 9 months. You should also check the validity of your F-1 student visa. Many U.S. consulates and embassies around the world are now closing due to the coronavirus, so you may not be able to renew your visa at this time.

Please be aware that travel restrictions are changing rapidly, so it is possible you could end up getting stuck in your home country and be unable to return to the U.S. for a while. Plan your travel carefully and research any travel restrictions and rules before you leave.

How do I request a vacation quarter

To make a vacation request please complete an Immigration Record Update Request form and submit to

What COVID-related guidelines do I need to follow in order to travel to the U.S. from overseas?

The U.S. is requiring all non-U.S. citizens on a non-immigrant visa (including F-1 students) to be fully vaccinated before entering the U.S. by air travel. There are only limited exceptions to this vaccination rules; review the CDC travel webpage to learn more.

Currently there is no requirement to show proof of a negative COVID test before flying to the U.S., but rules can change quickly as the health situation changes. Make sure to check the CDC travel webpage and verify with your airline before you travel.

While vaccinations are encouraged, students are not required to be vaccinated after the Governor’s Higher Education Proclamation ended on October 31st, 2022. Review Cascadia’s vaccination webpage to learn more, and email if you have any questions.

What should I do if I plan to travel internationally but need a new travel signature on my I-20?

Complete the Immigration Record Update Request form at least two weeks before you are scheduled to travel. The IP office can print, sign, and mail you an updated I-20 to your U.S. address.

My visa is going to expire soon - what do I need to do?

Your F-1 visa is okay to expire while you are in the U.S. – you just need to keep your I-20 and passport valid. If you are outside of the U.S., or planning on traveling home soon, then you will need to renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy before you return to the U.S. We recommend bringing your I-20, passport, and a copy of your current or future class schedule to the visa interview.

Unfortunately many U.S. consulates and embassies around the world are now closing due to the coronavirus, so you may not be able to renew your visa at this time. Check the website for your nearest U.S. consulate to get information about any closures or delays.

I heard you can't be outside the U.S. for more than 5 months without getting a new visa and I-20 - is this true?

Normally you would need a new I-20 to be able to come back to the U.S. after a break of more than 5 months outside the country. However, the U.S. government has temporarily waived this rule due to COVID-19. As long as you are continuing to stay enrolled while outside of the U.S., we can keep your current I-20 active, and you can use this document to go through U.S. Customs even if you have been outside the U.S. more than 5 months. If you have taken a leave of absence from your studies and now want to resume your studies, please contact international@cascadia.eduso that we can request for your immigration record to be reactivated.

What are my options if I don't want to take classes next quarter but I'm not eligible for a vacation quarter?

If you wish to take a break from your studies but you are not eligible for a vacation quarter, then the IP office will need to close your Cascadia immigration record for Authorized Early Withdrawal. After a withdrawal you can spend as much time as you want outside of the U.S.. We can request to turn your immigration record back to Active status and/or make a new I-20 for you to return to the U.S. for a future quarter. Contact international@cascadia.eduto speak with an advisor about your plans.

What should I do if I am unable to return to the U.S. due to coronavirus restrictions?

Please email our office right away if you are unable to return to Cascadia as planned. An International Student Advisor will be able to review your options, which may include a vacation quarter, leave of absence, or other options.

My program of study at Cascadia is ending soon. What are my options if I want to stay in the U.S.?

International students have a 60 day grace period after the last day of their graduation quarter to take some action to either maintain their immigration status in the U.S. or depart the country. Students wishing to stay in the U.S. can consider transferring to another school to start a new education program, applying for OPT work authorization, changing to another visa type, or even starting a new degree program at Cascadia (we have 2 great Bachelor programs!). Please contact an International Student Advisor at international@cascadia.eduto discuss your options.

Can new students come to the U.S. during this time to start their studies at Cascadia?

New international students who are outside of the U.S. are able to travel to the U.S. on an F-1 visa if they are registered for at least one in-person class. Additionally, we welcome new international students to start taking Cascadia courses online from their home country! Please email to get help with placement testing and class registration.