COVID-19 Updates for KU International Community
Updated July 21, 2020
KU International Affairs and the International Student Advisory Committee (ISAC) hosted a virtual town hall meeting on July 16 to answer questions from international students. A panel of university leaders from International Affairs, International Support Services, Watkins Health Services, Academic Success, Graduate Studies, and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Online program addressed some of our international students’ most pressing concerns around COVID-19.
The University of Kansas is taking a proactive, science-based approach to reopening campus. Prior to the start of the fall semester, many of our units are not accessible to in-person visitors. However, we are open for business virtually and ready to assist. For specific international-related COVID-19 questions, please contact the following units:
- International Affairs for general inquiries or if you are unsure where to direct your question: 785-864-6161 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Academic Accelerator Program (AAP) for students enrolled in AAP: 785-864-3389 or email@example.com
- Applied English Center for students enrolled in AEC classes: 785-864-4606 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- International Admissions for international applicants or newly admitted international students: 785-864-2616 or email@example.com
- International Short Programs for visiting international students and professions enrolled in short academic programs: 785-864-6161 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- International Support Services for international students, visiting scholars or employees: 785-864-3617 or email@example.com
- Study Abroad & Global Engagement for all students currently abroad, recently returned or planning international travel: 785-864-3742 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline Extended: The 2020 Fall application deadline for prospective undergraduate students has been extended to Aug. 14.
For international applicants living in regions affected by COVID-19, KU will work to support you and explore options to help you meet application deadlines and requirements.
Undergraduate Applicants: If English language testing centers are closed in your region due to COVID-19 quarantines or you have difficulty accessing regional test centers in your home country, you may complete the Duolingo English Test and share your scores with KU through the Duolingo system once you receive them.
Visiting Campus: Due to COVID-19, the University of Kansas is not scheduling on-campus visits.
Here are a couple of ways you can still connect with KU International Admissions:
Graduate Applicants: Prospective students should reach out to their specific program of interest. Applicants will work closely with the program to which they have or intend to apply to utilize options such as Duolingo.
Check the testing services websites below for the latest information on exam postponements.
What opportunities are available for newly admitted students who may not be able to come to KU in the fall?
Our staff at International Admissions is connecting with students living abroad through virtual tours, office hours and events. The fall application deadline has been extended to August 14.
KU has been working diligently to prepare online enrollment options for students who want to attend KU, but are unable to leave their home country due to COVID-19. KU has hundreds of high-quality online options that will allow students to begin their academic careers anywhere in the world. Depending on a student’s English proficiency, online options include:
- Full-time English study through the Applied English Center.
- A bridging program that combines part-time English study through the Applied English Center with selected courses from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
- Courses focused on KU Core requirements, allowing students proficient in English to begin their freshman year with a solid foundation.
KU has full advising plans to serve a wide range of majors across the humanities, social sciences and STEM fields. These online courses are designed specifically for delivering classes remotely, are aligned with KU Core requirements, and will allow students to earn credits toward their degree.
If I live outside the United States, will I need a visa to take online fall classes?
If a newly admitted student plans to remain abroad during the fall semester and will not be traveling to the U.S. to attend KU, no visa is needed to take classes online.
What if I live outside the United States and am planning to study in the U.S. this fall?
On March 20, the United States suspended routine visa services across all U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. The suspension meant that enrolling international students were unable to get a student visa stamp in their passport. This is needed before coming into the United States to begin a degree program in person. On July 14, the U.S. State Department announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, on an embassy-by-embassy basis. Those needing visas will have to visit their specific embassy website to learn if service has resumed. KU is continuing normal processing of acceptance letters, scholarship awards, I-20s and DS-2019s so that enrolling international students will have all that they need when routine visa services return.
We believe that not everyone who wants to be in Lawrence for the fall semester will be able to get here on time. KU is working to offer hybrid classes and online classes, which would allow students to start the semester abroad, allowing extra time for their arrival to KU. New international students coming into the U.S. to begin their KU studies will still be limited to one online 3-credit course, as long as the remaining credit hours consist of in-person or hybrid enrollment options provided by KU. This will ensure new students are able to enter the U.S. to begin their programs.
What will international orientation look like in the fall?
International Support Services will hold its international orientation primarily online for Fall 2020. The orientation is for all incoming international students, including those who enrolled in online courses from abroad and those who may arrive at KU after the start of the semester.
On July 14, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs announced the Trump Administration had rescinded a policy that required international students to leave the United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic if their college or university moved courses exclusively online.
This means the July 6 announcement that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued requiring international students to take at least some in-person coursework if they wished to remain in the U.S. is no longer in effect. The previous policy, which was issued in March, has been reinstated. That policy allows for enrollment flexibility for international students attending institutions that are adapting to COVID and preserves the ability of international students to remain legally in the country in an F-1 student legal status if they are enrolled full-time.
Schools such as KU that are not moving exclusively online will offer a combination of in-person, online, and hybrid courses that will allow international students to remain in the U.S. legally. New international students coming into the U.S. to begin their KU studies will still be limited to one online 3-credit course, as long as the remaining credit hours consist of in-person or hybrid enrollment options provided by KU. This will ensure new students are able to enter the U.S. to begin their programs.
What help is available for international students who face financial difficulties due to COVID-19?
We understand that the spread of COVID-19 has affected international students severely. The unanticipated need to remain in the United States, loss of campus employment, lack of job opportunities and decline of family income due to COVID-19 have all created significant financial difficulties. International Support Services is a key ally in assisting students who have financial concerns and can direct students to institutional support sources. Please connect with them for assistance in accessing resources.
Since international students don’t qualify for federal CARES Emergency Act funding, what funding sources are available to support international students?
Under federal guidelines, international, undocumented and DACA students are ineligible to receive support through the CARES Act. However, the university recognizes the need to support these students and has set up limited funding through KU’s Emergency Aid Network, which will be used to help address COVID-19 related needs of students who are ineligible for CARES Act support.
How will my spring semester GPA affect my scholarship?
Students who are concerned about how their spring semester GPA will affect their scholarship status should speak to their scholarship advisor. While GPA requirements remain in place for scholarships, KU International Affairs wants to foster a supportive and flexible environment and believes a holistic approach is needed in these difficult times. Students who choose credit/no-credit for the spring semester courses will not have their spring courses count for or against their GPA.
What work opportunities are available to international students on F-1 Visas?
Students studying at KU on F-1 Visas are still restricted to working no more than 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session. Connect with ISS about work opportunities available while school is not in session over the summer break.
What work opportunities are available for international students who will graduate.
With declining jobs due to COVID-19, employment in the United States will be a challenge for all graduates, including international students. However Optional Practical Training (OPT) is possible, including remote work and volunteer work as long as it related to a student's field of study. Graduates still have 90 days to find a position for OPT. No COVID-19 related regulatory changes have been made to U.S.-based employment that would affect graduating students or employees. These changes cannot be made by an Executive Order and would require an official notice and public comment period. Such changes would most likely face legal challenges and take a long time to implement.
Students wishing for an F-1 OPT are encouraged to apply as early as possible.
Will international student fees be reduced?
After discussions with international students and other student leaders, KU decided to rescind the international student fee increase scheduled to begin in the fall. Student fees will remain the same.
Will health care coverage be extended to international students?
All students are covered by the same health insurance plan negotiated by the university with United Health Care.
How will KU assist graduate teaching assistants and other graduate students with positions who may not receive funding because of low undergraduate student enrollments?
This is a challenge that will need to be continually examined as our fall enrollment picture becomes clearer. This is not only an international GTA issue but a university-wide concern of significant importance.
Will in-person classes be held this fall?
On May 1, KU released details on a five-phase plan that calls for a gradual expansion of in-person activities on campus. Each step of the plan takes into account deep respect for the health and safety of KU’s community. At this time, KU will offer a variety of Instructional Modes to help accommodate students if they are in the U.S. or not:
KU will provide opportunities for international students to make progress on their degree if they decide to enroll full-time online from abroad or if they wish to study in-person in the U.S. In-person study may include a combination of all three modes above.
Will international students who plan to remain in the United States be able to return to campus in the fall?
International students who are currently enrolled at KU and have remained in the United States should have no challenges returning to the Lawrence campus in the fall when classes resume in-person. International students need a visa to enter the United States, not to stay here. While the decision to remain in the U.S. is a difficult one, it provides significant security from an educational access perspective.
KU will open in the fall. However, the Trump Administration's rescission on July 14 means that if KU were forced to move to online classes only due to COVID-19, international students would not be forced to leave the United States.
Will international students who returned to their home country during the spring semester be able to return in the fall?
On July 14, the U.S. State Department announced a phased resumption of routine visa services around the world. We do not know when full services will resume. Students and scholars have been able to make summer appointments; however, we are unsure if those appointments will be kept. We anticipate backlogs and delays. Because of these concerns, we believe that not everyone who wants to be in Lawrence for the fall semester will be able to get here on time. KU is offering hybrid classes and online classes, which will allow students to start the semester abroad, allowing extra time for their arrival to KU.
Will students be able to return to the United States if they live in or have visited China, Iran or Europe?
With few exceptions, foreign nationals who have visited the following countries in the past 14 days, may not enter the U.S.: China, Iran and Brazil. Students traveling from the following countries with valid F-1 and M-1 visas may enter the U.S.; however, students and scholars with J-1 visas must contact their embassy for a National Interest Exemption request: United Kingdon, Ireland and the 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland).
The federally imposed entry restrictions apply to all non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents, even those with valid U.S. visas.
What arrangements will be made for international GTAs who may not be able to arrive on campus in the fall?
Each case will need to be considered carefully and the individual circumstances will need to be taken into account. Situations will depend greatly on country of origin, the availability of U.S. visa appointments in that locale, the graduate student’s field of study, in addition to other concerns. ISS can be a guide and offer support as departments identify suitable approaches to meet each student’s needs and personal context.
If classes remain online, can students currently enrolled at KU continue to stay in the United States?
KU plans to open campus this fall and hold in-person classes. However, if KU were forced to move to online courses only due to COVID-19, the July 14 rescission from the Trump Administration would allow international students to remain in the United States during the fall semester. The rescission allows for enrollment flexibility for international students attending institutions that are adapting to COVID, and preserves the ability of international students to remain legally in the country in an F-1 student legal status if they are enrolled full-time.
How can we ensure students living in different time zones are engaged and successful in online classes?
Differing time zones are an important consideration when offering online courses. KU courses will offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, which will help mitigate that impact for students who cannot be physically present in the U.S.
Can students on F-1 visas take courses fully online outside the United States and maintain their F-1 status and keep their I-20 form active?
Yes. Students can return to their home country, enroll online, and continue to keep their I-20 form active. U.S. immigration will also allow an exception for students who are outside the United States for more than five months but are enrolled fulltime online from abroad. This applies to the Fall 2020 semester, uncertainty still exists for what will be allowed in the spring.
What about domestic students studying abroad in Spring 2020?
On March 19, the U.S. Department of State elevated the travel advisory for global community to Level 4: Do Not Travel, its highest risk level. In light of this warning, KU immediately suspended all Spring 2020 study abroad programs in all locations. The suspension followed previous suspensions of programs in Europe on March 12, the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 14 and programs in Italy, South Korea and China earlier in the spring semester.
KU Study Abroad and Global Engagement (SAGE) safely returned 198 students who had been studying abroad during the spring semester. Upon their return, each of these students received tailored programmatic and academic advising to ensure they had enrollment options and maintained eligibility for financial aid.
What about study abroad programs for Summer 2020?
All study abroad and university-affiliated travel outside the U.S. by the University of Kansas students is currently restricted. As a result, all summer 2020 study abroad programs have been canceled. This restriction is informed by current guidelines issued by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) which advise against all non-essential international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This restriction is also informed by KU policies governing student international travel, including the KU policy on University-Sponsored Travel to High-Risk Locations and University-Affiliated Student International Travel.
What about study abroad programs for Fall 2020?
The University of Kansas will make decisions on the operation of Fall 2020 study abroad programs on a case-by-case basis approximately 60 days in advance of program departures. Decisions on program continuity will be communicated directly by email to students, faculty directors and academic departments at that time. When making decisions about specific international travel activities, KU and Study Abroad & Global Engagement (SAGE) will consider information from a variety of resources as well as local conditions and program-specific factors, including:
- Status of pandemic and public health capacities in transit & destination country(ies)
- Travel restrictions, including entry requirements, visa services, restrictions on return to the U.S., etc.
- Preparedness of partner institution or host organization to support students, including public availability of a strong health and safety plan, on-site orientation of students, academic contingency plans, testing, tracing, and isolation policies, staff support for international students, etc.
- Student preparation, acknowledgment of risk, proof of comprehensive medical insurance, parental waiver (as applicable)
What about study abroad programs for Winter Break and Spring 2021?
The global COVID-19 pandemic is unpredictable but, at this time, study abroad programs scheduled for January 2021 and beyond are proceeding as planned. Study Abroad & Global Engagement staff are hopeful they will be able to offer a full portfolio of Winter Break and Spring semester programming to KU students across academic disciplines. Applications are currently being accepted for both Winter Break and Spring programs.
Where can I go to find information on COVID-19 in Lawrence?
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) provides regular updates on the number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas and each of its counties. Lawrence is in Douglas County. The KDHE, which is the state organization tasked with responding to COVID-19, also holds regular press conferences and issues state-wide health notices.
For local updates, visit Douglas County Coronavirus Response Hub. Using information from health agencies and local governments, this site provides information on the daily number of cases in Douglas County. It also gives information about COVID-related regulations (such as wearing masks in all indoor public spaces) and answers frequently asked questions. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, which is the local agency organizing response efforts in Douglas County, is also a good source of information.
For a broader view of what is happening in our community and state, you can read our community’s local newspapers. The Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas City Star provide daily coverage of COVID-19.
What should my student do if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified a fever, cough and shortness of breath as symptoms associated with COVID-19. Visit their website to learn more about these symptoms. The site also has a helpful guide to determine if seeking medical care is appropriate.
If your student develops a fever and symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, have them call their healthcare provider immediately. Their health care provider will provide guidance on testing. For students who use Watkins Health Services as their health care provider, they should call 785-864-9500. If your student needs to call outside of regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), they can call the Nurse Helpline at 785-864-9583, which is available 24 hours a day.
Where can my student get tested for COVID-19?
The Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH Health) is conducting COVID-19 tests. But first a patient must call their primary health care provider. If a health care provider determines a test is necessary, the patient’s physician will place an order with LMH Health, then direct the patient to the hospital’s testing site, the Respiratory Evaluation Center.
In a Zoom panel discussion recorded on June 11, KU international and domestic students shared their experiences adapting to COVID-related challenges during the spring and summer semesters. The panel brought together the perspectives of domestic students who traveled abroad and remained in their host country as well as returned to the United States and the experiences of international students who returned home and those who remained in Lawrence or relocated elsewhere in the United States. The conversation highlighted the creative and resourceful solutions KU students found in meeting the academic and personal challenges presented by COVID-19.
If I live outside the United States, will I be able to get a visa to come to KU?
The Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As global conditions evolve, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are beginning a phased resumption of routine visa services. The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis, in coordination. U.S. Embassies and Consulates have continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services since March and will continue to do so as they are able.
What travel restrictions are in place for KU?
Outbound international travel continues to be restricted. However, in accordance with State of Kansas guidelines, the university community will resume limited domestic travel for job essential activities by following appropriate personal and community safety precautions.
Most travel at this time is considered nonessential, including travel for conferences, professional development or speaking engagements, and other activities not under a person's core job function. Essential travel includes travel absolutely necessary to fulfill one's core or primary job function and/or to provide crucial support to the university, such as essential research or lab work. Any essential travel must be approved in advance.
Lawrence and Edwards Campus staff, faculty and scholars who need to travel for essential work-related purposes may take part in selected inbound and outbound travel, provided individuals follow certain guidelines.
University-sponsored domestic travel may resume if it is:
- Domestic travel
- Conducted via automobile
- To an area not listed as high-risk
Domestic travelers coming to KU from a high-risk area are required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival and before taking part in university activities or using university spaces.
International travelers arriving from areas identified as Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Level 4 by the U.S. Department of State are required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival and before taking part in university activities or using university spaces.
Non-essential travel to KU by visitors should be strongly discouraged until travel restrictions are eased further.
Individuals are encouraged to minimize nonessential travel in keeping with the State of Kansas guidelines. Essential travel includes that which is necessary for urgent and necessary family, medical, and personal business-related needs. Individuals will be expected to follow KDHE travel and quarantine guidelines for travel to high-risk areas. KU strongly encourages faculty, students and staff to reconsider any upcoming personal international travel that may be planned. The reality is, there are two circumstances you need to consider while traveling: 1) you might become ill, and 2) as countries evaluate travel into and out of their regions, limitations and bans are being enacted, often with little or no warning.
If you do plan to travel internationally for personal reasons, KU asks you registered with KU ahead of time. This will enable KU to help and provide tailored support if circumstances around COVID-19 change.
Travel Registration Resources
As a matter of public health and safety, it is important that all travel by members of the university community is registered in advance
- University-sponsored employee travel
- Employee personal travel (registration is strongly encouraged)
- Student academic or personal travel
- KU Medical Center travel (please follow guidelines communicated May 13)
What support is available for those who are abroad and unable to return to the United States
The U.S. State Department has created a new process for assisting Americans who are abroad and unable to return home because of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit (CGRCU) has designated a Repatriation Task Force to support U.S. citizens abroad and evacuation operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force is charged with the following: coordinating and providing support for private American citizens stranded overseas; managing requests from posts facing severe travel restrictions requesting transportation assistance to implement Authorized or Ordered Departure, and supporting any evacuation operations of official or private American citizens involving charter or non-commercial means.
Americans who are abroad and affected by travel restrictions due to COVID-19, are encouraged to register online so the U.S. government can account for them.
How does President Trump’s recent executive order placing additional limits on immigration to the U.S. affect KU’s international community?
The executive order suspends for 60 days, or until June 22, green card applications for individuals coming to the United States from abroad. The order does not affect:
- KU’s ability to support, prepare and file sponsored permanent residency cases (Labor Certifications and I-140s) for employees who have institutional commitments.
- Individuals already in the United States adjusting their immigration status to permanent resident (I-485).
- KU’s ability to continue to prepare and file nonimmigrant applications on behalf of employees, such as H-1B petitions (I-129) for foreign workers.
In other words, the executive order does not affect students or our international scholar and employee population. KU will continue to support faculty members and their employment-based permanent residency petitions. The order doesn’t apply to anyone already in the U.S., nor does it have any impact on international employment eligibility for our KU faculty, staff or students.
Will visiting scholars be able to remain in the United States?
For visiting scholar programs that ended before May 31, the U.S. State Department automatically extended the program terms by 60 days.
What should I do if I receive a call from Customs and Border Patrol?
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers have started calling KU offices to confirm that KU is offering in-person and hybrid instruction for the fall semester. This is a normal and expected procedure and typically occurs when a new or continuing student arrives at a U.S. port of entry to begin or resume their U.S. studies. If a call is received, please forward the call to International Support Services (ISS) at (785) 864-7359 so KU has a single point of contact. ISS can confirm the identity of the official making the call and answer all general questions related to modes of instruction that will be offered this fall, as well as any immigration-specific questions that may arise for an entering student.
If you would prefer to take a message and have ISS call the CBP officer back, place ask for the caller's name, badge number, radio number, port of entry from which they are calling, and phone number.
Is the University of Kansas Passport Office opened?
The KU Passport Office is closed and will not be accepting appointment requests until at least August 21 due to the spread of COVID-19. The website will be updated when more Information is available.
How is KUIA supporting the international community during this time?
Unfortunately, a rise in anti-Asian harassment and discrimination has been documented globally, nationally and locally. KUIA is actively and vocally showing our support for our diverse community and lack of tolerance for racism, bigotry, violence and oppression. KU is not a bubble and our entire community must actively vocalize our support for every member of our wonderful community – at KU, Lawrence, Kansas, the nation and the world. We continue to be 100 percent committed to building and maintaining a diverse community. The value of that diversity and our common humanity and interdependence has only been reinforced by this pandemic. We are in this together and the solutions will include us all.
We have several initiatives in place already, including community discussions with groups that have been the target of harassment and discrimination. The KU Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) is vigorously addressing emergency issues. KUIA and Office of Diversity & Equity affirm our support of every member of our community and our opposition of those who espouse hate or seek to blame individuals or groups for this pandemic. A virus does not discriminate based on race, nationality or politics. Our society must stand together.
How can the international community feel protected?
Our international Jayhawks should be as involved as possible in the larger university community. The international community is one and the same as the larger Jayhawk community. We are one. All services and supports serve all community members, period. The entire weight of the University of Kansas is behind our Jayhawks and that by definition includes those Jayhawks who just happen to be international.
If needed, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access remains open and ready to assist students, faculty, and staff with any concerns about harassment and discrimination. Complaints can be filed by emailing email@example.com, by calling 785-864-6414, or by filling out an online complaint form. Also, KU units have created a resource guide with additional resources and support for the Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.
The emergence of COVID-19 has meant the introduction of new terminology for all of us, but particularly for members of our international community. We've created a helpful guide that explains some of this new wording, such as the difference between social distancing and self-quarantine and what is allowed and not under a Stay at Home Order.