Special Announcement

Fall 2020 Updates

F and J Visa Holder Considerations for Fall 2020: 

7/31/2020: International Student and Scholar Services hosted an update on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fall 2020 Guidelines along with a question and answer session with students. 


7/27/2020: Students or staff preparing to travel to SMU from outside the country are not required to self-quarantine at this time. All students, however, are expected to conduct a daily self-screen for COVID-19 when they return to campus. 

You’re also invited to join us for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fall Guideline Update on Friday, July 31, 2020. International Student and Scholar Services will be providing information for new and current students regarding the recent notices as we get ready to begin the Fall 2020 semester.

Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Time: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Who: Hosted by International Student and Scholar Services, led by Claudia Sotomayor Hart, Director
Check your SMU email for registration information 

7/15/2020: International Student and Scholar Services hosted a webinar regarding  "Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Guideline Updates" to provide information for new and current students.  


7/14/2020 Update: ICE rescinds Fall guidance. We are waiting for more information, and we will share details of any further guidance as soon as possible.


7/13/2020 Update: International Student and Scholar Services will be hosting a webinar session on Wednesday, July 15th from 11am-11:30am CST for new and continuing students to address the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Guideline updates regarding fall 2020. To register click HERE.


7/17/2020 Update: Dear Students/Scholars: Please read the following information regarding the latest guidance from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Please know that we will share more information as DHS provides additional details about the guidance. Continue checking our website for future updates: www.smu.edu/international

  • New Students who are NOT in the U.S., If you are a new student, you will be able to enroll in online classes. Your F1 status will begin when you arrive in the U.S. Please make sure your I20 has the actual arrival/program start date.
  • Current students who are NOT in the U.S., you will be able to enroll in online courses. You will be given information from our office in the upcoming weeks about the next steps.
  • Current students IN the U.S., will NOT be able to enroll fully online. We will provide more information in the upcoming weeks about your enrollment options.  
  • Students graduating in the Fall 2020 semester: If you are in your final semester and have returned to your home country, you must return to the SMU campus to complete your degree or you may lose eligibility for OPT benefits.
  • Intensive English Program students do not have the option of taking any online courses.

Click Here to For COVID-19 and Fall 2020: SEVP Broadcast Message


Spring 2020 Update:

Dear SMU International Community:

We have all now received communication from President Turner regarding the continuation of online instruction until the end of the Spring semester. I can only imagine the many questions you and your loved ones have, and this email is intended to address some of your immediate concerns. Please know that my team, the leadership in the Division of Enrollment Services, and every member of the SMU administration is committed to supporting you through this difficult time while also following guidelines set forth by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

  1. Notify ISSS: If you desire to return to your home country and intend to continue with full-time enrollment between March 23rd through May 16th, please complete the following form: “Request to continue Active status while continuing with online instruction outside the U.S. (Spring 2020)”.
  2. Travel Signatures: Because the University is closed until April 30th, the form linked in #1 above will also serve as your official request for a travel endorsement,IF YOU NEED A TRAVEL SIGNATURE.  
    1. After receiving the form, ISSS will reprint your I20/DS2019 document which will include a travel endorsement.  
    2. You are required to submit a mailing label (through eShip Global) so that we can mail your I20/DS2019 document to your home country.  
    3. Please note, you must return your current I20/DS2019 document when you are able return to the U.S. and SMU.
  1. If you already have a current travel signature, remember that your endorsement is good for one year from the last day it was signed (page 2 of your I20 and page 1 of your DS2019).
  2. You do not need a current signature to depart the United States. You only need a valid travel signature to re-enter the U.S.

We do not know whether travel restrictions will continue into the summer. If travel restrictions continue, please be aware that you may not be able to return to the United States. Our office and the administration will work with all international students who are unable to return to the U.S. by the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester. We are committed to supporting all students regarding your future enrollment at the University.

OPT for Students graduating in the Spring semester 2020:  Per current regulations, you must be a current F1 student to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization. If you are expecting to complete your degree this May 2020, and you decide to return to your home country, here are some things you need to keep in mind:

  • As of today, we have not received any further guidance for students who will be maintaining full-time enrollment while studying from their home countries AND are not present in the U.S to apply for OPT. 
  • The regulations require that students are physically in the U.S. on F1 status in order to submit an OPT application within the 60-day grace period which begins May 16th, 2020. Per current regulations, a complete OPT application must be submitted and received by USCIS by July 15th, 2020.
  •  Because this is an unprecedented situation, our office will continue to communicate with our government representatives about this potential scenario. Again, we do not know what will happen if students are not able to be physically in the U.S. on an F1 status.
  • If we receive further guidance, we will notify you by SMU email.

SCAMS ABOUT WORK AUTHORIZATION: Students, please remember that there may be individuals trying to take advantage of the situation.  As of today, there are no additional work authorization benefits for international students due to COVID-19 outbreak. International students are eligible to apply for Economic Hardship work authorization under current regulations. Please refer to our website for more information on the eligibility requirements.

This is an evolving situation, and I know many of you want to make decisions. We will continue to provide virtual advising during the time that the University is closed. If you have specific questions regarding your status, please email isss@smu.edu to schedule an appointment.

Finally, if you have applied for OPT and you are waiting to pick up your OPT packet, a Designated School Official will be in touch with you regarding a pick-up time.

We are working arduously to stay informed about guidelines that pertain to your status. As the Director of the Office, I am committed to working with colleagues at SMU and with government representatives to request flexibility so you can receive all your benefits as an F/J visa holder. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me directly at claudiahart@smu.edu or any of our team members at isss@smu.edu

If you missed the ISSS Assembly hosted on 04/09/2020 the recording can be viewed HERE.