COVID-19: Message to international students regarding leaving campus

March 17, 2020

Dear international students,

As students, faculty and staff campus-wide adjust to changes in course instruction, we understand that many of you may be considering your options for seeing out the rest of the semester. Some of you may feel comfortable remaining in Columbia during this time, while others may wish to return to their home countries. We understand this is an unprecedented and challenging time that requires each of us to make decisions that are best for our health, safety and well-being. Due to the rapidly evolving situation, the U.S. State Department has cautioned travelers to reconsider travel or exercise extreme caution depending on the destinations. MU also strongly recommends avoiding personal travel.

If you decide to travel during this time, please keep in mind travel restrictions may be announced with little or no warning, so we cannot guarantee that your travels will be smooth. Be prepared to adjust your plans, use your best judgment and keep family and friends aware of your situation. It is also extremely important that you review the following information if you are currently considering traveling.

Leaving: Immigration considerations

  • Do you currently have a pending application (e.g., OPT, reinstatement, change of status, etc.) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? If so, we do not currently know what may happen to pending applications if you depart the U.S. at this time, even temporarily.
  • Were you planning to be on post-completion OPT when you return to the U.S.? If so, have you already received your EAD card? You may need your EAD card and a letter from your employer to re-enter the U.S.
  • Have you applied for H1-B or a U.S. “green card” (permanent residence) or other immigration related benefits? If so, departing the U.S. without the proper approvals could invalidate your pending petition. Be sure to discuss your plans with a licensed immigration attorney before you go.
  • Has your visa expired or will it be expired before you return to the U.S.? If so, you will need to renew your visa during your absence.
  • If you plan to be outside the U.S. for more than five months as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, you must be enrolled in a full course of study at MU and actively participate in your classes during your absence in order to maintain your status. This does not include the summer semester, which is considered an official school break.
  • You must update your current address within 10 days of any change.

Leaving: Academic considerations

  • Do you have the connectivity in your home country, or where ever you plan to reside, to manage online instruction?
  • Will the time difference between Columbia and your home country make it challenging to regularly participate in your courses?
  • Do you have the printing and scanning capabilities that might be necessary to complete and submit assignments?
  • Will you have adequate access to campus platforms (e.g., Canvas, Tegrity, MU Connect, Zoom, etc.) to “attend” your courses at MU?
  • Do you have the latest updates from your instructors to stay on track with your assignments, tests and exams?

General considerations:

  • Have you discussed your plans with your family?
  • Have you contacted your MU faculty or academic adviser?
  • If you work on campus, have you contacted your supervisor?
  • Have you discussed your plans with your on- or off-campus housing manager?
  • If you have any special medical conditions, have you discussed your plans with your doctor or health are professional?
  • Are you leaving any personal property or valuables behind (e.g. vehicles, bicycles, electronics, appliances, etc.)? If so, are they in a safe place and who will assume responsibility for them if you are unable to return?

Travel documentation:

  • Be sure to carry with you official identification, e.g. passport, driver’s license, signed Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, copy of most current Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) and a copy of your flight itinerary. Keep emergency contact information with you.

Checking-out with ISSS

  • All international students who plan to leave Columbia and complete their spring semester coursework elsewhere must complete the temporary absence form.
  • Request a re-entry travel signature from your international student adviser.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your ISSS adviser. If you are not comfortable coming visiting International Student and Scholar Services in person, you can call 573-882-6007 or email your ISSS adviser. We are here to support you to the best of our ability in this challenging time.