FAQ: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information for International Students

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Berkeley Global International Students

Maintained by International Student Services (ISS) at extension-intl@berkeley.edu.

Due to the fluidity of the situation on campus regarding the coronavirus, the answers to the questions below may change. Please be sure to check back often for updates.

Updated: 5/10/20 at 8 a.m.

Travel & Visa Concerns for Spring 2020 students

I am trying to leave the U.S. and travel to my home country, but can't find a flight. What do I do?
Flight availability is changing from week to week. Students who are struggling to find a flight home should reach out to their country's Embassy or Consulate in the U.S.  Many countries are arranging special travel for international students in the U.S. trying to get home. 
Students who cannot leave before the end of their grace period (July 14) should contact ISS for guidance and alternate options. ISS can document your inability to leave the country due to COVID-19 in your SEVIS record.
I have finished my program. How long can I stay in the U.S.?
As long as you maintain your F-1 status, you are granted a 60-day grace period after the I-20 program end date. This means you can stay in the U.S. until July 14th. If you want to stay longer, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu as soon as possible to discuss options.
I want to stay longer in the U.S. and not go home, what should I do?
There are multiple summer options available to you including Summer Sessions, taking classes at UC Berkeley Extension, enrolling in an 8-Week Certificate Program, and extending into the Fall 2020 semester. If you want to stay longer, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu as soon as possible to discuss options.
I have or plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). How does this impact my OPT?
Students must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT. If you are planning on completing your program in Spring 2020 and were planning on applying for OPT, but haven't yet, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu immediately.

If you've applied for OPT already, we recommend that you remain in the U.S. while your application is pending. However, if you need to leave, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu immediately for advising.

I am leaving Berkeley, but I still have a lease/rent payments. What do I do?
You should contact your landlord and let them know you are leaving Berkeley and ask what their policy is regarding breaking the lease early, given this unique situation. Some on-campus housing is refunding the rest of the semester to those who leave, however, off-campus housing is run by individual landlords/companies, and each have their own policies regarding breaking the lease. ISS will reach out to buildings who house a lot of Extension students to advocate for leniency, but ultimately it is between you and your landlord what happens to your lease. If you need assistance, please let us know at extension-intl@berkeley.edu.

Fall 2020

Mode of instruction for Fall 2020 has not yet been decided and much remains uncertain. In addition, current restrictions are making it difficult for international students to plan their arrival in Fall 2020. The current situation remains very fluid and International Student Services is monitoring all travel and visa issues related to Fall arrival. We appreciate your patience while we work to adjust to changes and we will continue to keep our Berkeley Global community informed.

Will classes be offered in person or remotely? When will a decision be made?
UC Berkeley is working closely with our local public health officials to determine when in-person instruction will resume. At this time we don’t have an estimated date. Some or all instruction for all or part of Academic Year 2020-2021 may be delivered via remote instruction. As soon as a decision is made students will be informed. Check here for the latest UC Berkeley news.

I have applied to start in the Fall 2020 semester. Will I be able to get an F-1 visa and enter the U.S.? Can I arrive late?
As you know, there are currently many travel restrictions in place limiting travel to the U.S. In addition, visa appointments are not immediately available in most places. However, students are able to complete their visa application and make a future appointment.  Your visa application fee is valid for 1 year in the country it was purchased. Late arrivals may or may not be possible depending on the program and the mode of instruction. Stay tuned for updates and communications from your program.

As the situation improves, we hope that more appointments will open and that travel restrictions will lift in time for students to arrive in the Fall. If, for any reason you are unable to attend the Fall 2020 semester, we can work with you to defer to the Spring 2021 semester with no additional application fees. We look forward to welcoming you in either the Fall or Spring!

If all classes are offered remotely in the Fall, can I still come to the U.S. on an F-1 visa?

Current Department of Homeland Security guidance indicates that new F-1 students should not enter the U.S. if all courses are delivered remotely. Continuing or transfer students are able to remain in the U.S. as long as they maintain their F-1 visa status. Keep in mind, however, that new guidance is expected to be given in the coming months. ISS will continue to monitor any new guidance as it pertains to students' ability to participate in Fall programs.

If I am not able to arrive to the U.S. in time, can I take classes remotely in the Fall?
At this time, as we still do not have a final decision on the mode of instruction, we cannot say whether students will be able to take remote classes for all programs. Once a decision is made, we will communicate all possible options to you.

If classes are held remotely I do not want to attend my program.  Can I come to Berkeley in a different semester to attend in-person?
Yes, students have the option to request to defer their admission to another semester if they do not want to attend in Fall.  Contact your program about this and they will assist you with the process. 

Should I search for housing and buy plane tickets to the U.S. if I still don’t know if I’ll get my visa in time?
We recommend that you wait until you have a better idea of when you will get a visa appointment and if it is feasible for you to arrive in time for Fall semester before making commitments to housing options or airline tickets. We have researched some housing providers who offer a flexible cancellation policy. Please reach out to extension-intl@berkeley.edu if you have questions.

What kind of housing can I find in light of COVID-19?  Will I be able to live with roommates?
Apartments are still available to be rented and various housing providers have provided information about what they are doing in light of COVID-19.  You can reach out to them with more specific questions about their practices, or reach out to our housing coordinator at extension-intl@berkeley.edu

Health and Safety

Is it safe to come to the United States in the Fall due to COVID-19?  When will shelter-in-place be over?
The COVID-19 situation is vastly different across the United States and even within California.  The Bay Area has taken strict measures in order to keep its residents safe and to “flatten the curve.”  If students arrive in the Bay Area in the Fall they should be prepared to follow all guidelines in order to keep themselves and others safe.  There is no clear end date for the statewide “shelter-in-place” order but counties and cities have been communicating with residents regularly to give as many updates as possible. Check City of Berkeley COVID-19 news for the most up-to-date information.

How do I stay healthy? What should I do if I am sick?

Follow the recommendations from the CDC website. If you think you might have the coronavirus, call your doctor or urgent care before coming in so they can prepare for you. Contact your Program Adviser if you are unable to attend or participate in classes. If you have the UC Berkeley Anthem Health Insurance, check out Anthem's helpful guide about COVID-19 health plan benefits and download a free app to assess your Coronavirus symptoms and connect to a doctor. Also, Carbon Health offers the Coronavirus Assessment Tool and offers same-day virtual appointments. 

Does the Extension Health Insurance (Anthem) cover the coronavirus?
Yes. We confirmed with Anthem Blue Cross that there is no exclusion for coronavirus. This means that hospital stays, doctor visits and medications are covered at the same rate no matter what illness you have. In fact, Anthem also intends to waive out-of-pocket expenses for the focused test used to diagnose COVID-19. Members can call the number on their ID card to confirm coverage. Please go to 4StudentHealth to see your plan summary, and to look up doctors and hospitals in your network. Check out Anthem's helpful guide about COVID-19 health plan benefits. You can even download a free app to assess your Coronavirus symptons and connect to a doctor. For more information about your health insurance coverage, see our Health & Safety webpage.


Check your email for messages from campus, International Student Services and your academic programs.

Where can I get information?
UC Berkeley
City of Berkeley
City of San Francisco
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Travel Advisories
How do I maintain connections with my classmates and community?
ISS will be offering multiple virtual opportunities for you to continue to engage and connect from a virtual Cooking Contest, a virtual Trivia Night, moderated Discord chats, mindfulness and meditation practice, and more! Check here for all upcoming ISS Virtual Activities.

Student Services

Is International Student Services (ISS) still open? How do I talk to an advisor?
Yes. While the UC Berkeley Extension buildings (in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Belmont) are closed, ISS continues to offer services remotely. Advisors are available via email or virtual appointment Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. 15-min and 30-min appointments are available same day. OPT Appointments require 24-hour notice.
Are campus libraries open? How can I return books?
No. All libraries are currently closed. However, you still have full access to the online library database (you must download the VPN first) and librarians are available via email via the 24/7 online chat service.

The Library is asking students to wait until the UC Berkeley Libraries reopen to return library materials. There is currently no set date for when the libraries will reopen; you may consult the library website for updated information regarding the closure.

However, if you are leaving the area prior to the reopening of the libraries, you may return books to the outdoor drop box at Doe Library. There is a drop box at the south entrance to Doe Library, near the Campanile tower, to the right of the entry doors. As the campus libraries are currently closed, most other book drops on campus are closed. Please contact library staff if you have items other than books that need to be returned prior to the reopening of the libraries. If you have additional questions, please contact library staff at privdesk@library.berkeley.edu.

Is Counseling and Psychological Services open?
Yes! Appointments are available via phone. See their website for contact info and hours.