Student visas: What to know during the COVID-19 pandemic
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Student visas: What to know during the COVID-19 pandemic

Student visas: What to know during the COVID-19 pandemic

If you’re an international student in a country on lockdown or movement restriction orders, you’re probably asking questions about your student visas.

It’s an uncertain time and the news is constantly changing. While our advice is always to refer to your university and international student office first and foremost, it’s possible that you could be missing out some vital information about your visas.

For example, the US is relaxing visa regulations to allow for online learning as previous rules stated they could only take one online class per semester.

In Australia, international students who typically can only work up to 40 hours every fortnight can now work for longer hours to help with the economic situation.

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A lone tourist takes photos in Circular Quay in Sydney on March 20, 2020, after Australia moved to seal off its borders the day before, announcing unprecedented bans on entry for non-residents in the hope of stemming the rise of COVID-19 coronavirus infections. Source: Peter Parks/AFP

Here are questions and answers to the top concerns most international students currently have about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their study visas. We hope this helps!

What happens if your student visa expires while on lockdown or if you head home?

Immigration departments are working to help international students who may be feeling anxious because their visas will be expiring soon, so contact them if you need clarification.

In New Zealand, students with expiring student visas can apply for extensions which may be granted on a case-to-case basis.

According to Stuff, those who are in the country and waiting for further visa applications to be approved may also be granted interim visas. This will alow them to stay for six months while their applications are being assessed.

In most countries facing the second and third waves of the outbreak, it’s advised to avoid travel at this point. But if you do leave or get evacuated and your student visa expires, contact the embassy to find out what you need to do.

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Travellers and their bags are disinfected as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus before getting on a bus outside the New China International Exhibition Centre, near Beijing Capital Airport in Beijing. Source: Greg Baker/AFP

What to do if there are student visas pending?

Applied to a university overseas but still waiting to apply for your student visa? It’s best to contact embassies and consulates to find out the latest immigration procedures and processes – such as if there will be postponements to visa interviews and approvals or outright suspension of issuing visas at this time.

If you’ve already been granted a student visa, check with your university on changes to semester start dates or the latest updates.

What if you’re graduating soon and have applied for a post-study work visa?

A major concern for many international students is what will happen to their application for post-study work visas, like the Optional Practical Training (OPT) in the US.

Mexican international student Garza, who is in the US on a student visa, told The Verge, “I can’t really go back to Mexico. There’s a huge likelihood that Donald Trump imposes a border closure. That’s my biggest fear: that if I leave the US, I won’t be able to come back for like two months.”

Garza says he will able to remain in Los Angeles while he finishes his OPT application, but beyond that, “there’s a lot of ambiguity.”

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Less people than normal are seen along the Venice Beach Promenade at Venice Beach in Los Angeles on March 20, 2020, a day after Los Angeles County announced a near-lockdown, urging all residents to stay home except for essential needs. Source: Frederic J Brown/AFP

Students who apply for the OPT typically are advised not to leave while waiting for approval, so what do they do if they have no choice?

It appears that there is no clear-cut answer to these questions yet as countries are still in a state of limbo. Some are in the process of implementing travel bans and campus closures, but others have yet to do so.

Therefore, for those with pending applications for post-study work visas, it’s best to hang tight and prepare for the possibility that applications could be delayed due to the pandemic.

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