Most Frequently Asked Questions About Deferrals And Student Visas

FAQs about deferrals and Student Visa

With the current pandemic situation and uncertainties about deferrals and Visa regulations, most of you who are in the process of joining US universities for MS or who are planning to join next year, have a lot of queries and doubts. To guide you better and help you make a decision, here are the answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1) I am currently taking GRE classes, and I plan to apply next year. Is it safe to go next year?

Answer: Yes. You can safely apply for Fall 2021 since the situation will normalize by then. Things will begin to get under control right after the November presidential elections.

Q2) Should I defer my Fall 20 admission to Spring 21 or Fall 21?

Answer: At the moment, you can defer your admission to Spring 21 since it is likely that the situation will be under control by then and in-person classes will resume. Otherwise, you will have to extend the deferral to Fall 21.

Q3) I have received admits from eight universities. Will all of them accept deferral for Fall 21?

Answer: No. All the universities may not accept deferral for Fall 21. Some of them are asking students to reapply next year for the fall session.  In that case, your application will be evaluated along with the new applicants. Fortunately, the number of students applying next year will be comparatively less. Therefore, your chances of acceptance will not be hampered.

Q4) When should I book my visa dates if I want to go in Spring 21?

Answers: Visa booking dates for October are now available. Visit the official website of US Consulate for booking your date.

Q5) I am planning to defer to Spring 21, and hence I have booked my visa date for October 20. If I again extend my deferral to Fall 21, do I have to book the visa date and pay the visa fee again?

Answer: In case you book the date for October but instead of joining in Spring 21, you decide to defer to Fall 21, you have to cancel the booked date and reschedule another date, anytime within a year. You need not pay the Visa fee again.

Q6) Will the current situation in the US affect my internship?

Answer: According to the SEVP Advisory, all Indian students pursuing/looking to pursue practical training opportunities, including Curricular Practical Training (CPT), pre-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), post-completion OPT, and/or the STEM Extension OPT are advised to remain in contact with their Designated School Official (DSO) regarding their situation.

Q7) Will the pandemic affect research and other funding opportunities offered by universities?

Answer: Since majority students are not joining universities for Fall 20, it is affecting their financial condition. On this backdrop, it is most likely that the funding opportunities will be difficult for at least the first two semesters.

Q8) Will the current situation and new rules affect the STEM category?

Answer: As of now, there is no official declaration about it, so it should not be a matter of concern.

Q9) Many universities are exempting GRE, SAT, and English Language Test scores for admissions for spring 21 and in some cases, even for fall 21. Should we not give these exams?

Answer: Very few students are applying right now hence the universities are offering exemptions. We still recommend you to appear for these exams because when the number of applicants increases next year, GRE and SAT scores will give an upper hand to your application.

For any other query about GRE, US admissions and jobs, visit our FAQ Section.

Click HERE to enroll for our online GRE batches.

Lockdown dilemma: Go for Fall semester 2020 or defer to Spring 2021?

According to the recent update, many universities especially from California, New York, Pennsylvania, etc. have decided to offer online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. However, we do not recommend going for online courses for several reasons which we have explained in our earlier blog Go For Online Semester or Request a Deferral? dated April 23.

Of course, some universities from a few states are also planning to resume in-person instruction for the Fall 2020 semester but they will give a concrete decision in July after consulting the public health officials. In that case, it will be difficult for students to obtain visas at such short notice.

Also, the US consulate has been non-operational since March 16 and with the extension of the lockdown, they have temporarily suspended the visa interviews. The exact date for resuming the process has not been declared yet. There is a possibility that the consulate may reduce visa interview slots and a limited number of applicants will be allowed at the consulate at a given time due to social distancing norms.

Therefore, there is no guarantee that you will get your visa on time.

Moreover, there is no certainty on when international airlines will resume operations. As per the recent update by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger flights would continue until midnight on June 30. Though it implies that operations will resume in July, no official date has been declared yet.

Given the above-mentioned points, it will be wiser to defer your admission to Spring 2021 since in-person instructions are likely to begin from January 2021.

Of course, we recommend students to consider all these factors and make their own decision.

Confusion created by recent news about H1B and OPT cancellations

The recent news about the proposed cancellation of H1B and OPT visas in various national newspapers has sent a wave of panic among Indian students and working professionals. With considerable experience in these matters, we present to you a clarification of these news items to ease your doubts and future plans of studying in the US.

On 8th May, five US senators and one congressman wrote a letter to President Donald Trump requesting him to suspend H1B and OPT visas for one year in view of the soaring unemployment in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic.

To begin with, we want to clarify that it is not a petition but only a letter presenting an opinion/suggestion. Such letters can be written by anyone to the President. It does not mean that the President will immediately pass an executive order on the basis of this letter.

Further, acting on the letter is not an easy task. Firstly, only 5 Republican senators out of a 100, and one congressman out of 435, is a very small number to make an impact or drive a decision. Secondly, in the United States, these decisions will impact the two powerful lobbies that hold a lion’s share in their economy: The universities and IT companies. The economy of universities largely depends upon tuition fees from international students and this proposal will directly affect their student intake. Similarly, the majority of IT companies depend heavily on Indian and Chinese professionals who hold Masters degrees from American universities. Thus, the President is unlikely to make such a drastic decision which will have a boomerang effect on their economy.

What we must also not forget is that the letter could very well be a political gimmick, considering the November 2020 presidential elections. Against that backdrop, it is only advisable not to give importance to such letters and news items in the newspapers and go ahead with your study plans since universities and companies will continue to look to India for skilled engineers and tech professionals.

Lockdown Dilemma : Go For Online Semester or Request a Deferral?

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak and lockdown, most of the US universities are currently offering two options to fall 2020 students:

1) Online semester for fall 2020 and regular on-campus coaching from spring 2021

2) Deferral to spring 2021/fall 2021

Now as you are aware, the situation is indeed gruesome in the United States where the number of corona patients is increasing every day and there is no clarity on when the pandemic will be arrested and things will normalize.  Under such circumstances, it is obvious for the universities to offer deferrals or move to online teaching as a precautionary measure.

However, as Indian students, here are a few things you must take into consideration before making any decision:

Feasibility of online semester

  • Even for the online medium, students will have to pay full tuition fees for the full semester. (Some universities may reduce fees by 20 to 25 percent)
  • Online semester will mean no financial assistance, no campus jobs/RA/TA which then makes the course unnecessarily expensive to bear.
  • Online semester does not offer the exposure and opportunities that a student otherwise gets while on campus.
  • There are certain limitations to online coaching since the interaction is usually limited as compared to classroom coaching.
  • In any case, students will have to apply for the F1 visa for spring 2021 and in the worst circumstances, if the visa gets rejected; the entire amount spent on the online fall semester goes waste.

Current visa scenario

  • The US consulate has been non-operational since March 16 and there is no clarity when it will resume operations. Once it resumes, there will be a tremendous rush for visas and the situation will become chaotic. (Though it is quite possible that the consulate will give priority to student visas.)

Taking all these factors into account, we recommend that you get in touch with the concerned university official and request time till the end of May to make the final decision of deferral.

Coronavirus Lockdown: US Student Visas and Admission Deferral Updates – Part 3

With the rising number of patients in the United States and the lockdown declared in India, there is no clarity on when the consulates will start processing the visas again. Considering this, it is anticipated that there will be a backlog of visa interviews and many prospective fall 2020 students are panicking whether they will get their visas in time.

Though the consulates are positive of issuing visas on time, many universities in the US have begun offering deferrals in case situations do not improve until August 2020 and students need to postpone their travel and join the course later in Spring. 

As per our latest correspondence, the Offices of International Admissions of most universities have offered deferral for students from one semester up to one year. 

All the fall 2020 undergraduates can get deferral to spring 2021. The graduate deferral, however, can only be offered by the program coordinator. Students are therefore required to connect with the graduate advisors of respective universities since not all units (programs) are offered deferrals. 

Though most universities are offering deferrals up to one year, they are encouraging students to not defer at the moment and wait until May. 

For students who are in the middle of their semester in the US but are currently in India, can fly back to the States once the travel ban is lifted and more so, after obtaining clearance from the US Consulate. For regular updates, visit the DHS and consulate websites.

Important links: 

https://www.dhs.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus-news-updates

https://in.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/

Coronavirus Lockdown: US Admission Process Updates – Part 2

In the last blog, we saw the fall 2020 course commencement decisions that the universities are likely to make.

As per the recent updates we received from the office of graduate and undergraduate admissions of a few universities, the fall 2020 admission process is going on and students who are still sending applications can connect with the admission office staff via video chat and email. Those who haven’t received any admits yet, have nothing to worry as the admission process will not be canceled and they will receive admits, though the decision may be released later than the usual time taken by the universities. 

Fall 2020 Graduate Admissions

The graduate application deadlines will not be extended for most universities. As we informed you in the last blog, those of you who haven’t received the I-20 approval yet, the staff are creating the I-20s but the shipments are being withheld until the mail services in India fully resume. For admitted students, the university will send an email with the student’s SEVIS number from the I20 which can be used to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee that is mandatory for the F1 visa application process. 

Fall 2020 Undergraduate Admissions 

In consideration of the disruption of exams and classes, most universities have extended the application deadline for fall 2020 undergraduate applications to May 1, 2020. 

Sending official transcripts and financial documents 

In case you haven’t been able to obtain your official academic records/transcripts due to closure of school or college, US universities are allowing you to send unofficial, digital transcripts for securing admission. 

Even if the deadlines for sending graduate applications have not been extended, most universities have extended their document deadline for graduate admissions to May 1, 2020. This is however applicable to only admitted students. This means you can send your official or university attested mark sheets/degree certificates/transcripts to the office and finish other paperwork by May 1. The packages need to be post-marked by May 1, 2020. Few other universities have also extended these deadlines up to mid-May. 

Most universities have also announced an extension to send financial documents. Some universities have extended this deadline up to May 15 while some of them have extended it up to July 1. 

In the next part, we will cover the updates on visa, program decisions and deferrals offered by universities. The next blog will be published on Saturday,  4th April 2020.

Coronavirus Lockdown: Student Safety in US and Course Commencement Updates – Part 1

To update our students on the changing situations in the US due Coronavirus outbreak, we are publishing this blog that will be carried in three parts. In this first part, we shall provide you with firsthand information about student safety, fall 2020 admissions, and course commencement decision.

 International student safety scenario

All the international students in the US are safe and have been asked to stay in their respective housing facilities within the US.  For those who are on campus, many universities are providing temporary accommodations with fixed supplies until any other arrangements are made by the student.  All the universities are offering only online classes for the spring 2020 semester. Universities have offered webinars to enable students to continue their studies and chat in real-time with the faculty members. Most universities have also shifted their administrative offices online. Students have also been provided with essential contacts and links to US Health Departments.

Fall 2020 admissions and course commencement decisions  

A lot of confusion is going on among Indian students about the fall 2020 admissions and whether the course will commence in time or not, considering that the embassy has temporarily stopped processing US visas. However, universities are actively arranging webinars for the prospective students where they are informing students about the process. You can get in touch with the universities you have secured admits from and join the webinars. 

Meanwhile, here are a few developments about the fall admissions and course commencement, that as Indian students, you must pay heed to:  

  • Even if the visa process has been stopped, for now, admissions of students who have received admits for fall 2020 is secure. 
  • As per the possibilities cited by a few prominent US universities, there are three ways in which fall 2020 session will be commenced: 
    1. If the situation comes under control by May 2020, the session will commence in August as per regular schedule but the students will be required to join 14 days prior to the commencement date and they will be quarantined for these 14 days before moving them to the campus.
    2. If the situation comes under control by June/July, the semester will commence in   September and it will be an on-campus semester.
    3. If the situation does not improve until July/August, the fall semester too could likely be shifted to online mode.  The decision is also likely to be influenced by the situation in India but in any case, the fall semester and admissions will not be canceled. 
  • Those of you with I-20 forms already approved, their forms will land in India on time since the shipping process is still functional in the US but the forms won’t be delivered at home. They will be delivered only after the lockdown in India is lifted. Those who have their approval pending will have to wait for the updates as the Department of Homeland Security will be taking a call on it soon. 

 

The next blog will cover updates on the admission process to US universities and will be published on Thursday, 2nd April 2020.

Coronavirus Lockdown: Impact on GRE, TOEFL and IELTS Tests Administration

There is a lot of confusion overtaking the GRE® General Test if your test date is during the lockdown which has been put in effect till April 14, 2020. Due to the health and safety concerns for students and staff from the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the ETS has postponed tests in many affected countries, including India. According to the latest update on the ETS website, the GRE® General Test and TOEFL iBT® Test have been postponed in India till April 11, 2020.

 

While both the GRE® General Test and the TOEFL iBT® Test are now being offered as Special Home Edition test, this is only available in the United States, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong (China) and Macau (China) from Thursday, March 26. India is not one of those countries: there is no Special Home Edition test for Indian test-takers.

If you are concerned about the rescheduling of your GRE® General Test or TOEFL iBT® Test, the ETS is regularly releasing updates taking into account the WHO directives and the local government orders. If the ETS postpones your GRE® General Test or TOEFL iBT® Test, you will be notified by email and your test will be rescheduled in your account. Check your account and your email regularly to confirm your testing status. If the ETS reschedules your test, the applicable fees will be waived (no rescheduling fees will be applied).

 

If your GRE® General Test or TOEFL iBT® Test is not postponed but you would like to reschedule, you must contact the respected services directly by sending a mail to the addresses provided below. This rescheduling will incur a fee.
To reschedule the GRE test:
Email: gre-info@ets.org
To reschedule the TOEFL test:
Email: toefl@ets.org
To register for tests:
Test dates scheduled within the next 5–6 months are still open for registration for both GRE® General Test and TOEFL iBT® Test. Students can register for available dates on the GRE Tests registration website.

 

Important Links:
GRE & TOEFL Tests
Updates due to COVID-19: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/important-update/
Updates for GRE: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/gre/asia-pacific/
Updates for TOEFL: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/toefl/asia-pacific/
GRE at Home: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/gre/at-home/ (Not Available in India)
TOEFL at Home: https://www.ets.org/s/cv/toefl/at-home/ (Not Available in India)

 

IELTS Test
IELTS with British Council: https://www.britishcouncil.in/exam/ielts/important-information-covid-19-ielts-candidates (India – Some tests are suspended. Please check with your local test center for details)
IELTS with IDP: https://www.ieltsidpindia.com/ (All tests canceled till April 14th, 2020)

Legislation for New Merit Based Immigration System Announced

On 2nd August, President Trump announced that he is backing a new legislation for an immigration reform (Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act) for foreign individuals who apply for legal permanent status, or green cards, through their employer.

This is going to be immensely beneficial for Indian students in America in the long term. The legislation backs a merit based system which gives preferences to highly skilled individuals for immigration. The application process will favor applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to the U.S economy.

Remember that this is still a legislation and not a law, however given that the president himself backs this legislation and Republicans control both senate and house – this is likely to be great news all around.

Following are the key highlights and how this might help highly educated Indian students who currently are / will be employed in the USA.

  1. Today green cards are awarded essentially by queue, and a candidate with higher education degrees, skills and a well-paying job is treated the same way as a candidate with low skills. To make matters worse green cards are awarded by limited country based quotas, putting Indian candidates at a disadvantage due to the large number of applicants. Merit based system will end this.
  2. The change is meant to make the application process fairer and allow applicants to know what their chances are of being approved before applying. Candidates would be able go online, answer questions about their education and employment experience, and learn if their background would help fill a workplace shortage in the United States. Applicants would also receive a score to give them a concrete idea of their chances of obtaining a visa.
  3. Although this proposal will go through many changes and debates – this is a step in the right direction. Indian students who are employed in the US after they complete their education are highly skilled individuals who possess advanced degrees with impressive research & academic backgrounds, so they should be able to clear bar for the merit based systems based on their qualifications and work experience without difficulty. This system is similar to the current immigration systems adopted in Canada and Australia – which have proven to be far better in terms of making immigration fair and efficient.

Why does the recently re-introduced H1B visa bill seem to be in favor of the Indian Students in USA?

Are you confused as to what the latest news regarding this “ Bill introduced in the US regarding H1B work visa” is? Keep reading further to understand what all the discussion is really about.

The new bill, titled “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” has been re-introduced in Congress by certain republicans (this bill was already introduced in earlier years, but was never passed). It proposes key changes in the H1-B program that allows skilled workers from foreign countries to fill high-tech jobs in the US.
The bill has proposed two changes – the gist of which is as follows:

– Making it harder to get H1B for low paying jobs
– Removing Masters quota for H1B

Looking deeper into these proposed changes it looks like these will actually likely help Indian students in the USA!

American economy is currently booming and unemployment rate is at its lowest in two decades, which implies increase in job creation.

H1B visa (work visa) is designed to be used for foreign workers with highly specialized skills. Total of 85000 visas are issued every year, which comprise of 65,000 for general quota and 20,000 for US Advanced degree quota for Master’s students. Last year a whopping 233,000 applications were submitted for the limited quota of 85000.

First, a lottery was conducted for the US Master’s degree quota applications to select 20,000 petitions and then the petitions that were not selected in this this first round were added to general quota pool and lottery was conducted on this pool to select the overall 65,000 petitions for general quota. This is pretty standard over the years.

Currently the Indian IT outsourcing companies use up to 70% to 80% of the general 65000 H1B quota. This causes an acute shortage for H1B visas, creating a shortage for Master’s students from India in the USA who are added up to the general quota for H1B lottery.

For details on top H1V visa sponsor companies in 2017 kindly visit the following report from Myvisajobs.com(http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2017-H1B-Visa-Sponsor.aspx). The report shows that of the top 10 companies sponsoring H1B visas, 89% visa applications are from IT companies with average salary under $100,000 per year, and only 11% are from US companies all of which have an average salary above $100,000.

Most of the American companies that employ highly educated students who have completed their Masters studies in the USA- offer a high starting salary. Also Indian students graduating in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) category have a period of up to 3 years on OPT where they can work on student visa before getting their get their H1B work visa. So even if the starting salary is not as high as $100,000 per year, 70% of Indian students (especially those working in computer science related fields) reach that mark within first 3 years depending on their skills and field of work.

Today many talented students with MS decrees are missing out on H1B visas because they are being denied the H1B visas in the lottery system.

Also eliminating Master’s degree quota of 20000 visas for H1B should not affect the Indian students with MS degrees, as the absence of H1B petitions from the IT companies would make room for highly paid foreign employees with advanced education and skills.

All in all, it seems like Indian students studying in American Universities will benefit from proposed bill.

Again, note that this is just a bill not the final rule – and likely will at least take a minimum of 12-18 months before it gets enacted (if it passes this time).