These are challenging times for all of us, and the staff of the Rollie Williams International Center at WLU is available to help answer your questions during this unprecedented state of global pandemic. Our admissions team are working remotely from home to help meet the needs of our current and prospective students. We are closely monitoring our emails/voicemails and we are staying up to date on the most recent information available from West Liberty University, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), The US Department of State as well as other Federal, State and local agencies. Below please find numerous resources which are pertinent to current and prospective West Liberty University International Students.
Please check the following resources to help you remain safe and healthy, as well as instructions on what to do in the event of symptoms or illness:
- COVID-19 University Updates (Student Health Services)
- Center For Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html and https://www.coronavirus.gov/
- US Department of State: https://www.state.gov/coronavirus/
- West Liberty University Student Health: https://westliberty.edu/health-services/coronavirus-covid-19-resources/
- West Liberty University Counseling Services: https://westliberty.edu/current-students/behavior-intervention-team-bit/counseling-services/
Rollie Williams International Center Operation Changes:
- The International Center will continue to be open from 8:00 to 5:00 pm. There will be no after hour access to Shotwell Hall for students. Students will be asked to pack up and leave at the end of the business day. Hanging out in the Center has been a tradition for our students, but given the pandemic and new policies for health and safety, we need to limit the number of people in the International Center. It is encouraged to contact Mia and Ryan to set up appointments for meetings:
- Director, Mia Szabo [email protected] or using YouCanBookMe at https://mszabo-3.youcanbook.me/
- International Advisor/Coordinator, Ryan Glanville [email protected] or https://ryanglanville.youcanbook.me
- The International Kitchen is CLOSED. No student is permitted in the kitchen. A small refrigerator has been provided in the Global Lounge and a microwave is still available for use in that space for our students. You must clean up after yourselves.
- The new Prayer/Meditation Room is coming together. Students can only access the space through the Global Lounge. Shoes must be taken off and left outside the door. However, you must wear socks (no bare feet- for health/safety concerns). There’s currently a water leak issue and a maintenance order has been placed to address it. Only 1 or maximum 2 students are permitted in this room at the same time.
- Conference Room Use (SPICES or Global Conference Rooms) students must register to use a conference room for study through their Google Calendar. These rooms are only available by reservation and no longer than 3 hours of use per day to ensure all students are provided equal opportunity to use the space. Staff will monitor use of the spaces and remind students of these policies. If there are questions on how to book a room, please contact a staff member.
Maintaining F-1 Status during COVID-19 Pandemic:
- International students have to maintain full time enrollment and stay registered in at least 12 credit hours (undergraduate students) and 9 credit hours (graduate students) for the spring 2020 semester through distance education (online) in order to maintain your active SEVIS record.
- Due to COVID-19, the 5 month rule is not in effect for current international students that remain enrolled and active in SEVIS. This means that current F-1 Students can re-enter the United States with current I-20 after being outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months.
- If you have returned to your home country or are residing elsewhere in the U.S. you are not required to return to WLU until the Fall semester starts in August. In addition, we recommend for you to not book your flight back until the travel ban between the USA and your country has been lifted.
- All international students must report their new physical address within 10 days of move, in order for WLU to update your SEVIS record and maintain it in active status. All students must email their new physical address to: [email protected] with subject line: new physical address.
Visas to the United States:
In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide. Embassies and consulates in these countries will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 18, 2020. These embassies and consulates will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, but we are unable to provide a specific date at this time. Check the website of the embassy or consulate for its current operating status: usembassy.gov.
Services to U.S. citizens will continue at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, but the availability of these services may be limited. Check the website of an individual embassy or consulate to determine their operating status and find emergency contact information.
Traveling to the United States:
I AM RETURNING FROM INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL OR I AM AN INTERNATIONAL VISITOR PLANNING TO TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES. WILL I BE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE UNITED STATES? AM I REQUIRED TO PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING?
We are following CDC guidance on travel, which is changing rapidly. If you have returned from or are arriving from any countries listed as a Level 3 Travel Notice, do not come to campus until you have practiced social distancing for 14 days from the time of your arrival in the United States. These countries currently include China, Iran, South Korea and most of Europe (please visit the CDC’s advisory page for the most current list of countries.) Social distancing recommendations also apply to any traveler who has been directly exposed to someone with the virus, regardless of where they are traveling from.
In addition, the following restrictions from the U.S. government are in place:
- Foreign nationals who have been in China or Iran within the past 14 days cannot enter the United States.
- U.S. citizens and residents and their immediate family members who have been in China or Iran within in the past 14 days can enter the United States, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.
- On March 11, a similar policy was expanded to include 26 European countries for a period of 30 days.
COVID-19 and Housing Concerns:
Access to Residence Halls and Check Out Information: International students living on campus who traveled during the Spring Break and did not return to campus, have to contact Marcella Snyder, Executive Director of Housing & Student Life ([email protected]) regarding procedures for obtaining personal items. Students are expected to be able to make arrangements to pick up belongings from their Residence Halls by appointment starting on May 1st.
International students that are not able to return to WLU before Fall 2020 semester must contact Marcella Snyder, Executive Director of Housing & Student Life ([email protected]) to make arrangements for same room housing sign up. More information can be obtained by contacting WLU Residential Life.
Room and Board Refund Information
The University is continuing to work on the process to review room and board refunds for students who were not able to stay on campus through the entire semester. We have received additional guidance from the Department of Education that is allowing us to move forward in this process. We will be considering each student’s account, as well as any room or board waiver (such as housing scholarships), as we determine the refund for each student. We hope to have refunds processing in the near future for each student, and appreciate your patience as we work through each account individually. We will continue to have
Additional information and Resources
The University is working to develop a process to compensate students for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic this semester, specifically in the areas of room and board with the assistance of a stimulus package provided to higher education institutions. The University is awaiting further information and guidance from the Department of Education on the specific delivery method and processes to financially compensate students. We will continue to update students through their University email, and online at www.westliberty.edu/residence-life/covid19. We are committed to assisting our students in every way possible while maintaining their safety during this time. We appreciate your patience through these unprecedented events. If you have any additional housing related questions, please contact [email protected] or (304)336-8345.
Students are encouraged to check their WLU Email for further updates sent for campus and specific emails for residential students. Check for any new updates on the Housing & Residence Life website.
Traditional Commencement replaced by Virtual Graduation Event:
Due to social distancing and other restrictions in place while the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, West Liberty University is replacing its traditional spring commencement with a safe, virtual option. The virtual ceremony will take place on May 9 (time to be determined) and all Spring Semester students will be sent a link to view the ceremony on Topper Station, WLU’s streaming platform.
All spring graduates will be invited back to campus at a later date for a live ceremony, according to President Greiner.
Commencement regalia (caps, gowns, cords) have been mailed to all students (including all spring graduating international students) so that seniors can share a photo with Topper Station as it prepares the virtual ceremony. (Please email graduate photos to [email protected].)
Important Tax Information for International Students:
The Office of Private Sector Exchange has learned of some current and former exchange visitors receiving 2020 Recovery Rebates in the amount of $1200 distributed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as part of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or the “CARES Act.” The exchange visitors may have received these funds by direct deposit to bank accounts they listed in a tax return filing to the IRS. Some may receive a check, starting the week of April 20, mailed to them at a current or former address.
Exchange visitors who do not meet the IRS definition of “resident alien” are not eligible to receive these funds. Grossly simplified, exchange visitors cannot even begin to accumulate the time in the United States required to become a “resident alien” until they have been present in the country for two years. So, exchange visitors here on shorter programs would not be considered resident aliens and should not get a Recovery Rebate. However, if those exchange visitors filed their tax returns on the wrong form, then they may have mistakenly received the Recovery Rebates anyway.
The IRS provides a number of interactive tax tools that can assist interested individuals in determining eligibility to file taxes and on what form; please see the links below. We strongly recommend that sponsors make these links available to exchange visitors and encourage them to use these tools. We are maintaining communication with the IRS to provide further guidance on next steps exchange visitors can take regarding this matter. In the meantime, we would appreciate it if you could let us know how widespread the issue is by sending information to [email protected].