COVID-19 & International Students FAQ

Where can I get the vaccine?

The United States government is providing vaccines for free for all individuals who qualify to receive a vaccine with or without health insurance, regardless of immigration status. Vaccines are now available for anyone over the age of 12 (currently, only Pfizer has EU approval for ages 12-17), see The New York State vaccine hub for a list of vaccine locations in New York. Out of state or international residents should contact their local or state authorities for information. Students outside of the United States should contact their government’s public health authorities for information. The Cooper Union will be scheduling a vaccine day on our campus for anyone who might be interested in receiving a vaccine through our third-party testing vendor. Cooper will provide up to four hours of paid time off per vaccine appointment for all faculty and staff.

How do I show proof that I have the vaccine?

Cooper is creating a portal to enable students, faculty, and staff to upload proof of a completed vaccination securely and confidentially. Once the portal is ready for uploads, there will be a campus communication that will explain the process for registering your vaccination, which will allow you access to campus. The Cooper Union will accept FDA-authorized or WHO-listed vaccines. If one is available to you now in your home country, we highly urge you to get vaccinated and upload proof of your vaccine no later than Aug. 19, 2021. Questions about the vaccine requirements should be directed to

What if I am an international student and don’t have access to any COVID-19 vaccines before arriving on campus?

Residential Students: If you are moving into the Residence Hall you will be expected to get your first vaccine dose within 24 hours of your move-in time. Depending on which vaccine you receive you will also be required for follow-up doses as soon as you become eligible.
Students Who Live Off-Campus: If you are able, you should try to arrive in New York City early so you can be fully vaccinated before the start of the semester. You should get your first dose upon arrival. Depending on which vaccine you receive, you must get any required follow-up doses as soon as you become eligible.
Quarantine Requirements: Students who are not fully vaccinated but have received their first Pfizer or Moderna dose or single J&J dose before the start of class, will not be required to quarantine for 24 hours. However, they will be required to provide weekly COVID-19 negative testing results and follow other public health guidelines (including wearing face coverings and physically distancing) until fully vaccinated (two weeks after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or two weeks after the one dose of the J&J vaccine).

Will I be able to register for Fall 2021 without having been vaccinated yet?

Yes, you will be able to register for classes before being vaccinated.

Will I have to pay to be vaccinated?

No, not if you receive your vaccination in the United States. The U.S. federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge, regardless of health insurance or immigration status. COVID-19 vaccination providers cannot charge you for the vaccine.

I already had COVID-19; do I still need to show proof of vaccination for in-person attendance?

Yes. If you had COVID-19 in the last 90 days before attending orientation, you do not have to wait until 90 days after your diagnosis. If you are not actively sick, have been medically cleared by a doctor, are no longer symptomatic, and have been released from isolation, you can get the vaccine.

Should there be New York State Travel Quarantine/Restrictions for any country outside the United States, The Cooper Union will follow the mandates in place at that time.

What steps must I take if I have a religious or medical exemption?

To request a medical exemption, individuals will need to submit proof of a medical condition that is a contraindication to the vaccination and the date the qualifying medical condition exemption ends (if applicable). This documentation must be signed by a medical provider.

All medical and religious exemption requests must be submitted on the CUSafe Vaccine Portal (which will be operational by mid-July). Students, faculty, and staff requesting exemptions will be notified by email if their exemption has been approved.

To view the steps for medical and religious exemptions please read President Laura Sparks' message about immunization requirements for FAll 2021

Immigration Status

I have not been able to get a visa appointment. What should I do?

U.S. embassies and consulates are reopening in many locations around the world and our observation is that in most locations student visas are being prioritized. Please regularly check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you wish to apply for your visa. Appointments may open. You can also find the visa appointment wait times here.

If I vacate my current on- or off-campus residence and relocate to a new U.S. address, do I need to report it within 10 days? Where do I report?

Yes, you need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government within 10 days. You must do the same if you decide to continue your term abroad and remain in an active status. Please report all changes to the International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO).

What if I am not able to get to Cooper by the start of classes? How will this affect my studies?

Immigration regulations require that F-1 students arrive in the U.S. on or before their “program start date” listed on their I-20. If you cannot arrive by the start date on your I-20, please advise the ISSO. At present we are expecting all students to be on campus for the start of the fall semester. If any accommodations need to be made, your department and school will be in touch with you. The ISSO can only adjust your I-20 program start dates based on the guidance and specific accommodations from your school or department.


My visa is expiring and I am currently unable to travel to my home country. What should I do?

You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa if you maintain your immigration status by having a valid I-20 and by meeting normal enrollment requirements.

My visa is expiring/has expired. If I leave the U.S. now but must come back after the expiration date of my visa, will I need a new visa or can I re-enter on an expired visa?

If you leave the U.S. and your visa will have expired by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.). The U.S. State Department announced on March 18 that routine U.S. visa issuance has been suspended indefinitely worldwide. If you will be traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, please read here to see if you can benefit from automatic revalidation.

I applied for U.S. Permanent Residency. Can I leave the country now?

If you applied for Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status in the United States, consult an immigration attorney regarding international travel. Leaving the country is generally not recommended while status is pending.


I still need to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Can I do this remotely from a different state in the U.S.? Can I do it from outside the U.S.?

You must physically be in the U.S. at the time you submit your OPT application. On 4/12/2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) can now file their form I-765 online if filing under the pre-completion, post-completion, and STEM extension categories. For the news release, please visit the USCIS website.

You must email your I-765 draft and your I-983 (for STEM) to ISSO for review at least two weeks before applying on the USCIS website. For additional questions and help with applying, please email Cooper’s PDSO

Can I leave the U.S. and go home after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? Will I be allowed to reenter the U.S. to start working once my application is approved?

Yes, you can leave the U.S. when an OPT application is pending at USCIS, but there has always been an element of uncertainty. The risk factor is receiving correspondence from the USCIS in the mail and not being home and available to receive it and respond in a timely manner. It is an important factor to consider. In the best-case scenario, if your application process progresses smoothly, your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is delivered to a valid U.S. address, and someone arranges for your EAD to be sent to you, then you may be able to enter the U.S. with your travel documents with less of a risk.

Can I apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for my summer internship from outside the U.S.?

Yes, at this time, if you are eligible for CPT, the ISSO will continue to process your request as usual, until we hear otherwise. Please refer to our answer above regarding your ability to travel back to the U.S. if you are currently outside the U.S. or plan to leave soon.

My employer registered me for the H-1B lottery. Can I leave the U.S. now?

If your employer has already registered you for the H-1B lottery, please consult your employer and their immigration counsel before you make any international travel plans. The ISSO legally cannot answer travel-related questions regarding an H-1B petition sponsored by your employer.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.