Spring 2021 Enrollment & Winter Travel Guidance

Dear Student,

We are writing with a few updates as  winter break and  spring semester approach.  This message is long, but it is full of important information and answers the most frequent questions we receive. Please read the full message and review our  COVID FAQ page  frequently .

It is a good idea to  review your immigration documents  now – know where they are and when they expire!

Complete your Spring 2021 Enrollment & Travel Plan  

Your responses are important for ISS and campus leaders  to plan for  spring semester.  Please submit your plan by November 29 . Be as  accurate as you can and update your plans in Terra Dotta as they change.

If you are finishing your program this semester,  review our  Program Completion Checklist  for your next steps.

Review Spring Enrollment Immigration Guidance 

ISS Information Session: Spring 2021 Enrollment & Winter Travel Guidance session now available for viewing.  This is a recording of a town hall from November 2o, 2020. Please click on the title of the session to be redirected to watch the town hall.

We continue to follow August  7, 2020  federal  guidance. There have not been updates for Spring 2021.  Any updates will be posted on the  ISS COVID FAQ page .  Please review the  ISS flowchart for continuing and change of level studentsPlan your spring enrollment  and meet with your academic advisor or graduate program coordinator early.

Choose one  of the options below  before January 25, 2021 , the first day of classes.

  1. Enroll full-time or have an approved ISS Reduced Course Load (RCL).
  • If you will be outside the U.S. for Spring 2021, you must submit an ISS Leave of Absence form (reason: full-time enrollment outside the U.S. maintaining status) in your Terra Dotta portal.
  • You will keep your SEVIS record Active, which means you keep the benefits of your status (employment authorization, for example).

2. Enroll part-time without an approved ISS RCL.

  • Submit an ISS Leave of Absence form (reason: enrolled in online classes and choosing to end F-1 status) in your Terra Dotta portal.
  • You must be outside the U.S. Your SEVIS record cannot remain Active.

3. Take a gap semester or year

  • Submit an ISS Leave of Absence form (reason: not enrolled taking at least one semester off) in your Terra Dotta portal.
  • You must be outside the U.S. Your SEVIS record cannot remain Active.

Are you thinking about taking courses for credit at a university outside the U.S.?  

You must apply for a waiver to the  international travel policy  before you travel and enroll. Contact  International Academic Programs (IAP)  as soon as possible for details about  the  travel  waiver  and transfer credit process.

Travel Guidance  

  • Consider the necessity of your travel and the impact it might have on your personal, academic, and professional obligations. The health and safety of you, your family and friends, and your communities are also very important.
  • Review global travel advisories and airline requirements frequently. Travel restrictions and testing requirements change rapidly, so it is important to know the requirements of your countries of departure, destination, and transit.
  • Consider purchasing two insurance plans for your travel: personal travel insurance and personal medical insurance.
  • Return by the start date of spring classes: January 25, 2021. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) expects you to arrive by the start of classes. You should not arrive later than the 100% tuition refund deadline. Late arrivals may be denied entry to the U.S. by CBP.

Your I-20 & Travel Signature 

Travel with your most recent I-20 and check your  travel signature expiration .  Need an updated signature? Submit your  I-20 Reprint Request  in Terra Dotta!

Electronic I-20s are acceptable  for visa applications and travel to the U.S., per Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (ICE)  guidance. Download your  Spring 2021 Travel Support Letter.

Leave of Absence Impacts 

  1. 5-month Rule  

If you meet the following conditions, then you will not need to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa

  • You remained enrolled full-time for Fall 2020
  • You are enrolled full-time for Spring 2021 (enrollment opens December-January)
  • Your I-20 is valid for Spring 2021
  • Your current F-1 visa is valid at the time you plan to enter the U.S.
  • You have not received written notice that your F-1/J-1 visa has been revoked (typically for legal trouble during your time in the U.S.)

The 5-month rule applies when a student has not been maintaining F-1/J-1 status for 5 or more months  while outside the U.S .

  1. Another Leave of Absence 

You are eligible for another leave of absence semester. If you choose to continue  your  full-time  enrollment  outside the U.S., your record can remain active. You remain eligible for your F-1 benefits with an active F-1 record. If Spring 2021 is your final semester and you wish to apply for post-completion O ptional Practical Training (OPT)  from outside the U.S. , your application may be rejected by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  ISS  will continue to monitor for federal guidance updates.

Want to learn more? 

Good luck as you finish your fall semester. We wish you health, wellness, and academic success!

In support,

International Student Services