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Information for Students Who Will Study In Person

ISSS COVID-19 FAQ

Remote Study

Leave of Absence

Information on this page has been updated as of July 16, 2020.

  • When will US Embassies and Consulates reopen and resume routine visa services?
    • In March 2020, the Department of State (DOS) suspended routine visa services at US Embassies and Consulates worldwide due to the impact of COVID-19. On July 14, 2020, DOS announced a phased reopening of Embassies and Consulates along with several FAQs. There is no set, universal date for a mass reopening of visa services and timelines will vary from post to post. Students should contact the US Embassy or Consulate where they will apply for more information.
  • I am still waiting on my visa to be approved. Can I arrive late?
    • F-1 regulations apply a limit to how late a student can arrive after the start of a semester. Students who might not arrive until after the start of the term should contact ISSS with the details of their specific situation or schedule a virtual appointment to discuss their situation in more detail. Students should also remain in contact with their school or program. Permission from your school or program will be required for late arrivals.
  • I have an unexpired visa stamp in my passport, but I am still trying to make travel arrangements. Can I arrive after the start of classes?
    • There are limits to how late a student can arrive after the start of classes. Students who might be delayed in their arrival to campus should contact ISSS directly with the details of their situation or schedule a virtual appointment to discuss their situation with an ISSS advisor. Students should also remain in contact with their advisors and/or school. Permission from your school or program is required for late arrivals.
  • I am currently in Canada. / I am currently in Mexico. Will the US-Canada/US-Mexico border closures prevent me from returning?
    • The restrictions on entry to the US from Canadian and Mexican land ports has been extended to July 21, 2020, with exemptions for essential travel. At this time, the border closure does not apply to air, freight rail, or sea travel between [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico], but it does apply to passenger rail and ferry travel between the [the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico]. The Canada and Mexico land port of entry restrictions include as coming for essential travel, “Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions.” It is unclear whether “traveling to attend” also covers students who are studying online under their school’s COVID-19 policy and who wish to travel through land ports of entry.
  • I am currently in the Schengen Area, the UK or Ireland. Are the entry restrictions to the US still in place?
    • On July 16, 2020, the Department of State announced national interest exceptions for certain travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland. “Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for National Interest Exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). Qualified business and student travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect. Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.” ISSS recommends that students contact the US Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their location for more information before arranging travel.
  • Can I take some courses online, or must all my courses be in person?
    • On July 14, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to rescind the recent SEVP fall 2020 guidance and revert back to the guidance issued to schools on March 9, 2020 and March 13, 2020. Under the spring 2020 guidance, students have temporary permission to exceed the online education limits specified in the regulations. It is possible that further guidance may be released, however at this time, there is no direct requirement to enroll in courses that require in person participation.
  • Do I need to live in Nashville, or can I be in another US city?
    • The spring 2020 guidance from SEVP affirms that students who are engaged in online study may remain in the US. The guidance does not require students to remain in the location of the SEVP-certified school that they are attending. Students who are in the US must report any changes to their local address to ISSS within 10 calendar days of the change. Students will need to update their Local (mailing) address in YES to update the address that is reported to SEVIS as the local address.
  • This is my last term and I only need one course. Can that course be online?
    • Further clarification is needed to fully answer this question. SEVP has not addressed this directly in their spring 2020 guidance, however pre-existing guidance establishes that if a student has only one course remaining, that course cannot be taken online.
  • I am in the thesis or dissertation phase of my program. All of my coursework is complete and I will be full-time engaged in research this semester. Can I remain in the US?
    • Under the spring 2020 guidance from SEVP, students in this situation may remain in the US and will not be required to be located in Nashville. From an F-1 status perspective, if the nature of your research allows for remote participation, this is allowed based on the spring 2020 guidance.
    • J-1 Exchange Visitors in a College and University student category (e.g. Student Bachelor’s, Student Master’s, Student Doctorate), who have already begun their Exchange Visitor program in the US, have continued permission from the Department of State to employ remote and online means to maintain their program objectives.
  • Can I remain in the US after the campus closes at Thanksgiving?
    • Under the spring 2020 guidance from SEVP, students may exceed the maximum allowance of online courses and may remain in the US during online study.
  • If campus closes mid-semester due to COVID-19 developments, can I remain in the US and finish the semester remotely?
    • On July 14, 2020, DHS agreed to rescind SEVP’s fall 2020 guidance that prohibited students from remaining in US in the event of a campus transition to fully online instruction. They also agreed to extend the spring 2020 guidance, which allows students to remain in the US during remote study, to the fall semester.
  • Some of the classes I need are not offered this semester. Can I take less than a full-time load of courses?
    • Based on the spring 2020 guidance from SEVP, students must make normal progress in their course of study to the extent allowed by their institution’s alternate educational plans. ISSS is in the process of clarifying what this will mean for international student enrollment for the fall 2020 semester. Students who are in their last term and need less than a full-time load to complete their program should submit a Reduced Course Load application in the ISSS portal. Students who are not graduating in fall 2020 and are having difficulty identifying a full-time course load should contact ISSS directly.
  • Will I need a new I-20?
    • The July 6, 2020 SEVP fall 2020 guidance that directed schools to issue an updated I-20 to all students who will attend courses in person has been rescinded. Students should still complete the SEVIS Information Validation in the ISSS portal to confirm their SEVIS reportable information for the fall 2020 semester. In the event that students will need an updated I-20, ISSS will be in touch with additional information.
  • The announcement from SEVP said that schools will need to issue new I-20s for students. I am outside of the US right now. Do I need the new I-20 to enter the US?
    • The SEVP guidance that required schools to issue new forms I-20 to students has been rescinded. Students who will enter the US during the fall semester should be sure that they have a valid form I-20 with appropriate signatures prior to their departure for the US.