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International Student FAQ

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) reflect current university policies and immigration regulations. This page is designed to provide AU international students with up-to-date answers to help navigate their immigration status.

Last updated on August 12, 2021.

 

Fall 2021

Below is important information based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fall 2021 guidance and AU's class modality for Fall 2021.

General Information (All Students)

On April 14, 2021, President Burwell announced vaccination requirements for all AU students in Fall 2021. Additional information was announced on July 30, 2021. Updates will be made in accordance with the university's FAQ on Vaccination Requirements page here

  • Does AU require that students be vaccinated this fall? 
    Yes. All students who come to campus for any reason in Fall 2021 must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This includes full-time and part-time students, undergraduates and graduate students, and residential and non-residential students.
  • What about international students? 
    International students are urged to vaccinate prior to arrival if they have access to approved vaccines. However, we understand that students not currently in the U.S. may not have access to U.S.-authorized vaccines prior to arrival. The university will work with international students to help them obtain vaccinations in the U.S. upon arrival and ensure they comply with university requirements prior to moving into residence halls or starting classes.  

    Please see different scenarios below:  
    1- If you are fully vaccinated, submit proof of your vaccination to the Student Health Portal. You will select “NOS” (Not Otherwise Specified) as your vaccine. Next steps will depend on the status of your vaccination series, as per the World Health Organization (WHO).  

    2- If you have completed a COVID-19 vaccination series (meaning two doses of vaccines) with a vaccine authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization, you will not need additional doses with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. You will be approved for campus presence.  

    3- If you have completed a COVID-19 vaccination series with a vaccine NOT authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization, you will need to complete an FDA-authorized vaccination series in the U.S. Fill out this form so AU can help you obtain a vaccine upon arrival.   

    4- If you are partially vaccinated when you arrive with a vaccine not available in the U.S., you are considered unvaccinated. You must restart your vaccination series in the U.S. Fill out this form so AU can help you obtain a vaccine upon arrival.    

    5- If you are partially vaccinated when you arrive with a vaccine available in the U.S., you will be able to receive your second dose of the vaccine in Washington DC. Please submit proof of your partial vaccination to the Student Health Portal.
  • I'm vaccinated with a non-WHO approved vaccine. What is AU's policy?
    If you received a vaccine not approved by the WHO, AU considers you unvaccinated. To be approved for campus presence, you must restart the series with a WHO-approved vaccine as soon as possible, no later than seven days after arrival. AU is requiring this out of an abundance of caution, in light of the high transmission rate of the Delta variant. AU will help you to obtain an approved vaccine upon arrival.

  • How do I submit proof of vaccination? 
    Undergraduate, graduate, and WCL students will be required to provide proof of vaccination for the fall semester. Please see the details regarding the submission of the vaccination record. All students must provide official documentation of vaccination that includes the name of the vaccine you received and the dates you were vaccinated. This documentation may include your CDC Vaccination Card, World Health Organization Yellow Book, or official documentation from a medical provider. 

    International students, your housing or class registration will not be canceled if you vaccinate upon arrival, and AU will assist you with that. Please fill out this form
  • What are the deadlines to submit proof?
    If you are fully or partially vaccinated, you must submit proof of vaccination by one of the following dates:

    August 17 - for students who will be living in university housing
    August 24 - for all students

    If you are unable to obtain full or partial vaccination prior to arrival and/or prior to the deadlines, please fill out this form. AU will assist you with vaccination.

    Students with approved exemptions have a different process and are already in contact with the university.
  • Do I need to submit translated proof of vaccination?  
    We need to be able to read and verify the vaccine records. If we cannot read the records because of legibility or language issues, students will be not in compliance with AU's vaccination requirement. Your proof of vaccination must be easily readable and understandable to avoid putting holds on your registration or on housing (for COVID-19).  
  • Will I be required to quarantine in Washington DC?
    All unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students arriving from outside DC/MD/VA must comply with Washington, DC Department of Health guidance for travelers. Students in this category must:         
    • Self-Quarantine for seven days
      • Residential / university housing students must self-quarantine in their residence hall rooms. This means remaining in your room for seven days, except for clear necessities such as picking up food and COVID testing. Students in quarantine may participate virtually in convocation and Sophomore welcome through live stream and participate in virtual activities during All-American Welcome.
      • Off-campus students must self-quarantine at their residence. Remain in your home or apartment except for essential trips, such as COVID testing. You may not come to campus during this period, except for a COVID test.
    • Test for COVID-19 3-5 days into your self-quarantine period. Testing is available on campus, and you may come to campus for this purpose only. If you do not test 3-5 days after arrival, quarantine is extended to 10 days per DC Dept of Health regulations.
    • If the test is negative, you may leave self-quarantine after completing the 7-day quarantine and be present on campus, following protocols for unvaccinated students (such as twice-a-week testing and masking) until fully vaccinated.
  • Can I make an appointment before arriving in the U.S. to be vaccinated on campus? 
    AU can assist you with vaccination upon arrival. Please fill out this form to notify AU if you are coming to D.C. and if you will need help in obtaining a vaccine upon arrival. You may find more information on AU’s FAQ on Vaccination Requirements here.   
  • What happens if I do not submit proof of vaccination status by the deadline? 
    You must fill out this form to let AU know that you need vaccination upon arrival.   International students who were unable to obtain vaccine overseas will be assisted upon arrival. International students will not have housing or class registration canceled if they vaccinate upon arrival.
  • Are U.S. embassies and consulates resuming routine visa services?    
    Yes, they are resuming visa services. Please refer to usembassy.gov for more information on embassies' and consulates' operating status in your area.  
  • Can I apply for or renew my F-1 or J-1 visa in a third country? 
    Applying for or renewing a F-1 or J-1 visa outside your home country is possible but it increases the visa processing time. Please consult with the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are planning to apply for a visa for more information.
  • I received an electronicallysigned I-20, do I need to receive a paper one to apply for a visa or to travel?
    No, your electronic I-20 is valid until further notice. 
  • Is there any new documentation that I need to have with me when entering the U.S.?
    In addition to a valid I-20/DS-2019, valid passport, valid F-1/J-1 visa, and SEVIS fee receipt, you should also have a copy of your unofficial transcript and/or course registration showing enrollment in a few in-person classes for Fall 2021.
  • What is AU's current policy on student travel?
    Official university travel outside of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area will remain suspended through the end of summer classes (August 14, 2021).  Most spring and summer 2021 study abroad programs have been suspended. Requests for travel exceptions for certain university functions and research may be considered by the President/Provost/Vice Presidents/Director of Athletics and require approval before any travel arrangements are made.

    Future travel policies will be based on Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies’ guidance, and the university’s risk assessment of travel conditions and exposure risks. You may review additional information on AU's Coronavirus Community Resource webpage here
  • Are there any restrictions to U.S. entry from certain countries? 
    Yes, there are restrictions for students from China, India, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the European Schengen countries, United Kingdom, and Ireland.

    Due to COVID concerns, the U.S. instituted restrictions (here and here) for individuals from the countries above; individuals could not enter the U.S. directly from one of those countries unless they stayed 14 days outside of the country.  

    As of April 26, 2021, the U.S. provided "national interest exception" (NIE) for some categories of individuals including F-1 and J-1 students (here and here). Please review the below FAQs for more information about how NIE works.  

    In addition, as of July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of State extended the validity of NIEs to 12 months for select travelers, including F-1 students. More information can be found here
  • I have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa with multiple entry in my passport. May I come to the U.S. directly from one of the countries listed in the above question?

    For students from China, India, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa, you may qualify for a NIE to enter the U.S. if your academic program, including OPT, begins in August 2021 or later. You may enter no earlier than 30 days before classes begin. Fall semester at AU begins on August 30, so you may enter after July 31 or later.

    If you have a valid F-1 visa with multiple entry in your passport and you are intending to begin or continue an academic program, including OPT, starting August 1, 2021, or later, you do not need to visit a U.S. consulate to get the NIE. You may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of your academic studies.


    J-1 students with valid visas must apply to the consulate for the NIE exception.
  • I do not have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in my passport, can I qualify for the national interest exception (NIE)? 
    Yes, if your academic program, including OPT, begins or continues on August 1, 2021, or later.  You will have to apply for a visa and the visa officer will automatically consider the NIE designation when granting you the F-1 or J-1 visa.
  • Do I need a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the U.S.?
    As of January 26, 2021, all travelers arriving to the U.S. must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a plane. You may review additional information on the CDC website here
  • As an international student, will I be required to quarantine upon entry into the U.S.?  
    The university continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and follow guidance from global, national and local health and government officials, including travel advisories and requirements. You can find more information here. We recommend also reviewing the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance here.  
  • What are the quarantine policies in place in DC, Maryland, and Virginia?  
    This information changes. Therefore, please review the following websites for information about DMV area quarantine policies:  
    DC: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/  
    Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/ 
    Virginia: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/ 
  • What course modalities are available during the fall (e.g. live/synchronous, asynchronous, etc.)? What classes will have an in-person component?
    Based on the ongoing trajectory of the pandemic, the rollout of vaccines, and our health and safety practices, we are currently on track to conduct in-person classes for the Fall 2021 semester, with some additional modalities (e.g., hybrid or online) available in certain areas. The intended modality for each Fall 2021 course is noted on the schedule of classes. However, please note that these modalities may shift due to classroom space and/or required faculty accommodations.

  • How do I know if my classes are online, in-person, or hybrid?    
    The course delivery mode appears on the class schedule in Eagle Service. If not clear, please consult with your academic unit.
  • I am a student in a country that doesn’t support Google and Blackboard. Is there another way for me to access online resources through AU?    
    Students in countries where Google and Blackboard are not supported can use the AU Virtual Private Network (VPN). We have added user licenses to expand our VPN capacity. Students can either go to help.american.edu and search “VPN” or enroll your mobile device with the Duo two-factor authentication app. See the How to Enroll in 2-Factor Authentication video on YouTube; then access the VPN following the steps for your device.    
  • If I defer my admission to a later semester due to visa delays or health and safety reasons, will my scholarship also be deferred?
    All questions regarding scholarships should be directed to your admission contact at AU.
  • Are there any specific scholarships for international students?    
    AU offers scholarships at the time of admissions and notifies students with the admission decision. You may find more information and sources of external funding opportunities on ISSS' Scholarship page.    
  • Do I pay for AU health insurance for the Fall 2021 semester if I remain in my home country?  
    If you are not in the U.S. during the fall semester, you will not have to pay for AU health insurance. Please contact shc@american.edu with further questions.   

Currently Enrolled Students

TRAVEL AND IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS:

  • Can I stay in the U.S. with an expired passport?   
    You must always maintain a valid passport while in the U.S. to study. If your passport is expiring, please contact your country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. for passport extension or renewal. 
  • Can I stay in the U.S. with an expired F-1/J-1 visa?   
    Yes, provided that you have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and valid passport and you are making normal progress towards degree completion or you are pursuing Post-completion OPT (F-1) or AT (J-1).  
  • I have been outside the U.S. for more than 5 months. Can I return to the U.S. using my unexpired student visa?    
    Yes. If you maintained full-time, good academic status in Spring 2021 and have a valid I-20 or DS-2019, then you can use the unexpired, multiple entry visa in your passport to return to the U.S. in Fall 2021. Please also review any travel and health restrictions that are in place to verify your eligibility for travel.

    While the U.S. Department of State issues visas, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents at the U.S. port of entry ultimately make the decision to admit people into the country. Therefore, a valid visa does not always guarantee entrance into the U.S.  
  • My F-1 visa expired while I was outside the U.S. How can I renew my visa?
    We recommend applying for visa renewal at the U.S. consulate in your area as soon as possible. You may review visa appointment wait times here. Please check their website for location specific additional requirements here.  
  • If I have a visa appointment, do I need to be enrolled in at least one face-to-face course and present a new I-20/DS-2019 with remarks about AU’s mode of learning for Fall 2021?  
    Yes, you must have face-to-face course enrollment as proof for the visa application. Your I-20/DS-2019 will not have remarks, but you may always print your course enrollment from Eagle Service to prove that you have face-to-face courses. The university is planning to offer face-to-face and online courses.
  • How can I request a travel signature to return to the U.S. in Fall 2021?  
    Only returning students need travel signatures. To request a travel signature, please log in to iEagle and submit the "Travel Signature Request" e-form under the Current Student menu.  
  • Fall 2021 is my final semester and I will be taking classes from outside the U.S. Can I return to the U.S. to attend graduation?   
    We recommend you try to return prior to the last day of classes on your F-1 or J-1 visa to preserve immigration benefits associated with the visa type.

    Otherwise, you may try to re-enter on another visa classification after you have finished your academic program (i.e., B-2 visitor visa).   

COURSE ENROLLMENT : 

  • Will I be able to take online classes and keep my immigration status active?  
    F-1/J-1 students inside the U.S. must be enrolled in a full course of study, which will be mostly in face-to-face classes in Fall 2021, unless authorized for a reduced course load based on last semester.

    If outside the U.S., F-1 students’ full time enrollment may be online dependent on class availability. Please discuss class enrollment with your academic advisor.
  • I am an undergraduate student approved for study abroad in Fall 2021. What is the impact of study abroad on my active immigration status?  
    Current students on authorized study abroad can keep their immigration status active in Fall 2021.  
  • I am a PhD student authorized for field research abroad. Will my immigration status stay active?
    Current PhD students who are authorized for field research abroad or outside the DMV area can keep their immigration status active in Fall 2021.  
  • How can I maintain my immigration status in Fall 2021 if I do not have full course of study left in my last semester?   
    If fall is your final semester, and you have only partial credits left to complete the program, please first enroll in your classes and submit reduced course load (RCL) authorization e-form request to ISSS. To submit the RCL e-Form, please to login to iEagle, click Current Student, and click Reduced Course Load (RCL).   

    If you only have one class left to complete in Fall 2021, it may be online under the COVID-19 circumstances. 
  • If I decide to take the fall semester off as a current student, what are my options?   
    Please consult with your academic advisor for advice about temporary leave. Students on approved temporary leave must leave the U.S. and will have their immigration record terminated and lose immigration benefits.  They will need a new initial I-20 to return to AU in Spring 2022 and will not be eligible for CPT or OPT until full time enrollment in spring and fall 2022..  

EMPLOYMENT:

  • Can I continue my on-campus employment remotely?   
    If the current on-campus employment opportunity has transitioned to remote work or the employment can be done through remote means, students may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely.  
  • Can I telework inside the U.S. to fulfill my internship requirements for credit internships?   
    Students may engage in remote work during CPT inside the U.S., provided they are:   
    • Enrolled in a program of study in which CPT is integral to the program of study;   and 
    • ISSS authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date. 
  • Do I need CPT authorization if I am outside the U.S. in Fall 2021?  
    You do not need CPT authorization if you are not physically in the U.S. and your internship will start and end outside the U.S. If you enter the U.S. to continue your internship without CPT authorization, you would be in violation of your immigration status. 
  • I am an international student with authorized off-campus practical training (CPT or OPT). Is there any guidance from DHS for situations like this?     
    Students with authorized practical training off-campus are encouraged to consult with their employer to seek alternative ways to maintain employment, such as teleworking or other arrangements. If working remotely from outside the U.S., students must ensure that the employer either has an office outside the U.S. or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.   Students participating in STEM OPT do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work.   
  • If I am graduating in December 2021, could I apply for Post-completion OPT from outside of the U.S.?   
    Current federal regulations affecting F-1 students do not allow for OPT applications from outside of the U.S..
  • How will ISSS assist international students who are graduating and are currently in the U.S. with OPT applications?   
    ISSS has made OPT workshops and intake process fully online. Academic Advisors will be able to verify program completion through an e-form initiated by students. For more information please, visit ISSS's OPT page.   
  • Does time spent studying outside of the U.S. in active SEVIS status during the COVID-19 emergency count toward the one-year requirement for CPT and OPT?    
    Yes. F-1 students who maintain normal academic progress while outside of the U.S. will accrue eligibility for practical training whether they are inside or outside of the U.S.    
  • Can I maintain my OPT if I cannot work for at least 20 hours/week due to the COVID-19 emergency?   
    For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, students who are working fewer than 20 hours a week will be considered maintaining valid OPT.   
  • Will there be an increase in the allowed period of unemployment for OPT or STEM OPT due to COVID-19?    
    At this time, no change has been made to the current federal regulations on unemployment during OPT and STEM OPT.  

TRAVEL AND IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS:

  • If I have a visa appointment, do I need to be enrolled in at least one face-to-face course and present a new I-20/DS-2019 with remarks about AU’s mode of learning for Fall 2021?  
    Yes, you must have face-to-face course enrollment as proof for the visa application. Your I-20/DS-2019 will not have remarks, but you may always print your course enrollment from Eagle Service to prove that you have face-to-face courses. The university is planning to offer face-to-face and online courses.
  • My F-1 visa expired while I was outside the U.S. How can I renew my visa?
    We recommend applying for visa renewal at the U.S. consulate in your area as soon as possible. You may review visa appointment wait times here. Please check their website for location specific additional requirements here.  
  • My F-1 or J-1 visa is unexpired, but I have been outside the U.S. for more than 5 months. Can I use it to re-enter the U.S.?
    If you have a valid visa with multiple entry based on your previous AU I-20/DS-2019, you can use that unexpired visa with a new AU I-20/DS-2019 if you are able to transfer the SEVIS fee. You may be able to transfer the SEVIS fee from the previous SEVIS ID to the new one if you are eligible. For more information about how to transfer your SEVIS fee, please review the website here.
  • When do I need arrive in the U.S. for my Fall 2021 classes? 
    Students can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date but no later than August 20 for WCL students and August 30 for all other students (F-1 and J-1). Please contact your academic advisor and ISSS immediately if you anticipate delays. If you are permitted to arrive late by your academic advisor, ISSS will update your program start date on the I-20 or DS-2019 to facilitate your U.S. entry.
  • I transferred to AU in the last year but remained outside the U.S. and lost my immigration status. Do I need a new I-20 to return for Fall 2021?
    You need a new AU I-20. For more information about how to receive a new I-20, please follow up with ISSS at isssdocuments@american.edu

    If your visa is unexpired but lists another U.S. institution, then you must apply for a new visa with your new AU I-20.

    If your visa is unexpired and lists AU on it, then you can use the valid visa with multiple entry to return if you transfer the SEVIS fee from the previous SEVIS ID to the new one.
  • I changed academic level at AU in the last year but remained outside the U.S. and my new I-20 was cancelled. Do I need a new I-20 to return for Fall 2021?
    You need a new AU I-20. For more information about how to receive a new I-20, please follow up with ISSS at isssdocuments@american.edu

    If your visa is unexpired, you can use the valid visa with multiple entry to return if you transfer the SEVIS fee from the previous SEVIS ID to the new one.

    If your visa is expired, you must apply for a new visa with your new AU I-20.

COURSE ENROLLMENT : 

  • May I enroll for full course of online study from abroad?
    AU fall courses will be offered mostly in person. However, the university is exploring options for students who cannot enter the U.S for visa delays or other COVID-19 related health and safety issue. Stay tuned for more information.
  • If I decide to take the fall semester off, what are my options?   
    Please consult with your academic advisor for advice about temporary leave. If you plan to return to AU in Spring 2022, you will need to apply for a new initial I-20/DS-2019 at that time.

EMPLOYMENT:

  • Does time spent studying outside of the U.S. without an immigration status count toward the one-year requirement for CPT and OPT?    
    No. Once you regain your immigration status in Fall 2021, you will be eligible for CPT and OPT after one academic year of fulltime enrollment (fall 2021 and spring 2022).
  • How will my future off-campus employment benefits (CPT and OPT) be impacted if I do not return to the U.S. in the Fall 2021 semester and plan to enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa in Spring 2022?    
    To become eligible for CPT or OPT students must have had both a valid immigration status and full-time enrollment in a degree-seeking program for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters).

    If you remain outside the U.S. for the Fall 2021 semester, the fall semester will not count toward your one year of full-time enrollment.   

New Students

TRAVEL AND IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS:

  • If I have a visa appointment, do I need to be enrolled in at least one face-to-face course and present a new I-20/DS-2019 with remarks about AU’s mode of learning for Fall 2021?  
    Yes, you must have face-to-face course enrollment as proof for the visa application. Your I-20/DS-2019 will not have remarks, but you may always print your course enrollment from Eagle Service to prove that you have face-to-face courses. The university is planning to offer face-to-face and online courses.
  • My F-1 or J-1 visa expired while I was outside the U.S.. How can I renew my visa? 
    You can only renew your visa if you enroll in one in-person class for the fall semester.  Please check with the U.S. consulate for additional requirements.
  • I received an F-1 visa last fall but never used it to enter the U.S.. ISSS has now issued me a new I-20 for fall 2021. The SEVIS number on my new I-20 does not match the SEVIS number on the F-1 visa I previously received. Do I need to apply for a new visa?
    No. If you have a valid visa based on your previous AU I-20, you can use that unexpired visa with a new AU I-20 if you transfer the SEVIS fee from the previous SEVIS ID to the new one. For more information about how to transfer your SEVIS fee, please review the website here.
  • If I defer my admission to Spring 2022, do I need a new immigration document? Do I need to pay the SEVIS again?    
    If you defer your admission, ISSS will update your I-20 program start date for spring 2022 and you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. Please contact your admissions office for more information on deferring your admission.
  • When do I need arrive in the U.S. for my Fall 2021 classes? 
    Students can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date but no later than August 20 for WCL students and August 30 for all other students (F-1 and J-1). Please contact your academic advisor and ISSS immediately if you anticipate delays. If you are permitted to arrive late by your academic advisor, ISSS will update your program start date on the I-20 or DS-2019 and provide it to you.

EMPLOYMENT:

How will my future off-campus employment benefits (CPT and OPT) be impacted if I defer my I-20 to Spring 2022 and take the Fall 2021 semester online from my home county then plan to enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa in Spring 2022?    
To become eligible for CPT or OPT, students must have had both a valid immigration status and full-time enrollment in a degree-seeking program for at least one academic year (fall and spring semesters).

If you remain outside the U.S. for the Fall 2021 semester, the fall semester will not count toward your one year of full-time enrollment.   

  • I am an Active SEVIS student outside the U.S. for more than five months transferring to AU for Fall 2021. Is my SEVIS record still valid?   
    You can keep your active SEVIS status at AU provided your immigration transfer has been completed in a timely manner and you are enrolled in full course of study, mostly in face-to-face classes, and are in the U.S. physically.
  • I am in the U.S. and will transfer to AU in Fall 2021. How do I maintain my immigration status?  
    To maintain a valid immigration status, you must be enrolled in full course of study, mostly in face-to-face classes, and stay in the U.S. in the Fall 2021 semester.