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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 April 15, 2021. 

Fall 2021

On April 14, 2021, President Burwell announced vaccination requirements for all AU students in Fall 2021. For more information, please review the main FAQ on Vaccination Requirements page here

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. 

For international students who may be returning for fall semester and are not yet vaccinated, AU will provide information about how to acquire a vaccine when you arrive in the United States. 

SPRING 2021

Below are the most important implications of the AU spring announcement based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fall 2020 guidance. If and when a new DHS spring guidance for international student enrollment is announced, this advice may change.

VISA SERVICES:

  • Are U.S. embassies and consulates resuming routine visa services?    
    Please refer to usembassy.gov for more information on embassies’ operating status.  
  • I already applied for my visa using the I-20 or DS-2019 with the start date of January 11, 2021. Is the visa still valid? Do I need to do anything else? 
    The visa you received based on your I-20 or DS-2019 with a January 11 start date is valid. You will receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 with an updated January 19 start date that you will use with your visa to enter the United States.  
  • If I have a visa appointment, will I need to present a new I-20 or DS-2019 with updated remarks about American University’s mode of learning for Spring 2021?  
    If you have an in-person class, you will receive a letter from your academic department confirming your enrollment in at least one in-person class. You can use your AU I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for a visa.    
  • Can I apply for my F-1 or J-1 visa in a third country? 
    Applying for a new F-1 or J-1 visa outside your home country is possible but it increases the visa process time. Please consult with the U.S. embassy or consulate where you are planning to apply for a visa for more information. 

TRAVEL:

  • When do I need arrive in the United States for my Spring 2021 classes? 
    Student can enter the United States up to 30 days before the program start date but no later than January 19. 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 issue a new I-20 with an updated program start date. 
  • 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
  • Do I need a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the United States?
    As of January 26, 2021, all travelers arriving to the United States 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
  • Are there any restrictions to U.S. entry from certain countries? 
    Yes, a January 25, 2021, Proclamation by President Biden continues the 14-day U.S. entry restrictions on individuals who were recently present in the Schengen Area, U.K., Ireland, Brazil, China or Iran, and, effective January 30, 2021, adds South Africa to the list of countries. However, the Schengen area, U.K., and Ireland have student exceptions allowing students to enter the US. Please review the information on the linked webpage before travelling. 
  • What are the quarantine policies in place in DC, Maryland, and Virginia?  
    For information about DMV area quarantine policies, please review the following websites:  

    DC: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/  
    Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/ 
    Virginia: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/ 
  • 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

PORT OF ENTRY : 

  • Is there any new documentation that I need to have with me to the Port of Entry when entering the U.S. in spring?  
    In addition to a valid I-20 or DS-2019, passport, F-1 or J-1 visa, and SEVIS fee receipt, you should also travel with the letter from your academic department confirming your enrollment in at least one in-person class. ISSS also recommends that students print out a copy of their unofficial transcript and/or course registration showing Spring 2021 classes.  

CLASS ENROLLMENT : 

  • Can I defer my Spring 2021 admission to a later semester?  
    Please contact your admission unit for more information.  
  • How do I know if my classes are online, in-person, or hybrid?    
    Students should discuss with their academic advisor any questions related to their classes and how they appear on the class schedule in Eagle Service.  
  • I have a scholarship through the university and have questions about it.Who should I talk to?   
    All questions regarding scholarships should go through your admission contact at AU.

HEALTH INSURANCE : 

  • Do I still need to pay for the AU health insurance for the Spring 2021 semester if I remain in my home country?  
    If you are not in the U.S. during the spring semester, you will not have to pay for AU health insurance. Please contact shc@american.edu with further questions.   

OTHER:

  • Will international students have priority with on campus housing?
    Please contact the Office of Housing and Residence Life for more information. 
  • Will AU administer COVID-19 vaccinations? 
    For more information about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, please review the information on the Coronavirus Community Resource webpage here.  

Visa  : 

  • My F-1 visa expired while I was outside the United States. How can I renew my visa? 
    You can only renew your visa if you enroll in one in-person class for the spring semester.  Please check with the U.S. consulate for additional requirements. 
  • If I defer my admission to Fall 2021, do I need a new immigration document? Do I need to pay the SEVIS and visa interview fees again?    
    If you defer your admission, ISSS will create a new I-20 for you for the new semester. You will need to submit new financial documents for ISSS to be able to issue you a new I-20 for Fall 2021.  If your SEVIS number remains the same, you don’t need to pay the SEVIS fee again. You can transfer your SEVIS fee if your SEVIS number has changed. Please go HERE for more information. You will receive a receipt after paying the visa application fee. This receipt is valid for one year from the date of payment and allows you to schedule your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You must schedule your interview while the receipt is valid, which means your interview must be booked within one year of paying your fee.   
  • How will my future off-campus employment benefits (CPT and OPT) be impacted if I defer to Fall 2021 or take the Spring 2021 semester online from my home county and plan to enter the United States on an F-1 visa in Fall 2021?    
    To become eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (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 (spring and fall semesters). If you remain outside the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester, the spring semester will not count toward your one year of full-time enrollment.   

Immigration Documents : 

  • I transferred to American University in Fall 2020 but remained outside. If I plan to return to the U.S. to start studies at AU in Spring 2021, is my SEVIS record still valid?   
    You need a new I-20 to return, Please follow up with ISSS to request a new I-20 by emailing isssdocuments@american.edu
  • I am transferring to American University in Spring 2021 and plan to be in the United States for the semester. How do I maintain my immigration status?  
    To maintain a valid immigration status, you must enroll in at least one in-person class for the spring semester while you are in the United States.  
  • I am a transfer student that has been outside U.S. for more than five-months. Is my SEVIS record still valid?   
    Yes, it is still valid if you have been enrolled in full course of study up until your SEVIS record was transferred to AU. This is a temporary flexibility provided to students due to COVID-19 situation.  
  • I am an initial F-1 student starting my first semester at AU in Spring 2021. Can I come to the U.S. in Spring 2021? 
    Per the DHS fall guidance, you must enroll in a minimum of one in person class to apply for a visa.  
  • I received an electronicallysigned I-20, do I need to receive a paper one later?   
    No, your electronic I-20 is valid until further notice.

TRAVEL : 

  • 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
  • Do I need a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the United States?
    As of January 26, 2021, all travelers arriving to the United States 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
  • Are there any restrictions to U.S. entry from certain countries? 
    Yes, a January 25, 2021, Proclamation by President Biden continues the 14-day U.S. entry restrictions on individuals who were recently present in the Schengen Area, UK, Ireland, Brazil, China or Iran, and, effective January 30, 2021, adds South Africa to the list of countries. However, the Schengen area, U.K., and Ireland have student exceptions allowing students to enter the US. Please review the information on the linked webpage before travelling. 
  • What if I am unable to leave the U.S. before the end of my grace period due to the lack of available commercial flights or other travel restrictions?   
    Students should assess options for alternative study arrangements during this time. Students should also contact ISSS to report their inability to leave the country due to COVID 19.   
  • Spring 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?   
    1. Students can return to the United States prior to the program end date on the Form I-20 and attend their graduation during the 60-day grace period.    
    2. Students who intend to continue their study in the United States can return with a pending change of educational level or transfer Form I-20.    
    3. Students can return to the United States on another visa classification (i.e., B-2 visitor visa).   
  • How can I request a travel signature to return to the U.S. in spring 2021?  
    To request a travel signature, please log in to iEagle and submit the "Travel Signature Request" e-form under the Current Student menu.  

  • 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

VISA SERVICES:

  • Can I stay in the United States with an expired F-1 visa?   
    Yes, provided that you have a valid I-20 and valid passport and you are making normal progress towards degree completion or you are pursuing Post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).  
  • I have been outside the United States for more than 5 months, can I return to the U.S. using my unexpired student visa?    
    Students who maintained their full-time student status in Fall 2020 can use the unexpired visa in their passport to return to the U.S. in Spring 2021 as long as they have a valid I-20 and are making normal progress towards degree completion. 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, not Department of State. Therefore, a valid visa does not always guarantee entrance into the U.S.  
  • My F-1 visa expired while I was outside the United States. How can I renew my visa?
    We recommend applying as soon as possible after enrolling in one in-person class for spring to increase your chances. You may review visa appointment wait times here. Please check with the U.S. consulate for location specific additional requirements.
  • Can I renew my F-1 visa in a third country?   
    Students are recommended applying for a new F-1 visa in their home countries to avoid delays and minimize the risk of denials.    

IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS : 

  • Can I stay in the United States with an expired passport?   
    Students who are in the U.S. with an expiring passport should contact their country’s embassy or consulate to identify options for passport extension or renewal.    

CLASS ENROLLMENT : 

  • Will F-1 students be able to return to the United States if they are continuing their studies outside of the country as a result of COVID-19?
    Students who continue to make normal progress in their course of study remain eligible for admission into the United States. However, because of the changing array of travel restrictions, students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States.   
  • Will I be able to take online classes outside the United States and keep my immigration status active?  
    Yes, you can enroll in a full course load of online classes outside the United States and maintain your immigration status. Please discuss class enrollment with your academic advisor. For immigration purposes, you will need to maintain full-time enrollment unless you are authorized for a reduced course load.     
  • Will I be able to take online classes in Spring 2021 semester while inside the U.S?   
    Yes, current students in the U.S. can enroll in more than one online class to maintain full time enrollment.  It is not necessary to enroll in an in-person (face-to-face) class in Spring 2021 to maintain your immigration status.
  • I am an undergraduate student approved for study abroad in Spring 2021. What is the impact of study abroad on my immigration status?  
    Current students on authorized study abroad can keep their immigration status active in spring 2021.  
  • I am a PhD student authorized for field research abroad. What are my options?   
    Current PhD students who are authorized for field research abroad or outside the DMV area can keep their immigration status active in spring 2021.  
  • I am an ESL student or have ESL classes. What are my options?  
    There is no specific provision in the updated DHS guidance against ESL courses or pathway courses.  Therefore, ESL students can enroll in more than one online class.  

REDUCED COURSE LOAD, TEMPORARY LEAVE, ETC. :

  • How can I maintain my immigration status in spring 2021 if I do not have full course of study left in my last semester?   
    If spring is your final semester, and you have only partial credits left to complete the program, please make sure to submit reduced course load (RCL) authorization 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 spring 2021, it may be online. 
     
    If you are an Accelerator student, you have to enroll in full course of study. 
  • If I decide to take the spring 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 will have their immigration record terminated and will need to apply to a new initial I-20 to return to AU in Fall 2021. Current students should also contact ISSS at isss@american.edu to discuss the immigration implications of academic options before finalizing their academic decision.  
  • How does retroactive withdrawal affect international students?   
    International students should not withdraw from classes retroactively as this action will cause loss of immigration status from the beginning of the past semester. This loss of immigration status will have multiple implications for their futures.   

OTHER :

  • I am facing financial challenges and seeking assistance from the university for the spring. Are there any 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.    
  • I am outside the U.S. and there is a significant time difference between my location and AU. Will my classes only be available during the regularly scheduled time or will there be other options?    
    Online coursework can be completed anytime within a set period as opposed to at a set class time, allowing flexibility for students in different time zones and environments. Once your faculty instructors have provided information about how your class will be conducted, please follow up with them directly to discuss specific questions about time and schedules.    
  • 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.    
  • Will AU administer COVID-19 vaccinations? 
    For more information about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, please review the information on the Coronavirus Community Resource webpage here.  

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 do remote/telework inside the U.S. to fulfill my internship requirements for credit internships?   
    Students may engage in 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 Spring 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. 
  • If I am authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for spring 2021, can I work virtually to fulfill my employment requirement?   
    Students currently participating in OPT, including STEM OPT, may work remotely if their employer has an office outside of the United States or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. Students participating in STEM OPT do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work.   
  • I am an international student with authorized off-campus employment for an internship or practical training. Is there any guidance from Department of Homeland Security 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, students must ensure that the employer either has an office outside the United States or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.   
  • If I am graduating in May 2021, could I apply for post-completion optional practical training (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.. ISSS will provide an update if DHS introduces any flexibility to these regulations.   
  • How will ISSS assist international students who are graduating and are currently in the U.S. with optional practical training (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. 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 due to the COVID-19 emergency I cannot work for at least 20 hours/week?   
    For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week will be considered as engaged in 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:

  • 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
  • Do I need a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the United States?
    As of January 26, 2021, all travelers arriving to the United States 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
  • Are there any restrictions to U.S. entry from certain countries? 
    Yes, a January 25, 2021, Proclamation by President Biden continues the 14-day U.S. entry restrictions on individuals who were recently present in the Schengen Area, UK, Ireland, Brazil, China or Iran, and, effective January 30, 2021, adds South Africa to the list of countries. However, the Schengen area, U.K., and Ireland have student exceptions allowing students to enter the US. Please review the information on the linked webpage before travelling.
  • Can I stay in the United States with an expired passport?  
    Students who are in the U.S. with an expiring passport should contact their country’s embassy or consulate to identify options for passport extension or renewal.  
  • Can I stay in the United States with an expired J-1 visa?  
    Yes, provided that you have a valid DS-2019 and valid passport and you are making normal progress towards degree completion or you are pursuing Post-completion Academic Training. 
  • Can I renew my J-1 visa in a third country?  
    Students are recommended applying for a new J-1 visa in their home countries to avoid delays and minimize the risk of denials.   
  • I am a current J-1 student, and I travelled home during the fall. Do I need to return to the U.S. for spring?  
    AU offers hybrid modality in spring 2021. Therefore, you can try to return to AU to continue in your education as a J-1 exchange visitor. If you are graduating in May and will not be returning to the U.S. for spring, we will shorten your program end date and close your immigration record. You may continue your education fully online.  
  • 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

CLASS ENROLLMENT:

  • Can current J-1 students take online courses if some of their courses are not offered in-person?
    Yes. 
  • Are new J-1 students able to start in the spring?
    New J-1 students have to enroll in no more than one online class unless they cannot be full time in which case we are certifying their enrollment as "absolute minimum online required for good academic progress.”  
  • Can I take entirely online classes if all of my required courses are not offered in-person?
    No, because AU offers plenty of options for students to enroll for in person classes with minimum online options.  
  • I am a newly admitted J-1 student beginning my program in spring 2021. If I can’t obtain a visa and enter the U.S. before my program start date, can I enter the U.S. after the start date of classes once I have obtained the visa?  
    Please contact ISSS immediately if you know you will not be able to enter the U.S. on or before your program start date. We may be able to postpone the start date on your DS-2019 so that you can enter the U.S. after you obtain your visa. In such cases, a new DS-2019 with the updated start date will be mailed to you.    

OTHER:

  • Will AU administer COVID-19 vaccinations? 
    For more information about COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, please review the information on the Coronavirus Community Resource webpage here.