The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact international student mobility. The U.S. government has indicated that the flexibility for online classes will continue for the spring 2022 semester.
Most classes will be in-person, but some academic programs may offer hybrid or online course enrollment. Thus, F-1 students at IU continue to fall under the Department of Homeland Security's immigration guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means that if you arrived on campus for fall 2021 or earlier, you are permitted to enroll in only online courses for spring 2022 from a regulatory perspective. However, your academic program determines what course types are available for your enrollment, and you need to work with them to determine if you have an option for online study.
If you are a new student for spring 2022, you need to enroll in at least one in-person class (coded as P, HY, IN, or IS on class schedules).
Regardless of whether you are online or in-person, you need to meet all appropriate immigration status requirements. Our office is available to help in case you have any visa- or travel-related questions. You should direct other questions to your department.
The U.S. Department of State has not provided updated guidance for spring 2022. J-1 students should plan to enroll in at least one in-person class (coded as P, HY, IN, or IS on class schedules), but be prepared to adjust to a standard enrollment if Department of State changes its guidance.
Planning for fall 2022 and beyond
We expect the flexibility the U.S. government has provided so far to end after spring 2022. So, you should plan for a return to normal immigration regulations regarding online enrollment in summer 2022, fall 2022, and beyond.
If you are currently in the U.S. and want to travel outside the country, you should carefully consider your return travel. Will you be able to travel back to the U.S. in time for any in-person class requirements? Are you fully vaccinated against COVID-19? Do you need a new visa to return to the U.S. (appointment backlogs at U.S. embassies and consulates continue to be an issue)? And of course, you’d need to follow any travel/quarantine guidance for the countries you plan to visit.
Make sure you review the other questions in this Travel section.
Signed I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students)
Save evidence of your departure from the U.S. (boarding passes, copies of stamps in your passport)
Additional information for current students or scholars
You need to submit a Travel Signature Request form in Atlas if one of these are true for you:
Your most recent travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 is going to be older than 12 months from the date you plan to reenter the U.S. in the same program of study
You are an undergraduate student with a new major
For new students in spring 2022, you will need to enroll in at least one class that has an in-person component.
Effective November 8, 2021, all nonimmigrant, non-citizen individuals entering the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. There are some very limited exceptions.
Our office is your primary resource for these questions. The advice we provide one student doesn't always apply to the next student. So you need to contact us if you have questions about your situation instead of following advice from a friend or something you found on social media.
This answer depends on what your status is for fall 2021.
If you are a new student in the U.S. for fall 2021
This means that you are arriving for in-person classes for the first time in fall 2021 even if you started your degree program online in fall 2020 or spring 2021.
You need to remain in Bloomington and participate in at least one in-person class (coded as P, HY, IN, or IS on your class schedule).
If you are NOT a new student in the U.S. for fall 2021
This means you were enrolled at IU or another school in the U.S. for spring 2020 OR you started your degree program in-person on the Bloomington campus in fall 2020 or spring 2021.
The 5-month rule does not apply in this situation. As long as you maintain full time enrollment with your IU classes, you are considered in valid status.
Look to be sure that your visa stamp is truly expired. This is the sticker in your passport, given to you by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is only possible to get a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. If you are outside of the U.S., and your visa stamp is expired, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You do not need to leave the U.S. if your visa stamp is expired. The visa stamp in your passport only needs to be valid to seek re-entry to the U.S. If you are in the U.S. and remain in the U.S. with an expired visa stamp, you do not need to take any action to get a new visa. You may do so on a future trip outside of the U.S.
You may have heard that you can file Form I-539 to extend your stay in the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student, but that is generally not true for F-1 and J-1 students at Indiana University. It is always best to contact our office with any questions related to your immigration status instead of relying on information you’ve heard from others.
Generally speaking, your F-1 or J-1 student status is valid (as long as you follow applicable rules for F-1 students and J-1 students) until you complete your program end date (plus the additional time for your grace period, which is 60 days for F-1 students and 30 days for J-1 students). If you wish to extend your stay in the U.S. beyond the end of your grace period, you only have a few options (learn more for F-1 students and J-1 students).
The U.S. government has not provided any additional grace period benefits because of COVID-19. If you are unable to leave the U.S. or extend your stay through employment authorization or further academic study by the end of your grace period, you need to speak to an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your options. An attorney may be able to identify a non-student immigration status that you can apply for. You can find an immigration lawyer through the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Our office cannot assist you with an application to change to a non-student status.
Yes, we can provide an electronic copy of your signed I-20. Effective May 2022, we will only be providing electronic I-20s.
It is not an option for the DS-2019 because the Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program, which governs the J-1 program, has stated that an electronic Form DS-2019 is not permissible.
Contact our office to discuss taking a semester off. There are multiple things to consider, and we can help you work through that process.
If you choose to not enroll in classes for a semester, we would need to end your current SEVIS record, which has some important consequences.
You would have to leave the U.S. (if you are in the country).
You would not be able to reenter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student until you have a new I-20 or DS-2019 and have paid the SEVIS fee (currently $350 USD for F-1 students and $220 USD for J-1 students) again.
You would not be eligible for off-campus work authorization (CPT or OPT) until you have completed a full academic year in the U.S.
For example, if you returned in fall 2021, you would not be able to hold an off-campus internship until the fall 2022 semester.
If you only need one semester to complete your program, you would not be eligible for CPT or OPT for that degree program.
If you choose to do so, complete the Student Exit form in Atlas before the first day of classes. Then, you need to contact us at least three months before the semester you plan to return to IU.
If you have already been approved for a Reduced Course Load, you are considered to be a full-time student—even if you are enrolled in fewer courses than is typically considered full-time. The update to the academic calendar does not change your approval.
If you have concerns about your enrollment, please contact your academic advisor and the OIS.
If you are ill for several days and unable to participate in online class, contact us to discuss the immigration options you have. You may have an option to withdraw for a medical reason, and we would be able to assist you with that process.
If you are on an IU-sponsored medical insurance plan, you will not have to pay any out-of-pocket expenses for the focused test used to diagnose COVID-19. Any treatment related to the illness would have the same coverage that is currently available for any emergency or non-emergency illness (subject to the normal deductible, copay, or out-of-pocket amounts associated with your medical plan). Review the Anthem plan details for specific information or contact the IU Student Health Insurance Coordinator if you have questions about your coverage.
If you are a continuing student and you are unable to return to Bloomington, IU will help you continue your degree online to the greatest extent possible—some exceptions may include courses with clinical, studio, or performance components.
In all cases, you should work with your academic unit for guidance on how to continue making progress toward your degree.
The U.S. government has indicated that as long as you enroll in a full course of study, your SEVIS record will remain in active status.
If all the following are true, you are not required to take an in-person class for summer 2021 from an immigration perspective. However, you need to work with your academic unit to determine if you can take online classes to begin the new program of study.
The U.S. government doesn't change their guidance from what it currently is
You were actively enrolled as a full-time student at IU on March 9, 2020
You are starting a new degree program at IU in summer 2021 (including F-1 students with a Change of Level I-20)
You are otherwise complying with the terms of your status
However, we encourage all Hoosiers to continue to build their campus and community networks in Bloomington, even if they may be enrolled in only online courses.
The U.S. government has not updated the regulations related to Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) due to COVID-19.
If you started at IU in spring 2020 or earlier
If you have been enrolled full time and currently are and have remained in active SEVIS status, you are eligible to apply for CPT/OPT now.
All other students
The U.S. government requires you to be in-person in the U.S. for 30 weeks of classroom instruction before you are eligible. Only weeks that you have been in the United States count towards the 30-week requirement. Here are some examples to make it more clear:
If you arrived in the U.S. on August 10, 2020, and enrolled in classes that met August 24, 2020-December 18, 2020, you have 16 weeks of instruction. Note that the time you were in the U.S. before classes started do not count. To be eligible for CPT you would need to complete at least another 14 weeks of instruction (13 week courses would not be enough).
If you were enrolled in classes that met August 24, 2020-December 18, 2020, but participated online until you arrived in the U.S. on September 14, 2020, you have accumulated only 14 weeks of instruction. Note that the time you were enrolled in class outside the U.S. does not count. To be eligible for CPT in summer 2021, you would also need to complete 16 hours of classroom instruction in spring 2021.
If you are in F-1 status and enrolled in IU classes outside the U.S., you will be enrolled in the IU plan, but you are not required to keep it or have alternate health insurance coverage. Complete the Health Insurance Exemption request to indicate you do not want insurance. When you return to the U.S.—even if it is in the middle of the semester—you need to have health insurance. Contact OIS to purchase special pro-rated coverage under the IU International Plan.
If you are maintaining your J-1 status outside of the U.S., you and your dependents are required by the U.S. Department of State to have health insurance that meets minimum coverage levels:
$100,000 for each sickness or illness (including maternity/pregnancy care)
$100,000 for each accident or injury
$50,000 for medical evacuation
$25,000 for repatriation
$500 deductible or less
If you do not want the IU International Plan, submit proof of your alternate health insurance coverage in the Health Insurance Exemption request.
The cost of tuition and fees are the same no matter where you live or what mode of instruction the classes are (online or in-person).
Definition of common terms
We think it's useful to review some common terms to help you better understand the language we use.
The F-1 visa stamp in your passport is just a stamp that you show at the U.S. border to ask to enter the U.S. in F-1 status. It has no purpose again unless you choose to travel outside the U.S. and want to apply again to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. It is not required to be valid to remain inside the U.S. in F-1 status; you do need a valid F-1 visa stamp to enter the U.S.
Please note some U.S. embassy and consulates around the world may be closed or offering limited services as the COVID-19 challenges are global and not limited to the U.S., and an F-1 visa stamp can only be obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S.
Your F-1 status is what allows you to remain legally inside the U.S. and continue to remain in the U.S. even with an expired F-1 visa stamp. Your F-1 status is shown by your I-94 that indicates you’ve been granted F-1 status and you are admitted in F-1 status for “D/S”. “D/S” means duration of status. That means you can continue to remain inside the U.S. in F-1 status for as long as you have a valid I-20 and you are continuing to meet all of the F-1 status requirements.
Otherwise, your F-1 status stay in the U.S. only ends once you’ve completed your study for the degree listed on your I-20 or until your OPT authorization ends. As you are on OPT, your F-1 status would remain valid as long as you continue to meet the F-1 status OPT requirements including working full-time in your field of study and reporting that employment.
This is a record in the U.S. government’s SEVIS database. To maintain the SEVIS record, an F-1 student has to be maintaining all of the U.S. government’s F-1 status requirements, including the enrollment requirements.
Please note the F-1 status requirements are not the requirements of the OIS or of Indiana University. They are the requirements of the U.S. government directly to each F-1 student in the U.S. If the F-1 status requirements cannot be maintained, this is a SEVIS violation and the SEVIS record has to be ended.
If the SEVIS record is ended while an F-1 student is inside the U.S., this reflects that there is a problem with the student’s F-1 status in the U.S. If the SEVIS record is ended while the student is outside the U.S., a new SEVIS record has to be created before the student can return to the U.S. again in F-1 student status.
The document created by the university’s Designated School Officials in the U.S. government’s SEVIS database. A valid I-20 is required to: apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an F-1 visa stamp; enter the U.S.; and to maintain F-1 status while inside the U.S.
The I-20 is issued for a specific program of study for a specific length of time for study in that program. If a student is maintaining F-1 status requirements, the I-20 ends on the date the student completes the final academic requirements for the degree program listed on the I-20, even if that is earlier than the estimated program end date printed on the I-20. If a SEVIS record is ended, that also ends the validity of the I-20.
Office of International Services resources and social media channels