New Students

Q: If I am not able to get the COVID-19 vaccine in my home country by July 23rd, will a hold be placed on my account?

A: There will be no holds placed on accounts of international students who cannot get access to a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine before the July 23rd deadline. To prevent an account hold, please email testing[at]umass[dot]edu describing your circumstances.

Q: How can I satisfy UMass vaccine requirements?

A: Based on recent guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, international students who are inoculated with a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (currently Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinopharm) will satisfy the UMass requirement for vaccinations. Arriving students who have not received a vaccine or who have received a vaccine not approved by the WHO will need to follow Massachusetts guidelines for quarantine that are in place at the time of arrival. More information and updates will be available in the campus COVID-19 Frequently asked Questions. Please continue to monitor this specific link for updates throughout the summer. Note, there are currently no federal US requirements to provide vaccination or COVID test results to US immigration officers upon arrival, nor will you be directed to quarantine at an airport. Individual US states do, however, maintain their own specific guidance and requirements. For UMass guidelines, please see the UMass FAQs.

Q: I began my UMass studies remotely online and have not yet entered the US. Do I need a student visa and/or an updated I-20 form to enter the US?

A: Yes, you will need to secure an F-1 visa and updated I-20 form in order to enter the US. Please complete the Funding Update requirements. For questions please contact visarequest[at]umass[dot]edu (undergraduates) or gradvisarequest[at]umass[dot]edu (graduate students).

Q: Who should plan to return to campus this fall?

A: All faculty, staff and students should plan to return to campus in-person this fall. The university intends to offer a full college experience, featuring face-to-face instruction, full residence halls, a complement of student events and activities, and active research facilities.

Q: I’m an international student. Can I return to campus for the fall semester?

A: All new and continuing international students who are able to travel to the U.S. are strongly urged to attend campus in person. The International Programs Office is monitoring travel restrictions, visa issuance and backlogs, and vaccine requirements across the globe. For international students unable to come to campus to start the semester on Sept. 1, the university will pursue technology options in the classrooms for individual student accommodations that may be needed (e.g., Echo360 asynchronous recordings or synchronous laptop/microphone Zoom sessions). The university will also explore fully remote options and assist international students with access to courses, but UMass will not have a fully remote curriculum in place.

Q: I am an international student and because of visa/travel restrictions, I don’t have the choice to return to the UMass Amherst campus this fall. Can I attend remotely?

A: The International Programs Office is monitoring travel restrictions, visa issuance and backlogs. After August 15, we will have a better idea of where backlogs are most problematic. For international students unable to come to campus to start the semester on Sept. 1 because of visa issues or travel restrictions, the university will pursue technology options for some classes and individual student accommodations (e.g., Echo360 asynchronous recordings or synchronous laptop/microphone Zoom sessions). However, UMass will not have a fully remote curriculum in place for the fall. If you have not yet done so, please consult with your academic advisor to create an in-person fall semester registration.

Q: I am international student. Will I be required to quarantine when I arrive at UMass for the fall semester?

A: (Added April 28, 2021) We look forward to welcoming all our international students back to campus in the fall. UMass will follow quarantine requirements as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This guidance is not yet available. Please continue to monitor the UMass website. International undergraduate students who have a university housing assignment will be provided assistance and information about quarantining through Residential Life. Specific move-in dates and instructions for your campus residence hall will be provided by Office of Residential Life.

Q: When do international students and summer international students move into fall housing?

A: (Updated April 23, 2021) International undergraduate students attending IPO orientation will move into their fall on-campus housing assignment on Wednesday, Aug. 25. Students not able to attend IPO orientation will move in based on their class year (first year students Friday, August 27; second year and transfer students move in on Saturday, August 28. More detailed information will be forthcoming from the Office of Residential Life.

The following FAQs related to F-1 immigration status are based on current federal F-1 regulatory guidance, which was updated on April 26, 2021. Full details including government issued F-1 FAQs can be found here.

Q: As a new student, am I required to have in-person classes?

A: Yes. The university intends to offer a full college experience in the fall, featuring face-to-face instruction, which will satisfy current F-1 federal requirements.

Q: As a new student, can I take some online/remote classes?

A: Updated federal F-1 guidance does allow some online instruction in addition to in-person instruction, however UMass will not have a fully remote curriculum in place for the fall. Questions about specific course registration should be addressed to your academic advisor.

Q: I am concerned about securing a U.S. consular appointment to obtain an F-1 visa in time for fall semester. How can I obtain a visa?

A: Worldwide U.S. consular operations continue to be limited and visa interviews are difficult to obtain. The IPO is monitoring the situation closely and we are optimistic that U.S. consular services will continue to improve in the weeks and months ahead. Please continue to monitor your local U.S. Consulate’s website for the latest information and application instructions.

Q: I am from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa or India. Do I need special permission to enter the US called a “National Interest Exemption (NIE)?”

A: If you are from one of these countries you do not need a NIE for travel to the US after August 1, 2021. If you are attempting to enter the US prior to August 1, 2021 you may not enter unless you have a NIE. You will need to contact your local US Consulate to request an NIE.

Q: I am from the Schengen Area of the European Union, United Kingdom or Ireland. Do I need special permission to enter the US called a “National Interest Exemption (NIE)?”

A: No, F-1 and J-1 students with valid visas are automatically granted a NIE and there are no restrictions on travel dates to the US.

Q: Can I begin online remote classes for fall semester if I have not yet obtained an F-1 visa?

A: Yes. You do not need an F-1 visa to begin any online remote studies if you are outside of the U.S. and cannot arrive in the U.S. for fall semester. For international students unable to come to campus to start the semester on Sept. 1, the university will pursue technology options in the classrooms for individual student accommodations that may be needed (e.g., Echo360 asynchronous recordings or synchronous laptop/microphone Zoom sessions). The university will also explore fully remote options and assist international students with access to courses, but UMass will not have a fully remote curriculum in place.

Q: I have a J-1 student visa. Are there any regulatory changes to my status?

A: J-1 student visas are not affected by the recent federal guidance. In the absence of any updated federal SEVP guidance, there have been no changes to existing J-1 visa regulations or policies. You should follow the general recommendations and advice in these FAQs just the same as F-1 students.

Q: My arrival to campus may be delayed because of my visa appointment and/or international flight complications. What is the latest that I can arrive on campus this fall?

A: For new students, you are advised not come to campus any later than the add/drop deadline of Wednesday, September 8, 2021 (Undergraduates), or Wednesday, September 15, 2021 (Graduate students).

Q: Can I use my electronically transmitted (e-mailed) I-20 form for my F-1 visa application and entry into the U.S.?

A: Yes, the US immigration service guidance continues to permit the use of electronically transmitted I-20 forms for US visa appointments and for entry into the US at a US airport or border. Please print your I-20 form with a color copier for your US consular appointment and travel to the US and be sure to sign and date at the bottom of the I-20 form upon receipt from the IPO.

Q: How early can I enter the US if I have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp?

A. You may arrive no earlier than 30-days from the program starting date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Q: Do I need a letter that confirms that UMass Amherst is a hybrid instructional model and provides some in-person (“face-to-face”) courses for new F-1 students?

A: No, this is not necessary for either a US consular interview or for arrival and inspection by US immigration officers upon arrival.

Q: Can I request a letter for the Expedited Visa Appointment (EA)?

A: No, since the expedited appointment is not applicable to you at this time.

Q: How can I arrange a flight to the US?

A: Please follow the advice and updates of your airline or travel agent and other local travel advisories. International airline operations continue to be severely disrupted because of COVID-19 and international flights schedules are very much subject to change. Please continue to check directly with your airline or travel agent, including possible COVID-19 testing requirements, as this information is very much subject to change.

Q: What are the COVID-19 testing requirements for entry into the United States?

A: Please see the CDC website.

Q: I am a Mexican or Canadian student. Can I enter the US through a land border crossing?

A: Yes. If a Mexican citizen has a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa, you may enter the US either at a US border crossing or at a US airport. Canadian citizens are visa-exempt and do not need an F-1 visa stamp, only a valid I-20 form or DS-2019 form issued by the IPO. Educational purposes are considered “essential” travel during the temporary US land border closure with Mexico and Canada.

Q: What documents do I need to enter the US?

A: To enter the US in F-1 or J-1 student immigration status you will need a valid passport, a valid F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp issued by a US consulate and a printed version of the I-20 form (F-1) sent to you by the IPO, or a physical copy of a DS-2019 form (J-1). Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements but will need an I-20 or DS-2019 form to enter the US. You cannot and should not enter the US in B-2 visitor/tourist status (or ESTA) and begin academic studies, without exception.

Q: What will international student orientation (ISO) look like and what are my obligations to attend?

A: The IPO will be providing a meaningful and comprehensive international student orientation (ISO) program for fall semester. Further detailed information will be provided to you directly from the IPO in the weeks ahead. Please continue to monitor our Arrivals and Orientation website for further information.  

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