Critical Updates: Travel Ban and Coronavirus

Fall 2021 IPO Updates

Before viewing our IPO FAQ section that is intended for our international community, please first familiarize yourself with the overall UMass campus fall planning website, which contains the most up-to-date information regarding our entire campus operations for fall semester. This information also contains additional FAQs that pertain to overall campus operations including important topics such as vaccinations, teaching and learning, campus life, etc.

Please also note that all COVID-19 and vaccine-related information can be found here. The IPO will not provide any additional information on public health matters that is not found on this link. Specific health-related questions must be addressed to University Health Services (UHS).


IPO FAQs for Fall 2021

Critical Updates ISS

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.  

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 a continuing 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 a current 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 a continuing international student who held F-1 students prior to March 2020. Are there any new restrictions or regulations that I should be aware of?

A: No, unless you are from China, Iran, Brazil or South Africa, then see below. If you are from one of these countries it is highly unlikely that you will be able to return to the United States prior to August 1, 2021.

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: 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. 

Coming To UMass Amherst

If you are flying into the United States, please be aware of certain travel requirements.

Requirement for negative pre-departure Covid-19 test result or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 for all airline or other aircraft passengers arriving into the United States from any foreign country.

Travel Restrictions

Scholars should be aware of the current travel restrictions currently active:

  • Schengen Transit Exception: J Visa Exception for academics in Research Scholar, Short Term Scholar, Professor, Student and Specialist category for traveling directly from and transiting through the Schengen Countries will require a National Interest Exemption. Scholars are urged to reach out to their consulates and airlines regarding how to obtain this before travel. Please see the announcement from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), we recommend you print this for travel.  
  • National Interest Exemption to current Travel Bans: “Students and academics subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa, may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021 or later.” DOS Although Department of State indicates ‘may qualify’, the ability to obtain a NIE is limited. Scholars are urged to contact their local consulate or embassy for further information.
  • Traveling to a third country and then flying to the US as a way to avoid the COVID travel ban: Note that the Department of Homeland Security has access to airline manifests and other information that may reveal your prior travel. People attempting to enter the US after spending 14 days in a third country have been denied entry to the US.
  • Canadian and Mexican Travel Ban: Until September 9, 2021, travel through Canadian land border are still restricted to essential personnel only.  

Students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. may be subject to various travel restrictions that make returning to or arriving in the U.S. difficult at this time. Please read below for more information:

Routine Visa Issuance Resuming on a Country by Country Basis

As of April 1, 2021, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates have started to resume routine visa services depending on the in-country situation. Please note that different embassies and consulates have different policies and procedures in place about reopening, and they are facing severe backlogs of applications that have accrued during their closures. All incoming students and scholars currently outside of the U.S. require a visa stamp issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country in order to enter the U.S. with, except for Canadian citizens. For specific information, please go to the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

Presidential Proclamations Suspending Travel        

As of April 30, 2021, individuals from the countries listed on the CDC website may be suspended or limited to entering the United States:

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City)
  • United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Brazil
  • India

This suspension also applies to individuals traveling or connecting through one of these countries. 

Stuck Outside the U.S. due to COVID Travel Restrictions

Please reach out to Nichole Hunley as shunley[at]umass[dot]edu and work with your hosting department on whether you can continue your work while abroad. Those that are outside the U.S. on UMass Amherst J-1 sponsorship while continuing their projects will be required to complete an Out of Country notification. 

UMass Amherst Extensions 

If more time is required for your appointment to allow you to remain in the U.S., your hosting department will need to initiate this BEFORE the end date of your original DS-2019 end date. You must have sufficient funding shown as well as continued medical coverage. 

30 Day Grace Period

Currently there is no amendment to the 30-day grace period after the end date of your DS-2019. Please make plans to depart the U.S. within this period. If you are having trouble locating flights home, please contact your home country's Embassy for assistance. Please makes sure to check in with your airline regarding travel restrictions and COVID testing as this may delay your departure. 

Early Departure

If you depart the U.S. and UMass Amherst and do not plan to return, and the departure is more than 15 days before the new SEVIS end date, please contact shunley[at]umass[dot]edu to amend your SEVIS record.

Medical Coverage

 

If you are feeling sick, please do not hesitate to contact a local care facility or the local hospital to be tested for COVID-19. If you are concerned your medical coverage will not be accepted, please see additional options on the IPO website. United Health Care will cover medical visits at UHS and regional doctors.

Your IPO advisor will continue to process F-1 CPT and OPT applications and J-1 Academic Training applications. Please see F-1 student employment information and J-1 student employment information for further information.


Q: Are there any changes to current F-1 or J-1 work regulations?

A: No. F-1 and J-1 students are still allowed to work on-campus up to a maximum 20-hours per week or less while the current semester is in session (even with remote instruction). Non-assistantship on-campus employment beyond 20-hours per week is not allowed except for vacation and interim periods when school is not in session (Summer, Winter, Thanksgiving Break, Spring Break). Any/all off-campus employment is only allowed through authorized CPT, OPT or J-1 Academic Training (see the employment links above).

Q: I am planning to graduate and work in the U.S. What job search advice do you have for me in the current COVID-19 situation?

A: A recommended source on job search advice can be found on this website.

Q: I still need to apply for OPT but I am outside of the US. Can I still apply for OPT? 

A: Based on current regulations, you must be physically inside the US at the time you submit your OPT application to the immigration service (USCIS). If you plan to travel after submitting your application, we recommend that your application is pending so you know your case has been accepted by USCIS. You must also keep in mind changing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements around the world and within the U.S.

Q: I'm currently on F-1 Post-completion Optional Training or STEM OPT and have been working remotely. Can I continue to do so?

A: As long as you continue to hold suitable employment related to your field of study and continue to report your OPT/STEM OPT employment to the IPO there are no changes to your underlying F-1 status or ability to remain employed remotely. Our OPT/STEM OPT reporting forms allow you to indicate if you are in person or remote.

Q: How long are OPT applications taking once filed with USCIS?

A: Currently USCIS continues to process OPT/STEM OPT applications as normal, and recent processing trends have been approximately 3 – 4 months. Our OPT/STEM OPT information is here.

Q: Can I apply for an SSN right now?

A: Current Social Security Administration operations are severely limited until further notice. Current SSN application steps may be different than what students normally experience. Should you need to apply for an SSN, please contact your local SSN office to determine their new procedures and discuss these with your employer prior to sending in any original documents through the mail to the SSN office. Information on SSN eligibility can be found here and the USCIS I-9 Fact Sheet can be found here.

*Students applying for an SSN through their OPT application to USCIS can continue to do so without issue by filling out the appropriate boxes on their I-765.

Q: Can I depart the US and travel internationally after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? 

A: Yes, but be sure to be in close contact with your IPO advisor for more specific information based on your own particular situation. If you plan to travel after submitting your application, we recommend that your application is pending so you know your case has been accepted by USCIS. You must also keep in mind changing travel restrictions and quarantine requirements around the world and within the U.S. You would still be required to possess a valid F-1 visa and have evidence of US employment for re-entry to the US. Specific travel information for OPT or STEM OPT can be found under the FAQs of the respective website here.

Q: I used the IPO’s address to receive my OPT EAD, approval notice, and receipt notice. What should I do to receive these documents?

A: You will be notified by the IPO by email if you have a document to collect from the IPO such as a new OPT EAD card, etc. Refer to this email for further details and instructions. Please note that the IPO remains closed for walk-in service.

Q: I'm currently on J-1 Academic Training have been working remotely. Can I continue to do so?

A: "Sponsors may continue to temporarily allow active students to continue their Academic Training remotely to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. In the case of graduating students, sponsors may temporarily allow them to begin their Academic Training remotely to prevent unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 as long as the host organization is open and able to provide the training remotely. This policy reflects sponsor obligations to promote the health, safety and welfare of Exchange Visitor Program participants while at the same time meeting program objectives. Other conditions, criteria and requirements under the regulations remain in effect. In the case of a College or University Student participating in Academic Training, for example, the regulations require that the student be primarily in the United States to study rather than to participate in Academic Training, that the Academic Training be directly related to his or her major field of study, that the student be in good academic standing with the post-secondary accredited academic institution; and the student receive written approval in advance from the responsible officer for the duration and type of academic training (22 CFR 62.23(f))." Exchange Visitor Program Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)