UMD: A Globally Connected University

Pre-Arrival FAQ During COVID-19

Pre-Arrival FAQ During COVID-19

Last Updated 5/26/2020

This page contains information about immigration regulations newly admitted students.

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COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country 

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Will UMD be online/closed for the Fall 2020 term?

All Summer Session 1 2020 courses will be delivered through online or remote instruction. A decision for Fall 2020 in-person courses will be made on or before June 15. UMD will inform newly admitted students of the plan, and the ISSS office is prepared to work with students on their immigration needs during the developing situation.  Please visit for the most up-to-date information from UMD.

My department has offered me the ability to start my program in Fall 2020 online from outside the US. What immigration concerns should I consider?

Since you will not arrive in the US for the fall semester, your current I-20/DS2019 will require an adjusted start date. The new date will reflect the start date for the term you expect to engage in face to face coursework.

You will not be permitted to enter the US at any time during the fall 2020 semester.

Eligibility to engage in off campus internships require two full semesters in F-1 status. Students who participate in fall 2020 classes outside the US are not in F-1 status. A student arriving in the US for spring 2021 has not accrued enough time in F-1 status to participate in off campus internships for the summer of 2021.

Starting July 1, 2020 ISSS will ask all newly admitted F1/J1 students to complete an eform regarding their Fall 2020 plans. This will assist ISSS with information that will be used to update I-20/DS2019 program start dates.

Are you expecting processing delays for the I-20 issuance?

ISSS is processing and distributing I-20s within our standard timelines. We continue to request 2-weeks of processing time after receipt of a complete application packet, as we generally process thousands of students’ I-20s this time of year. We will inform you via email when your I-20 is ready to be mailed out or if there are any problems with the documentation you have submitted. 

Can I receive my I-20 electronically due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Unfortunately not, we cannot send electronic versions of I-20 to newly admitted students at this time. SEVP is allowing limited distribution of electronic I-20s due to COVID-19. However as of this point in time US Consulate offices, Embassies, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have not confirmed they are accepting copies of the I-20. Until these relevant agencies agree that copies can be accepted, ISSS is requiring I-20s to be physically mailed for all newly admitted students. 

Am I able to apply for an F1 or J1 visa at this time? 

The U.S. Department of State announced they are temporarily suspending all routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. They will  resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

We recommend you review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you will be applying from to view the latest information. ISSS advisors do not know how long this suspension will last, so please plan accordingly.

What happens if I do not get my F-1 visa in time for the start of the school year?

Once the University makes a decision on the course delivery method for Fall 2020 we will have a better understanding of what options are available to you.  Some programs may offer you the ability to begin your program through online learning from your home country.  Other programs that require a face to face interactions for courses may not be able to offer these options.  

Graduate students should reach out to their academic departments to see what options might be available for remote learning in the Fall 2020 semester.

Starting July 1, 2020 ISSS will ask all newly admitted F1/J1 students to complete an eform regarding their Fall 2020 plans.  This will assist ISSS with information that will be used to update I-20/DS2019 program start dates. Students will have a month to inform ISSS of their arrival plans.

Students who don’t have a F1/J-1 visa in hand entry by August 1, 2020 should make plans to defer their admission to a new semester or work with their academic departments to see if online courses for your first fall 2020 semester is possible. (note: Students on 12 week term programs who do not have their visas by August 1, 2020 will need to defer to the following fall.)

More information about the ISSS form to collect your fall 2020 arrival plans will be available after the University makes their decision for fall 2020 course delivery. 

ISSS will work with each student to make sure any adjustments to your I-20 entry date are made in a timely fashion.  We know this is an uncertain time and we have a plan to capture each student’s personal plan.

I am a transferring F-1/J-1 student. Can I attend the University of Maryland on my current  visa?

If you are transferring your F-1/J-1 status to UMD, you will not be required to obtain a new visa unless both of the situations are true for you:

  • You are traveling outside of the US, and
  • Your current F-1/J-1 visa has expired.

Your F-1 visa may list another school name, and this is not a problem. Additionally, your F-1 visa may expire while you are inside the US, and this will not be a problem. A valid F1/J1 visa is only required when entering the United States.

Can transfer students or program level change students travel overseas before their UMD program starts this Fall 2020?

For spring semester SEVP provided guidance that any student in initial status is not permitted entry to the US to start an online program. SEVP indicated “ If Initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.” As a transfer student or program level change student your new I-20 from UMD indicates that “initial attendance” meaning you are considered initial students starting a new program.

UMD has not announced it’s delivery format for fall 2020, so it’s difficult to answer this question fully until we receive final word regarding course delivery. After a decision is made on a University level, ISSS must communicate to SEVP what is permitted for fall course delivery and this will be the basis of what delivery will be acceptable for our students on active I-20s.

While SEVP has not issued the final guidance for fall and UMD has not released its decision, we do not recommend travel outside the U.S. if you are a transfer or program level change student. In addition there are many uncertainties regarding travel restrictions and rules about self isolating upon return that can impact your ability to engage in the fall semester.

I am currently on a J/H/G/A/other type visa. Am I allowed to take classes?

UMD allows students to attend with any immigration status. If you currently have an immigration status you wish to maintain while attending classes at UMD, that decision is up to you and your immigration sponsor. You should check that your immigration sponsor approves taking classes while maintaining your current status.

Most international students attend UMD with an F-1 immigration status. If you wish to change your current immigraiton status to an F-1, please complete the I-20 checklist in iTerp. You will use this I-20 to begin your change-of-status process. 

I am currently on a J/H/G/A/other type visa and want to change my status. What are my options for changing to an F-1 status?

There are 3 options to change to an F-1 immigration status from another immigration status (examples: J1, H4). These options are:

  • Home country change of status

    A home country change of status is what we typically recommend. This is done by leaving the U.S. and applying for a F-1 student visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Entering the U.S. with your F-1 student visa begins your F-1 status (as indicated on your I-94 card). This is typically the fastest and most straightforward way to do a change of status.

  • In-country change of status

    An in-country change of status is a long and complicated process. When there is not a health crisis, we rarely recommend this option to students because of this. You can see the processing times on USCIS’s website (I-539 application). If you wish to pursue this option, as you feel traveling to your home country to change status is unsafe or impossible, please schedule a 1-hour appointment with Sarah Kim ( She will discuss with you your eligibility and go over the process.

  • Third party country change of status

    A third party country change of status is where a student travels outside of the US to another country (besides their home country) to perform an F-1 change of status. For students studying in the US, this is typically done in Canada or Mexico. The main drawback to a third party country change of status is if the F-1 visa is denied, the student must immediately find travel back to their home country. It is up to the US Embassy or Consulates office in the city in which you are visiting if this will be allowed. To complicate this issue further during busy times US embassies in Canada and Mexico sometimes do not permit individuals not residents from those countries to apply for a visa. Do keep in mind all visa processing is suspended at this time and ISSS expect big backlogs when processing does resume.

    • Applicants who wish to apply for their U.S. visa in Canada must visit to obtain information about how to start their application for a U.S. visa at a consular section in Canada. Applicants will be required to pay their visa application processing fee prior to scheduling an appointment. Please see the website for additional information.

    • Applicants who wish to apply for their visa in Mexico must visit to obtain information about how to start their application for a U.S. visa at a consular section in Mexico. Applicants will be required to pay their visa application processing fee prior to scheduling an appointment. Please see the website for additional information