UMD: A Globally Connected University

Student FAQ During COVID-19

Student FAQ During COVID-19

Last Updated 7/12/2021

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COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country 

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Below are answers to immigration related questions regarding the resumption of in-person instruction and the return to campus. We will update this page with new information as it becomes available. ISSS looks forward to international students returning to campus, we missed you!

On February 11, 2021 President Pines sent a message to the campus community announcing our intention to return to in-person instruction in Fall 2021 and guidelines for Fall 2021 operations were released to the campus community. Accordingly, students who are currently residing outside the United States should plan to arrive on, or return to, campus to begin or continue their studies.

SEVP issued flexibilities for F-1/J-1 students when campus operations were interrupted due to the pandemic.  Since the University expects normal resumption of classes for the Fall 2021semester, no further flexibilities for F1/J1 students is anticipated. F1/J1 students must enroll in face to face or hybrid delivery.  Only one online course can be counted toward full time enrollment.

While the University of Maryland and our community is preparing to return completely to in-person activities, we want to stress that we understand that some of you may have not seen your families, friends, and loved ones for more than a year while others have engaged solely online and are eagerly preparing to arrive for the first time at UMD in August 2021. Regardless of our individual trajectories, you have all been impacted by the COVID pandendic. We understand that the financial and emotional challenges you have experienced and continue to face. ISSS is here to support you. This FAQ will answer many of your immigraiton related questions but know that our staff is available to speak about your individual needs and situation.  Below are answers to immigration related questions regarding the resumption of in-person instruction and the return to campus.  We will update this page with new information as it becomes available.

ISSS looks forward to international students returning to campus, we missed you!


What is the university's COVID-19 protocol for individuals entering the U.S.?

Anyone coming to work, research or study on campus must follow the university guidance for returning to campus. 

Visit and follow the instructions required of all students wishing to return to campus.  Once students meet all requirements they will receive a message indicating “you are cleared to come to campus” . 

If I go home for the summer break, can I come back to UMD for Fall 2021? What are other issues I must consider before returning to the U.S.?

Any international travel should be taken with extreme caution, and after checking for any developments of travel restrictions for both the country/area being traveled to, and where you are traveling from.  ISSS’ recommendation to consider carefully about summer travel undoubtedly adds stress to many of you who have not been able to see your loved ones.  Please consider talking to an ISSS advisor about your particular situation so together you and the advisors can determine the best course of action.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still not recommending nonessential international travel.   Due to CDC recommendations, visa renewal delays, and changing travel requirements ISSS is not recommending that students travel over summer, as your return to campus is too unpredictable and could seriously impact your immigration status. Please visit our website on travel to learn more about travel considerations.

As of 01/26/2021, new travel requirements for entering the U.S.:  

The U.S. Department of State and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind all travelers that beginning January 26, all air passengers two years of age or older arriving in the United States must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding. This order applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. The details of the testing requirements are found here: Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States | CDC .

If after considering all options you have made the decision that traveling abroad is right for you. We have some tips and additional considerations:

Those that must travel abroad following the implementation of this order should carefully consider the following:

  • You could have difficulty accessing a test. Testing availability and turnaround times vary widely around the world. What plan do you have to ensure you can get a test that meets the requirement in order to return on time?

  • You could test positive and have to stay abroad. Many individuals infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 are asymptomatic and unaware they carry the virus. If you test positive, you will not be able to enter the US as planned. 

  • You could have difficulty accessing or financing medical care. Travelers should be aware that the availability and quality of healthcare varies around the world, and that private health insurance may not cover expenses incurred abroad. Will your health insurance cover your hospitalization or other medical expenses abroad? 

We hope that all students are able to start the semester on-time as this will have a direct impact on your academic progress. The fall semester begins on August 30th, with the final date to adjust your schedule being September 13, 2021.  Should you consider traveling, ensure that you give yourself ample time to get all of your affairs in order prior to your timely return to being the Fall semester with UMD.  

What countries are affected by the travel proclamations?

Restrictions remain in effect for citizens traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, Schengen countries and UK/Ireland and South Africa and now India (effective May 4, 2021); however F1 students qualify for an exception.  

On April 26, 2021 the Department of State updated its National Interest Exception (NIE) to include eligibility to all countries subject to the COVID-19 entry ban.

F-1 students
"Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel."
J-1 students from these affected regions should contact the nearest US embassy or consulate before traveling to see if they qualify for a National Interest Exception .

We advise you to have this announcement from Customs and Border Protection available when you travel to campus since it confirms that that airlines should allow students from these countries to board flights to the U.S. and may also be helpful at the U.S. port of entry. 

If students, including those on F-1 OPT/STEM OPT or J-1 Academic Training, who have been physically present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India want to enter the U.S. before August 1, 2021, they would need to travel to another country not subject to the travel restrictions for at least 14 days before boarding a flight to, or entering, the U.S..

Click here to view the travel proclamations

I've been fully vaccinated and plan to return to my home country this summer. Does this guarantee that I can travel and return to the US without an issue?

No. While being vaccinated reduces your personal risk of falling ill with COVID-19, travel is still not recommended due to the shifting guidelines regarding travel. Please review the information above regarding issues to consider when traveling and remember that travel restrictions can change at any moment regarding re-entry to the United States. Fall in person presence will be required in order to maintain F1/J1 status.

What do I do if my I-20 or DS-2019 travel signature is not valid when I want to return to the U.S.?

For active F1/J1 students the travel signature rules remain the same (one year for F-1 and J-1 enrolled students and six months for students on OPT). If your travel signature is expired and you need an updated signature, students can request a new I-20/DS-2019 for travel. F-1 students log into iTerp>F-1 Student Services and submit the electronic form titled, Travel Signature. Once the document is created, students will receive an email with their updated I-20. SEVP indicated an electronic or digital travel signature will be valid for the same duration as an ink signature (12 months for F students and six months for students on OPT). J1 students still require an original DS-2019 to travel and ISSS will work with J1 students to mail your DS2019.

As a reminder, ISSS is not recommending international travel over the summer.  ​ISSS’ recommendation to consider carefully about summer travel undoubtedly adds stress to many of you who have not been able to see your loved ones.  Please consider talking to an ISSS advisor about your particular situation so together you and the advisors can determine the best course of action (see travel concerns above).

At this time ISSS is not able to give in-person travel signatures; any request for a travel signature should be completed on the iTerp system instead. Remember, you do not need a valid travel signature to depart the U.S.

What should I do if I am completing my program but my travel plans are complicated by a lack of commercially available flights or my country doesn’t permit me to enter and I’m unable to depart within my grace period?

SEVP recognizes that some students may find it difficult to return home during the COVID-19 emergency due to diminished travel options. Students in this situation are encouraged to communicate with an ISSS advisor for guidance.

Will I be able to obtain a visa in time to come to UMD for spring term?

We hope that you will be able! We have heard reports from students who have been able to secure appointments.

The U.S. Department of State is resuming routine visa services in a phased-in process, based on local conditions. Check with the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you to find out more about their plans and about your options for scheduling an appointment for a visa interview. Try to schedule your visa interview appointment as soon as possible. There may be significant delays due to backlogs and new physical distancing protocols at embassies and consulates. In some cases, the option to schedule a visa interview through “expedited processing” may be available. Many embassies and consulate offices prioritize F1/J1 student appointments in summer, inquire about such accommodations.


Newly Arriving Students (Fall 2021)

I am a new student who started my studies in Fall 2020/Spring 2021 from abroad and I now plan to enter the U.S. for the Fall 2021 semester. What course delivery can I register for?

For Fall 2021 UMD plans a return to in person instruction. F1/J1 students must enroll in face to face or hybrid delivery for their courses. F1/J1 regulations allow ONLY one online course to be counted toward full time enrollment.

Students who use more than one online course to meet their full time status requirement will not be maintaining their F1/J1 immigration status. Please work with your academic advisor to ensure you are registered in face to face or hybrid courses.

I have received an I-20/DS2019 and a student visa. May I enter the U.S. if my particular academic program for Fall 2021 is online?

No, F1/J1 requirements require students to enroll full time each semester. Since UMD is returning to in person instructions F1/J1 students are required to meet the regulatory enrollment requirements of enrolling in face to face or hybrid courses to meet full time requirements.

I already received my I-20 for Fall 2021. Can I use it to apply for a visa and enter the U.S.?

You can use your I-20 for Fall 2021 to apply for a visa up to 120 days before the start date on the I-20. Once you receive your visa, you are permitted to enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days from the start date on your I-20. Entry into the U.S. for Fall 2021 can begin as early as July 24th, 2021.

Will I need a new I-20/DS2019 or letter confirming that UMD is offering in-person classes for Fall 2021?

No. Current DHS guidance does not require this. You can use the most recent I-20 you received from ISSS to enter the U.S. If you want, you can also download and print this letter, which explains UMDs plans for the Fall Term.

Will I need to quarantine once I arrive in the U.S.?

The requirement to quarantine depends on your vaccination status.   If you have submitted proof of a completed Covid FDA/WHO approved vaccination to the UMD Health Center and have been cleared, no quarantine upon arrival is required. You are still required to get tested 3-5 days after arrival. 

Those that are not fully vaccinated or cleared by the UMD Health Centers have a 7 day quarantine requirement as well as the testing requirement. 

4Maryland keeps the most updated information about what is required to enter/return to campus.  

View Vaccination Requirement Process for Newly Arriving Students

Is there a specific place where the incoming students have to self-quarantine themselves?

There is no specific quarantine space. Students will need to arrange their own quarantine housing, so please plan ahead. Those living off campus may be able to check into your apartment, others may stay with a relative or friend while others will need to book a hotel. Any room where you can remain separated from other individuals and monitor your systems would qualify.

Off campus housing has a list of local resources:

Will I need a Covid Vaccine to attend UMD?

Yes, all UMD students, faculty and staff are required to have the Covid vaccine or file for a medical/religious exemption. 

4Maryland keeps the most updated information about what is required to enter/return to campus. Students can find more information about COVID vaccines on the UHC webpage. 

Who can I email about health related questions?

For specific health related questions about vaccines or your particular situation email For general questions about the Covid protocols email

I am a new student and I wish to study remotely for Fall 2021. Will I receive a new I-20?

Students who were issued an I-20 for Fall 2021 are expected to arrive in person for the Fall 2021 semester. If you are unable to arrive due to certain circumstances beyond your control, you will need to work with your department (graduate students) and the admissions office to see if you are eligible for a deferral to a new term.

If your admission is deferred a new I-20 will be issued. Please reach out to after your deferral is confirmed

I am a transfer student and already have an unexpired F-1 in my passport. Do I have to apply for a new F-1 visa?

The U.S. Department of State’s policy is that a student does not need to apply for a new F-1 visa if the student’s current visa is still valid, regardless of length of time outside the U.S. The unexpired visa will still be valid even though it has the previous institution's name listed on it. For more information:


Health and Support

Where do I find information about how the university is managing COVID-19?

The university maintains the 4Maryland website that provides the UMD community the most updated information about reopening plans. Review this site for information on health, classes, testing, FAQs, statistics and many other important resources related to the pandemic.

I am really worried and stressed. Where can I find support?

The Counseling Center is committed to ensuring that students are cared for during this time of uncertainty caused by COVID-19. In response to the pandemic, the Counseling Center successfully transitioned most of its services to an online format. See their website for information about an intake appointment.

They also maintain a COVID-19 care and support resource page.

ISSS advisors also are available to meet with students via online appointments.  Please schedule appointments using this link.

I am experiencing xenophobia, racism, harassment or bullying. What can I do and where can I find support?

Bias Incident Support Services (BISS) provides services to community members affected by a hate-bias incident. BISS can talk with you and explore options and provide oncoming support and check-ins.

ISSS advisors also are available to meet with students via online appointments.  Please schedule appointments using this link.

Students can also reach out to the University Counseling center for emotional support: 301-314-7651.

Will the UMD student SHIP insurance plan cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?

Yes, the Student Health Insurance Plan is a platinum level insurance plan that covers testing and treatment. For details about the plan visit University Health Center.


F-1/J-1 Enrolled Students (I-20 already activated)

I was outside of the country maintaining my F-1 status last spring, must I return to the US?

Yes, since UMD is returning to in person courses F1 and J1 students who remained outside the US for previous semesters and maintained status must return for Fall 2021. Remote study while remaining in F1/J1 status is no longer possible. SEVP expects all students to return and enroll in face to face courses when schools return to normal course delivery.

Phd students who need to be outside the US to conduct dissertation research should reach out to ISSS as remote research is permitted under normal F1 guidance. When out of country research is required, students must submit a dissertation research plan that is supported by their academic advisor.


Leave of Absence

I am a current student and am considering taking a leave of absence for Fall 2021. What immigration issues do I need to consider?

The decision to take a leave of absence is a difficult one. We hope that you will or have talked to an ISSS advisor to discuss your situation and determine the appropriate next steps. 

Current, active F-1/J-1 students not planning to register for Fall 2021 are not permitted to remain in the U.S. during a leave of absence (LOA).  Graduate students can review this page for more information on the Graduate School’s LOA process.

If your LOA is approved by undergraduate or graduate admissions, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be terminated for an early authorized withdrawal. A termination comes with a 15-day grace period. Please log on to iTerp and fill out the Exit Plan form so that we can record your departure plans and end the I-20.

In order to return, you must follow the Undergraduate or Graduate School re-enrollment process. Once approved to re-enroll, prior to the semester you return, work with ISSS and provide the necessary documents for the creation of a new immigration document. Please contact Katrina Knudsen at within five months of your anticipated return to start the I-20 application.

A new SEVIS fee is required for this new immigration document. If your F-1/J-1 visa remains valid for your return, you are permitted to use it even if your SEVIS number will be different. If your F-1/J-1 visa is not valid, you will need to apply for a new one at a U.S. embassy.

When you return to UMD, you will be in a new period of F-1 status. You may only enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the start of the new I-20. You will be required to complete the Documents Check process to activate your new SEVIS record. The regulations limit F-1 students from participating in any off-campus employment benefits (CPT or OPT) until you have finished both a fall and spring semester (or four terms for a student participating in a 12-week term program).

I want to take a semester off while outside the U.S.; is that possible?

Students who are currently outside of the US who wish to take a semester off must first apply for a Leave of absence. You must notify the ISSS office of your plans using the exit form found in iTerp. Taking a semester off will mean the loss of your F-1 status and will require a new immigration document for your future return. Students should first talk to their academic advisor about the process to request a leave of absence and the process to return to study at a later time. See the information above for more details on a LOA.

Students should also review the UG or Graduate policies regarding a leave of absence.

I want to drop all my classes and stay in the U.S., is that possible?

Students who are considering dropping one, or all classes are strongly encouraged to speak with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible. You should also speak with your academic advisor.Dropping all classes and remaining in the US in F-1 or J-1 status is not possible, unless you are experiencing a serious medical condition.

To obtain authorization, the student must submit to ISSS a completed Part-Time Authorization with a physician's support letter form via iTerp.

If you are struggling with mental health challenges or are looking for support, we have a multilingual and diverse staff at the Counseling Center (select “+ staff”  and see for yourself!)  that is available and ready to listen to you!


Curricular/Optional Practical Training Concerns

I started my program outside the U.S. for Fall 2020 or Spring 2021. When am I eligible to apply for off-campus internships (CPT)?

To be eligible for curricular training, students must be in F-1 status for one academic year before becoming eligible. Since your first semester(s) was spent outside the U.S., your I-20 was not activated and you were not maintaining F-1 status for that semester. For example, students entering the U.S. in Fall 2021 to start their F-1 status will need to complete the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters before they will be eligible for CPT.

My CPT internship will be remote. Is this permitted and what address should I enter?

Remote work is permitted. Enter the employers address in the employers address section of the CPT request form and include the address where you will conduct the remote work in the remarks section. ISSS will include both addresses when we communicate your CPT authorization to SEVP.

I’m on OPT and I’m working remotely due to COVID-19. Do I need to update my SEVP portal?

You should continue to report the physical address of your employer in the address field of your employer and not your home address. You can reference your remote work in the work descriptions or keep records of the agreed upon remote work arrangement. Keep in mind any update to a position must be reported in the SEVP portal within ten days of a change, which includes termination, starting a new position or change in supervision

I'm on OPT and still working, but my hours have been cut to below 20 hours per week. Will this count against my unemployment days?

For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT. Students must keep records that they are still employed but at a reduced rate for a temporary period. Payroll records are excellent proof of employment.


Other Resources

How do I reach an ISSS advisor during this time?

ISSS advisors are available through the following methods:


Additional UMD Resources