COVID-19 Information for International IUPUI

Planning for fall 2021 

Page last updated: June 12, 2021

IUPUI is preparing for a primarily in-person fall semester. If you are currently in the U.S. or are able to obtain a visa and travel to Indianapolis, we will warmly welcome you to continue your studies on campus. To prioritize health and safety, IU is requiring all students, faculty, and staff to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes all IUPUI students. Learn more about the vaccine requirement.

If you are currently outside the U.S., we understand the difficulties you may experience trying to obtain a visa (if necessary), make travel arrangements, and enter the country. The university is committed to helping you find a way to continue making academic progress. Our office is available to help in case you have any visa- or travel-related questions. You should direct other questions to your academic department or advisor.

Government guidance: The U.S. government has confirmed that the guidance it provided in March 2020 will continue for the 2021-22 academic year at IUPUI.  This means that if you were in active F-1 status in prior to Fall 2021, and have otherwise continued to maintain your status, you can enroll full-time in-person, hybrid or fully online this fall and remain in active F-1 status (either inside or outside the U.S.). 

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, some regulatory information could change at any time.  We will keep you informed of any developments that impact you as a new international student and your enrollment options. 

Visas and immigration

The information on this page is for F-1 and J-1 students. If you hold a different immigration status, some or all of this information may not apply in your situation. But no matter what your immigration status is, contact us if you have any questions about your specific situation.

  • Do I have to remain in Indianapolis or the U.S. while I'm taking classes?

    This answer depends on what your status was for spring/summer 2021.

    If you were in active F-1 status prior to Fall 2021

    This means you were in F-1 status and enrolled at IUPUI or another school in the U.S. prior to Fall 2021 and have since maintained F-1 status.

    You can participate in your classes from anywhere inside or outside the U.S., provided the mode of instruction for your classes permits remote learning. If you are registered for in-person classes, you need to be in Indianapolis for the in-person portion, unless your instructor has given you special permission to participate from a distance.

    On March 13, 2020, the U.S. government announced that as long as you maintain full-time enrollment online during the COVID-19 emergency, there will be no negative impact on your immigration status, even if you depart the United States and take your IUPUI classes online from elsewhere.

    If you will enter the U.S. in initial F-1 status to study in person this fall 2021

    You need to remain in Indianapolis and participate in at least one in-person class (coded as P, HY, IN, or IS on your class schedule) while in-person classes are available. This includes students who previously began their academic programs 100% online while outside the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in F-1 status this fall to begin studying either fully or partially in-person.

  • What about the "5-month rule"?

    The 5-month rule does not apply in this situation. As long as you maintain full time enrollment in your IUPUI classes, you are considered in valid status.
  • What if my visa is expired and I need a new visa?

    Look to be sure that your visa stamp is truly expired. This is the sticker in your passport, given you to 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.  See the section below on travel restrictions for additional considerations if you are planning to travel outside the U.S.

    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.

  • Can I extend my F-1 or J-1 student status?

    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 IUPUI. 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.

  • I heard that you can send my I-20 or DS-2019 by email now; is that true?

    Yes, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has stated that it is possible for schools to email the scanned I-20s to students.

    We have introduced this as an option for any I-20s we create. It is likely this will be a short-term option from SEVP. We will continuously evaluate any guidance we receive from SEVP, and adjust our processes accordingly.

    Note: Because the use of electronic I-20 forms are new processes for both the Department of State and Customs and Border Patrol, you may consider requesting the physical I-20 be shipped to you for use at consular appointments or entry into the United States. If you would like both an electronic and physical copy of your I-20, we can provide both. Shipping costs for the physical I-20 form apply.

    Additionally, this is not a possibility for students who receive J-1 documentation, as 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.

  • I can't return to Indianapolis; what should I do?

    If you are a continuing student and you are unable to return to Indianapolis, IUPUI will help you continue your degree online to the greatest extent possible—some exceptions may include courses with clinical or laboratory 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 I choose to take a semester off, what should I know?

    Contact our office to discuss taking a semester off. There are multiple things to consider, and we can help you work through that process.

    Immigration considerations

    Review our leave of absence website for F-1 students and J-1 students.

    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 spring 2022, you would not be able to hold an off-campus internship until the spring 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 Notification of Complete Withdrawal from Classes 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 IUPUI.

  • If I am approved for a reduced course load, can I remain in status by taking online classes?

    If 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 OIA.

  • If I become ill and am unable to participate in class, what should I do?

    If you are ill for several days and unable to work (scholars) or participate in online class (students), contact us to discuss the immigration options you have. International students 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.

  • Do I need to take an in-person class if I have an approved "F-1 New Program I-20 Request" e-form?

    If all the following are true, you are not required to take an in-person class for fall 2021.

    • The U.S. government doesn't change their guidance from what it currently is
    • You were actively enrolled as a full-time student at IUPUI in spring 2021
    • You are starting a new degree program at IUPUI (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 IUPUI students to continue to build their campus and community networks in Indianapolis, even if they may be enrolled in only online courses.

  • When will I be eligible for CPT/OPT because of COVID-19?

    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 IUPUI 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 clearer:

    • 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.


  • Can I travel outside the U.S.?

    If you are currently in the U.S. and want to travel outside the country this summer, you should carefully review IU’s travel guidance. Travel restrictions and access to U.S. visas may present barriers to your return to campus, and President McRobbie recently announced that IU will return primarily to in-person classes this fall.

    If you decide to travel, review the next several questions.

    Before you leave the U.S., you may want to consider obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine. Review IU’s COVID-19 vaccine FAQ to stay up-to-date on when you may be eligible.

  • If I leave the U.S., what documents do I need to take with me?

    • Signed I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students)
    • Passport
    • Print and keep a copy of your most recent I-94
    • Save evidence of your departure from the U.S. (boarding passes, copies of stamps in your passport)

    Additional information for current students 

    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
  • I want to enter the U.S.; what do I need to know?

    For new students in fall 2021,  you will need to enroll in at least one class that has an in-person component. This includes students who began their program 100% online in fall 2020 or spring 2021 if you will enter the U.S. to begin in-person study in F-1 status in fall 2021.

    COVID-19 travel restrictions

    The U.S. has implemented some entry restrictions due to COVID-19. If you have been in one of the countries listed on the U.S. Department of State's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Exceptions webpage in the 14 days prior to seeking entry to the U.S., you will not be able to enter (except for immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents). 

    Students may qualify for a National Interest Exception

    The U.S. Department of State indicated that students may qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE) to the Presidential Proclamations that suspended entry for individuals that had been in the countries.

    There is some ambiguity in the guidance for students who have been in the U.S. and enrolled at IUPUI, but it seems you could enter the U.S. on or after July 24, 2021 (30 days before the start of the next semester, which is August 23). Consult your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for updated information, and contact if you have additional questions.

    Negative COVID-19 test

    Effective January 26, 2021, you will need to show a negative COVID-19 test to your airline before you will be allowed to travel to the U.S.

    See the details

    We recommend you carry the following documents with you, and present them to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent.

    • I-20 or DS-2019 (for F-1 or J-1 students), with a valid travel signature
    • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp
    • Passport valid for at least six months from your planned entry date

    Documents to carry with you

    We recommend you carry the following with you and present them to the CBP agent if requested.

    • A copy of your class schedule
    • This letter stating that IU is open for in-person classes for fall 2021.
    • If applicable, this PDF from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Carrier Liaison Program clarifying that persons seeking F-1 and F-2 statuses may travel to the U.S. from Schengen area countries, the United Kingdom, or Ireland while the Presidential Proclamation is in effect.

    Additional information for current students

    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

    After you arrive in the U.S.

    Find your I-94 record and upload it to Atlas. You need to do this every time you enter the U.S.

  • Do I have to have a COVID-19 vaccine before I arrive in Indianapolis?

    You should make every effort to be fully vaccinated by the time you travel back to campus. If you arrive on campus without being fully vaccinated, you will need to get your vaccine when you arrive on campus. Until you are fully vaccinated, you will have to participate in mitigation testing and wear a mask.

    Learn more about the vaccine requirement

  • Do I need to quarantine when I arrive in Indianapolis?

    If you arrive on campus without being fully vaccinated (all doses of the vaccine, plus two weeks from the last dose), you will need to get your vaccine when you arrive on campus. Until you are fully vaccinated, you will have to participate in mitigation testing and wear a mask. If you are a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you will have to quarantine.

    Learn more about the vaccine requirement


As an F-1 or J-1 international student, you will be automatically enrolled in IU International Student Insurance plan, administered by Anthem, each semester that you register for classes at IUPUI. The insurance premium will be billed to your bursar account. Limited exemptions will apply for students in the qualifying situations described on our student insurance webpage

The IU International student insurance plan works anywhere in the world. If you are outside the U.S. studying 100% online, you will be automatically enrolled in the plan and billed for the premium. To indicate that you do not want the insurance plan for the fall semester, complete the Health Insurance Exemption Request eform in Atlas by the deadline of September 15, 2021.

Academics and classroom

Most questions about academics will need to be addressed by your professors or academic department.

IUPUI provides a VPN to all students but you will likely have access to many campus resources (Canvas, One.IU, etc.) without a VPN. Zoom has some restrictions in China, but there is a workaround so you can access Zoom from China.

If you have questions or concerns, contact IU's University Information Technology Services (UITS)

Housing and dining

Questions about on-campus housing and dining should be directed to those offices for the most up-to-date information.

Housing   Dining 

Definition of Common Terms   

  • F-1 visa stamp

    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.

  • F-1 status

    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.

  • SEVIS record

    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 OIA or of IUPUI. 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.

  • I-20

    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.