COVID-19 Information for International IUPUI
Helping you plan for spring 2021
Page last updated: January 21, 2021
IUPUI has planned for a mix of in-person and online classes for Spring 2021 (similar to fall 2020).
The information on this page is for F-1 and J-1 students and scholars. 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.
Government guidance: The U.S. government indicated that the guidance it provided in March 2020 will continue for the spring 2021 semester at IUPUI. This means if you were actively enrolled in the U.S. on March 9, 2020, you can enroll in all online classes and remain in the U.S.
Visas and immigration
Our office is your primary resource for these questions. The advice we provide one student doesn't always apply to the next student. So you need to contact us if you have questions about your situation instead of following advice from a friend or something you found on social media.
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 fall 2020 and spring 2021
If you were a new student in the U.S. for fall 2020 or spring 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.
If you were NOT a new student in the U.S. for fall 2020 or spring 2021
This means you were enrolled at IUPUI or another school in the U.S. for spring 2020.
You do not have to remain in Indianapolis or the U.S., provided it works with your class schedule (that is, if you are in an in-person class, you need to make sure you are in Indianapolis for the in-person portion). You can participate in your classes from anywhere inside or outside the U.S.
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.
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.
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.
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 fall 2021, you would not be able to hold an off-campus internship until the fall 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 spring 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 on March 9, 2020
- 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.
Can I travel outside the U.S.?
Yes, you can travel outside the U.S. However, you should consider the implications of that decision in relation to your plan for spring 2021 (online vs. in-person classes, housing, other financial obligations, etc.). If you leave the U.S., you may not be able to return when you want to.
Various countries still have limitations and/or quarantine requirements. These could increase as flu season in the northern hemisphere coincides with an increased number of COVID-19 cases around the world.
If current guidance continues, the U.S. government will not require you to take in-person classes (as long were not a new student at IUPUI for Fall 2020 or spring 2021), but your specific academic path may require that. You should work with your academic advisor to determine your options.
If you will need to enroll in an in-person class to satisfy your degree, you should consider staying in the U.S. given the difficulty you could experience when trying to return. At the very least, give yourself plenty of time to return to the U.S. before in-person classes resume (on February 8).
If you do not need to enroll in an in-person class or do not have other obligations in the U.S., then you are welcome to travel outside the U.S. (just make sure to take the appropriate documents with you; see the next question).
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)
- 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)
I want to return home, but I'm having problems making arrangements; what can I do?You can try contacting your nearest embassy/consulate in the U.S. They may have information to help you find a way back home, even if you cannot find a commercial flight.
I want to enter the U.S.; what do I need to know?
For current students, the U.S. government has indicated that you can enter the U.S. even if you are enrolled in only online classes.
For new students, you will need to enroll in at least one class that has an in-person component.
Review entry restrictions
The U.S. has entry restrictions if you are traveling from or have visited certain countries in the 14 days prior to your entry to the U.S.
Documents to carry with you
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
We recommend you carry the following with you in your carry-on luggage but only 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 spring 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 or scholars
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
Returning from travel and COVID testing
All international travelers are advised to follow CDC guidance for returning from travel.
Students living on campus will be tested for COVID-19 as part of the housing check-in process that will happen before you move in to your residence.
Learn more about COVID-19 testing and screening on the IUPUI Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.
I started my degree program online but now want to travel to Indianapolis; what do I need to know?
We're excited that you will be able to join us in Indianapolis! Here's some information about preparing for arrival.
- To enter the U.S., you need to be enrolled in at least one class that has an in-person component. Talk to your academic advisor about your class options.
- You need to arrive by Tuesday, January 19, 2021. This is the date on your I-20 or DS-2019.
- If you are unable to arrive by January 19:
- Undergraduate students: you need to arrive no later than January 24. If you are unable to arrive by January 24, you need to continue your degree online.
- Graduate students: you will work with your academic department to determine how late you can arrive.
- If you are interested in Curricular Practical Training (work authorization typically used for internships), be aware that you have to be inside the U.S. for a full academic year before you are eligible for CPT. To avoid delaying your eligibility for CPT, you need to arrive to the U.S. no later than January 24, 2021.
- Make sure you review the entry restrictions. You will not be able to enter the U.S. if you are traveling from, or have traveled through, certain countries in the 14 days before your attempted entry to the U.S.
- Some U.S. embassies and consulates have resumed visa interviews. Consular services are available at the discretion of respective consular posts. Learn more about what services are currently available at the consulate nearest you.
- Some embassies or airlines may ask for a letter stating that IUPUI is open. You can use this letter.
- All IUPUI students are expected to comply with COVID-19 testing requirements. IUPUI is finalizing these details and will post the information online.
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 enroll in classes at IUPUI and bill your Bursar account for the cost. Limited exemptions will apply for students in the qualifying situations described on our student insurance webpage.
The student insurance plan works anywhere in the world, so if you are outside the U.S. studying 100% online, you can remain enrolled in the plan if you wish. To indicate you do not want the insurance plan for the spring semester, complete the Health Insurance Exemption Request eform in Atlas by the deadline of January 31, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.