COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for New International Students


International Student Services (ISS) looks forward to welcoming all newly admitted international students to Texas A&M University, though we fully recognize that this spring 2021 semester will be uniquely challenging.

Table of Contents


I-20/DS-2019 Issuance

1. I have been admitted to an academic program that is being conducted 100% online for Spring 2021. Am I eligible to obtain an I-20 for F-1 status or DS-2019 for J-1 status to pursue a program from within the U.S. that is 100% online?

Unfortunately, no. Even though Texas A&M University is pursuing a hybrid enrollment option, if your specific academic program is being conducted 100% online then you should not receive a Form I-20/DS-2019 from ISS because you will not be able to maintain F-1 or J-1 status upon arrival to the U.S. If you did obtain a Form I-20/DS-2019 from ISS to pursue a new academic program that is being conducted 100% online, please email iss@tamu.edu with your full name, UIN, and a detailed description of your situation so we can advise you accordingly.


2. When is the last date I can submit an I-20/DS-2019 request in Terra Dotta for Spring 2021?

The final deadline to submit an I-20 or DS-2019 Initial or Transfer request for spring 2021 term is Tuesday, December 15, 2020. The final deadline to submit a Transfer I-20 or DS-2019 request for spring 2021 term is Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
 

3. What should I do if I no longer plan to enroll for Spring 2021?

Please work with your academic department and the Office of Admissions to either cancel your admission decision or defer your admission to a future term. ISS will need to verify the updated admission information to process a future I-20, DS-2019, or Check-In request.
  • If you have already received your Form I-20 or DS-2019 for spring 2021, please complete the post-decision questionnaire associated with your I-20/Ds-2019 request in Terra Dotta to inform ISS that you no longer plan to attend.
  • If your request for a Form I-20 or DS-2019 for spring 2021 is still pending with ISS, please withdraw the request in Terra Dotta.


4. How do I request a new I-20 or DS-2019 with a later program start date?

  1. If you choose to defer your admission from spring 2021 to a future semester and you will NOT enroll during spring 2021:
    1. Contact your academic department and the Office of Admissions to have your admission term officially deferred. 
    2. If your I-20 or DS-2019 has already been issued for spring 2021, complete the post-decision questionnaire in Terra Dotta to inform ISS you will no longer be attending for spring 2021.
    3. If your request for a Form I-20 or DS-2019 for spring 2021 is still pending with ISS, please withdraw the request in Terra Dotta.
    4. Submit a new I-20 or DS-2019 request in Terra Dotta in order to receive a new I-20/DS-2019 for a later term.
    5. Keep the current I-20 or DS-2019 you have for your own records.

Getting to the United States

1. Which I-20 or DS-2019 should I use for my F-1 or J-1 visa interview?

The program start date on the Form I-20/DS-2019 that you bring to your visa interview must correspond to the academic term for which you plan to arrive in the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status. You should not use an I-20 or DS-2019 issued for a term prior to spring 2021 in order to enter the United States for spring 2021. You may need a new I-20 or DS-2019 for Fall 2021 or a future semester to apply for a visa or enter the United States if:
  • Your visa application process is delayed, and the visa interview is scheduled after the program start date listed on your current I-20
  • You will be enrolling online for spring 2021 and entering the United States in a future semester
  • You are deferring your admission term and will be entering the United States in a future semester
You should not use the spring 2021 I-20 or DS-2019 to enter the United States if you are not coming to the United States for spring 2021. The SEVIS ID may or may not be the same one on your current I-20 or DS-2019.


2. Can I use the I-20 or DS-2019 that was issued for me to begin a new program for Spring 2021 in order to apply for a visa for Fall 2021 or later?

No. Refer to the other FAQs for details about what you should do instead.
 

3. I cannot apply for my visa because of consulate closures. However, I have a valid tourist visa and/or I qualify for the tourist visa waiver program. Can I come to the U.S. as a tourist and file to change status after I arrive?

No. Do not enter the United States on your tourist or tourist waiver status if you plan on attending Texas A&M University for spring 2021. You cannot take courses on a tourist visa. USCIS considers your intent for entering the US on a tourist visa when adjudicating your Change of Status application. If you enter the U.S. as a tourist with an intent to study, this can be considered visa fraud or misrepresentation, which could create serious immigration roadblocks for you in the future. If your intent is to come to the US to study, it is best for you to wait to apply for the F or J visa at the proper time. Anytime when you apply for a visa or apply for a benefit in the U.S., your entire immigration history is in play. 

If you are seriously considering a Change of Status to an F-1 or J-1 status, please set up an appointment with one of our ISS advisors.

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4. What should I expect when entering the United States?

When entering the United States, please keep the following in mind:
  • Be sure to have your I-20 or DS-2019, passport, visa, letter of admission, proof of finances on your person.  Do not put them in your suitcase.
  • Be prepared to explain to the port-of-entry official that Texas A&M University will be having courses face-to-face and students will have the option to enroll in hybrid courses (face-to-face course with a remote option).  A letter explaining this is available at https://iss.tamu.edu/ISS/media/ISS-Files/ISS-PDF/ISS%20Information/Spring-2021-PDSO-Letter.pdf 
  • If you have problems at the United States port-of-entry, then you will need to call 979-845-1824 and press 2 to be taken to the ISS emergency call center.  The call center is available 24/7 but is only for emergencies at the port-of-entry or if you are being detained by a government official.
  • As soon as possible after entering the U.S., make sure that your I-94 states the appropriate visa type (F-1 or J-1) and “D/S” which means Duration of Status.  If you receive an I-94 with a specific end date or receive an I-515A, you need to submit the check-in immediately and contact ISS. More information about I-94s can be found here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
  • Complete and submit your ISS check-in after you have arrived in the United States. 
  • Anyone entering the United States are required to quarantine for 14 days and not come to campus until after the 14 days.  For more information, please go to https://www.tamu.edu/coronavirus/travel.html.


5. Will my Fall 2020 enrollment at Texas A&M University that was outside the United States impact my eligibility to obtain or renew my F-1/J-1 visa for Spring 2021 or future semesters?

The time outside the United States should not be a factor on your ability to obtain or renew your visa. All other eligibility factors such as being a valid student, having a valid I-20 or DS-2019, sufficient funding and not having immigrant intent will still impact your ability to obtain or renew your visa.

6. I am still planning to arrive in the U.S. for Spring 2021 even though classes have already begun. How late can I arrive?

ISS recommends that you first direct this question to your academic department. Ultimately, your academic department must support your late arrival. If you will miss too much of the term, your academic department may recommend or require that you either enroll from outside the U.S. or defer your admission. If your academic department supports your late arrival to the U.S. for Spring 2021, then you need to make sure you can arrive in the U.S. and submit your ISS Check-In by no later than February 15, 2021. If you know that you will be arriving in the U.S. after January 26, 2021, be sure to submit one of the Late Check-In programs available at http://iss.tamu.edu/Prospective-Students/Check-In. Your Late Check-In must include a complete F-1/J-1 International Student Late Arrival Department Form.

ISS Check-In

1. If I want to enroll for spring 2021, which ISS Check-In program should I use?

If you will be enrolling at Texas A&M University for spring 2021, you need to complete an ISS Check-In program as described below and at http://iss.tamu.edu/Prospective-Students/Check-In. If you are coming to the United States in F-1 or J-1 status, it is very important that you arrive, complete the ISS Check-In, and enroll for classes within 30 days after the 1st class day.  It is not guaranteed that you will be able to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status if you arrive after this date. 

Entering the United States for Spring 2021

If you are arriving in F-1 or J-1 status after February 15, 2021, it is highly unlikely that you can maintain your F or J status and ISS recommends you come to the United States in fall 2021 or a future term.

If you will be arriving in F-1 or J-1 status for Spring 2021 on a new SEVIS ID, regardless of studying outside the U.S. in Fall 2020, please submit the correct Check-In within Terra Dotta:
  1. Initial F-1 Student Check-In 
  2. Inital J-1 Student Check-In
If you are a transfer student who will be arriving in F-1 or J-1 status on the same SEVIS ID, regardless of studying outside the U.S. in Fall 2020, please submit the correct Check-In within Terra Dotta:
  1. Transfer F-1 Student Check-In
  2. Transfer J-1 Student Check-In
If you will be arriving in a status other than F-1/J-1 for Spring 2021 complete the Other Immigration Status Check-In.
Remaining outside the United States for Spring 2021

Students who started with Texas A&M University in the Fall 2020 semester, completed the Distance Learner Check-In for Fall 2020, and will continue to enroll from outside the United States for spring 2021 should submit a new Distance Learner Check-In for spring 2021. The ISS hold will be removed temporarily for you to enroll as a distance learner for Spring 2021 and will be re-added back to prevent course enrollment for Summer 2021 and Fall 2021. 

Students who are newly admitted to Texas A&M University for spring 2021 and will enroll from outside the U.S. for spring 2021 should also submit a Distance Learner Check-In for spring 2021.  

Students who are attempting to arrive in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status for spring 2021 SHOULD NOT submit a Distance Learner Check-In for spring 2021. Instead, these students should refer to the section above for links to their applicable Check-In programs.


Students should consider the following:
  1. You will need to correspond directly with other Texas A&M departments that have registration holds on your University record to get the hold(s) removed. Visit http://iss.tamu.edu/Prospective-Students/Check-In#0-Whatarethedifferentholdsthatcouldbeonmyaccount%3F for additional information about common registration holds.
  2. If you have an offer of financial support from Texas A&M University, please contact OGAPS and/or Scholarship and Financial Aid and/or your academic department to see if you are still eligible to receive this benefit while being abroad for spring 2021.

Immigration Status

1. I am an Initial Attendance F-1/J-1 student. Can I enroll 100% online for Spring 2021 within the United States?

No. Updated guidance from SEVP Officials have concluded that only current international students who were enrolled at a U.S. college as of March 9, 2020 can re-enter the U.S. for 100 percent distance learning at their college. However, an Initial Attendance F-1/J-1 student since March 9, 2020 will not be allowed to enter the U.S. in order to take a fully online course of study this spring semester.

Importantly, Initial F-1/J-1 students will be able to enter the U.S. if they are taking hybrid programs consisting of a mix of in-person and online coursework this spring. This is better clarified as taking at least one in-person class inside the United States. 
 

If a newly admitted student chooses to remain outside the U.S., they are permitted to enroll 100% online but this will not allow them to obtain or maintain F-1 or J-1 status.
 

2. I am a Transfer Pending F-1/J-1 student. Can I enroll 100% online for Spring 2021?

As a Transfer Pending F-1/J-1 student you are considered a continuing international student IF you were in Active F-1 status as of March 9, 2020. This will allow you to enroll 100% online for Spring 2021. 

If you are a Transfer Pending F-1/J-1 student and first enrolled at a U.S. college after March 9, 2020, or your current F-1 status did not begin until after March 9, 2020, then you must follow the same rules as Initial Attendance students. This means you must be enrolled in a hybrid program consisting of a mix of in-person and online coursework this spring. This is better clarified as taking at least one in-person class inside the United States for Spring 2021.
 

3. I am a Change of Education Level F-1/J-1 student. Can I enroll 100% online for Spring 2021?

As a Change of Education Level F-1/J-1 student you are considered a continuing international student IF you were in Active F-1 status as of March 9, 2020. This will allow you to enroll 100% online for Spring 2021. 

If you are a Change of Education Level F-1/J-1 student and first enrolled at a U.S. college after March 9, 2020, or your current F-1 status did not begin until after March 9, 2020, then you must follow the same rules as Initial Attendance students. This means you must be enrolled in a hybrid program consisting of a mix of in-person and online coursework this spring. This is better clarified as taking at least one in-person class inside the United States for Spring 2021.

The ISS Check-In registration hold should be removed by ISS once you apply for the Change of Education Level I-20 or DS-2019.
 

4. I am an F-1/J-1 student with a recent status violation of my F-1/J-1 status. Can I enroll 100% online for Spring 2021?

As an F-1/J-1 student with a recent status violation it is permitted to enroll 100% online for Spring 2021, however ISS does not recommend it. We advise you to take at least one in-person class for the spring semester. Please make an appointment with an ISS advisor to speak about your options.


5. I am currently in another nonimmigrant status and planning to apply for F-1/J-1 status. Can I enroll 100% online for Spring 2021?

As an student in another nonimmigrant status and planning to change your status to F-1/J-1 status it is permitted to enroll 100% online for Spring 2021, however ISS does not recommend it. We advise you to take at least one in-person class for the spring semester. Please make an appointment with an ISS advisor to speak about your options.


6. If Texas A&M University changes to a 100% online delivery method for courses during the Spring 2021 semester, will I be permitted to remain in the U.S. and maintain my F-1/J-1 status even if I am no longer enrolled in any in-person courses?

Yes, if Texas AM University changes to a 100% online delivery method for courses during the Spring 2021 semester due to COVID-19 according to the March 2020 SEVP Guidance international students are temporarily permitted to participate in online learning and consquently remain in active status in SEVIS.