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Current International Students

FAQ for Autumn 2020

Information is subject to change. Updates are based on guidance released from ICE and SEVP on July 24, 2020.


On July 24, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a final announcement and further guidance concerning international students who plan to enroll at a U.S. institution in the fall. The July 24 guidance both supersedes ICE July 6 and 7 guidance and clarifies March 2020 guidance that is now in effect due to a court decision rendered July 14. The July 24 guidance confirms that international students can engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19, however, there are additional limitations for new international students.

How this guidance impacts you:

  • Current (continuing) students who plan to take in-person/hybrid or online courses should be able to obtain visas and enter the United States. These students do not need to be issued new I-20s with additional remarks.
  • All students who are in the United States can remain in the United States if the school switches to an entirely online format during the semester. All students who remain in the United States must also be enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan.


In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at most U.S. embassies and consulates. As resources allow, overseas consulates and embassies will resume routine visa services on a post-by-post basis. Please check travel.state.gov for the most current wait times.

Q. What documents will I need for my visa appointment?
A. To prepare the correct documentation for your visa appointment, visit travel.state.gov. Keep in mind that a consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa, and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:

  • Your academic preparation, such as:
    • Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
    • Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
  • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
  • How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs. 

Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.

Q. What if I need to travel outside of the United States to change my status to F-1 for autumn 2020?
A. Due to uncertainty surrounding visa appointments and availability of international flights, Ohio State recommends that students defer their admission to a future term.


To help slow the spread of COVID-19, there are current established restrictions on individuals entering the United States (e.g., F-1, J-1, H-1b, B-1) who have been in any of the following countries within 14 days of traveling to the United States: China, Iran and Brazil. These restrictions will remain in effect until revoked.

As of July 22, certain students may qualify for national interest exceptions under the Presidential Proclamations for the Schengen Zone, United Kingdom and Ireland. Students traveling from these locations with valid F-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for a new F-1 visa 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 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.

J-1 students who have a valid visa that was issued prior to the Presidential Proclamation for the Schengen Zone, United Kingdom and Ireland’s effective date or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a national interest exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.

Q. Can I arrive in the United States after the autumn semester start date of August 25, 2020? 
A. Typically Ohio State allows undergraduate students to arrive one week after the semester starts and graduate students up to two weeks after the semester starts, with department permission. Given these extraordinary circumstances, please contact both your department and iss@osu.edu with your travel plans if you want to arrive after the semester start date.  


Ohio State will offer a combination of in-person, online and blended courses autumn semester. You can view available courses through buckeyelink.osu.edu.

View the university registrars’ definition of courses online. Below is how they will be determined for maintaining a legal immigration status:

  • Distance Learning (considered online)
  • Distance Enhanced (considered online)
  • Hybrid Delivery is (considered in-person)
  • In Person

Continuing students who remain outside the United States are encouraged to explore registering for Ohio State courses offered through distance technologies. It will be the student’s responsibility to ensure access to university support services via their technology and in accordance with their location’s regulations. Students should contact their advisor to address any academic questions, the university’s help desk for technical questions (servicedesk@osu.edu) and immigration coordinators at the Office of International Affairs with immigration-related concerns (iss@oia.osu.edu).

Students who experience course access issues relating to time zone differences, content accessibility, textbook availability, etc… should contact their professor/instructor and the appropriate college or department to determine whether any alternative options or support may be available.

Students who are located in certain countries and/or are affected by sanctions imposed by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control may not be eligible to take distance learning courses. For more information visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury and use the search tool to input your location abroad to see if the country is on the list affected by sanctions.

Q. If I am able to enroll full-time online from my home country this autumn, will I be able to maintain my F1 status?
Yes. Due to COVID-19, the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exception allowing students to remain in status, even if they exceeded the number of allowable online classes. SEVP guidelines say this exception will continue through autumn semester.

Ohio State students in certain countries and academic programs may enroll in distance learning, however, online pathways are not currently available in every country as a result of technology, accessibility or regulatory issues.

Ohio State continues to seek to develop pathways in the future for international students who either cannot or would prefer not to return to campus.

Q. What are my course registration limitations to maintain my immigration record?
A. Students must be enrolled full time to maintain their immigration record. The federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has lifted the limitation on online courses. Students can take as many or as few online courses as needed for their program, including an entirely online program if necessary.

Q. Can I take a gap semester or year?
A. If you do not plan to enroll at all autumn semester, we will need to terminate your immigration status. Please complete the Authorized Early Withdrawal Request eForm. If you are currently inside of the United States when you complete this form, you will have 15 days to depart.

Q. I am currently residing in another city or state within the United States. Can I take online courses exclusively from my location within the United States?
A. Yes. Due to COVID-19, the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exception allowing students to remain in status, even if they exceeded the number of allowable online classes. SEVP will continue this exception through autumn semester.

Q. If I am taking all online classes in the United States, do I still need to pay for health insurance?
A. Yes. Students physically located in the United States and enrolled exclusively in online courses must be enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan. If you are not registered in any hybrid or in-person courses before August 18, 2020 and the SHI Fee does not appear on your Statement of Account, you will need to file a Petition to Enroll with the Student Health Insurance office before September 4, 2020. The Student Health Insurance office can be reached at shi_info@osu.edu if you have any additional questions.

Q. If the university is forced to transition to all online classes after the start of the semester, am I able to remain in the United States and maintain my immigration status?
A. Yes. The federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) made an exception allowing students to remain in status in the event that universities move to all online learning.

Q. If I am unable to enter the United States and decide to take my classes online, will this count towards my eligibility for OPT or CPT?
A.As long as your SEVIS record remains in active status during this time, you will still be eligible to apply for CPT or OPT after completing one academic year. If your SEVIS record is terminated during this time (by choosing to take a gap semester/year), your eligibility clock for CPT and OPT will be reset and you will need to complete one academic year (autumn and spring semester) before you will be eligible to apply for CPT or OPT. Please note, you can only apply for OPT if you are physically present in the United States.

Q. Will the 5-month rule apply if I remain outside of the United States for autumn semester 2020?
A. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 5-month rule was suspended in March. This suspension will continue through the autumn semester 2020.