Information is subject to change. Updates are based on guidance released from ICE and SEVP on April 26, 2021. Please continue to monitor your Ohio State email and this page for updates.
GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE FOR TEMPORARY EXEMPTIONS FOR AUTUMN SEMESTER 2021
On April 26, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released an updated announcement confirming that the March 2020 guidance will continue for the 2021-22 academic year for international students who plan to enroll at a U.S. institution this autumn. The 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:
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 have resumed routine visa services on a post-by-post basis. Please check travel.state.gov for the most current wait times. Please beware that students may face issues securing visa appointments as U.S. consulates work through significant backlogs, and travel restrictions are still in place which may continue to affect students travel plans.
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:
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 2021?
A. Due to uncertainty surrounding visa appointments and availability of international flights, Ohio State recommends that students defer their admission to a future term.
COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, there are current established restrictions on individuals entering the United States who have been in any of the following countries within 14 days of traveling to the United States: China, Iran, European Schengen area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.
These restrictions will not affect students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas who plan to start their classes after August 1.
Students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies and do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception (NIE) to travel. 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.
Q. Do I need to have a COVID-19 test before traveling to the United States?
A. Effective January 26, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States.
Air passengers will need to take a viral test within three days of departing to the United States. In order to board an airplane, passengers will need to provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) indicating a NEGATIVE test result. Those who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, will be denied boarding by the airline.
ACADEMICS AND MODE OF DELIVERY IMPACT
Ohio State expects to return to more of an engaged classroom learning autumn semester. Ohio State will offer a mix of in-person, online and blended courses with at least 75% of classes designated to be taught in person. 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:
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 (email@example.com) and immigration coordinators at the Office of International Affairs with immigration-related concerns (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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?
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 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. What should I do if I have access and technology concerns about taking online courses outside of the United States?
A. Ohio State students in certain countries and academic programs may find that online pathways for distance learning are not currently available in every country as a result of technology, accessibility or regulatory issues. Students with 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. If students experience technology issues, contact the university’s IT Service Desk, which offers 24-hour support:
For more information about tech support for online courses, visit https://online.osu.edu/tech-support.
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 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 2021?
A. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 5-month rule was suspended in March 2020. This suspension will continue through the autumn semester 2021.
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 (SHI) Plan. You will be automatically enrolled. Coverage for Autumn 2021 will begin on August 17. This fee will appear on your Statement of Account when you register for classes. The Student Health Insurance office can be reached at email@example.com if you have any additional questions.
Q. If I am taking all online classes in my home country, do I still need to pay for health insurance?
A. International students remaining in their home country and taking only distance learning credits are not subject to the health insurance requirement and may request the SHI fee removed from their Statement of Account. You will need to verify current residency in your homeland by providing your I-94 documentation (most Recent I-94 page and Travel History page). You can access your I-94 information online. The requested documentation must be received prior to August 17. Please contact Student Health Insurance of you have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 614-688-7979.
TESTING, VACCINATION AND RETURN TO CAMPUS
In the fall, the university is planning for vaccinated students to be tested once a month or less, and unvaccinated students to be tested once or twice a week. Vaccinated students in most cases will not be required to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus.
Q. As an international student, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States? Is there a cost?
A. If you have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine, you are eligible to receive it once you arrive in the United States. Students should log in to their MyChart account to schedule their vaccination through Ohio State. View the step-by-step guide. Please create an account with MyChart at your earliest convenience after paying your acceptance fee. If you do not have a Social Security Number, call 1-614-366-6975 and press 3 to setup an account.
The vaccine used at your appointment is based on availability on the day you receive it. Ohio State is currently administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The government is providing the vaccine free of charge, and health plans are required to cover the cost of administration. Patients who receive a vaccination will not be asked to pay anything out of pocket.
Q. Will I be required to be vaccinated?
A. No. Everyone is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they are able to do so. The vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective. The university has and will always base decisions on evidence-based public health guidance and the state of the pandemic, and a high vaccination rate will only increase the chances of normality.
Q. What if I have received a COVID-19 vaccine that is not currently authorized in the United States?
A. The university will accept international vaccines based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, which recognizes vaccines authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).
All students are encouraged to share their vaccination information with the university because WHO is constantly updating its list of approved vaccines (check your BuckMD account for instructions). As of May 13, 2021, those vaccines include the three approved for use in the United States — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — as well as:
If you are uncertain about the status of a particular vaccine, please contact Student Health Services at 614-292-4321 or email@example.com.
Students will be considered to be fully vaccinated 14 days after their final dose in a vaccination series.
Please carefully read through CDC's guidance.