International Students

New International Students

FAQ for Autumn 2021

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:

VISA PROCESSING 

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. I’m unable to secure a visa appointment. What should I do?
A. Students who do not have a confirmed visa appointment before August 30 should defer to a future term (learn more about the difference between deferring I-20 and deferring admission).

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.

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.

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.  

Read the April 26 announcement.

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.

Q. If autumn is my first semester and I am not able to enter the United States to start my program at Ohio State, will I be able to defer my admission?
A. If you are an undergraduate student, please contact International Undergraduate Admissions (int.undergrad@osu.edu). Graduate students should contact their department who will work with Graduate Admissions (gradadmissions@osu.edu) to defer to a future term. 

Q. What does it mean to defer my academic program? What does it mean to defer my immigration record?
A. If you do not plan to take any classes at all for the next semester or year, you will need to defer your admission/academic program. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

If you plan to take full-time or part-time online classes and remain in your home country, you will need to defer your immigration start date to a future term. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

ACADEMICS AND MODE OF DELIVERY IMPACT

Ohio State expects to return to more of a traditional university experience with 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:

New 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 (servicedesk@osu.edu) for technical questions and immigration coordinators at the Office of International Affairs (iss@osu.edu) with immigration-related concerns.

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. Can I enter the United States to take a completely online course load?
A. No. You may not take a fully online course schedule in the United States. 

Q. If I do not plan to enter the United States for autumn semester 2021 can I enroll full time online in my home country?
A. Federal guidelines allow international students to take full-time or part-time online classes in their home country. Ohio State students in certain countries and academic programs may enroll in distance learning, however, students should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure access to university support services via their technology and in accordance with their location’s regulations.

If you live in a country where distance learning is available and you intend to enroll in online courses, you will need to defer your immigration start date to a future term. Once you notify the appropriate admissions office, a new I-20 or DS-2019 will be processed for you with a future start date when you plan to enter the United States.

Q. I plan on taking Ohio State online courses outside of the United States, but I am not sure which courses to take.
A. Students who will take online courses outside of the United States should work with their academic advisor to identify courses being offered through distance technologies to continue making progress toward their degree.

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. If I enroll full time online in my home country, do I need to schedule an immigration check-in appointment?
A. No. You will only complete an immigration check-in appointment once you enter the United States.

Q. If I do not plan to enter the United States for autumn semester 2021, do I need to complete online orientation?
A. Yes. If you will be enrolling online from your home country when you begin your program, you must complete the online orientation modules.

Q. If I plan to enter the United States to take in-person or hybrid courses, do I need a new I-20?
A. No. The guidance that required students to have new immigration documents with comments specifically stating that the school is not operating entirely online has been rescinded. If you are asked to show proof that you are not enrolled entirely online, you should print the Autumn 2021 Ohio State Instructional Plansletter and carry it with you to your visa appointment as well as when you are travelling in case there are any questions about Ohio State's status for autumn semester. You can also provide a copy of your class schedule from Buckeyelink that states the mode of instruction. 

Q. Can I arrive in the United States after the autumn semester start date of August 24, 2021?
A. Typically, we allow 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 the Office of International Affairs to discuss your travel plans if you want to arrive after the semester start date.

INSURANCE

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 shi_info@osu.edu 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 7, 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 shs@osu.edu.

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

SEVIS TRANSFER STUDENTS

Q. I have transferred my SEVIS record (from another U.S. institution to Ohio State) and am currently outside of the United States. Will I be able to still maintain my F1 status?
A. Students who have transferred their F1 SEVIS records to Ohio State and wish to remain outside the United States for autumn semester may transfer but must have their I-20 start dates deferred through a data fix. Please contact Kim Anthony, senior immigration specialist in the Office of International Affairs (anthony.118@osu.edu), and she will assist you with this process.

Q. I am currently in the United States. Will I be able to maintain my F-1 status if I take all online classes?
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 fall semester.