Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for International Students

This page is intended to provide incoming and current University of South Alabama international students with timely information, updates, and resources regarding immigration status as it relates to COVID-19.

The University of South Alabama has announced that it is planning normal business operations for the Fall 2021 semester. Course instruction will be offered in a combination of in-person, web-enhanced, and online offerings. This means that F-1 and J-1 students will follow regular immigration regulations.

The information on this page has been taken from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) FAQs and the Department of State Exchange Visitor Program guidance and updates. This page will continue to be edited with the most update information as it becomes available. 

Note: Prior to making any travel arrangements to exit the U.S., please reach out to our staff for further guidance.

▼   I want to leave the United States.  What factors should I consider when making this decision?

The decision to stay or exit the U.S. is yours to make, but a few factors should be considered: personal health and well-being, current and potential future travel restrictions, academic commitments, visa validity, airline availability, etc. Please consult with your family, our staff, and refer to any U.S. travel restrictions on re-entry and/or advice from your home country about whether to travel home or remain in the U.S.

A word of caution: Situations, guidance, and rules change frequently and often without advanced notice. Exiting the U.S. may jeopardize your ability to return and resume your program in person.

▼   I'm a continuing student who left to continue my coursework outside the U.S.  Am I allowed to enter the U.S. at this time?

As of today, the travel restrictions into the U.S. for those from and visiting certain countries are still in effect. Please see our Travel Restrictions to the U.S. related to COVID-19 page for more information on which countries are on that list. Otherwise, you will need to check with the appropriate airlines to see what flights are available.

You will need a travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 prior to re-entry to the U.S. Please look at your immigration document and make sure the travel signature is still valid (no more than one year from date of return to U.S.). Please contact the Office of Immigration if you need a new travel signature.

If you require a visa renewal, you must apply for a visa renewal appointment, get the new visa foil (sticker) and return. Please note that many U.S. Embassies around the world are experiencing long processing times and limited visa appointment availability.

The Office of Immigration will communicate with all students, new and returning, with updated information regarding travel and visa issuance as it becomes available.

Please note: U.S. travel restrictions for certain countries override proclamations on entry eligibility for nonimmigrants. 

▼   I am a continuing student. Can I resume my studies in the fall?

Yes! As a continuing student (meaning you have an active F-1 SEVIS record from Spring 2021 or Summer 2021), you may take classes inside the U.S.

Students who choose to enroll in full-time hours (12 credit hours for undergraduates or 6 credit hours for graduates) for the Fall 2021 semester will continue to have their I-20/DS-2019 registered as "active" in SEVIS.

For students inside the U.S. who choose to enroll in part-time courses, your I-20/DS-2019 will be terminated and you will be advised to exit the U.S.

For students outside the U.S. who will enroll in full-time or part-time courses, your I-20 or DS-2019 will be terminated and reissued for a later semester of your choosing. 

▼   I am a new student. Can I enroll in online classes from outside the U.S.?

Yes! We highly encourage you to enroll in online courses from your home country if you are unable to join us in person for the fall semester. By enrolling in classes online, you keep yourself on track to finish your degree program on time. 

There are no U.S. immigration regulations to maintain if you are outside the U.S. You're not in active F or J status while abroad. Therefore, you can enroll in part-time or full-time classes while you are outside the U.S.

Remember, your F or J status is only activated when you enter the U.S. on an unexpired F or J visa. If you choose to enroll online for the Fall 2021 semester, we will reissue your I-20 or DS-2019 for a later semester of your choosing.

▼   I am a new student. Can I enroll in all online classes inside the U.S.?

Unfortunately, no. Students in initial status may not enter the U.S. and enroll in strictly online classes. If you choose to enroll in only online classes, you must do so outside the U.S. 

 

▼   Can I begin my classes online in my home country and enter the U.S. whenever I get my visa and/or the travel restriction for my country is lifted?
Unfortunately, no. The last day to drop/add courses is August 23. All F and J students must enter the U.S., report to campus, and enroll in full-time courses no later than this date. Also, new initial F-1 and J-1 students are prohibited from enrolling in a fully online course load and be present in the U.S. in F or J status for the Fall 2021 semester.
▼   I'm a new international student still residing outside the U.S. Am I allowed to enter the U.S. to take courses during the Fall 2021 semester? 

Maybe. Here are a few qualifications to determine if you may apply for entry into the U.S.:

  • You have a valid I-20 or DS-2019
  • You have a valid F or J visa
  • Your country is not under a current travel restriction to the U.S.
  • You will not enroll in a fully online program
  • There are flights available to the U.S. from your current location
▼   Can my family/friends accompany me to the U.S. to make sure I am settled in and safe?

For those family members and friends who may be eligible for a visitor's visa or the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), please check the Travel Restrictions page of our website as well as the availability of visa appointments at U.S. Embassies abroad, prior to making travel arrangements. 

F-2 or J-2 dependents (spouse/child) may enter the U.S. to join their principal F-1 or J-1 student, provided they have a valid dependent I-20/DS-2019, valid visa, and are not prohibited by any travel restriction.

▼   Am I required to self-isolate or quarantine once I arrive in Mobile or return to campus?

Students, scholars and employees who leave the U.S. and travel abroad and have not been vaccinated will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon return. Students, scholars and employees may opt for a mandatory, modified quarantine period with two negative COVID-19 PCR test results. If this option is selected, the individual will test 1-3 days prior to their return flight or as soon as possible upon return, test again 3-5 days after travel, AND remain in quarantine for 7 days after travel. 

 

Students, scholars and employees who leave the U.S. and travel abroad and have been fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine against COVID-19 will be required to show negative COVID-19 PCR test results when tested 1-3 days prior to their return flight and when tested 3-5 days after travel (COVID-19 PCR); however, quarantine is not required for fully vaccinated individuals. 

 

COVID-19 PCR testing costs will be the individual’s personal responsibility for personal travel and may be conducted at Student Health or another testing site. Student Health or Employee Health and Wellness will provide medical clearance for return to on-campus activities and classes. If a positive test result is received on any COVID-19 test, the individual must isolate, report the positive case to reportcovid@southalabama.edu, and follow all procedures indicated by Contact Tracing and Student Health/Employee Health until they receive medical clearance for in-person classes, work activities, and events.

▼   Can you email me an I-20/DS-2019?

F Students: Yes. SEVP has extended their guidance that P/DSOs may continue to email I-20s to the email address listed in SEVIS. 

J Students: Unfortunately, no. The Department of State has stated that we are not permitted to email a DS-2019.

▼   I am graduating in December 2021. How can I apply for post-graduation work authorization (OPT)?

If you are completing your studies in December 2021 and wish to apply for post-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) to work in the U.S., please make plans to remain in the U.S. as you cannot apply for OPT from abroad at this time.

 

▼   Can I get a travel signature?

If you need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, don’t worry! You can simply bring your document to the Office of Immigration (Meisler Hall 2200) or reach out to our staff to have a new I-20 or DS-2019 signed for re-entry emailed to you.

 

You do not need a travel signature if you are staying in the U.S.

▼   Do I need to update my address once I determine where I will be for the Fall 2021 semester? 

Yes! You must report any changes to your current address within 10 calendar days of moving. Please report your address and contact information changes via email to our staff

▼   Is the Office of Immigration open? 

Yes! We continue normal business hours Monday through Friday from 8:00am - 5:00pm CST. You can contact the Office of Immigration by email, Zoom, or Skype (please email for Zoom and Skype appointments) for advising during these hours. Please let us know if you have any questions or need our support. We are here for you!  

Once classes resume, we encourage you to continue to make virtual advising appointments, if possible.