The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is monitoring developments surrounding COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) globally. This page includes updates and FAQs for future and current international students and scholars.

Review the latest ISSS communication with important updates about Fall 2020 registration from July 27.

We are offering a Q&A sessions via Zoom for F-1 students on maintaining status in the fall. More information and how to access the sessions can be found on the ISSS calendar.

This page was last updated on September 10, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visas & Regulations

On July 6 and 7, SEVP/ICE published guidance that would have restricted F-1 students from taking all online courses and/or remaining in the United States. As of July 14, this guidance has been rescinded.

You should enroll full time to maintain your immigration status, or request a reduced course load through iStart. However, the limitations on online enrollment have been lifted for Fall 2020, meaning you can take as many or as few online courses as needed for your program, including an entirely online program if necessary.

Yes, regardless of whether you plan to take in person courses or online courses.

Yes, if you plan to take at least one in-person course. Current guidance is that entry visas will not be issued to new students who are entering the U.S. to begin a program entirely online.

Students who have transferred to the University of Illinois to begin studies this Fall and are currently in the U.S. should check in with ISSS and enroll as a full-time student. Students who have transferred to the University of Illinois to begin studies this Fall and are currently outside the U.S. should only attempt to enter the U.S. if they plan to take an in-person course. Transfer students who have left the U.S. and plan to be entirely online in Fall will receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 to enter the U.S. for a future semester.

No, this is not required, however you can print this letter if asked for verification the University of Illinois is operating in person this Fall.

Scans of I-20s for F-1 students are acceptable during the global pandemic. Scanned copies of DS-2019s are not, and J-1 students must obtain original documents for any formal processing.

F-1 students are required to hold full time registration for the Fall 2020 semester to maintain immigration status.

As of July 14, F-1 students will be able to take all online classes and maintain their F-1 status.

If you are enrolled as a full-time student in online courses, you would be considered maintaining your visa status as SEVP is allowing students to take all courses online to maintain F-1 or J-1 status. Therefore, if you have maintained your visa status through online registration, you will not be subject to the “5 month rule.”

If F-1 or J-1 students are finished with all of their required coursework, and only need thesis credit (such as 599), they can maintain their status by registering for thesis credit.

The University has no authority over external agencies; therefore, we cannot intervene and request they issue the required documents.

If the University has issued you an I-20 or DS-2019 document, this demonstrates our wish to have you join the Illinois family. We cannot issue any other documents to assist in obtaining an entry visa, nor can we ask the U.S. Consulate or Embassy to prioritize your visa application.

At the completion of your program you have either an additional ‘grace period’ of 30 days as a J-1 student or 60 days as a F-1 student after your graduation or program end date. If you wish to stay longer than this, you could consider applying for Optional Practical Training as an F-1 student or Academic Training as a J-1 student which could extend your legal status in the United States for employment purposes. Alternatively, you may be eligible to file an application with USCIS to change to another non-immigrant status. The discretion of approval falls to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and ISSS cannot assist in moving your request forward.

If you cannot leave the U.S. by the required date, some embassies or consultates have been able to provide assistance to their citizens to help get them home.

If your host department has continued opportunities for you that match your current program objectives, they can request your DS-2019 be extended. Each department has an ISSS contact liaison who can initiate this process. Please note you or your department will be required to show you have adequate funding for this extension period. If you are currently ineligible for an extension due to your J-1 category limitations, a change of category may be possible at the discretion of USCIS.

Scholars who are unable to extend their program or change category but cannot leave the U.S. could apply to USCIS to change to another non-immigrant status. The discretion of approval falls to United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and ISSS cannot assist in moving your request forward. If you are subject to the 212e Two Year Home Residency Requirement, you can consider filing a change of status based on an extreme or special situation.

Resources & Support

  • Office of the Dean of Students. Emergency Dean Fund created to defray tuition, housing and other costs for undergraduate and graduate students experiencing unexpected shortfalls.
  • ISSS Financial Assistance. Dean Arthur Hamilton International Assistance Fund.
  • Graduate College. Information about health insurance extension and continuation options, available for both continuing and graduating students.
  • Office of Financial Aid. Students FIRST COVID-19 Emergency Fund: targeted financial aid to help students who are facing increased need now and for the coming academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Academic Colleges and Academic Advisors. Consult academic advisers in respective programs and colleges regarding academic plans and registration options.
  • University Housing. To provide assistance and guidance on various housing matters.
  • Campus and College Career Services. Collaboration with campus and college career services resources to support job search.
  • Shanghai Office. To support students seeking internship and employment opportunities in China.
  • Student Assistance Center. Identify community or government resources available to assist students; however, eligibility for some options may be dependent on citizenship or residency status.

We encourage you to review the USCIS information on Special Situations, Extending Your Stay and Response to COVID-19, as well as the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security updates.

ISSS Operations

Campus remains open but many offices, including ISSS, are following federal and state recommendations and closing for foot traffic. The majority of our staff will be working from remote locations. However, while our physical offices will be closed to the public, we will remain open for phone and email correspondence. Appointments will continue to happen via phone, an OPT video workshop is already on our website, and we will continue to provide as many services as we can during this temporary operational shift.

USCIS has granted schools permission to electronically sign I-20’s and e-mail them as attachments, so you will receive your I-20 in this way. This ability has not been extended to DS-2019’s, so these documents will be mailed. Please also remember you do not need a travel signature to leave the US. You will need one to return but a new document with this endorsement can you delivered to you via e-mail (I-20) or regular mail (DS-2019).

If all information on the I-20 remains the same at this time, students may request a new document via the Reprint/Replace I-20 form in iStart. Please select 'travel' as the reason for the request. ISSS has received temporary permission from SEVP to send documents electronically. We will e-mail the new I-20 with a travel signature, and students will need to print out and sign the new document.

Arrival to Campus

Permission to join a program late is granted at the department level. Please contact your academic department to see if this is an option offered for your specific program. Undergraduate programs usually cannot be joined late. If you will not be able to start the Fall semester on time, you should contact Undergraduate Admissions to discuss your options.

Under the guidance of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD), the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has new recommendations for individuals who travel, including those returning to campus or initial arrival on campus. These stay-at-home after travel guidelines apply to both international travel from a CDC-designated level 3 country and travel from a U.S. location that is considered higher risk than Illinois by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

More information is available on the Quarantine & Isolation page of the campus COVID-19 website.


Undergraduate Admissions and Graduate Admissions are regularly updating their websites with information for international applicants. Please get in contact with those offices with application-specific questions.

Additional Resources