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

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

If you are traveling and require printed copies of your university COVID-19 Saliva RTPCR test, you may print official results via the MyMcKinley portal. Please visit the university's COVID-19 website for more information on accessing test results.

This page was last updated on January 14, 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

Visas & Regulations (Spring 2021)

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is pleased to confirm that campus will be open for Spring 2021 (review the massmail). Teaching will be a hybrid format of both in-person courses and distance learning. The Spring semester will start classes on January 25, and while we recommend that you report to campus by the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 to allow for effective COVID-19 testing and quarantining, we are allowing students to arrive as late as January 24.

International Student and Scholar Services will appropriately update the SEVIS records of all incoming and continuing F-1 and J-1 students as required by the Department of Homeland Security throughout the Spring semester.

Click here to download a copy of this information on university letterhead, should you need to present this information to your airline or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Upon returning to campus, the university is requiring you to follow certain procedures to keep yourself and your community safe. Failure to follow these procedures can result in disciplinary action. Additionally, the university, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (C-UPHD), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommendations that we hope you can follow where possible.

In order to participate in on-campus activities beginning January 24, it is required that all students, faculty, staff, and scholars receive two negative on-campus test results, no sooner than three days apart between January 15-24. If you cannot arrive on campus in time to do this, you must instead begin testing as soon as possible, and you will not be able to participate in on-campus activities until you receive two negative on-campus test results, no sooner than three days apart. Before you receive two negative tests, limit leaving your residence to only essential activities such as attending work, testing, visiting the pharmacy and buying groceries.

It is recommended that these tests take place following the schedule laid out by the Chancellor.

  • Jan 15 and 19- Graduate students, faculty, staff, undergraduate seniors not living in university housing.
  • Jan 16 and 20- Undergraduate juniors not living in university housing.
  • Jan 17 and 21- All undergraduate sophomores, and seniors and juniors living in university housing.
  • Jan 18 and 22- All freshman and new students.

It is also recommended that students and staff follow guidelines to stay at home for 7-10 days after travel. These guidelines apply to both international travel from a country designated level 2, 3 or 4 by the CDC and travel from a U.S. location that is considered high risk by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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 Spring 2021, 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 US to begin a program entirely online.

Although you are considered a Fall admit for academic purposes, you are considered a new, initial international student for immigration purposes. Therefore, if you are entering the U.S. to study at the University of Illinois and do not currently have an active SEVIS record you will need to enroll in at least one in-person course.

SStudents who have transferred to the University of Illinois to begin studies this Spring and are currently in the US 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 Spring and are currently outside the US should only attempt to enter the US if they plan to take an in-person course. Transfer students who have left the US and plan to be entirely online in Spring will receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 to enter the US for a future semester. Please contact your department (Graduate students) or the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (undergraduate students) to obtain your updated immigration document.

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

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.

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.

All immunization hold questions should be directed to McKinley Health Center.

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 the U.S./Campus

As of January 26, 2021, all passengers travelling to the U.S will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 72 hours prior to travel, or proof of recovery from COVID-19. Further details can be found on the CDC website.

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.


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