Coronavirus Information

This page is intended to provide current UA international students and scholars with timely information and resources regarding COVID-19.

ISSS OFFICE HOURS AND ADVISING

PUBLIC OFFICE HOURS: Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:45 pm.

International Student & Scholar Services remains open for normal operations throughout the summer.  ISSS will close for official UA Holidays including Memorial Day on Monday, May 31 and in observance of Independence Day on Monday, July 5.

Drop-in Advising – Monday – Friday, 11 am – 3 pm – NO APPOINTMENT NEEDED
General advising hours are Monday through Friday, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm CST via Zoom or In-Person.  No Appointment is needed.

When seeking advising via Zoom, students and scholars will be connected with one of the UA ISSS Staff.  If there are multiple students and scholars in the queue, you will be placed directly into a waiting room.

Please note, drop-in advising is meant for shorter inquiries of 5 – 10 minutes, and in order to serve all students and scholars, we ask that this be reserved for quick questions.

Need a longer appointment? Book an appointment with ISSS online.

For all other questions or inquiries, please email international@ua.edu or call 205-348-5402.

Whether contacting us by phone or email, please be sure to include your name and CWID (if known) with your inquiry.

 

 

DOCUMENT REQUESTS

International students and scholars should submit document requests with the appropriate form and supporting documents via email to international@ua.edu.

Please submit all requests to international@ua.edu, including requests for Driver’s License Verification Letters, Social Security Employment Verification I-20 and DS-2019 replacementsTravel Signatures, Extensions, OPT, CPT, Academic Training, etc.

All verification letters and documents will be fulfilled and sent back as an electronic document via email.

I-20s and DS-2019s will be sent as an electronic document via email per guidance from the Department of Homeland Security Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and Department of State.

F-1/F-2 I-20s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for all official purposes – visa applications and renewals, entry to the U.S., applications for OPT, etc.  There is no need for the original, physical I-20 at this time.

J-1/J-2 DS-2019s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for most purposes except visa applications, renewals, and entry to the U.S.  For visa applications and renewals and entry to the U.S., the original, physical DS-2019 is required.

For official documents for which you need the original, physical document, such as J-1 DS-2019s needed for visa interview or entry to the U.S., OPT EAD Cards, original USCIS employment approval notices, etc., ISSS will need to arrange either an in-person pick-up or shipment to you following the steps outlined on our Document Shipping Page.

 

UNIVERSITY OPERATIONS PLAN

FALL 2021
Announced on March 1, 2021, UA will resume full-time, in-person instruction for the Fall 2021 Semester.

The Fall Semester will work in accordance to UA’s return plan, which is governed by the UA System Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan.

Fall Semester classes will begin on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, and the semester will end on December 11, 2021.

Based on The University of Alabama’s plan to return to full-time, in-person instruction under normal operations in the Fall 2021 Semester, all F-1 and J-1 students must resume regular enrollment in Fall 2021 under standard F-1 and J-1 guidance as outlined on our Full-Time Enrollment Page.

For full details and the latest guidance, please see our Enrollment Guidance section below.


ACADEMIC QUESTIONS
All students should refer to the UA Student FAQ Page for more information.

 

 

FALL 2021 ENROLLMENT GUIDANCE – RETURN TO PRE-COVID REQUIREMENTS

Based on The University of Alabama’s announced plan to return to full-time, in-person instruction under normal operations in the Fall 2021 Semester, all F-1 and J-1 students must resume regular in-person enrollment under standard F-1 and J-1 guidance beginning in the Fall 2021 Semester as outlined on our Full-Time Enrollment Page.

In preparation for the change back to pre-COVID enrollment requirements, ISSS requires all international students on F-1 and J-1 student visas to follow the standard immigration regulations when registering for Fall 2021 classes as outlined on our Full-Time Enrollment Page.

Generally speaking, F-1 and J-1 students are required to maintain a full-time course load during fall and spring semesters. Full-time enrollment generally means graduate students must enroll for at least 9 credits and undergraduate students must enroll for at least 12 credits every semester.

For F-1 visa holders, only 1 online class (i.e. 3 credit hours) per semester may count towards a “full course of study.”  For example, an undergraduate student is required to register for 12 credits per semester to maintain full-time status. Of the 12 required hours only 3 credit hours may be online. After an F-1 student has met the full-time requirement, any additional hours above the 12 required hours may be either regular campus classes or online.

J-1 student visa holders cannot count any online classes toward their full-time enrollment requirements.  For example, an undergraduate student on a J-1 student visa must enroll the first 12 credit hours in main campus, in-person courses, but after meeting the full-time requirement via main campus courses, they may enroll in additional hours above the full-time requirement in on-line courses.

FOR STUDENTS RETURNING FROM ABROAD, the notice here suspended the 5-month rule for absences from the United States.  So, for those students who have been enrolled online abroad and are returning to the U.S. to resume full-time in-person studies in Fall 2021 and have been outside of the U.S. for 5 months or more since March 2020, your I-20/DS-2019 and F-1/J-1 student status are valid for return.  Please refer to the RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES section of this page for more information regarding what documents to carry with you.

Please be aware that travel may be challenging at the moment.  Many other countries have introduced restrictions on transit and entry.  We recommend that you monitor conditions through your home country’s Embassy page and through resources such as the IATA Travel Page.

 

Enrolling Full-time Online From Your Home Country for Fall 2021 Generally Not Possible

FOR NEW STUDENTS – The University of Alabama has committed to resuming on-campus, in-person instruction in Fall 2021, and almost all classes will be offered as in-person classes.  Thus, it will not be possible to begin study online only in Fall 2021 for campus-based degree programs.

If you are facing delays arriving to UA for in-person studies, it is our strong recommendation that you seek to defer your admissions and F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 to a future semester, as outlined below.

If you would like to change your admission from a campus-based degree program to a fully online or distance learning degree program, you will need to contact your Admissions Office (Undergraduate Students – Shelley Moss at shelley.moss@ua.edu ; Graduate Students – Amanda Maltbie at aemaltbie@ua.edu).

Please note, while UA offers many degree programs online, not all of UA’s campus-based programs are available online.  Online and distance degrees offered by Bama By Distance can be found here: https://bamabydistance.ua.edu/degrees/.

Additionally, if you have been awarded scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship funding, switching from a campus-based degree program to an online degree program will likely invalidate your funding offer, as University of Alabama assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships awarded for campus-based programs do not apply to classes taken in an online program.

Finally, please note that you will not be eligible for F-1 or J-1 student visa sponsorship in an online or distance learning degree program.  Switching to an online or distance learning program will require ISSS to cancel your SEVIS Record and F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 issued to you.

FOR CONTINUING STUDENTS, you must return to UA and study full-time on-campus to be eligible to continue your F-1 or J-1 visa status.  Students who are on active I-20s or DS-2019s cannot continue to enroll online from their home country in Fall 2021.

If you wish to study online from your home country in Fall 2021, you will need to end your I-20 or DS-2019 for an authorized leave of absence (also see below in “Deferring Admission/Taking a Leave of Absence For Fall 2021 – Remaining In Your Home Country”).

Deferring Admission/Taking a Leave of Absence For Fall 2021 – Remaining In Your Home Country

FOR NEW STUDENTS (those with new initial I-20s and DS-2019s), if you are unable to arrive to UA for in-person classes, whether due to visa or travel delays or personal reasons, and you wish to defer your admissions and F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 documents, you need to contact the Admissions Office which handled your application:

Once your admissions, as well as any UA funding, have been deferred, UA’s International Student & Scholar Services will process an update to your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 and provide you with the updated documents.

Generally speaking, deferred F-1 I-20s and J-1 DS-2019s will retain the same SEVIS ID, and students who have paid the SEVIS Fee and have applied for their F-1 or J-1 Visa will not need to pay a new fee or submit a new visa application with the Embassy.

FOR CONTINUING STUDENTS (those who are continuing studies on active I-20s and DS-2019s), if you are not able to return to UA to resume in-person study or if you would like to take a leave of absence for the Fall 2021 semester, please do the following:

  1. Submit a Leave of Absence Form to international@ua.edu by Wednesday, August 25, 2021.  After August 25, ISSS will end your SEVIS Record and I-20/DS-2019.
  2. To return to UA in January 2022, submit the following to international@ua.edu:
    1. I-20/DS-2019 Request Form
    2. Proof of Funding
    3. Scan of Passport/Visa
  3. Once you have received your new I-20 (or DS-2019 for those on J-1 status) with an January 2022 start date, you will then be able to make plans to return to UA.
    1. You will have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again since you will receive a new SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 with a new SEVIS ID.
    2. Current Department of State and Homeland Security guidance, states that if your student visa stamp in your passport has not been cancelled or has not expired, you may use it to enter the U.S. on a new SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.
    3. For those on F-1 Student Visas, since F-1 students returning from a leave of absence enter the U.S. on a new initial I-20, they are required to complete another full academic year in F-1 status in order to be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you plan to apply for practical training, you should be enrolled as a full-time student for at least 2 semesters prior to your anticipated CPT/OPT start date.

 

SUMMER 2021 ENROLLMENT GUIDANCE

Regarding Summer 2021 enrollment, summer is considered a normal break in academic studies for continuing undergraduate and graduate students.  For F-1 and J-1 undergraduate and graduate students who have studied in Spring 2021 (at UA or another institution) and will study at UA in Fall 2021, they are not required to enroll in any summer classes.  If an international student who has met the full-time requirement for the preceding spring semester decides to enroll in classes for summer, there is no minimum enrollment requirement nor any restriction on method of delivery.

Only F-1 and J-1 students who will begin studies in the U.S. on a new F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 in Summer, will be required to enroll full-time.

For exceptions and other situations for summer enrollment, please consult our Summer section on Full-time Enrollment or please contact ISSS.

 

TRAVEL – REMINDERS AND PRECAUTIONS

International Student & Scholar Services want to urge international students who have plans to travel internationally to carefully consider their travel.

As you consider your travel plans, please use our Coronavirus Information Page for the latest information on the UA Operation Plans, Return Travel Requirements, Visa and Entry Bans, and CDC Guidance & Campus Testing.

NOTES ON TESTING AND QUARANTINES:

We ask that you take into account the possibility of travel delay and restrictions, quarantines or prolonged self-isolation requirements when entering or transiting through other cities/countries based on their local guidance for COVID-19.

To find COVID resources abroad and quarantine requirements in other countries, please check that country’s Ministry of Health page or this Department of State Country Specific COVID-19 Resource Page.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a Travel Information website related to COVID-19, and specifically recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to countries at Warning Level 3. Please note that these ratings can change rapidly and without warning.

Airlines have been offering to waive their change or cancellation fees in an effort to curb non-essential travel to places which may be deemed high risk. Please contact your travel agent or respective airlines for your options. If you have travel insurance, you should closely review your plan to assure it does not exclude pandemics in the case of need for medical evacuation.

Should you choose to travel outside the U.S., please make sure you have the following before leaving Tuscaloosa:

  1. a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019,
  2. a valid passport,
  3. a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp.
  4. a printout of the UA ISSS confirmation letter regarding UA Operation Plans,
  5. a copy of your schedule (from MyBama) or Enrollment Verification.

If you need a travel signature or your travel signature will be more than 1 year old at the time you plan to return, please submit a Travel Signature Request with the subject line “TRAVEL SIGNATURE REQUEST” via email to international@ua.edu.

I-20s and DS-2019s will be sent as an electronic document per guidance from the Department of Homeland Security Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and Department of State.

F-1/F-2 I-20s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for all official purposes – visa applications and renewals, entry to the U.S., applications for OPT, etc.  There is no need for the original, physical I-20 at this time.

J-1/J-2 DS-2019s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for most purposes except visa applications, renewals, and entry to the U.S.  For visa applications and renewals and entry to the U.S., the original, physical DS-2019 is required.

For official documents for which you need the original, physical document, such as J-1 DS-2019s needed for visa interview or entry to the U.S., OPT EAD Cards, original USCIS employment approval notices, etc. ISSS will need to arrange shipment to you, following the steps outlined on our Document Shipping Page.

 

 

RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES

If you have already departed the country, and require a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, please submit a Travel Signature Request with the subject line “TRAVEL SIGNATURE REQUEST” via email to international@ua.edu.

I-20s and DS-2019s will be sent as an electronic document per guidance from the Department of Homeland Security Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and Department of State.

F-1/F-2 I-20s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for all official purposes – visa applications and renewals, entry to the U.S., applications for OPT, etc.  There is no need for the original, physical I-20 at this time.

J-1/J-2 DS-2019s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for most purposes except visa applications, renewals, and entry to the U.S.  For visa applications and renewals and entry to the U.S., the original, physical DS-2019 is required.

For official documents for which you need the original, physical document, such as J-1 DS-2019s needed for visa interview or entry to the U.S., OPT EAD Cards, original USCIS employment approval notices, etc. ISSS will need to arrange shipment to you, following the steps outlined on our Document Shipping Page.

FOR STUDENTS RETURNING FROM ABROAD, the notice here suspended the 5-month rule for absences from the United States.  So, if you have been outside of the U.S. for 5 months or more since March 2020 and enrolled online abroad and are returning to the U.S. to resume full-time in-person studies, your I-20/DS-2019 and F-1/J-1 student status are valid for return.

 

ENTRY BANS AND NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTION WAIVERS

On May 27, 2021, the State Department announced updated National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from ChinaIranEuropean Schengen ZoneUK and IrelandBrazil, South Africa and India which states:

“On May 27, 2021, the Secretary of State made a national interest determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9984, 9992, 10143, 10199, and similar subsequent PPs related to the spread of COVID-19.  As a result of this determination, together with national interest determinations already in place, travelers subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, who are seeking to provide vital support or executive direction for critical infrastructure; those traveling to provide vital support or executive direction for significant economic activity in the United States; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs; immigrants; and fiancés may now qualify for a National Interest Exception (NIE)…

Students with valid F-1 or M-1 visas traveling to begin or continue an academic program do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.  They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.  NIE eligibility for students who have been present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa applies only to programs that begin on or after August 1, 2021. 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.”

The National Interest Exception waivers will be available for certain travelers, academics, and students under European Schengen Area (Proclamation 9993) and United Kingdom and Ireland (Proclamation 9996). China (Proclamation 9984), Iran (Proclamation 9992), Brazil (Proclamation 10041), South Africa (Proclamation 10143) and India.

What does the NIE mean for those subject to COVID-19 Entry Bans?

  • Students and academics subject to COVID-19 Entry Ban proclamations due to their presence in European Schengen Zone, UK or Ireland, may qualify for an NIE now under the previous NIEs put in place in 2020.
  • Students and academics subject to COVID-19 Entry Ban proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins or resumes August 1, 2021 or later.  Specifically, the NIE means that the earliest date of arrival or return to UA for Fall 2021 would be July 19, 2021 if coming from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa or India, as it is not possible to qualify for the NIE until 30 days before UA’s Fall 2021 start date on August 18, 2021.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection who control entry to the United States have separately recognized the National Interest Exception in this posting via the Carrier Liaison Program.

F-1 and J-1 visa applicants, J-1 exchange visitors, and academics must contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate regarding a National Interest Waiver.  Those with valid F-1 student visas do not need to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, as their valid F-1 visa will make them qualified for automatic consideration for the national interest exception waiver.  Please see the State Department’s “National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland” and “Uniform Global National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions.

As proof of UA’s plan to offer on-campus instruction, please print this confirmation letter to submit to the Embassy and/or to carry with you to present to Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Entry.

Please also make sure to print the Department of State page and this posting from CBP to take with you in your carry-on bag to board your flight as well as to the Port of Entry. Information is sometimes slow to be disseminated amongst government agencies and airlines so having this printed page may aid you if questioned about your eligibility to enter the U.S. We also recommend you check with your air carrier to try to confirm that you are in fact admissible to the U.S. under this exception.

Prior to travel, monitor healthinfo.ua.edu for the most recent campus information about the situation, that you stay aware of CDC travel watches, alerts and warnings, and seek out additional CDC and State Department updates, and that you monitor our website for immigration-related travel updates.

Also, please be aware that transit through other countries may be challenging at the moment.  Many other countries have introduced restrictions on transit and entry.  We recommend that you monitor conditions through your home country’s Embassy page and through resources such as the IATA Travel Page.

PROTECTING YOURSELF DURING TRAVEL

The CDC has guidance on ways to protect yourself via flight and when using public transit, rideshares, and taxis.

Obviously, it is necessary to get from the airport to your home here in Tuscaloosa, and in that case, follow the CDC transportation guidance for the connecting transportation from the airport to Tuscaloosa.

Please see the latest CDC Guidance on what to do before and after travel.

 

 

 

VACCINES, TESTING, & QUARANTINE GUIDANCE

VACCINE AVAILABILITY FOR STUDENTS
The Student Health Center offers the Pfizer vaccine to all UA students (over age 16) who are able to receive both doses on campus.

Students are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated wherever it’s available, whether on campus or through a variety of other sources. Vaccines.gov provides distribution locations anywhere in the country. Students should report vaccinations received at an external location.

Student Vaccines On-Campus Report Vaccination UA Vaccine Page

 

VACCINE AVAILABILITY FOR SCHOLARS, FACULTY, STAFF, AND FAMILIES
Scholars, faculty, staff, and their families should check with their health care provider regarding vaccine availability or check Vaccines.gov for a vaccination location.  Scholars, faculty, staff, and their families who are patients at the University Medical Center on campus are eligible to book an appointment for the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.

Faculty, staff, and scholars should report vaccinations received at an external location.

Scholars, Faculty, and Staff Vaccines On-Campus Report Vaccination UA Vaccine Page

 

PREDEPARTURE COVID TESTING
Students who require either a Rapid Test or PCR COVID Test prior to departure from the U.S. can obtain one from the Student Health Center at UA.   Students must call 205-348-2778 and make an appointment.

Scholars who require a Rapid test or PCR COVID Test should contact their health care provider or a local clinic.

 

ENTRY/ RE-ENTRY COVID TESTING REQUIREMENT
Effective January 26, 2021, a negative COVID-19 Test Required to enter/re-enter the U.S., regardless of vaccination status.

All travelers, even those who have been vaccinated, must have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel to the U.S.

For more information about CDC COVID Testing Requirement.  To view the order, click here pdf icon[PDF – 9 pages].  To see the passenger attestation, visit the Attestation pdf icon[PDF – 3 pages].

To find COVID testing and vaccination resources abroad, please check your country’s Ministry of Health page or this Department of State Country Specific COVID-19 Resource Page.

CDC Travel Guidance - April 2, 2021

QUARANTINE POST ARRIVAL – CDC GUIDANCE

  • BEFORE TRAVEL TO THE U.S.
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before you travel to the U.S.
    • All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States. The COVID testing requirement is regardless of vaccination status.  See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information about this requirement.
    • To find COVID testing resources abroad, please check your country’s Ministry of Health page or this Department of State Country Specific COVID-19 Resource Page.
    • Do not travel if your test result is positive; immediately isolate yourself, and follow public health recommendations.
    • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.
    • A negative test does not mean that you were not exposed or that you will not develop COVID-19.
    • Make sure to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, and watch your health for signs of illness while traveling.
    • Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel. You may be asked for them.
  • AFTER ARRIVAL TO THE U.S.
    • IF YOU ARE FULLY VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE OR WHO APPROVED EMERGENCY USE LISTING VACCINE
      • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
      • You should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely
      • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel
    • IF YOU ARE NOT VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED OR WHO APPROVED VACCINE
      • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.
        • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
        • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
      • If you don’t get tested after travel, you must stay home and self-quarantine for at least 10 days after travel.
      • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
    • Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.

 

WHERE TO QUARANTINE
Students who will live on-campus will be allowed to arrive up to 2 weeks early in the Fall semester (note: classes begin August 18) in order to self-quarantine in their residence hall or on-campus apartment.

NOTE: There will be no quarantine space available on-campus for those who will live off-campus.  Students, scholars, faculty, and staff living off-campus will either need to self-quarantine in their apartment/home or secure temporary housing where they can complete self-quarantine.

 

HAVE SYMPTOMS AFTER YOUR TRAVEL?
Students with concerning symptoms should call the Student Health Clinic prior to visiting at (205) 348-3854 or (205) 348-0386.

Employees with concerning symptoms, please call the University Medical Center at (205) 348-4696 or (205) 348-1770  before visiting.

 

TEST + TRAIN + CHECK = WELCOME BACK!
All students, scholars, and employees will need to do the following to be allowed on-campus:

  1. get tested following the UA Protocols (Student Testing; Employee/Scholar Testing)
  2. complete a training module, and
  3. check symptoms regularly through UA’s HealthCheck.

CDC Guidance for International Return Travel

 

STUDENT HEALTH CENTER & IMMUNIZATION QUESTIONS

Currently, the Student Health Center and Pharmacy is open Monday – Thursday, 8 am – 5 pm; Friday 9 am – 5 pm.  Students should call 205-348-2778 prior to visiting the Student Health Center.

COVID-19 Screening
All students will be assessed for COVID-19 risks prior to a visit to the Student Health Center.  Students need to call 205-348-2778 (or the main line at 205-348-6262) prior to visiting the Student Health Center.

Information Regarding PCR COVID tests for Travel
The Student Health Center offers both PCR COVID testing and Rapid Testing.  Keep in mind Rapid Testing (aka an “antigen” test) is NOT the same as a PCR test.  Be sure to check with your airline regarding which test is required.

Students requesting PCR testing for travel must call 205-348-2778 and make an appointment. When you call, please inform the staff that your appointment is a PCR test for travel. PCR testing results are usually returned within 24-48 hours. The Student Health Center cannot report results on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). The SHC recommends that you have the test done Monday – Thursday. Tests done on Fridays will not be reported to the student until the following Monday. Results can be sent to you via the SHC’s secure Patient Portal.

If your travel does not require a PCR test, you can call 205-348-2778 to schedule a Rapid Test any time Monday – Friday, and the results will be reported to you that same day. Please inform the nurse that the Rapid Test is for travel and that you will need a copy of the lab report sent to you. Be sure to check with your airline regarding what test is required. If they will accept an “antigen” test then a rapid test will meet that requirement.

To the best of SHC’s knowledge, international travel requires a PCR test performed 72 hours or less prior to departure. The SHC recommends that you check with your airline regarding health requirements for travel.

Cost for a PCR test with office visit done at the Student Health Center is around $180.00. Cost of the Rapid Test is around $40.00. Your health insurance may cover some or all of the cost, but you will need to contact your medical insurance company and ask them what is covered.

If you have questions please e-mail shc@ua.edu.

Immunizations and Holds
Students requiring immunizations and TB testing to remove their holds can go to the SHC.  After an initial assessment for COVID 19 risks, students seeking immunizations and TB testing will be placed in a well waiting area to isolate them from those students that seeking treatments for illnesses.

For those who have left the country or are not in Tuscaloosa, you can still submit proof of immunization records and TB tests from your personal doctors online.  You would need to submit the documentation via the MyBama Portal using clear pictures or scans.  Please follow the information on https://shc.sa.ua.edu/forms/immunization-form/ .  The SHC will accept official records, but they must be English.

Those with Immunization questions should contact immunizations@ua.edu, but make sure to include your name and CWID in your communication.

 

 

MEDICAL INSURANCE QUESTIONS

Undergraduate and Graduate International Students enrolled in Spring 2021 classes will be covered under the UA Sponsored UnitedHealthcare Policy which covers both Spring and Summer 2021 (January 1, 2021 – July 31, 2021), unless the student processes a waiver.

UnitedHealthcare has posted this on their page: https://www.uhcsr.com/news-main

“During the national public health emergency period, UnitedHealthcare will cover medically necessary COVID-19 testing at no cost share when ordered by a physician or appropriately licensed health care professional for purposes of diagnosis or treatment of an individual member.”

More information about the UA Sponsored UnitedHealthcare Policy can be found on the Student Health Center’s Sponsored Insurance Page.

Students are encouraged to access their insurance cards and plan details through the UnitedHealthcare Student Resources Portal: http://www.uhcsr.com/ua.

All questions regarding student insurance should be directed to the Student Health Insurance Office at 205-348-4086 or via email to shc@bama.ua.edu.

Other Insurance Policies:

  • Students who are covered under separate insurance policies through their sponsoring government scholarship (e.g. Kuwait Cultural Office Scholarship and Saudi Arabian Cultural Missions Scholarship students) will need to direct insurance questions to their sponsors.
  • Students who request and receive a waiver due to external coverage will need to direct insurance questions to their independent insurer.
  • UA Employees, Faculty, and Staff should refer to their Medical Insurance policy regarding their coverages.
  • Unpaid Visiting Scholars who have independent insurance policies will need to direct insurance questions to their sponsors and to their independent insurance provider.

 

 

GRADUATION QUESTIONS – IMPORTANT REMINDERS

For information regarding Commencement Ceremonies, please refer to the UA Student FAQ Page and UA Commencement page.

Students who will be graduating should review our information regarding the final term here.

F-1 students who wish to apply for OPT should refer to the OPT Employment section of our website.

J-1 students who wish to apply for Academic Training should refer to the J-1 Academic Training section of our website.

International Student & Scholar Services will still process OPT and Academic Training applications and are able to do so via email and distance.

Please note: Students applying for OPT or Academic Training must be inside the United States at the time of application.  The primary advising contact for OPT and AT questions is Ms. Trang Nguyen, trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu.

 

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA ASSISTANCE

The UA Emergency Assistance program allows students the opportunity to access short term assistance in times of need. Potential assistance may be in the form of gift cards, meal allotments, referrals, and other kinds of financial assistance through the support and compassion of our UA community.

Students who are in need of emergency assistance should see the Emergency Assistance page on Student Care & Well-Being’s website.

Additionally, students who are in severe crisis and need assistance are encouraged to reach out directly to International Student & Scholar Services at international@ua.edu.

FEDERAL & STATE ASSISTANCE AND PUBLIC CHARGE IMPLICATIONS

NOTE: On March 9, 2021, DHS announced that it would stop enforcement of the 2019 Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Rule and has submitted formal notice to implement the vacatur of the 2019 Rule.  DHS has reverted to the 1999 Interim Field Guidance on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.

There were some exceptions to the now-vacated 2019 Public Charge rules with regard to international student and scholar eligibility for assistance for health care, unemployment payments, and even funds from the federal COVID-19 stimulus.

TESTING, TREATMENT, AND PREVENTIVE MEDICAL CARE
USCIS and DHS made it clear that COVID-19 testing, treatment, and preventive care would not be considered a violation of the vacated 2019 Public Charge Rules.

COVID-19 ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS
Eligibility for CARES Act and American Rescue Plan COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments from the IRS depend on a number of factors related to your tax status in the U.S.  Eligibility depends on whether or not an international student or scholar qualifies as a U.S. resident alien for tax purposes, has an SSN that is valid for employment, and meets the income requirements.

Please refer to the UA International Tax Office Page regarding eligibility.

NOTE: If you have received a stimulus payment in error, please immediately contact International Tax Specialist, Casey V. Jones at cvjones@fa.ua.edu.

HIGHER EDUCATION EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND (HEERF)
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan contain sections that allow for distribution of funds to higher education institutions through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). These funds are to be used by colleges and universities to provide aid directly to students who have experienced a disruption because of the coronavirus crisis.

In the first two HEERF fund approvals, Department of Education (DOE) policy and guidance stated that international students on F-1 or J-1 student visas are not eligible for any payments from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF).

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III) was signed into law on March 11, 2021, providing support to institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Unlike prior HEERF Funds disbursements, international students are eligible to apply for HEERF III Funds.

Students who would like to request HEERF III funds may submit an application by clicking the button below.

HEERF III FUNDS APPLICATION

Students who are in need of additional emergency assistance should see the Emergency Assistance page on Student Care & Well-Being’s website.


UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
Immigration-related eligibility requirements for Unemployment Insurance under the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan are less clear than the eligibility for Stimulus Payment and Tax Credits, and it is possible that eligibility may be restricted only to those who are defined as a “Qualified Alien”.

It is important that you review Public Charge rules and other resources to determine both eligibility and potential Public Charge considerations with regard to Unemployment Insurance.

 

 

ROUTINE VISA PROCESSING SERVICES RESUMING – PHASED-IN PROCESS, WHICH IS DECIDED INDIVIDUALLY BY EACH CONSULATE AND EMBASSY 

The Department of State announced updates to its Visa Services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely affect the ability of embassies and consulates around the world to be able to resume routine visa services. The particular constraints vary based on local conditions and restrictions, but include local and national lockdowns; travel restrictions; host country quarantine regulations; and measures taken by our embassies and consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19. Combined, these restrictions have reduced appointment capacity during the pandemic, which has created a significant backlog of both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants awaiting a visa interview.  The State Department is working to reduce this backlog while ensuring the safety of our staff and applicants and protecting our national security.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates that process nonimmigrant visa applications are prioritizing travelers with urgent needs, foreign diplomats, mission-critical categories of travelers (such as those coming to assist with the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers who are essential to the American food supply), followed by students, exchange visitors, and some temporary employment visas.

Some Embassies may ask for proof that The University of Alabama will offer in-person instruction, and in some instances, you may require a letter for expedited visa appointment.  Please print this confirmation letter which both confirms our in-person instruction and the need to expedite processing to submit to the Embassy.

You will need to check your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out if their local process for resumption of visa processing.  Applicants with an urgent matter who need to travel immediately should contact the nearest embassy or consulate to request an emergency appointment.

Visa appointment wait times can be found here.

Contact information for embassies and consulates worldwide is available at usembassy.gov.

 

TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF CONSULAR PROCESSING OF IMMIGRANT VISAS AND CERTAIN J, H, & L NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS   – ENDED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER ON FEBRUARY 24, 2021

On February 24, 2021, the U.S. President signed a final proclamation, revoking Proclamation 10014 and ending the suspension of Immigrant Visa and Certain J, H, & L Non-Immigrant Visas Abroad.

For a history of the visa suspension, please see this resource page.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even though the February 24, 2021 order ended these suspensions, individuals may still be subject to one of the country-specific COVID-19 Entry Ban proclamations unless specifically exempt from those as well.

 

 

COVID-19 ENTRY RESTRICTIONS AND BANS

UNDERSTANDING COVID ENTRY RESTRICTIONS

 

CONTROLS AT LAND PORTS OF ENTRY ON CANADIAN AND MEXICAN BORDERS

Two Federal Register notices published on March 24, 2020 announced the decision to temporarily allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders for “essential travel” only.  Extensions of the restrictions were published on April 22, May 22, June 24, July 22, August 21, September 23, October 22, November 23, December 22, January 19, February 23, March 19, April 22, May 24, June 23, July 22, and August 23.

According to the notices, during the effective dates of the restrictions: “… travel through the land ports of entry and ferry terminals along the [… United States-Canada and United States-Mexico borders] … shall be limited to “essential travel.”

Essential travel under these orders includes travel for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States; individuals traveling to attend educational institutions; and individuals traveling to work in the United States.

 

RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL TO THE U.S. FROM CHINA, IRAN, BRAZIL, EUROPE, SOUTH AFRICA, AND INDIA

On January 31, 2020, the Secretary for Health and Human Services declared an emergency and the U.S. President signed an proclamation introducing a ban on the entry of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The restrictions went into effect on February 2, 2020.  On January 25, 2021, President Biden clarified by Executive Order that President Trump’s China Proclamation 9984 shall remain in effect until terminated by President Biden.

On February 29, 2020, a second Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The restrictions went into effect on March 2, 2020.  On January 25, 2021, President Biden clarified by Executive Order that President Trump’s Iran Proclamation 9992 shall remain in effect until terminated by President Biden.

On March 11, 2020, a third Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within the Schengen Area (comprised 26 European states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This COVID-19 travel ban went into effect on March 13, 2020On January 25, 2021, President Biden clarified by Executive Order that President Trump’s European Schengen Zone Proclamation 9993 shall remain in effect until terminated by the President, and that Proclamation 10138 of January 18, 2021 which sought to end the suspension would not go into effect.

On March 14, 2020, a fourth Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This COVID-19 travel ban went into effect on March 16, 2020On January 25, 2021, President Biden clarified by Executive Order that President Trump’s U.K. and Ireland Proclamation 9996 shall remain in effect until terminated by the President, and that Proclamation 10138 of January 18, 2021 which sought to end the suspension would not go into effect.

On May 24, 2020, a fifth Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This COVID-19 travel ban went into effect on March 28, 2020.  On January 25, 2021, President Biden clarified by Executive Order that President Trump’s Brazil Proclamation 10041 shall remain in effect until terminated by the President, and that Proclamation 10138 of January 18, 2021 which sought to end the suspension would not go into effect.

On January 25, 2021, a sixth Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This COVID-19 travel ban went into effect on January 30, 2021

On April 30, 2021, a seventh Presidential Proclamation was issued to suspend entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals who were physically present within India during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This COVID-19 travel ban is effective starting 12:01 am eastern standard time on May 4, 2021

 

NATIONAL INTEREST EXCEPTIONS FOR STUDENTS AND ACADEMICS

  • On June 29, 2021, The State Department announced National Interest Exceptions validity would be extended to up to 12 months for certain travelers from from ChinaIranEuropean Schengen ZoneUK and IrelandBrazilSouth Africa, and India.
  • On May 27, 2021, The State Department announced updated National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from from ChinaIranEuropean Schengen ZoneUK and IrelandBrazilSouth Africa, and India.
  • On April 30, 2021, The State Department announced that India would also be added to the National Interest Exceptions as they apply to China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa, meaning that students and academics will only qualify for an NIE if their academic program begins or resumes August 1, 2021 or later.
  • Students and academics subject to COVID-19 Entry Ban proclamations due to their presence in European Schengen Zone, UK or Ireland, may qualify for an NIE now under the previous NIEs put in place in 2020.
  • Students and academics subject to COVID-19 Entry Ban proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, or India may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins or resumes August 1, 2021 or later.  Specifically, the NIE means that the earliest date of arrival or return to UA for Fall 2021 would be July 19, 2021 if coming from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa or India, as it is not possible to qualify for the NIE until 30 days before UA’s Fall 2021 start date on August 18, 2021.
  • F-1 students with valid F-1 visas in their passports do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. F-1s receive NIEs automatically based on the valid visa in their passport.
  • J-1 students and scholars, F-1 students applying for new or renewal visas, and H-1B and other academics seeking a National Interest Exception exemption to the Entry Ban, should contact the U.S. Embassy in your country.  Contact information for embassies and consulates worldwide is available at usembassy.gov.
  • At this time, the National Interest Exceptions do not apply to dependents on F-2, J-2, or H-4 or other dependent visa status.  The NIE only mentions M-2 dependents as being eligible for entry to the U.S. under a National Interest Exception.
  • NOTE: Even with National Interest Exceptions in place for students and academics, visa appointments may not be available.
  • As proof of UA’s plan to offer on-campus instruction, please print this confirmation letter to submit to the Embassy and/or to carry with you to present to Customs and Border Protection at the Port of Entry.
  • Please also make sure to print the Department of State page to take with you in your carry-on bag to board your flight as well as to the Port of Entry. We also recommend you check with your air carrier to try to confirm that you are in fact admissible to the U.S. under this exception.

 

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS EXPLAINED

In general, the restrictions on travel to the U.S. from China, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in or transited through China, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, and India within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the United States per a presidential proclamation under INA 212(f), unless eligible for entry under a National Interest Exception.

The following additional restrictions on travel to the U.S. from China are:

  • Any U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other individual who is not subject to the entry ban who has been in Hubei Province, China in the 14 days prior to their entry to the United States will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they have been provided proper medical care and health screening.
  • Any U.S. citizen, permanent resident or other individual who is not subject to the entry ban who has been anywhere else in mainland China in the 14 days prior to their entry to the United States will undergo “proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry,” and up to 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine” to ensure they have not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.

For more information, please refer to this resource on Coronavirus Entry Restrictions.