Coronavirus Information for New Students

This page is intended to provide new and incoming international students with timely information and resources regarding Spring 2021 arrival in light of COVID-19.

SPRING 2021 CLASSES & ORIENTATION

Announced on September 30, 2020, UA will continue on-site, in-person instruction for the Spring 2021 Semester, with minor changes to the academic calendar.

Spring classes will begin on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

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

International Student & Scholar Services received updated guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding Spring 2021 via email on December 15, 2020.  The Fall 2020 Guidance established on July 24 will continue for the Spring 2021 Semester.  For full details, please see our SEVP Guidance section on the Coronavirus Page.


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


ORIENTATION
International students who have been admitted for Spring 2021 should review the new student Orientation Section for information on their Orientation and International Check-in Processes.

 

 

ARRIVAL, SELF-MONITORING, & TESTING

ENTERING THE U.S.

Please see our general pages for basic information on Arrival to Tuscaloosa.

To be able to enter the U.S. on F-1 or J-1 student visa status, you require:

  1. a valid I-20 or DS-2019,
  2. a valid passport,
  3. a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp.

Also, we suggest you carry the following additional documentation with you:

  1.  the UA ISSS confirmation letter regarding UA Spring 2021 Plans,
  2.  a copy of your Spring 2021 schedule or Enrollment Verification.

 

ENTRY BANS
Please see our Entry Ban section for guidance regarding current COVID-19 Entry Bans from ChinaIranEuropean Schengen Zone, UK and Ireland, and Brazil.

On July 16, 2020 the State Department announced National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from  European Schengen Zone and UK and Ireland.

  • The National Interest Exceptions Announcement states that, “Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel.
  • If you are applying for an F-1 Visa or if you hold a J-1 visa or other visa status in the European Schengen Zone or UK and Ireland, please contact the U.S. Embassy in your country to seek a National Interest Exception exemption to the Entry Ban.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

 

NEW CDC GUIDANCE

CDC COVID TESTING REQUIREMENT – Effective January 26, 2021, a negative COVID-19 Test Required to enter 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].

Prior to and after all types of air travel — international and domestic —  follow CDC guidance:

  1. Get tested 1-3 days before your flight.
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before you depart and again 1-3 days before you return.
    • Make sure you get your test results before you travel. If you are waiting for results, delay your travel.
    • Do not travel if your test result is positive; immediately isolate yourself, and follow public health recommendations.
    • 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.
  2. Get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home for 7 days after travel.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
    • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 14 days after travel.
  3. Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.
  4. Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.

Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take these everyday actions to protect others from getting COVID-19:

  • Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you, particularly in crowded areas. It’s important to do this everywhere — both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces outside of your home, including when using public transportation.
  • If there are people in the household who did not travel with you, wear a mask and ask everyone in the household to wear masks in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Watch your health: Look for symptoms of COVID-19, and take your temperature if you feel sick.

Students with concerning symptoms should call the Student Health Clinic prior to visiting at (205) 348-3854 or (205) 348-0386.

 

TEST + TRAIN + CHECK = WELCOME!

All students will need to do the following to be allowed on-campus:

  1. get tested following the UA Protocols for Student Testing,
  2. complete a training module, and
  3. check symptoms regularly through UA’s HealthCheck.

 

 CDC Guidance

CDC Guidance

 

 

STUDENT VISA STATUS – SPRING 2021 CLASSES 

Announced on September 30, 2020, UA will continue on-site, in-person instruction for the Spring 2021 Semester, with minor changes to the academic calendar.  Classes will begin on Wednesday, January 13, 2020.

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

International Student & Scholar Services received updated guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding Spring 2021 via email on December 15, 2020.  The Fall 2020 Guidance established on July 24 will continue for the Spring 2021 Semester.  For full details, please see our SEVP Guidance section on the Coronavirus Page.

Based on the continuance of the Fall 2020 Guidance, new students (those with new initial I-20s and DS-2019s) must enroll in at least one on-campus class as an in-person or hybrid course to be eligible for an F-1 or J-1 visa or to enter the United States in F-1 or J-1 status. Those on initial I-20s and DS-2019s cannot enter the United States and enroll fully online in Spring 2021.

At this time, there is no anticipation of any change to UA’s plans for on-campus instruction for Spring 2021, but if UA were to return to 100% remote learning at any point in the Spring 2021 semester in response to COVID-19, all active F-1 and J-1 students would remain in valid immigration status and be able to remain in the U.S.

 

Enrolling Online From Your Home Country

New students may begin your degree program by enrolling in online courses for the Spring 2021 semester from your home country and arrive in-person for the Fall 2021 semester, but UA International Student and Scholar Services will have to change your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 start dates. If you choose to enroll online from your home country for the Spring 2021 semester, you must contact Shardá Smith with International Student and Scholar Services at sharda.smith@ua.edu in order to update your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 immigration documents.

Please note that availability of online courses may be severely limited. The University of Alabama has committed to resuming on-campus instruction, and the majority of classes will be offered as in-person classes or in a hybrid format which requires an in-person component. Any questions regarding your courses available online must be directed to your Academic Advisor or Department.

If you are on a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship, please contact your sponsor regarding tuition coverage for online studies from your home country.  Any offers of financial support from The University of Alabama for Graduate Students on assistantship, fellowship, or scholarship do not apply to classes taken online while outside of the U.S.

 

Deferring Admission

New students may defer your admission and student documents to the Fall 2021 semester.  If you choose to defer admissions to the Fall 2021 semester, you must contact your Admissions Office (Undergraduate Students – Shelley Moss at shelley.moss@ua.edu ; Graduate Students – Amanda Maltbie at aemaltbie@ua.edu).

 

 

ELI & Pathway Students

The University of Alabama continues to roll forward, admitting students for Spring 1 and Spring 2 Sessions.

You can reach the English Language Institute at info@eli.ua.edu or 205-348-7413 or 205-454-8066.

ELI Admission Information:


Term Change/Deferral Requests
If your personal circumstances require that you change your entry term to a later date, it is not necessary for you to complete a new application. You can simply email the English Language Institute at info@eli.ua.edu to request your entry term be changed. The ELI will update your term of admission (or for Conditionally Admitted Students work with Graduate School or Undergraduate Admissions) and have your I-20 or DS-2019 updated.

 

 

Undergraduate Students

You can reach International Undergraduate Admissions  at international.admissions@ua.edu or 205-348-7026.

International Undergraduate Admissions are also available for individual Tide Chats.  To speak with an International Undergraduate Admissions staff member 1-on-1, sign up online for a Tide Chat.  The sessions are for students who may have in-depth questions and would like to video chat with Admissions.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our 360 view of campus. We are also offering virtual info sessions for your convenience.

Undergraduate Admission Information:

 

SPRING 2021 INSTRUCTION PLANS

The University of Alabama intends to continue in-person, hybrid, and online classes for the Spring Semester beginning on January 13, 2021.  The majority of classes will be offered in on-campus, in-person.

If you cannot, or prefer not to, enroll in-person in January, please let us know your preference among the following options:

  1. You may defer your admission to a subsequent semester. To defer your admission to a future semester, please contact Shelley Moss at shelley.moss@ua.edu.
  1. You may begin your degree program by enrolling in online courses from your home country for the Spring Semester and arrive in-person for the Fall 2021 Semester. If you choose to enroll online for the Spring Semester, you must contact Shardá Smith with International Student and Scholar Services at sharda.smith@ua.edu in order to update your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 immigration documents.

 

 

Graduate Students

You can reach the Graduate School at https://graduate.ua.edu/contact-us/ or 205-348-5921.

Graduate Admission Information:

 

SPRING 2021 INSTRUCTION PLANS

The University of Alabama intends to continue in-person, hybrid, and online classes for the Spring Semester beginning on January 13, 2021.  The majority of classes will be offered in on-campus, in-person.

If you will you be coming to UA for Spring Semester classes that start on January 13, 2021:

  1. Please confirm whether you intend to enroll in person for classes that begin on January 13 (please email Andrew Goodliffe).
  2. Please make sure that you register for classes as soon as possible. It is very important that you are registered prior to traveling to the US. For details on how to register, please see the Graduate School’s Getting Started guide or contact your program director.


If you cannot, or prefer not to, enroll in-person in January, please let us know your preference among the following options:

  1. You may defer your admission to August 2021. To defer your admission to a future semester, please contact Amanda Maltbie at aemaltbie@ua.edu.
  2. If you have an offer of financial support , contact your program director (for assistantship or scholarship) or contact the Dr. Andrew Goodliffe in Graduate School (for fellowships) to discuss deferral of your financial support to a future semester.
  3. You may enroll full-time or part-time in Spring 2021 courses online.  Any courses taken must count towards your degree and you must enroll in person at UA beginning in August 2021. Please contact your program director for advice on which courses to take. Any offers of financial support (assistantship, fellowship, or scholarship) do not apply to classes taken online while outside of the U.S.
  4. If you choose to enroll online for the Spring Semester, you must contact Shardá Smith with International Student and Scholar Services at sharda.smith@ua.edu in order to update your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 immigration documents.

If you have further questions, please contact your program director.

 

 

I-20 & DS-2019 DOCUMENTS

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, including visa applications and renewals and entry to the U.S.  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, visa 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., ISSS will need to arrange shipment to you, following the steps outlined on our Document Shipping Page.

 

ROUTINE VISA PROCESSING SERVICES RESUMING – UPDATED JULY 14

On July 14, The Department of State announced that Routine Visa Services would resume in a phased plan.

“The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework for safely returning our workforce to Department facilities.  U.S. Embassies and Consulates have continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services since March and will continue to do so as they are able.  As post-specific conditions improve, our missions will begin providing additional services, culminating eventually in a complete resumption of routine visa services.”

Some Embassies may ask for proof that The University of Alabama will offer in-person instruction.  Please print this confirmation letter 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.  Contact information for embassies and consulates worldwide is available at usembassy.gov.

This reverses the March 22, 2020 announcement that the U.S. State Department suspended visa services.  

For those who are applying for an F-1 or J-1 student visa, we encourage you to continue your effort to obtain a visa. If you can only get an appointment close to your semester start date, we still suggest you book and attend this appointment as you may be able to report late.

International Student & Scholar Services has been reassured in recent virtual meetings with The Department of State that as visa processing resumes, priority for visa appointments will be given to student and scholar visa applications.

If you are unable to obtain a visa appointment before the semester begins, we can work with the Admissions Office (English Language Institute, Undergraduate International Admissions, Graduate School, or Law School) to change your start term and issue an updated I-20 or DS-2019. We will work with you on an individual basis if you find you are unable to obtain a visa in time.

 

Restrictions on Travel to the U.S. from China, Iran, Europe, and Brazil

Please see our Entry Ban section for guidance regarding current COVID-19 Entry Bans from China, Iran, Europe, and Brazil and restrictions on travel between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and about exceptions to the Entry Bans and Restrictions.