Coronavirus Information for New Students

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

UA OPERATIONS, CLASSES, & ORIENTATION

Announced on March 1, 2021, UA resumed full-time, in-person instruction beginning in the Fall 2021 Semester.  All courses and programs are offered in-person.

Operations are in accordance to UA’s return plan, which is governed by the UA System Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan.

Based on The University of Alabama’s return to full-time, in-person instruction under normal operations, all F-1 and J-1 students must resume regular enrollment 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 SEVP Guidance section on the Coronavirus Page.


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


ORIENTATION
Newly admitted international students should review the new student Orientation Section for information on their Orientation and International Check-in Processes.

 

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.

How to Get Your F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019

 

ROUTINE VISA PROCESSING SERVICES RESUMING – PRIORITIZATION DECIDED BY EACH CONSULATE AND EMBASSY 

The Department of State announced updates to its Visa Services on November 19, 2021.

“As worldwide restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic begin to ease, and in line with the President’s proclamation regarding the safe resumption of international travel, the Bureau of Consular Affairs will focus on reducing wait times for all consular services at our embassies and consulates overseas while also protecting health and safety of our staff and applicants.  Although local conditions and restrictions at individual consular posts may continue to fluctuate, the guidance to posts for the prioritization of consular services during the pandemic issued in November 2020 has been rescinded. Embassies and consulates have broad discretion to determine how to prioritize visa appointments among the range of visa classes as safely as possible, subject to local conditions and restrictions.”

Some Embassies may ask for proof that The University of Alabama will offer in-person instruction.  Please print this confirmation letter which confirms our in-person instruction.

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.

How to Apply for a Student Visa Visa Delays and Administrative Processing

 

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 (remember, the earliest you can enter the U.S. is 30 days prior to your I-20 report date or your DS-2019 program start date);
  2. a valid passport;
  3. a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp;
  4. Negative Viral COVID Test within 1 day of flight (updated on December 2, 2021) – to find COVID resources abroad, please check that country’s Ministry of Health or this Department of State Country Specific COVID-19 Resource Page;
  5. Proof of vaccination required to enter the U.S. (effective November 8).

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

  1.  the UA ISSS confirmation letter regarding UA Operation Plans,
  2.  a copy of your class schedule or Enrollment Verification if you have pre-registered classes.

NEW REQUIREMENTS TO ENTER U.S. BY AIR – EFFECTIVE NOVEMBER 8, 2021

On October 25, 2021, President Biden issued Proclamation on Advancing the Safe Resumption of Global Travel During the COVID-⁠19 Pandemic, which requires that “noncitizens who are nonimmigrants” traveling to the United States by air from any part of the world establish that they are fully vaccinated, with some limited exceptions.

A separate CDC order requires all air travelers to show results of a negative coronavirus test one day (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) preceding their flight’s departure from a foreign country traveling to the United States.

“Noncitizens who are nonimmigrants” who are traveling by air will have to show both the negative COVID viral test and documentation that they are either fully vaccinated or are eligible for an exception to the vaccination requirement.

LAND AND FERRY ENTRY FROM CANADA AND MEXICO – VACCINATION REQUIREMENT – UPDATED JANUARY 22, 2022

Beginning, January 22, 2022all entry to the United States through land ports and by ferry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders will require that non-U.S. individuals be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination.  Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry POEs.  Land and Ferry travelers must meet the same vaccination requirements as air travelers.

(UPDATE) COVID ENTRY BAN FROM CERTAIN SOUTHERN AFRICAN COUNTRIES – REVOKED DECEMBER 31, 2021

On November 26, 2021, the U.S. President announced a ban on entry from certain southern Africa countries, citing the appearance of the COVID Omicron variant.  On December 28, 2021, the U.S. President revoked this travel ban under Proclamation 10329.

At present, there are no geographic (i.e. country-specific) COVID Entry Bans to the U.S.

Please note, the revocation of the travel ban does not remove the November 8, 2021 vaccination requirement.

Before You Travel to the United States

PROOF OF VACCINATION REQUIRED

All non-U.S. citizen, nonimmigrants traveling to the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only limited exceptions apply. Learn more about this requirement.

COVID TESTING REQUIRED

Before boarding a flight to the United States, you are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result (i.e., a nucleic acid amplification test [NAAT] or a viral antigen test) taken no more than 1 day before travel.

Children under 2 years old do not need to test. There are also accommodations for people who have documented recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Learn more about these requirements.

For more information about CDC COVID Testing Requirement.

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.

CONTACT INFORMATION REQUIRED
All air passengers to the United States will also be required to provide contact information to airlines before boarding flights to the United States. This strengthens a travel process already in place to rapidly identify and contact people in the U.S. who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, such as COVID-19. Access to travelers’ contact information will allow U.S. federal, state, and local health departments, and agencies to share appropriate health and public health information necessary to help keep the public safe.

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.

After Arrival to the U.S.

IF YOU ARE FULLY VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE OR WHO APPROVED EMERGENCY USE LISTING VACCINE

IF YOU ARE NOT FULLY VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED OR WHO APPROVED VACCINE BUT ARE ALLOWED TO TRAVEL TO THE U.S. UNDER A SECTION 3(b) EXCEPTION

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after arrival, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
  • Stay at home or in your hotel room and self-quarantine for a full 7 days, even if you test negative, unless you have documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
  • Isolate if your test result is positive or if you develop COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If you intend to stay in the United States for 60 days or longer, you must become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within 60 days of arriving in the United States or as soon as medically appropriate, unless you have a medical contraindication or are too young to be vaccinated.
  • Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.

WHERE TO QUARANTINE FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNVACCINATED
Students who will live on-campus will need to contact Housing to secure early move-in up to 2 weeks early in the Spring semester (note: classes begin January 12) 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 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.

UNDERSTANDING VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS MORE INFORMATION ON ENTRY REQUIREMENTS & BANS

 

VACCINES

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 COVID vaccinations received at an external location or their home country.

Student Vaccines On-Campus Report Vaccination UA Vaccine Page

 

 

ENROLLMENT GUIDANCE – RETURN TO PRE-COVID ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENTS

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

ISSS requires all international students on F-1 and J-1 student visas to follow the standard immigration regulations when registering for 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 full details and the latest guidance, please see our SEVP Guidance section on the Coronavirus Page.

 

Enrolling Online From Your Home Country – Generally Not Possible

The University of Alabama committed to resuming on-campus, in-person instruction, and almost all classes are offered as in-person classes.  Thus, it is not possible to begin study online 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 UA Online can be found here: https://online.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.

 

Deferring Admissions & I-20/DS-2019

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.

 

ELI & Pathway Students

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:

DEFERRALS – If you cannot enroll in-person, please contact us to defer your admission to a subsequent semester. To defer your admission to a future semester, please contact Shelley Moss at shelley.moss@ua.edu.

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.

 

Graduate Students

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

Graduate Admission Information:

 

If you will you be coming to UA for Spring Semester classes that start on January 12, 2022:

  1. Please confirm whether you intend to enroll in person for classes (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 U.S. For details on how to register, please see the Graduate School’s Getting Started guide or contact your program director.


DEFERRALS – If you cannot enroll in-person, please work with the Graduate School to defer your admissions:

  1. 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.

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.