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

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 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.

 

 

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 Operation Plans,
  2.  a copy of your class schedule or Enrollment Verification if you have pre-registered classes.

 

ENTRY BANS – Please see our Entry Ban section for guidance regarding current COVID-19 Entry Bans from  ChinaIranEuropean Schengen ZoneUK and IrelandBrazil, South Africa, and India.

On April 26, 2021, The State Department announced updated National Interest Exceptions for certain travelers from ChinaIranEuropean Schengen ZoneUK and IrelandBrazil, South Africa and on April 30, 2021 provided an additional update to include India.

  • 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 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.
  • J-1 students and scholars, F-1 students applying for new or renewal visas, and H-1Bs 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.

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

Student Vaccines On-Campus Report Vaccination UA Vaccine Page

 

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 students 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.

 

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

 

 

FALL 2021 ENROLLMENT GUIDANCE – RETURN TO PRE-COVID ENROLLMENT 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 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 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 for Fall 2021

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.

 

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 Fall Semester classes that start on August 18, 2021:

  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.

 

 

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 – 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.

 

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

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