Questions and answers on this page are broken into three categories:
Please review all the questions and answers below.
No, they have not. Unless and until they do, the guidance for the Fall 2020 term prevails.
The Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) rescinded a broadcast message issued on July 6, 2020 and the FAQ on July 7, 2020 and has since issued Clarifying Questions for Fall 2020 FAQ. In addition to this new FAQ, the FAQ for Stakeholders from March 2020 is still valid. NAFSA’s COVID-19 Critical Resources webpage is a great resource that serves as a central place for up to date COVID-19 impacts to Embassies, Travel & Re-entry Restrictions, Presidential Proclamations, and more.
Not all F-1 and J-1 students will be able to take online/virtual only classes for the Spring 2021 term. Your ability to take only virtual/online classes currently depends on whether you are an initial or active student in SEVIS, and whether you were in active SEVIS status and enrolled on a full-time basis as of March 9, 2020. If you are a current/active student, further details on this can be found under the “Active International Student” section of this FAQ. If you are a new/initial student, further details on this can be found under the “New International Student" section of this FAQ.
Students should check the Spring 2021 Returning to Campus Plan to view current plans and protocols. All students are expected to review and acknowledge the Student Spring 2021 Guide. Although we are expecting campus to be open this spring, we will be offering modifications to our course schedule, with approximately 28% of our classes being offered fully face-to face, with the rest a combination of virtual and hybrid courses.
UMass Lowell defines them as follows:
There are several travel restrictions that may impact your ability to travel throughout the globe, and well as to and within the United States and the state of Massachusetts. Please consider the following information:
ISSO is aware of a few embassies resuming some processing. To find information for the U.S. Embassy in your home country, please review the U.S. Embassy website.
To find information on Visa Appointment wait times or availability please check this State Department webpage.
New students in “Initial” SEVIS Status will likely not be eligible for a visa if their course load for Spring 2021 is fully online/virtual. Before attending your visa interview, please be sure to verify that you are enrolled full-time for the Spring 2021 term, and that at least one of your courses is in-person or hybrid in order to meet SEVP requirements. Students should request a letter from ISSO verifying that UMass Lowell is not a fully online program for the Spring 2021 if they have not yet received one.
Initial students who are not able to receive a visa in time for Spring 2021 can request an updated Form I-20 from ISSO to reflect a start term of Fall 2021 in hopes you can receive a visa and join us for the start of that term. You likely have the following enrollment options at UMass Lowell:
In both cases, your SEVIS record and Form I-20 would be updated by the ISSO to reflect a start date of Fall 2021, and your SEVIS record would be activated upon your arrival to UMass Lowell in August/September 2021.
*Please note that virtual classes have regularly scheduled meeting days and times, so please consider time zones before enrolling in virtual courses.
All new/initial students wishing to enter the U.S. for Spring 2021 will need to have course enrollments that are not completely online/virtual. Before arriving to the U.S., you should enroll for Spring 2021 courses, and ensure that at least one course is in-person or hybrid.
All students arriving after Jan. 25, 2021 must already be enrolled full-time in their degree program and must follow the protocols below:
Arrival during the Add/Drop Period (Jan. 25-Feb. 5):
Arrival after the Add/Drop Period (Feb. 5-24):
If you are unable or would prefer to not begin your program through online courses from your home country, we recommend you contact the Graduate Admissions or Undergraduate Admissions office to see whether you are eligible to defer your admission to Fall 2021. Once your admission is updated to reflect Fall 2021, ISSO will update your Form I-20 to reflect a start term of Fall 2021 (Sept. 1,2021).
On July 24, SEVP posted their Clarifying FAQ for Fall 2020 (guidance that still prevails for the Spring 2021 term), outlining the following:
* Some exceptions may apply, particularly involving "Change of Status" students.
In general, the key factor to determine whether or not you are eligible to take a fully online course of study, or if you are required to take at least one in-person course, is whether or not you were in the U.S. in “active” F-1/J-1 status, were enrolled on a full-time basis as of March 9, 2020 and have since been maintaining lawful status. If this does not apply to you, you will likely need a course load that is not completely online/virtual for Spring 2021.
Yes, you can return to or remain in your home country, taking online/virtual courses for the Spring 2021 semester. ISSO will keep your SEVIS record in Active status, so long as you had met the eligibility criteria allowing participation in a fully remote (online) course load. However, we will notify you, should any further guidance be issued on this item.
Yes, although your failure to enroll in any courses for the Spring 2021 semester will require you to depart the U.S. prior to the start of the Spring 2021 semester (if in the U.S. currently). Thereafter, the ISSO would terminate your F-1/J-1 student status and SEVIS record. It may be possible for the ISSO to request reactivation of your SEVIS record should you wish to return for the Fall 2021 semester, though your options may be limited depending on how long your absence from the U.S. lasts. Please consult with an ISSO official before making plans to take a leave of absence for the fall semester.
If you had previously completed a program of study and are now beginning a new program of study with the same SEVIS ID in the Spring 2021 semester, please note:
If you had previously filed a petition to change your status to F-1, the petition was approved and - as of the Spring 2021 semester - you will now be in F-1 status, SEVP guidance would appear to indicate that you CANNOT participate in a fully-online course load. Although you may have been enrolled full-time during the Fall 2020 semester, albeit in another status, because you are now an "initial" F-1 record, SEVP guidance would appear to require at least some in-person component. Please consult your academic department to confirm your Spring 2021 registration is not entirely online.
If your change of status petition to F-1 is still pending and is not approved by the Add/Drop period, you may participate in fully virtual/online courses for Spring 2021.
Initial transfer students for Spring 2021, who are currently in the US, and who were in active F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and have continued to maintain their status, can be considered a “continuing student”, may engage in virtual/online Spring 2021 enrollment. Upon checking in with ISSO during orientation, ISSO will SEVIS register initial transfer-in students and activate their status with UML. Once SEVIS registered, the student can theoretically come and go from US throughout the semester (as they are an “active” continuing student), but risks are present, particularly as it relates to travel restrictions and CBP questioning the coming and going from the US.
“New” transfer students – those that were not in the US in “active” SEVIS status and enrolled full-time as of March 9, 2020 - outside of the U.S. or already in the U.S. with the intent to start their academic program at UML during the Spring 2021 term cannotenroll in a course of study that is completely online. Again, the key determinant as to whether a student can enroll in a fully online course of study is whether the student was in “active” SEVIS status and enrolled as of March 9, 2020 at UML or elsewhere; if this does not apply to you, a “new” UML transfer student, you must enroll in at least one in-person course during the Spring 2021 term. ISSO will SEVIS register student upon check in with ISSO during orientation, finalizing the transfer and “activating” student’s SEVIS record under UMass Lowell sponsorship.
New transfer students outside of the US and enrolling remotely for the spring cannot have their SEVIS records activated by ISSO as they are outside of the US. ISSO will need to terminate initial “transfer-pending” records, deferring the program start to the Fall 2021 term with a SEVIS data fix prior to their eventual return for the Fall 2021 semester.
Theoretically, the data fix to “reactivate” the SEVIS record for the Fall 2021 term will not have any effect on previous time accrued as it relates to off-campus work eligibility, and the 5-month rule does not appear to apply to transfers.
New transfer students outside of the US and NOT enrolling for the spring are the same situation as above. Theoretically, even without Spring 2021 enrollment, due to COVID we would be able to defer the start of the transfer to Fall 2021 with a data fix, preventing any effect on time accrued for off-campus work benefits. As it is with the above, the 5-month rule also does not apply. Guidance appears to indicate that Spring 2021 enrollment, from abroad, may make the data fix process go smoother, but it is not clear that enrollment is absolutely necessary to process the data fix.