Get Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Find information for continuing F-1 students. We will update this page regularly with new information.
The government has confirmed that the guidance from 2020 will remain in effect for the 2021-2022 academic year. This allows students who are already in the U.S. to take online classes without restriction. As long as you take a full course load, you can remain in lawful F-1 status, either in the U.S. or in your home country. If you are a new student outside of the U.S. who does not have immigration documents, you may apply for your I-20 and F-1 visa if any component of your Fall 2021 semester will be in-person.
If you are a newly admitted student, it's time to apply for your I-20. If you are already in the U.S. in F-1 status, you are eligible for your I-20, even if your program is fully online. If you are in your home country and need an F-1 visa, you are eligible for your I-20 as long as any of your fall courses have an in-person component, but if your program is 100% online, you are not eligible for the I-20.
While visa processing may be delayed due to the pandemic, we will work with you to help you as much as we can. Don't hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for assistance.
Please note that F-1 visa holders from all countries with 14-day travel restrictions are automatically granted a waiver and may travel directly to the US as long as your academic program starts after August 1, 2021.
Studying Online Within the United States
You may remain in the U.S. and study full-time if you take a full course load, which is 12 credits for undergraduate students or 9 credits for graduate students. You will remain in lawful F-1 status.
Studying Online From Your Home Country
You may study online from your home country as long as you take a full course load. You will remain in lawful F-1 status if you study full-time. Your I-20 and F-1 visa will remain valid until their end dates. If your I-20 end date is approaching, but you won’t graduate by that date, please fill in this form to request an extended I-20.
Your visa will remain valid for its duration. If it expires before you will return to the U.S. to continue your degree, you will need to apply for a new visa. Email email@example.com if you have questions about the visa renewal process.
The “5-Month Rule"
The 5-month rule is not in effect. As long as you maintain your status by studying full-time, online, you can remain outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months. Your I-20 and your visa will not be canceled if you are outside the U.S. for longer than 5 months.
Requesting a New I-20 or Travel Signature
You can fill out this form to request a new I-20 or travel signature, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will email you valid digital I-20s for the duration of this crisis. If you prefer a paper copy, we can mail your new I-20 to you.
Traveling and Re-entering the United States
The U.S. government tells us that F-1 students who are maintaining their status are eligible to enter the U.S. right now. However, travel remains risky. As always, you must have these three items:
- Your passport, valid 6 months into the future
- A valid F-1 visa
- An I-20 with a travel signature on the second page that is less than 12 months old. You can fill out this form to request a new I-20 or travel signature, or you can email email@example.com. We are able to provide you I-20s via email during the pandemic.
Students with a valid F-1 visa are automatically exempt from the 14-day physical presence bans and may enter the US directly, as long as their program begins after Aug 1, 2021. This includes students from India, China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Schengen Area. F-1 visa holders from any country with a 14-day physical presence are automatically given a National Interest Exception waiver.
If you are in the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, or Ireland, and you have a valid F-1 visa, you are exempt from the 14-day ban and may travel directly to the U.S, regardless of your program start date.
All travelers to the U.S. must show proof of a negative COVID test or documentation of prior illness and recovery, regardless of vaccine or antibody status.
If your current F-1 visa has expired, ensure your home consulate is currently open before planning your travel. Many consulates are still closed or have delayed visa processing times.
Also, Massachusetts has its own COVID-19 Travel Advisory.
Travel bans, restrictions, and quarantine policies can change at any time! Please use the links above to stay up-to-date, or feel free to email Laura to discuss current travel issues.
If You Need Less Than a Full Course Load to Complete Your Degree
If Fall 2021 is your final semester and you need less than a full course load to complete your degree, you may reduce to as few courses as you need in your final term and maintain your F-1 status. If you think you have another reason you would need a reduced course load, please email firstname.lastname@example.org before you finalize your course schedule.
Lesley's International Student Services Office will hold virtual employment workshops during the Fall semester to help you learn about work authorization. You may still be eligible for OPT or CPT during the pandemic. We will send information on the workshops out through our monthly email newsletters.
If you will graduate this Fall but plan on studying outside the U.S., and you still want to apply for OPT, please email email@example.com to learn more about your options.
There are no new on-campus positions for international students. For students who are continuing in an on-campus job, you must be physically present in the U.S.
Please make a Zoom appointment with Laura Kanner right away to discuss part-time study.
If you will remain outside the U.S., you may take less than a full course load, but your SEVIS record will be closed and it will need to be re-opened or re-activated before you return to the U.S. This may mean paying additional immigration fees, and it may impact your employment if you are within a year of graduation.
It is very important that you discuss this with Lesley's International Student Services Office before you finalize your course schedule. You should also reach out to your academic advisor to learn about any academic implications.
Health Insurance for Fall 2021
If you are studying in the U.S., you must have a U.S.-based health insurance plan. You may enroll in the Lesley University plan, or you may waive it by uploading proof of a U.S.-based, comparable, Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant plan.
If you are studying outside the U.S., you still must waive the insurance; however, you may use a foreign plan. As long as you have health coverage where you will be studying, you may apply to waive it. It does not need to be a U.S.-based, ACA-compliant plan if you will remain outside of the U.S.
The form requires you to enter a state, even if your plan is based outside of the U.S. If you are using an international insurance plan, please put "MA" for the state.
Connecting with Other International Students
Peer Mentor Program: We're starting a program to match new and returning international students. Learn more and sign up for the Peer Mentor Program.
Stay tuned to our monthly International Student Services emails to learn about programming and to get the link for our monthly International Student Support group.