The FAQ document below addresses common questions about UAB's plans for Fall 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic in general. Please read through all of these questions before contacting ISSS, your academic advisor, or your coach. We understand that some students may have a unique situation and that you may be concerned about your arrival on campus for Fall 2020. If you are a current UAB student and have additional questions or concerns after reading these questions, please attend our weekly Virtual Coffee Hour every Friday at 11:00 AM CST (details in the Globetrotter).

If your question isn’t answered during Coffee Hour, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. However, due to the extremely high volume of inquiries during this time, the response time may take up to 3 business days. Thank you for your understanding.

Important Links

FALL 2020 Courses

What are hybrid classes? How can I tell if a class is online or hybrid?

Terminology is very important for Fall 2020 classes. UAB’s Center for Teaching and Learning describes all of UAB’s modes of instruction on their website. If you have questions about specific courses, please contact your academic advisor or instructor to learn more about exactly what kind of class it is. ISSS has no information about specific courses.

How many online courses can I take for the Fall 2020 semester?

As of July 14 at 5:00 PM CST, returning and current UAB F-1 students inside the US are allowed to enroll in a fully online course load for the Fall 2020 semester.

Can I remain in the US and take only online classes during the Fall 2020 semester and maintain my F-1 status?

Yes, as of 5:00 PM on July 14. If SEVP issues revised guidance for the fall semester, we will communicate it to students via our weekly Globetrotter e-newsletter and our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Do I still need to enroll in the minimum 9 (graduate) or 12 (undergraduate) credit hours required for F-1 students?

Yes. These are still the minimum number of hours to be considered full-time for purposes of your F-1 status.

I’m currently back in my home country now. Can I take online classes from my home country if I cannot, or do not want to, fly back to the US?

Yes. Continuing and new students can take online classes from their home country; however, to maintain your F1 status you will need to enroll full time (12 hours for undergraduates/9 hours for graduates). If you do not enroll or only enroll part time (without an authorized reason) you’ll need to submit an Authorized Early Withdrawal Form. At least 60 days, but no more than 90 days, before you’re ready to enter the US to begin the Spring 2021 semester, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request that your SEVIS record be reactivated so that we can send you a new Form I-20 for entering the US.

Also know thatthe “five-month” rule is currently suspended, but we do not know how much longer that will continue. If SEVP reinstates the five-month rule, ISSS may be required to issue you a brand new Form I-20 with a new SEVIS number, and you must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again ($350). You may also lose time accrued for OPT or CPT eligibility.

I plan to remain outside the US for the fall 2020 semester, but a required course for my degree is not offered remotely or online. Can I enroll in a hybrid course and take it outside the US?

International students who wish to enroll in a hybrid course, but will not be able to return to the US for in person classes, should contact the instructor or their department directly. Any exceptions to the on-campus component of hybrid courses would be determined by the instructor or academic department.

I plan to be on-campus in the US for the Fall 2020 semester and will be studying in an Accelerated Pathway or Integrated Master’s Program. Will I be enrolled in online classes?

ISSS does not register students for classes; your Pathway advisors will make sure that you are registered in the appropriate number and type of classes.

I plan to be on-campus in the US for the Fall 2020 semester and will be studying in an Academic English or Standard Pathway program. Will I be enrolled in online classes?

Academic English and Pathway students will be enrolled only in in-person or hybrid classes (not “Q” classes). ISSS does not register students for classes and cannot change your schedule. Your Academic English and Pathway advisors will make sure that you are registered in the appropriate number and type of classes.

I-20 and Visa Issues

How can I apply for a visa?

You should have received specific information about paying your SEVIS fee and applying for an F-1 visa during the admissions and I-20 process. Please follow those instructions and consult this website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html

What if I don’t get a visa in time? Will I be penalized if I arrive late for class?

Attendance policies vary by course and program. Please contact your academic advisor or instructor and inform them of your delay. If you know you will arrive late because it is taking so long to get a visa, please notify your advisor, and they can provide a letter stating that they are aware of the delay and approve your late arrival.

I want to take the fall semester off and not enroll in any classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What will happen to my F-1 visa and Form I-20?

If you were enrolled full-time for the Summer 2020 semester, you may qualify for a “vacation” semester and need to send us this form: Verification of Annual "Vacation" Semester & "Holiday". If you were not enrolled full-time for the Summer 2020 semester and will not enroll in any classes for the Fall 2020 semester, you must complete an Authorized Early Withdrawal Form. As previously mentioned, ISSS will have to terminate your I-20 record and re-activate it before you return to the US. Remember: the F-1 visa in your passport and your Form I-20 serve different purposes. The F-1 visa stamp in your passport is primarily a “travel ticket” that must be valid any time you want to enter the US as a student, with very limited exceptions. The Form I-20 validates your F-1 status once you are inside the US and must be registered as Active in the SEVIS database while you are inside the US, or if you plan to travel to the US on your F-1 visa for study. If you will remain outside the US for Fall 2020 and not enroll in any classes, check the expiration date on your F-1 visa and contact ISSS before re-entering the US in Spring 2021 to make sure we have activated your SEVIS record in the government database before you travel.

If you try to re-enter the US on a terminated I-20, the CBP officer at the airport may deny your entry, or send you to secondary inspection for follow-up questions about why you tried to enter with a terminated I-20. You MUST contact ISSS before traveling if you’re unsure whether your SEVIS record is Active. DO NOT TRY TO ENTER THE US ON A TERMINATED I-20. CBP officers are instructed not to let you in. You may get lucky and be issued a Form I-515, but the general policy is that CBP will NOT let you into the US on a terminated I-20.

I am an international student currently outside the US who wishes to return to UAB campus for Fall 2020. Do I need to receive a new I20 document with added remarks or any other paperwork to be let in the country?

According to the most recent government guidance updated 7/24/20, I-20 forms do not need to be reissued for returning students. Returning F-1 students still must travel with a valid F-1 visa and most recent Form I-20 (endorsed for travel within the last year). We also recommend having proof of your Fall 2020 registration and information regarding UAB’s fall hybrid plan easily accessible on your phone (or a printout) to show the CBP officer at the airport in the event they want to see confirmation of UAB’s hybrid model.

Travel letters are not required for returning students to re-enter the US. Only your valid I-20 and valid F-1 visa are necessary for travel.

I am a new student for Fall 2020. I have received my Form I-20, but I cannot get a visa appointment because the US consulate/embassy near me is closed. What are my options?

All F-1 students (except citizens of Canada and Bermuda) must have a physical F-1 visa stamp in their passport before entering the US to begin their classes. If the US Department of State does not resume visa interviews in your home country before the fall semester begins, you must remain outside the US and enroll in UAB classes online. ISSS will send you an updated Form I-20 with a January 2021 start date so that you can hopefully get a visa interview in time to enter the US for the Spring 2021 semester.

Consular sections overseas may be able to expedite your interview date if there is an urgent situation such as a school start date. The process to request an expedited nonimmigrant visa interview varies by location. Read the instructions on the website of the Embassy or Consulate Visa Section where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. You will need to provide proof of the need for an expedited appointment, such as a printout of the UAB Fall 2020 academic calendar and your admission letter.

Travel

I want to travel home between the end of the Summer 2020 semester and the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, but my F-1 visa has expired. Will I be able to re-enter the US for fall?

Please do not do this! Many US consulates and embassies worldwide are offering only “expedited” appointments, and some consider a school start date to be a valid reason for an expedited appointment. We strongly advise against traveling outside the US if your current visa is expired if you plan to return for Fall 2020 classes at UAB. If you leave the US and have an expired visa, it could take weeks or months for you to get an appointment to obtain a new F-1 visa to re-enter. Weigh the risks carefully before making travel plans, and always buy travel insurance in case you need to cancel or rebook a flight.

I am currently in one of the countries on the restricted travel list (China, Iran, Brazil). How/when can I re-enter the US?

No one knows when the restrictions will be lifted. The President has broad authority over travel bans during times of emergency, and until the White House announces otherwise, the suspension will remain in effect indefinitely. The suspension states that anyone who has spent time in countries on the restricted list in the last 14 days is prohibited from entering the US. Please monitor this CDC website-- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html for the most current information about your ability to enter the US. You may wish to travel to a country not on the above list for fourteen days and then enter the US from there. ISSS and UAB cannot provide individualized flight plans, as we have over 1,000 international students from over 80 countries, and the regulations change on a practically daily basis. The best sources of information are the CDC, the US Department of State, and the website of the airline where you book your tickets. Certain US airports are offering enhanced screening or requiring passengers from certain countries to arrive there. A list is available at https://www.dhs.gov/coronavirus/protecting-air-travelers-and-american-public. ISSS cannot promise that a CBP officer will let you in, and you may need to apply for a visa even to enter a third country before entering the US. Travel restrictions change on a practically daily basis. ISSS/UAB is not responsible for the cost of any visas, transportation, or accommodation fees you accumulate trying to enter the US through a third country.

I am from one of the EU Schengen Area countries. Am I permitted to enter the US to continue my studies as a F1 visa holder?

Yes, the US State Department announced recently that students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid a F-1 visa and I-20 can enter the US, andare not required to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest waiver. Your I-20 and F1 visa will be enough to enter the US. Please see the US State Department website for more information.

Yes, the US State Department announced recently that Students traveling from the Schengen Area, theUK, and Ireland with a valid F-1 visa and I-20 can enter the US, and are not required to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest waiver. Your I-20 and F1 visa will be enough to enter the US. Please see the US State Department website for more information.

I am currently outside the US and am considering entering the US a few weeks after the semester starts. Is it possible to enter the US in the middle of the semester?

Returning F1 visa students should not have a problem re-entering the US in the middle of the semester as long as they have an ‘active’ I-20 signed for travel and a valid F1 visa. Students who are trying to enter the US but are experiencing flight cancellations or delays can study both outside the US and inside the US during the fall semester if needed.

I don’t want to take fall classes and I am trying to depart the US and return to my home country, however my flight reservations have been cancelled. Can I remain in the US without enrolling?

If you have no intention of enrolling in classes for the fall semester,then you should complete an authorized withdrawal form and email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible. Students who do not enroll in fall (and do not qualify for a vacation semester) cannot remain in the US legally. ISSS must take action on all I-20 records within 30 days of the semester start date. Enrolled students will be registered as ‘active’ in SEVIS, while those students who are not registered for credit hours(and have not requested a vacation semester) will have their I-20 ‘terminated’. Please contact ISSS if you will not enroll and cannot depart the US within 15 days of the fall semester start date.

Employment and Scholarships

I plan to remain outside the US for the Fall 2020 semester. Will I be able to receive my academic scholarship money?

Yes, undergraduate F-1 visa holders will continue to receive scholarship money if they are eligible while studying outside the US. Students will still need to meet the minimum requirements to retain their scholarship however (be full-time in fall and spring, while maintaining a 3.0 GPA). Graduate students who have been awarded scholarships should contact the Graduate School (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to confirm eligibility.

If I am outside the US and finish my degree in Fall 2020 by taking online classes in my home country, can I still apply for OPT work authorization?

As of today, ISSS does not plan to file OPT applications for students who are not physically present in the US for the Fall 2020 semester. We are still awaiting additional clarification from the Department of Homeland Security about whether students who are outside the US can apply for OPT. USCIS, not SEVP, governs Form I-765, which is the form to request work authorization. Page 4 of the Form I-765 expressly states that it must be filed from within the US. There are too many logistical considerations (international financial transactions, passport photos, etc.) to address without additional guidance from Homeland Security.

ISSS is happy to assist students who are physically present in the US for the Fall 2020 semester to apply for work authorization with USCIS as usual. Please see our website for forms and instructions.

Will I still be eligible for OPT and CPT in Spring 2021 if I remain outside the US for the Fall 2020 semester?

Yes, you will be eligible for CPT and OPT when you return to the US assuming you have already completed two semesters of full time study. Please also know, you must be inside the US to submit an OPT application to USCIS. USCIS has made no announcement that they will accept I-765 work authorization request forms filed outside the United States.

I am supposed to receive an assistantship with stipend from the UAB Graduate School, but I will not be in the US for the Fall 2020 semester. Will I still get paid?

The university has decided that international students who are not on campus in the fall will not be able to receive a stipend. For many international students at the doctoral (PhD) level who were anticipating a GA, GTA, or GRA, the best option maybe a deferral to Spring 2021 or Summer 2021 semesters. Please contact your advisor or program director to discuss options.

Tuition and fees can be paid by UAB (department, program, or Blazer Graduate Research Fellowship) for international students outside the US, if the students are joining a program for which their tuition and fees are typically paid by UAB. However, in accordance with state residency laws and Board Rule 202, tuition will be charged at the non-resident international rate for graduate students, which varies by school/college. Current tuition rates can be found here.

Please direct questions about stipends to the Graduate School Director of Administration and Fiscal Affairs, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Faculty

I am a faculty member. Where can I find resources to learn more about UAB’s Fall 2020 modes of instruction?

The new UAB United website has great information and resources about UAB’s Fall 2020 modes of instruction on Academics page for Faculty & Staff.

I am a program director, chair, or academic advisor. Can my F-1 international students enroll in all remote/online/distance classes for Fall 2020?

Yes, as of 5:00 PM on July 14.

Housing, Insurance and Entry to Campus

I don’t know if I want to sign a year-long lease. How can I find short-term housing for the Fall 2020 semester?

For assistance with off-campus housing, please contact the UAB Office of Off-Campus Student Services.

I plan to leave the US at the end of the summer and want to end my apartment lease, but my landlord won’t let me. What can I do?

For assistance with off-campus housing, please contact the UAB Office of Off-Campus Student Services. If you need assistance changing the terms of your current lease, or think you need legal assistance to deal with your landlord, please contact the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program. You could also try subletting your room to another student who plans to remain in Birmingham for the fall semester. ISSS cannot assist with tenant-landlord disputes.

Do I need an insurance waiver if I won’t be in the US for Fall 2020?

Please review this website https://www.uab.edu/students/health/insurance-waivers/waiver and contact UAB Student Health Services for all questions about health insurance and waivers.

Will I have to be tested for COVID-19 when I arrive in Birmingham?

Yes. UAB is working with Testing for Alabama to identify testing sites for students statewide. More information will come from UAB Student Health Services soon. Generally, if you will be living off-campus (i.e., in an apartment or house that is not a UAB-owned residence hall), you must be tested between 7 and 14 days prior to the start of classes. Nasal swab (not nasalpharyngeal) COVID-19 testing is mandatory for all students (domestic as well as international). No one can come back to campus and attend the in-person sections of hybrid classes or labs without taking a COVID test and receiving a negative result. If you test positive, you must undergo a 14-day quarantine. Students who will be living in a UAB-owned residence halls will most likely spend the quarantine time in Denman Hall. Students who will be living off-campus must quarantine in their apartment or house. Please direct all questions regarding COVID-19 testing to UAB Student Health Services. ISSS is not responsible for COVID-19 testing and has no further details at this time.

I am an international student currently outside the US who wishes to return to the UAB campus in Fall 2020. Where can I find more information on the required Covid-19 re-entry test?

For information on student campus entry testing, please visit Student Testing page on UAB United website.