The FAQs below address common questions about UAB's plans for Spring 2021 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 Spring 2021. 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..

Important Links

FALL 2021 Courses

I-20 and Visa Issues

  • How can I apply for a visa?

    You received specific information about paying the SEVIS fee and applying for an F-1 visa during the admissions and I-20 issuance processes. Please follow those instructions and consult the Visa Appointment Wait Times website.

  • 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 appointment, 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 2021 semester off and not enroll in any classes. What will happen to my F-1 visa and Form I-20?

    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 2021 and not enroll in any classes, check the expiration date on your F-1 visa and contact ISSS before re-entering the US later in 2021 to make sure we have activated your SEVIS record in the government database before you return to the US.

    If you try to re-enter the US on a terminated I-20, the Customs and Border Protection (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. CBP officers are instructed not to let you in if your I-20 is in terminated status. You may get lucky and receive a Form I-515 from the CBP officer, but the general policy is that CBP will NOT let students 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 2021. Do I need to receive a new I-20 document with added remarks or any other paperwork to be let into the US?

    According to the most recent government guidance updated 04/26/2021, I-20 forms do not need to be reissued for returning students if the program information remains the same. 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). ISSS also recommends having proof of your Fall 2021 registration and information regarding UAB’s course delivery plan for fall on your phone (or a printout) to show the CBP officer at the airport in the event they want to see confirmation that UAB will be offering in-person coursework:

    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 2021. I have received my Form I-20, but I cannot get a visa appointment because the US consulate/embassy near me is only offering emergency appointments. 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 you are not able to schedule a visa appointment 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 future start date (spring 2022) so that you can hopefully get a visa interview in time to enter the US for the spring 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 2021 academic calendar and your admission letter.


Employment and Scholarships

  • I plan to remain outside the US for the Fall 2021 semester. Will I continue 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 (i.e., be enrolled full-time in fall and spring and maintain at least 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 2021 by taking online classes in my home country, can I still apply for OPT work authorization?

    You must be physically present inside the US when you file an OPT application. ISSS cannot assist students who wish to file OPT applications outside the US for the Fall 2021 semester. The Form I-765 expressly states that it must be filed from within the US. There are other logistical considerations that cannot be addressed without additional guidance from Homeland Security.

    ISSS is happy to assist students who are physically present in the US for the Fall 2021 semester to apply for work authorization with USCIS as usual. For forms and instructions, please see our F-1 Optional Practical Training page.

  • 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 2021 semester. Will I still get paid?

    International students who are not physically present on campus will not receive a stipend. If you are a doctoral (PhD) level student awarded a GA, GTA, or GRA, your best option may be to defer your admission until you can enter the US. Please contact your advisor or program director to discuss options. ISSS does not control assistantship awards.

    UAB (department, program, or Blazer Graduate Research Fellowship) can pay tuition and fees for international students who are outside the US, if the students are joining a program for which UAB typically pays tuition and fees. However, in accordance with Alabama 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.

    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..

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

    Yes, you will be eligible for CPT and OPT when you return to the US if you have already completed two semesters of full-time study. Please remember (see FAQ 14, above): you must be inside the US to submit an OPT application to USCIS. USCIS will not accept I-765 work authorization applications filed while you are outside the United States


Housing, Insurance and Entry to Campus