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Option 1: Enroll Online for Spring 2021 from outside the US

New students that are outside the US may have the option to begin their studies online in Spring 2021.  UMBC has announced that most classes will be online for Spring 2021, and as of mid October 2020 are still deciding which classes or programs may take place on campus.  More details are available here:

Click on any of these topics to read more about this option:

How many classes do I need to take if I’m not in the US?
What happens to my I-20 if I enroll online from outside the US as a new student?
How will my visa work?
When can I use work benefits if I start online?
Considerations for online enrollment from abroad
What is the cost of online classes?
Orientation and Spring 2021 support from IES
When can I enter the US?

How many classes do I need to take?

There is no specific requirement – F-1 immigration status usually requires full-time enrollment (9 credits for Graduate students, 12 for Undergraduate students) but this is not required unless you are physically in the US.

What happens to my I-20 if I enroll online from outside the US as a new student?

While you are welcome to start your studies remotely, your I-20 start date will need to change to show the first semester you will be physically on UMBC’s campus in the US.  We anticipate identifying who is enrolled online from abroad in mid-February and will begin processing Fall 2021 I-20’s for those students in late February.

To make an I-20, we will need to have financial documents that are not more than 6 months old.  If you already have an I-20 from UMBC and your documents are not more than 6 months old, we will simply change the dates on your I-20 and send you the new version.  If your financial documents are older than 6 months, we will need to ask you for updated documents.  You will also need financial documents that are less than 6 months old for your visa appointment.

For students with Graduate Assistantships, please work with your department to get an updated contract for the Spring 2021 or Fall 2021 semester that we will need to make your deferred I-20.

How will my Visa work?

Students that begin their coursework online will need to apply for and receive an F-1 visa from a US Embassy or Consulate before you can enter the US.  UMBC cannot guarantee a visa outcome or get involved in your visa application, as the US Department of State will only allow you as an individual to be involved in the process.  However, UMBC will offer resources to help you prepare for your visa appointment and feel confident that you know what to expect.

To determine when you are able to schedule a visa appointment, please locate your nearest US Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply, and monitor their website for updates as to when they plan to start accepting appointments and ultimately re-open.  You can find US Embassy and Consulate locations here:

When can I use work benefits if I start online?

There are three primary kinds of work benefits for F-1 students: on-campus work permission, CPT (Curricular Practical Training), and OPT (Optional Practical Training).  Here is how each are impacted by this situation:


On-Campus Work: Students need to be physically present in the US to start an on-campus job and apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), which is required to work and be paid by a US Employer.  Whenever students physically arrive to campus, they will be able to work on-campus right away.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)CPT is permission to work off-campus in a position directly related to a student’s degree program.  This work permission requires that students are physically in the US for two full-time semesters before they gain eligibility to use CPT.

  • CPT can be used part-time during the Fall and Spring semester, up to 20 hours per week
  • CPT can be used full-time (more than 20 hours per week) during the summer and winter vacations, as well as in a student’s last semester if they have only 4 credits or less remaining to graduate.
  • Part-time CPT has no limitations, but full-time CPT can be used up to 12 months over the course of a student’s degree program.  Using more than 12 months removes eligibility for OPT.

OPT (Optional Practical Training):  OPT is used for work after graduation, and is for one year.  Students in qualifying STEM majors can also apply for an additional 2 years of STEM OPT Extension.  This program also requires 2 full-time semesters to be completed in the US, but as this is for after graduation only, it does not stand to be impacted be starting with remote coursework.


Summary of Work permissions with Fall 2020 online coursework done from abroad, first 2 years:

Semester        Enrollment Work Options
Spring 2021 Online None
Summer 2021 Online (Optional) None
Fall 2021 Full-time on campus On-Campus
Winter 2021 Optional On-Campus
Spring 2022 Full-time on campus On-Campus
Summer 2022 Optional Part-time or Full-time CPT; On-Campus
Fall 2022 Full-time on campus Part-time CPT; On-campus; Full-time CPT if 4 credits or less required to graduate by end of semester


Considerations for online enrollment from abroad

To make sure you will have the tools for a successful online semester, be sure to consider the following:

  • Will you have a reliable internet connection?
  • Will you be able to join your classes at their regularly scheduled time, based on the time zone difference, if the class requires live attendance (if it is “synchronous”)?
  • Will you have a space where you can focus on your coursework?


What is the cost of online classes?

While this is not yet finalized, it is expected that the tuition cost will be the same, but some fees for services that cannot be taken advantage of may be removed.  Current tuition rates and fees are listed here:

Orientation and Spring 2021 support from IES

IES is preparing to offer an orientation to international students planning to start their studies remotely from abroad that will span the Spring 2021 semester.  Topics that will be covered in multiple main online sessions, and optional connection opportunities, include:

o   US virtual classroom culture, norms and expectations, and tips for success

o   Visa process and preparation to apply

o   UMBC Resources for online students

o   Career Center introduction and planning for Fall 2021 on-campus job search

o   Preparing for your arrival to UMBC for the Fall 2021 semester

We will share additional details for Spring 2021 orientation as they become available, and look forward to welcoming you and helping you have the best possible Spring 2021 experience through these programs.


When can I enter the US?  Can I use a different visa I already have, like a B-2 Visitor Visa?

New international students can enter the US up to 30 days before their first semester on campus.   The student’s I-20 start date will be adjusted to reflect their first physical semester on campus, and they can arrive up to 30 days in advance of this date.

Some students have asked if they can enter the US on a B-2 Visitor visa they already have – the B-2 Visitor visa does NOT allow the holder to study full-time, so this is not a viable option.

Students can NOT enter the US in the middle of the Spring semester if they have only online classes, based on F-1 immigration rules.




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