On July 24, 2020, the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which is responsible for the F-1 international student visa program, issued clarifying questions that confirm the options F-1 students have for the Fall 2020 semester, which is expected to remain the same for the Spring 2021 semester. The following information applies to both new students and F-1 transfer students that are outside of the U.S. For information for current or continuing international students, please visit our website here. Click on any of these topics to read more about that option:
Will F-1 students new to UMBC be able to apply for an F-1 visa and/or enter the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester?
F-1 students new to UMBC may apply for an F-1 visa and enter the U.S. to study at UMBC as long as their courses are not entirely online. To be eligible, new F-1 students must enroll in a full-time course load (12 credits for undergraduate, 9 for graduate). At least one credit must be taken in an in-person or hybrid format. While most classes at UMBC will be online for Spring 2021, UMBC has committed to making a non-online class available to any new international students that enter the US for Spring 2021.
Is my program available in a hybrid or not entirely online format?
Yes. Each graduate program has identified courses that would allow you to enroll in at least one credit that is not entirely online and will count towards the requirements for your degree program. For information about these courses and the method of instruction for your specific program, please contact your program director.
For undergraduate students, there are several hybrid options that would allow you to register for a full-time course load while still making progress towards your bachelor’s degree. For more information about undergraduate courses please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Are F-1 visa appointments available?
This varies by U.S. embassy or consulate location. Some embassies or consulates have provided additional interview slots for international students and are prioritizing those appointments. The situation changes daily and varies from location to location. Please continue to monitor the embassy or consulate location near you.
For general information about applying for an F-1 visa, please see the information here.
When must I arrive in the U.S. if I get a visa?
You must arrive in the U.S. by the official first day of classes as indicated on your Form I-20. For the Spring 2021 semester, this date is January 25, 2021.
What if I get a visa after the semester starts?
If you are not able to get a visa and transportation to the U.S. by January 25, we strongly encourage you to begin your semester online and wait until the Fall 2021 semester to travel to the U.S. Attempting to enter the U.S. after January 25 may result in your being denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and can have serious consequences for your ability to return in the future.
What do I need to take with me to my visa appointment?
In addition to the standard documents, you will need a special letter from UMBC to verify that your program of study will not be entirely online, which has been included with all I-20’s our office has issued for Spring 2021. If you have a Spring 2021 I-20 but have NOT received this letter, please email email@example.com. In addition to this letter, you will need to bring you I-20, passport, confirmation that you have paid your SEVIS fee, and applicable financial documents.
I already deferred my admission to Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. Can I change the semester in which I want to start to a closer semester?
Yes. If you are able to secure a visa appointment in a time frame that would allow you to get your visa and travel to the U.S. by January 25, you may be eligible to rescind your deferral request. If you previously deferred your admission to a later semester but would like to rescind that deferral based on this information, please contact your program director if you are a graduate student, or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are an undergraduate student.
I have a Graduate Assistantship (GA) offer. If I can get a visa and enter the U.S., can I work remotely in this position?
Yes, you can work remotely in a GA position once inside the U.S., though please note you will need to be enrolled in at least one course with an in-person requirement. UMBC can NOT hire Graduate Assistants that are outside of the U.S.
Will any on-campus jobs be available? If I don’t have a Graduate Assistantship, is there any way I can earn money in the U.S.?
There are not likely to be many on-campus jobs available during the Spring semester due to the greatly reduced density of people and operations on campus. International students on F-1 visas are not eligible to work off-campus during their first two semesters. Please factor this into your decision-making process.
Is housing still available for Spring 2021?
UMBC’s Office of Residential Life is still welcoming applications for on-campus housing, though housing is limited in order to maintain reduced density on campus as a result of the pandemic. Learn more through the Residential Life new student webpage.
Many off-campus housing communities still have capacity as well. More information is available through Off-Campus Student Services.
Do I need a visa if I want to start my UMBC program online from outside the U.S.?
No, you only need an F-1 visa if you plan to come to the U.S. for your first semester.
How do I know if I should come to the U.S. this semester?
Ultimately, the decision to travel to the U.S. to begin your studies at UMBC is one that you will make based on your best interests and the information available to you. Please continue to refer to our website and contact us at email@example.com with questions. We look forward to welcoming you as a new member of the UMBC community in January, whether that is here in the U.S. or abroad. In addition, you can find detailed information about the steps UMBC has taken to support the health and well-being of our community in light of COVID-19 as we begin the Spring 2021 semester in our Retrievers Return Roadmap.
What travel restrictions should I be aware of?
The US has travel restrictions imposed on individuals coming from some countries around the world, and will not allow entry to the US for anyone that has been in those countries for specific periods of time, typically 14 days. Students coming from these countries would need to spend the requisite time in a third country that does not have restrictions before entering the US.
You can find more information about travel restrictions from different countries here:
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends a 2 weeks quarantine for anyone entering the US.
Can I use a different visa I already have, like a B-2 Visitor Visa?
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. It is also difficult and time-consuming to change from one immigration category to another without leaving the US, and sometimes takes as long as a year.
New F-1 Transfer Student Information:
Please see more information here: https://ies.umbc.edu/f-1-transfer-student-information-for-fall-2020-semester/