International Students

All international students and scholars are encouraged to refer to the information on the International Student and Scholar Services website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a new I-20 or a formal letter from the University detailing my Spring 2021 registration (such as online courses)?

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is pleased to confirm that campus will be open for Spring 2021 (review the massmail). Teaching will be a hybrid format of both in-person courses and distance learning. The Spring semester will start classes on January 25, and while we recommend that you report to campus by the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 to allow for effective COVID-19 testing and quarantining, we are allowing students to arrive as late as January 24.

International Student and Scholar Services will appropriately update the SEVIS records of all incoming and continuing F-1 and J-1 students as required by the Department of Homeland Security throughout the Spring semester.

Click here to download a copy of this information (PDF) on university letterhead, should you need to present this information to your airline or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

I’m an international student and I won’t be able to get a visa in time to be on campus for the spring semester. What do I need to do?

You have a number of options. You may be able to start your program online, and join on-campus at a future date. You should work with your academic advisor to select the courses that are best for you. Permission to join a graduate program late is granted at the department level. Please contact your academic department to see if this is an option offered for your specific program. Undergraduate programs cannot be joined late—if you will not be able to start the Spring semester on time, you should contact Undergraduate Admissions (admissions@illinois.edu) to discuss options for starting your on-campus program at a later semester. Regardless of whether you join your program late or defer your attendance, your I-20 or DS-2019 will need to be updated to reflect the date you will enter the US, and this will be done by Undergraduate Admissions or the Graduate College.

For international students who take online classes, will there be flexibility in when they can take these courses, so they don’t have to take classes in the middle of the night?

We are working diligently to provide as many online options as possible for students who are unable to come to campus in the Spring semester. We are also keenly aware of the challenges associated with time zones. While we can’t guarantee that every class section will be asynchronous, we are working with faculty to maximize flexibility for students enrolled in online classes from around the world.

If international students take only online courses, will they still pay fees related to on-campus?

For Spring 2021 all students in campus-based degree program and non-degree classes will be assessed fees at the same rate regardless of whether they are enrolled in on-campus or fully online courses and regardless of student location. More information about the Spring 2021 fee schedule can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website.

If there are instructional changes mid-semester due to COVID, for example, would F-1 students need to leave ASAP or would they be able to stay based off proper enrollment earlier in the semester?

As of July 14, F-1 students will be able to take all online classes and maintain their F-1 status.

If I am enrolled for classes but outside the US for more than 5 months, will I lose my visa status?

If you are enrolled as a full-time student in online courses, you would be considered maintaining your visa status as SEVP is students to take all courses online to maintain F-1 or J-1 status. Therefore, if you have maintained your visa status through online registration, you will not be subject to the “5-month rule.”

How will I get my I-20 or DS-2019 if I can’t pick it up in-person?

USCIS has granted schools permission to electronically sign I-20’s and e-mail them as attachments, so you will receive your I-20 in this way. This ability has not been extended to DS-2019’s, so these documents will be mailed. Please also remember you do not need a travel signature to leave the US. You will need one to return but a new document with this endorsement can you delivered to you via e-mail (I-20) or regular mail (DS-2019).

Additional Resources


International Student updates