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The spring 2021 semester will start on January 14, 2021, three days later than originally planned. The first four weeks of the spring semester (which begins Jan. 14) will occur in a remote-only format for all courses. CU Boulder intends to return to a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid courses on Feb. 15.

Spring 2021 Campus Update

On December 9, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) confirmed that the Fall 2020 guidance will continue to be in effect for students in F-1 immigration status through the Spring 2021 semester. 

  • International students in F-1 status should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020.
  • The guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19.  

ISSS Spring 2021 FAQs for Continuing Students   ISSS Spring 2021 FAQs for New Students

Travel Over Winter Break & Re-Entry Resources

ISSS understands that continuing students may have plans to travel over the winter break and have questions about re-entering the United States for the Spring 2021 semester.

It is important to remember that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) makes entry determinations at the U.S. port of entry (POE).

  • Each port of entry is different and students report having different experiences entering the United States.
  •  ISSS can never guarantee that a student will not have any issues at the POE.

As always, ISSS urges students to make sure they carry with them all recommended travel documentation, particularly proof of enrollment.

Travel Handout

Travel Restrictions

In addition, there are U.S. entry restrictions in place. As the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation, travel restrictions can change at any time. Please review the U.S. entry restrictions and the U.S. consulate and embassy websites for information about routine visa services. 

Travel Signatures

Students in F-1 status need a valid travel signature issued within the last 12 months from the time they seek entry to the United States (on page 2 of the I-20).

To receive a travel signature, please submit the Document Reprint Request Form (DocuSign) to ISSS and indicate the re-print reason as “Travel.”

  • ISSS will issue a new I-20 and sign it for travel (please allow 2-5 business days for processing).
  • ISSS will email the new I-20 to you after processing the request.
    • As of March 27, 2020, SEVP and USCIS issued guidance allowing I-20s to be signed electronically by DSOs and sent to students by email during the COVID-19 crisis.

Please continue to check this ISSS webpage and your email while traveling to stay updated on any important announcements. Please reach out to ISSS or join ISSS remote advising if you have any additional questions.  

Spring 2021 Frequently Asked Questions for Continuing Students

“Continuing students” refers to students that have an active F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record and have been studying at CU Boulder prior to spring 2021.

Enrollment & Maintaining Status

No, this change to the spring 2021 term will not negatively impact F-1 immigration status for continuing students. International students currently in F-1 status will still be able to maintain their immigration status as CU Boulder begins the spring 2021 term with fully online learning. Because the spring 2021 semester will have in-person instruction for a portion of the term, continuing international students will be able to maintain their F-1 status as long as they maintain full-time enrollment (or the authorized equivalent) for the duration of the spring 2021 term.

Yes, as long as the student is enrolled full-time or has been approved for a reduced course load

The government has confirmed that for the spring 2021 semester students in the United States enrolled in a hybrid program of study such as CU Boulder’s that includes in-person and online components of instruction can count online classes toward a full course of study beyond the usual three credit per semester limit.  Enrollment in in-person credits will not be required for maintenance of F-1 status for the spring 2021 semester for continuing students. 

Yes, as long as the student is enrolled full-time or has been approved for a reduced course load

The government has confirmed that for the spring 2021 semester students in the United States enrolled in a hybrid program of study such as CU Boulder’s that includes in-person and online components of instruction can count online classes toward a full course of study beyond the usual three credit per semester limit.  Enrollment in in-person credits will not be required for maintenance of F-1 status for the spring 2021 semester for continuing students. 

Yes. Continuing international students would be eligible to remain in the United Status and maintain their F-1 status even if the university adjusts to a fully remote mode of instruction at any point in the semester as long as they continue to be enrolled and participating in courses full-time.

International students in F-1 status may take CE classes from inside or outside of the United States.  

Please note the cost for Continuing Education courses. If you have questions about the tuition and fees of continuing education courses, please reach out to cebursar@colorado.edu. If you are a sponsored student, please check if your scholarship allows you to take continuing education courses. 

Yes. International students in F-1 status may take a leave of absence from CU Boulder if they are not returning to the U.S. and choose not to enroll in any CU Boulder online or remote courses.  

Please note, if you do not intend to enroll in the spring 2021 semester, for immigration purposes it is important to request a leave of absence from ISSS prior to the start of the spring 2021 semester (01/14/2021).  

Students wishing to take a leave of absence (with no enrollment at CU Boulder) should take the following steps: 

  • Students must complete a Return from Leave of Absence Form 60-days prior to their anticipated return to campus. ISSS will either request the reactivation of the F-1 SEVIS record (if applicable) or issue a new I-20 for the next semester (updated financial support documentation is required for a new I-20). 

  • Undergraduate students are not required to complete a leave of absence application; however, an application is required to maintain access to campus benefits. 

  • Graduate students must apply for a leave of absence if they do not enroll in classes for a fall or spring semester.  

Please email isss@colorado.edu or drop-in for ISSS remote advising via Zoom if you have questions or concerns. (Sponsored students, please email sponsoredadvising@colorado.edu)

Yes. For immigration purposes, it is important that continuing students in F-1 status who do not intend to enroll in spring 2021 request a leave of absence from ISSS prior to the start of the spring 2021 semester (01/14/2021). 

Students who are maintaining full-time enrollment in the spring 2021 semester, may opt to withdraw from the semester subject to the CU Boulder withdrawal deadlines.  It is important to request a leave of absence from ISSS prior to initiating the withdrawal process. 

Yes, you can continue to be a CU Boulder student taking courses from your home country in the spring 2021 semester. You will not have active F-1 status until you enter the U.S. to take courses in-person at CU Boulder. Please work with International Admissions to defer your Form I-20 program start date if you are unable to attend CU Boulder for in-person credits for the Spring 2021 semester.

If you completed all of your degree requirements and applied for graduation during the Fall 2020 semester, your F-1 status was shortened to 12/13/2020 (the last date of the Fall 2020 semester) and your F-1 grace period starts on 12/14/2020. International students in F-1 status cannot re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status during the grace period.
  • A new visa (e.g., tourist, student for a new program) is required to re-enter the U.S.

Yes, you must report your address change within 10 days of your move. Please refer to this article that we ran in our COVID-19 newsletter.

ISSS received guidance from the federal government on March 18, 2020, advising us that given the unique situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, international students will be able to maintain their immigration status while pursuing a full course load via distance learning from outside of the U.S. even if they are outside of the U.S. more than 5 months. On December 9, 2020, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) confirmed that the Fall 2020 guidance will continue to be in effect for students in F-1 immigration status through the Spring 2021 semester.

ISSS encourages students to work with their professors and departments if they are experiencing time zone challenges. We recommend communicating with your professors about the specific challenges you are facing due to your time zone difference. Professors have been asked by campus leadership to take time zone differences in consideration.

Immigration Documents & Travel to Campus

No. The SEVP guidance issued on July 6, 2020 was rescinded (withdrawn) on July 14, 2020. It would have required all continuing international students in F-1 status to acquire an I-20 with a notation from ISSS. This is no longer required. 

If you are currently outside of the United States, prior to entering the United States international students in F-1 status must ensure that they have an active SEVIS record and a travel signature (on p. 2 of the I-20) provided by ISSS that will not be more than 12 months old when they seek to re-enter the United States. Please review the ISSS Travel Handout

Your F-1 visa can expire while you are present inside of the United States and maintaining status, but an unexpired visa is required to re-enter the United States (exception: automatic visa revalidation). 

  • If you are outside the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa, you will need a valid visa to seek re-entry to the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic response has not impacted this requirement. (International students in F-1 status with Canadian citizenship are not required to have a visa but still must have valid F-1 status in order to enter the U.S.) 

Normally, there is an expectation that continuing international students in F-1 status arrive by the start of semester. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis and the announcement from CU Boulder on 12/10/2020, international students in F-1 status should use their best judgment and exercise caution when making their travel arrangements.

CU Boulder asks that all students with the flexibility to remain in their permanent-home communities to delay travel to Boulder until CU returns to in-person instruction.  

It is important to always have the required travel documents when requesting admission to the U.S. It is important to remember that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) makes entry determinations at the U.S. port of entry (POE). Each port of entry is different, and students report having different experiences entering the United States. ISSS can never guarantee that a student will not have any issues at the POE.”

Based on the CDC recommendations, the University’s current guidance is that individuals returning from international travel are encouraged to “stay at home” as much as possible and limit their interactions with others for 14 days upon returning to the U.S. There is no required quarantine at this time.

The U.S. Department of State has announced the phased resumption of routine visa services on a post-by-post basis. Please review your U.S. embassy/consulate's website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.

Unfortunately, except in rare circumstances, ISSS cannot expedite your visa issuance. ISSS recommends regularly checking the Department of State website for updates regarding visa processing services and wait times.

Health Insurance

F-1 students studying online, outside of the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester will not be required to have health insurance but must complete a health insurance waiver application in their secure health portal before February 12, 2021. If you have any questions about this process, please email studentinsurance@colorado.edu.

Employment

ISSS advises against applying for post-completion OPT from outside of the U.S. or giving your post-completion OPT application materials to a relative or friend to have them submit the application for you. It is possible that USCIS will not accept your application if you are outside of the U.S. when they receive it. At this time, ISSS recommends waiting to leave the U.S. until USCIS has received your application. February 4, 2021 is the first day students completing their program in spring 2021 can apply for post-completion OPT. 

Yes. You can depart the U.S. with a pending post-completion OPT application. Be sure you have your post-completion OPT I-20 with a valid travel signature, active visa and your Receipt Notice from USCIS that shows you have applied for post-completion OPT. 

There are a few things to be aware of if traveling with a pending OPT application: 

  • If your post-completion OPT application is denied while you are outside of the U.S., you cannot re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status to re-apply for post-completion OPT. It may be possible to re-enter the U.S. in another visa category (for example, ESTA or tourist visa), but you would no longer be eligible for post-completion OPT. 

  • If additional information is needed for your post-completion OPT application, USCIS would mail you a request for evidence (RFE). If you receive an RFE you would need to respond in a certain amount of time and you may have difficulty responding to any request(s) for evidence from USCIS while you are outside of the U.S. which could result in a post-completion OPT denial. 

  • Future travel restrictions could impede your ability to return to the U.S.; travel restrictions may change at a moment’s notice. You will need to carefully consult both the airline and the travel restrictions for the country to which you will be returning to the U.S. from. 

If your post-completion OPT is approved while you’re abroad, you should have your EAD card with you on your return. Please review International Student Travel FAQ for students on OPT. 

No. However, one exception has been made to the OPT employment requirements. Students in F-1 status must work at least 20 hours a week in order to avoid accruing days of unemployment. Please note, for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, SEVP considers students participating in OPT activities less than 20 hours per week as maintaining status. 

Please see the ISSS webpage on OPT and Unemployment Concerns for more information.

If your address changes while you have a pending OPT or STEM OPT application, you will need to update your address with USCIS. To update your mailing address with USCIS, please complete online an AR-11, Alien's Change of Address.
  • Please note that you must provide a U.S. mailing address, you cannot use an address outside of the U.S.

Please be sure you also notify ISSS of any changes of address within 10 days of moving so that your SEVIS record can be updated.

No, the receipt of unemployment insurance payments does not classify you as a public charge under U.S. immigration rules.

International students in F-1 status may be employed by CU Boulder while abroad. Please work with your department to determine whether working remotely is an option for you. ISSS recommends contacting the following CU Boulder units:


 

Spring 2021 Frequently Asked Questions for New Students

“New students” refers to students who have an initial I-20 or DS-2019 and are starting their studies this spring at CU Boulder, either as new or transfer students.

Enrollment & Maintaining Status 

No, this change to the spring 2021 term will not negatively impact F-1 immigration status for new students. International students currently in F-1 status will still be able to maintain their immigration status even though CU Boulder will begin the Spring 2021 term with fully online learning. Because the Spring 2021 semester will have in-person instruction for a portion of the term, new international students will be able to maintain their F-1 status as long as they maintain full-time enrollment (or the authorized equivalent) and have enrollment in at least one course that will have a required in-person component during the Spring 2021 term.

If you are in active F-1 status, yes, because your SEVIS record is still being maintained by ISSS.

Please note, CU Boulder asks that all students if possible, remain in their permanent-home communities until CU returns to in-person courses.

As part of the university's response to COVID-19, ISSS staff are working remotely. We are providing remote services until further notice including remote advising, phone, email, document submission, and issuing of immigration documents during our normal business hours.

The New International Student Orientation Course will be available on Canvas beginning December 15, 2020 for new international students in F-1 status. You will automatically have access to this course starting this day and are expected to complete the following tasks by February 15, 2021:

  • Immigration Essentials Session
    Complete an Immigration Essentials Virtual Quiz that is part of your student welcome and orientation canvas course. You must earn a 70% or higher on this quiz to receive credit.
     
  • Immigration Check-In Form (available Early January 2021)
    F-1 international students are required by federal regulations to complete a SEVIS immigration check-in in a timely manner. Please only complete this form AFTER you have entered the U.S. Immigration check-in can only be completed after arriving in the U.S. as you must provide a copy your U.S. arrival record (I-94). After you have completed the two-part check-in process described above, ISSS will email you to confirm you have successfully checked-in and that your F-1 SEVIS record has been registered as active. Please reach out to ISSS by phone (303-492-8057), email (isss@colorado.edu) or by coming to remote advising if you have any questions.

No. New or initial students who are outside of the U.S. and who wish to enter the U.S. as an international student in F-1 status for the Spring 2021 term must be enrolled in at least one course that will have a required in-person component during the Spring 2021 term.

New or initial students includes F-1 SEVIS transfer students who are currently outside of the U.S. and who will be beginning their studies in person at CU Boulder in Spring 2021.

Please work with International Admissions to defer your Form I-20 program start date if you are unable to attend CU Boulder for in-person credits for the Spring 2021 semester.

Yes. As a new incoming international student in F-1 status, it is imperative that you enroll in a course that has an in-person component and remain enrolled in that course for the duration of the term. This includes enrollment in hybrid courses. If you enroll in a hybrid course, you must attend in person and be prepared to document that attendance.

No, the original Form I-20 with the January start date will still be valid for the intended in-person start date of February 15, 2021. Students arriving after January 14, 2021 should reach out to International Admissions to inform CU Boulder of their late arrival.

Yes, it may be possible for new international students to start their course of study through fully online enrollment from outside of the U.S. International students should work closely with their academic advisor or academic department to select the appropriate online classes.

New international F-1 SEVIS transfer students who are already in the U.S. and who have not departed the U.S. since the end of the Fall 2020 semester do not need to be enrolled in an in-person component during the Spring 2021 semester. If you have maintained F-1 status you can be a continuing student in F-1 status enrolled in fully remote courses when you begin your studies at CU Boulder.

The entire university is beginning with remote instruction and the intent is to switch to in-person instruction on February 15, 2021. If/when in-person instruction does begin, F-1 SEVIS transfers students who are already in the U.S. can still complete their semester remotely, if they were already in the US for the Fall 2020 semester.

Arrival in the U.S. & Travel to CU 

An announcement of the intended in-person instruction start date will be made no later than January 14, 2021. International students can seek admission to the U.S. using their previously issued Form I-20 as long as the campus continues to have the intent to offer in-person learning and the intended start date for in-person instruction is published. Revised Form I-20s will not be issued.

If the campus makes an announcement that the entire semester will move to remote instruction, no new international students will be able to enter the US after that announcement has been made.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and the announcement from CU Boulder, new international students in F-1 status should use their best judgment and exercise caution when making their travel arrangements. CU Boulder asks that all students with the flexibility to remain in their permanent-home communities to delay travel to Boulder until CU returns to in-person courses. Please reach out to International Admissions (intladm@colorado.edu for undergraduate students and intlgrad@colorado.edu for graduate students) if you plan to arrive in the U.S. after January 14, 2021 to make the necessary arrangements.

Based on the CDC recommendations, the University’s current guidance is that individuals returning from international travel are encouraged to “stay at home” as much as possible and limit their interactions with others for 14 days upon returning to the U.S. At this time, there is no required quarantine.

Yes, students can commence their studies remotely, and despite the previously denied late arrival request, may arrive later than the date listed on their Form I-2, as long as they can arrive in the U.S. by the start date of in-person classes, currently February 15, 2021. The students can use their previously issued Form I-20, a new one will not be issued, to arrive in the U.S. by February 15, 2021.

A late arrival letter is not required. While a late arrival letter may help at the U.S. port of entry, it is unknown if the U.S. Port of Entry officer will acknowledge the letter.

No, undergraduate students who are not able to arrive by the in-person instruction start date are encouraged to either defer or continue the Spring 2021 semester with online/remote enrollment. Graduate students should email intlgrad@colorado.edu to determine how late they may arrive.

New Student Welcome & Orientation 

Yes, you can participate in welcome/orientation activities in Fall 2021 or in whichever term you physically arrive on CU Boulder’s campus.

Housing & Residence Halls 

As mentioned in the CU Boulder announcement from December 10, 2020, move-in to residence halls will be delayed and students’ room and board will be reduced accordingly.

CU Boulder asks everyone with the flexibility to remain in your permanent-home communities to delay your travel to Boulder until our return to in-person courses. This will help reduce the risk of travel-related COVID-19 transmission. CU Boulder and Housing & Dining have provided additional information for international students who already have plans to arrive in Boulder in January in the Housing & Dining Spring 2021 Frequently Asked Questions. Please contact studenthousing@colorado.edu to discuss housing options prior to the schedule move-in date in February and any additional questions.