University of Michigan-Dearborn leaders have been working with University of Michigan officials and health professionals to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 over the past several months.  

Our goals are to deliver on our mission while protecting health and safety by minimizing the potential spread of the disease, both within our community and in the broader society. 

The University of Michigan-Dearborn has released its formal plan for a hybrid fall 2020 semester consisting of a blend of online, in-person, and hybrid courses. To learn more about the University’s plan for the fall 2020 semester, including safety precautions, student services, campus re-openings, and more, please visit the main UM-Dearborn COVID-19 website.  

The below FAQs from the Office of International Affairs (OIA) provide clarification on how ongoing University changes may affect international students and scholars.

FAQs for Continuing International Students, Winter Term of 2021

These FAQs apply only to continuing students who have been physically present in the USA since the publication of the original SEVP COVID-19 guidelines of March, 2020. If you are a newly admitted F-1 international student, or if you have recently entered the USA after March 2020, please refer to our FAQs for New International Students, 2020/21 Academic Year, below.

(Last revised 09/28/2020)

Immigration

How will the University conduct courses for the winter 2021 semester?
The University will follow a remote-first plan for the winter semester of 2021. Courses will be offered in fully online, hybrid, and traditional in-person teaching modalities. Individual instructors will communicate arrangements for each class. Students can learn more about online enrollment, here. More information about the University's formal plan for winter classes can be found here.

As a current, continuing F-1 international student, can I take an entirely online course load in the winter semester or must I take a mix of online and in-person courses?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not yet released new guidelines for 2021. As we await guidance, to the best of our current understanding, students who have been in the USA since the onset of the pandemic (March, 2020) will not be subject to an in-person enrollment requirement for the winter semester of 2021. Continuing F-1 students, who previously had an “active” F-1 student record in spring of 2020, may take as many online courses as necessary, and may even take an entirely online course schedule, this winter. As long as continuing students maintain a full-time course of study, and continue making normal progress toward their degree program, their F-1 student record will be maintained in “active” status.

If you were a newly admitted F-1 international student for fall 2020, please refer to the FAQs for New International Students, 2020/21 Academic Year, below.

 If I have an entirely online course schedule this winter, can I study remotely in the USA but in another state (eg. outside of Michigan)?
Yes, it is possible for continuing students to enroll remotely this winter, from outside Michigan. As long as you enroll full-time, participate in your online courses, and make normal progress toward your degree, you will remain in “active” status. However, you must make sure to update your address with the OIA.

Can I maintain my “active” F-1 status by enrolling in a fully-online course load from my home country?
As we await new updates from SEVP, it is our current understanding that continuing students will be allowed to maintain F-1 status by enrolling online from abroad. Your SEVIS record will be maintained in “active” status as long as you enroll full-time and continue making progress in your degree program by successfully completing all classes.

UM-Dearborn students studying remotely from China can now use MLane for reliable, high-speed access to UM-Dearborn teaching and learning tools and resources. Learn how to configure MLane on your device, here.

What if winter 2021 is my final semester?
If winter 2021 is your last semester at UM-Dearborn you may enroll in less than a full-time course load if you have less than a full-time number of credits left to complete your degree program. If so, then you must complete and submit the OIA Reduced Course Load (RCL) Form.

If you plan to apply for OPT, then it is highly advisable that you complete your final semester in-country. OPT applications cannot be submitted to USCIS from outside the USA.

Do I need a new I-20 or formal letter from the University in order to be allowed to re-enter the USA for the winter semester?
No. You can use your most recent I-20 to re-enter the USA for the winter semester, and as a continuing student you are not required to have any special verification. Moreover, digital I-20s are being accepted for the purpose of international travel. However, please note that normal travel rules still apply:
1. You must have a current travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 which cannot be more than one year old at the time of your return 
2. Your passport must be unexpired with at least 6 months of remaining validity at the time of your return. 
3. Although not explicitly required, it is recommended that your visa also have at least 6 months of remaining validity. 

The winter 2021 semester will begin entirely online, switching to a hybrid modality beginning March 1, 2021. Will this pose any problems for my F-1 immigration status or ability to enter the USA?
No. Beginning the winter 2021 semester entirely online is an integral component of the University’s hybrid plan. The winter semester plan will not be problematic for continuing F-1 international students.

If the University must make an emergency transition to remote classes before the end of the winter semester, or if public health conditions do not allow for a return to in-person classes, will I be required to depart the USA?
No. As a continuing international student, you will be able to remain in the country and maintain your F-1 status by participating in all your classes through the remote modality. 

Once UM-Dearborn switches to remote classes after the Thanksgiving break, or if the University must make an emergency transition to remote classes before that, will I be required to depart the USA?
No. You will be able to remain in the country and maintain your F-1 status by participating in all your classes through the remote modality at the time of transition.

If I move to a new US address, temporarily, due to isolation/quarantine requirements do I need to report my address change within 10 days?
Yes, even if temporary you must always report address changes within 10 days. If the change is temporary, you must report your change in address once again once you return to your normal housing.  

What if my visa expires while I am still in the USA?
The expiration of your visa while you are in the USA has no impact on your immigration status. As long as your I-20 is up-to-date and valid, you are able to remain in the country making progress toward the completion of your degree program, without issue. However, if you plan to travel internationally, you will have to renew your visa before returning to the USA.

Health Insurance

Will the mandatory UM-Dearborn International Student Health Insurance plan cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?
Yes.

Does the mandatory health insurance requirement apply to me even if I am studying remotely?
If you are studying remotely within the USA, then yes the health insurance requirement will continue to apply to you.
If you are studying remotely from abroad, then you may request to suspend your health insurance.  In order to do so, you must email OIA at umdoia-internatinoal@umich.edu with Subject Line: Suspend my winter 2021 health insurance, not in the USA. Otherwise your health insurance will remain active and you will be responsible for the health fee on your student account.

 

Travel

If I plan to travel internationally during the winter 2021 semester and need a new travel signature, what should I do? 
The Office of International Affairs (OIA) will continue to operate remotely during the winter semester. Therefore, in accordance with the most recent DHS guidelines, the OIA will continue issuing digital I-20s via email. If you will need a new travel signature, please submit your request directly to the OIA at umdoia-internatinoal@umich.edu.

If I am enrolled for winter classes but have been, or will have been, outside of the USA for 5 months at the time of my return, will I lose my F-1 status, or be denied re-entry? 
Under normal circumstances, if an international student were to remain outside of the USA for five or more months, they would need a new initial I-20 in order to reenter the USA and resume their studies at UM-Dearborn. This is known as the five-month rule. However, according to the SEVP guidance currently in effect, if you were enrolled full-time (online or in-person) during the winter and fall semesters of 2020, then your F-1 SEVIS record will have been maintained in “active” status and the five-month rule will not apply to you. As long as your visa stamp is valid (unexpired with multiple entries) you can use it to re-enter the USA to physically rejoin the University for the winter semester of 2021. If you have doubts about whether your F-1 record is currently in “active” status, please feel free to contact the OIA: umdoia-international@umich.edu

I would like to study remotely, fully online, from outside the USA for the winter 2021 semester. Will I lose my F-1 status?
We are still awaiting new guidelines from SEVP for the maintenance of student status for 2021. Pending the publication of new guidelines, it is our current understanding that as long as you enroll full-time, participate in your online classes, and continue making normal progress toward your degree then your F-1 record will be maintained in “active” status for the duration of the winter 2021 semester.

Please note, if you will complete your winter semester remotely, from abroad, and wish to opt-out of your required UM-Dearborn International Student Health Insurance, then you must email OIA at umdoia-internatinoal@umich.edu with Subject Line: Suspend my winter 2021 health insurance, not in the USA. Otherwise your health insurance will remain active and you will be responsible for the health fee on your student account.

UM-Dearborn students studying remotely from China can now use MLane for reliable, high-speed access to UM-Dearborn teaching and learning tools and resources. Learn how to configure MLane on your device, here

Will my plans to re-enter the USA for winter 2021 be affected by travel restrictions?
The COVID-19 entry restrictions the USA has imposed are still in effect. The Department of State has announced that students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can apply for an F-1 visa to enter the USA. We advise having this announcement from Customs and Border Protection available when you travel to campus since it confirms that that airlines should allow students from these countries to board flights to the USA. The announcement may also be helpful at the US port of entry. As the USA updates its entry restrictions, new information will be published on the OIA website.

If I am arriving to the University from an international location, will I be required to quarantine upon arrival?
In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all international students arriving from international locations are no longer being told to quarantine following entry into the USA. Instead, students are strongly encouraged to practice enhanced social distancing for 14 days following their arrival. Enhanced social distancing means that individuals should avoid unnecessary contact with others and remain in their residence as much as possible. However, individuals may attend in-person courses, go to work, and use public transportation to reach their destinations. When outside their residence, students are expected to maintain social distance and to wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose. During the 14-day period, students are still expected to closely self-monitor for any symptoms of illness. The University has published a list of local restaurants providing food pickup and delivery options. We hope this list, which includes location and contact information, will facilitate your ability to access food while practicing enhanced social distancing.

The 14-day enhanced social distancing timeline begins upon arrival. Further information is available at the OIA homepage.

My visa has expired, or will expire, before returning to the USA. What should I do?
If your visa has expired, or will expire, before your planned date of re-entry into the USA, then you must renew your visa at a US consulate or embassy before you travel.

This past fall, the US Department of State continued the resumption of routine visa services in a phased-in process, based on local conditions. If you need a new visa, check with the US embassy or consulate nearest you to find out more about their plans and about your options for scheduling an appointment for a visa interview. Try to schedule your visa interview appointment as soon as possible.

If you will be travelling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, please contact the OIA to determine whether you may be eligible to re-enter the USA with automatic visa re-validation at the port of entry.

In March 2020, the USA partially closed the land borders with Canada and Mexico to all non-essential travel, but these closures should not affect students who wish to return to the USA for their studies, whether they cross land borders or take flights. F-1 international students are considered “essential” travelers and should be exempt from the Canada-Mexico border restriction.

I am a Canadian student. What do I need to keep in mind when crossing the Canadian-American border in F-1 status?
Canadian students are not required to have a visa to enter the USA as an F-1 student. A current, valid I-20, which must be validated at the port of entry, will suffice.

Although the US-Canadian border remains partially closed to non-essential travelers, this restriction should not affect Canadian students arriving in the USA in F-1 student status. F-1 students are considered “essential travelers.”

 

Employment

I have an on-campus job. Can I continue working remotely from my home in the USA? Can I continue working remotely from my home country?
Yes, SEVP has issued special guidance confirming that if your on-campus employment has transitioned to remote work or can be performed through remote means, you may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely.

If my winter 2021 course load is fully online, can I participate in CPT outside the state of Michigan?
It is our understanding, based on the most recent SEVP guidelines, that CPT outside of Michigan is acceptable during the winter 2021 semester. During CPT, however, students are still required to maintain full-time enrollment and continue making normal progress toward their degree. Furthermore, students must update their address with the OIA on a timely basis, and at least within 10 days of any change. 

I am in my final semester of study and interested in applying for OPT. Can I submit my OPT application if I am studying remotely within the USA? Can I submit my OPT application if I am studying remotely from my home country?
OPT applications must be submitted to USCIS from within the USA, and it is recommended that you are physically present in the USA when your OPT application is being reviewed by USCIS. To learn about the application process and requirements, please review the OIA OPT webpage.

Can I leave the USA and return home once I have mailed my OPT application to USCIS? If so, will I be allowed to re-enter the country once my OPT is approved? 
It is not advisable to depart the USA with a pending OPT application, as this will only complicate what is already a sensitive and strict application and approval process. USCIS will not send correspondence regarding your OPT application internationally. Therefore, there is a risk that if USCIS sends a Request for Evidence (RFE), you may not be able to respond. Failure to respond to an RFE could result in your OPT application being denied. Furthermore, if your OPT application is approved, USCIS will also not send your EAD card internationally. The EAD will only be sent to a valid US address. Therefore, if you are out of the country at the time of your approval, then you will need to have a reliable address on file with USCIS for delivery of your EAD. When your EAD arrives at your US address, it will be in your best interest to have it shipped to you, at your international address, ahead of your return to the USA. In addition to your most current I-20, you should plan to also have your EAD card on hand at the time of your return to the USA. All other travel requirements during OPT will also apply at the time of your return to the USA. These can be reviewed at the OIA OPT webpage.

 

 

FAQs for New International Students, Academic Year 2020/21

These FAQs apply to: 

  1. New international students who will enter the USA on a new F-1 visa, and enroll at UM-Dearborn for the first time, in the upcoming winter 2021 semester
  2. International students who entered the USA for the first time, on a new F-1 visa, after March 2020  

If you are a continuing international student who has been in the country since the onset of the pandemic (March 2020), please refer to our FAQs for Continuing International Students, above. For the purpose of these FAQs, “continuing” includes students who were on “active” F-1 visas at other institutions, or in another immigration status, maintaining physical presence in the USA since March of 2020.

 

(Last revised 09/28/2020)

 

Immigration

How will the University conduct courses for the winter 2021 semester?
The University will follow a remote-first plan for the winter 2021 semester. Courses will be offered in fully online, hybrid, and traditional in-person teaching modalities. Individual instructors will communicate arrangements for each class. Students can learn more about online enrollment, here. More information about the University's formal plan for fall classes can be found here.

Can I take a fully-online course schedule this winter, if I come to the USA?
No. At least one of your classes must be in-person or hybrid. If you are unsure whether at least one of your winter semester classes will have required in-person components, please make sure to check closely with your academic advisor. In addition, you may also consult your course schedule through UM-Dearborn Connect. You can confirm each course’s expected modality under the “Class Details” section.  

International graduate students can find program-specific contact information, here.

International undergraduate students should work closely with START Advising, to ensure that they are able to meet the in-person requirement for the winter 2021 semester. 

As the University is following a hybrid plan for the winter semester of 2021, there should be hybrid (or in-person) course options available to all international students. 

In light of the in-person requirement, how is full-time being defined for winter 2020?
Full-time enrollment is defined as a total of at least 8 credit hours per semester for graduate students, and 12 credit hours per semester for undergraduates. Each students' particular blend of in-person, hybrid, and online courses all count toward the full-time enrollment requirement. 

As a new international student, am I still able to obtain a visa to join the University for winter 2021?
The global COVID-19 situation is dynamic and quickly changing. As of March 20, 2020, all U.S. embassies and consulates around the world suspended the routine processing of visas due to COVID-19. The U.S. Department of State announced the phased resumption of routine visa services in July, 2020. At this time, many consulates and embassies have reopened. However, you should check the website of the US embassy or consulate nearest to you for confirmation and further updates. Although many embassies and consulates have resumed routine visa services, re-openings have varied from one country to another. Furthermore, as public health conditions continue to evolve, it is possible that the US Department of State will once again order the closure of specific US embassies and consulates in areas affected by the pandemic.

If I am able to obtain my visa, how late am I allowed to arrive on campus?
The procedural deadline for winter semester international student arrivals coincides with the University add/drop deadline of January 27, 2021. Generally, the add/drop deadline occurs at the conclusion of the second week of classes. Students should consult the Academic Calendar for updates. New international students who are unable to arrive in-person by this deadline should plan to join the campus for the following semester. However, new international students are encouraged to stay in close communication with the OIA (umdoia-international@umich.edu) regarding the issuance of their visa, and their planned arrival in the USA as circumstances can vary from case to case.

Please note that students arriving late are still encouraged and expected to adhere to a strict 14-day period of enhanced social distancing. Although enhanced social distancing does not prevent students from attending class, students should maintain close communication with their instructors. Arriving late, and social distancing, could potentially interfere with some in-person course components during the first month of the semester. 

Further information regarding the recommended 14-day period of enhanced social distancing is available at the OIA homepage

Will modifications to the winter 2021 academic calendar, including the delayed return to in-person course components affect my immigration status? 
An important component of the University’s plan for the upcoming winter 2021 semester includes a series of modifications to the academic calendar. Significantly, the winter semester will begin entirely online before in-person and hybrid courses are allowed to transition back to on-campus modalities beginning March 1, 2021. As long as public health conditions allow hybrid and in-person courses to return to campus in accordance with the winter semester plan, there will be no negative impact on new F-1 international students. The online and on-campus components of the overall academic calendar correspond to the University’s plan to deliver a safe and effective hybrid semester. Therefore, the overall UM-Dearborn plan complies with the DHS requirement that new F-1 students can only attend universities that follow an in-person or hybrid semester of teaching and learning.

Although the winter 2021 semester will begin entirely online, new international students entering the USA on a new F-1 visa must still arrive within 30 days of their program start-date as recorded on page 1 of their I-20 and no later than January 30, 2021. Failure to arrive within this 30-day window could potentially cause their SEVIS record to be terminated by SEVP for failure to arrive in the USA in time for the semester.

If I am unable to obtain my visa in time to arrive for the winter semester, what are my options?
UM-Dearborn is offering many courses online for the upcoming winter 2021 semester. You are eligible to begin your program of study online, from your home country, while you navigate the visa application process. Please note, no visa is required for online learning from abroad. Learn more about online enrollment for international students, here.

It is important to consider that, while you may be able to complete online courses from abroad, your F-1 student status does not begin until you are admitted into the USA. Semesters completed from abroad will, therefore, not be in F-1 student status and will consequently not count toward CPT or OPT eligibility for new international students.

If you will begin your course of study from abroad, and plan to join the University in person for a future semester, you will need to be issued a new I-20 with program dates corresponding to your planned semester of in-person enrollment. Make sure that you share your plans with the OIA (umdoia-international@umich.edu) as the issuance of new I-20s can be a very time-sensitive process.

UM-Dearborn students studying remotely from China can now use MLane for reliable, high-speed access to UM-Dearborn teaching and learning tools and resources. Learn how to configure MLane on your device, here.

If I plan to enter the USA for winter 2021, will my plans be affected by travel restrictions?
Many USA COVID-19 entry restrictions are still in effect. The US Department of State has announced that students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can apply for an F-1 visa to enter the USA. We advise having this announcement from Customs and Border Protection available when you travel to campus since it confirms that that airlines should allow students from these countries to board flights to the USA and may also be helpful at your port of entry.

J-1 students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can request a “national interest exception” (NIE) when they apply for a visa. The NIE will allow travel to the USA.

Do I need to receive a new I-20 confirming that I have in-person classes for winter 2021 in order to apply for my new F-1 visa? or in order to be admitted to the USA upon arrival?
The University is anticipating that SEVP will publish new guidelines for winter 2021. While we await new information, to the best of our current understanding, newly admitted students will not be required to have new I-20s verifying compliance with the in-person requirement. However, the OIA is providing new international students with a personalized verification letter. The letter verifies that the University is not entirely online for the upcoming semester but is instead following a hybrid plan. This letter is available to new international students with upcoming visa appointments or who will soon be traveling to the USA on a new visa and is being issued together with new I-20s as a matter of course. Please contact the OIA directly if you have not received a verification letter and would like to request one: umdoia-international@umich.edu.

Will I need to quarantine once I arrive in the USA?
All new students arriving from international locations are strongly encouraged to practice enhanced social distancing for 14 days following their arrival in the USA. During this 14-day period, new international students should plan to remain in their residence as much as possible, avoid unnecessary contact with others, and closely self-monitor for any symptoms of illness. However, in accordance with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), students may attend in-person classes, go to work, and use public transportation to reach their destinations.

The University has published a list of local restaurants providing food pickup and delivery options. We hope this list, which includes location and contact information, will facilitate your ability to access food while practicing enhanced social distancing.

Further information regarding the recommended 14-day period of enhanced social distancing is available at the OIA homepage.

What should I do if I or someone I know becomes sick? 
Immediately contact the OIA via email (umdoia-international@umich.edu). There is information regarding what to do in the case of illness or emergency on the OIA homepage, under “What to Do if You, or Someone You Know, Becomes Sick.”

Health Insurance

Will the mandatory UM-Dearborn International Student Health Insurance plan cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?
Yes.

If I will pursue my studies remotely, from my home country, will I be required to enroll in the UM-Dearborn International Student Health Insurance?
No. The health insurance requirement only applies to F-1 students who are in “active” F-1 status and in the USA.

 

Transfer Students and Special Considerations

If I am a transfer student, transferring my F-1 record to UM-Dearborn from another SEVP-approved institution for winter 2021, does the in-person course requirement apply to me?
If you were in the USA in “active” F-1 status in March of 2020, and have maintained “active” status through the time of your transfer to UM-Dearbon then the requirement to have in-person courses does not apply to you. Instead, you are free to take as many online courses as necessary, even up to a fully-online course load, for winter 2021. However, if you are currently on an F-1 visa that you used to enter the USA after March 2020, then the in-person requirement does apply.

If I am currently in the USA in another non-immigrant visa status (eg. H-4, H-1B, F-2), can I still join the University for winter 2021?
Please contact the OIA (umdoia-international@umich.edu). Your study options, and best course of action, will depend on many considerations that may vary greatly from one person to another. Therefore, advice regarding course of study under another immigration status is best given on a case-by-case basis.

We hope that this information helps alleviate some of the concern and uncertainty regarding the current Coronavirus situation. Do not hesitate to contact the OIA if you have further questions or concerns.

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