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Immigration-Related Updates for New and Continuing International Students

The following message was sent on May 5, 2021 to students in F-1 status, international students admitted for the 2021-22 academic year and international students intending to enter the U.S. in F-1 status to continue an academic program for the 2021-22 academic year.    

Greetings from the Office of International Services. We sincerely hope you and your family members are remaining healthy and safe during these challenging times.

We are reaching out to provide a few immigration-related updates for the 2021-22 academic year.


On April 26, 2021 SEVP announced that they will continue their March 2020 guidance for the duration of the 2021-22 academic year which allows certain flexibilities for F-1 students attending schools that have not returned to normal operating conditions.

Implications for current students who were in F-1 status as of March 9, 2020 and who have maintained their status continuously:

  • These students may continue to take any combination of online, hybrid or in-person courses including a fully online course load either from within or outside the U.S. as made available by their school or program.

Implications for students who enter(ed) the U.S. with an initial I-20 to begin a program in summer 2020 or later including newly admitted students planning to attend JHU in summer or fall 2021:

  • These students can enter the U.S. to begin a program of study if their program is not 100% online and the student will not take a course load that is 100% online.
  • These students should take at least one in-person course per term while the current SEVP guidance is in effect.


  1. National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Ireland and India

Department of State has expanded a National Interest Exception (NIE) to students from all COVID travel-restricted countries that will allow them to enter the U.S. even if they have been in a designated country in the 14 days immediately prior to travel to the U.S. A separate announcement includes students traveling from India. Please note that the announcement does not address all situations in detail. In cases where it does not address your situation specifically, we recommend that you reach out to your local U.S. consulate for guidance.

Implications for students traveling to the U.S. from travel-restricted countries:

What we know from the announcement:

  • F-1 students from the named countries may qualify for an NIE if their academic program begins or continues on August 1, 2021 or later.
  • F-1 students with a valid F-1 visa who will begin or continue their academic program on August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact a U.S. consulate to obtain an individual NIE prior to travel.
  • F-1 students who are applying for a visa will automatically be considered for an NIE.

Questions that the announcement does not answer:

  • Can continuing students qualify for an NIE if they plan to enter the U.S. sooner than 30 days before their next term’s start date?
  • Are F-1 students on OPT eligible for an NIE and, if so, are there any conditions on when they can enter the U.S.?
  • Do students whose programs begin prior to August 1, 2021 need to request an NIE from their U.S. consulate, and if so, will they be issued an NIE to enter the U.S.?
  1. Visa Appointment Availability

Unfortunately, the vast majority of U.S. consulates worldwide remain temporarily closed or open for emergency services only. This will be the primary hurdle for new students wishing to arrive for study inside the U.S. this fall. DOS is allowing individual consulates to determine its level of operations based on local conditions, and it is unknown when there will be a full return to routine visa services. DOS has pledged to prioritize student visas over most other nonimmigrant visas, however. Students who have received their I-20s and require a new visa should submit a visa application and schedule their visa appointment for the earliest possible opportunity.

All students should fully review OIS’s recently updated COVID-19 Immigration-Related FAQs for details. If you have questions after reviewing the FAQs, please reach out to OIS at [email protected] or 667-208-7001.


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