Frequently Asked Questions




How does the new broadcast message from SEVP/ICE sent on July 24 affect me?

  • For students who were in active F-1 status on March 9, 2020, you can take a full online course for the Fall semester.
  • For students who were in initial or new F-1 status after March 9, 2020, will not be able to enter the U.S. to enroll at JMU as an F-1 student for the fall term to pursue a full course of study that is 100 percent online. To enter the U.S. as an F-1 student, you will be required to have at least 1 in-person course for the fall semester.

Will I need a new I-20 form to enter the US, as outlined in the July 6 guidance?

JMU will not be sending out new I-20 forms, as the July 6 guidance was rescinded.

What do I need to arrive in the US at the port of entry?

  • Always carry the following items with you during travel:
    • Passport (valid for up to 6 months)
    • Valid Visa in your passport (except for Canadians, who are not required to have a visa)
    • Form I-20
    • JMU Fall 2020 Plan letter
    • New students – a copy of your course schedule listing at least 1 in-person/mostly in-person class for the fall semester.

I’m still in the U.S., can I take online courses this fall, like I did for the spring semester (and summer)?

Yes. Updated SEVP/ICE guidance from July 24, allows students who were in the US on March 9th to continue to take a full online schedule for the fall semester, while maintaining their immigration status.

Will classes be held in person for the fall semester?

As of today, JMU will hold in-person classes for the fall. JMU is working to provide a safe environment for returning to campus by working with the University Health Center and following the guidance for reopening higher education issued by Governor Ralph Northam.

What is JMU doing to create a safe environment for students?

JMU has released the “Fall 2020 Return to Campus Plan” which outlines the steps JMU is taking to create a safe environment for all. JMU continues to implement safety recommendations issued by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. A few of the safety measures that are being instituted include increased cleaning of classrooms and public spaces throughout the day, requiring masks to be worn when in buildings, and holding classes in larger classrooms for appropriate social distancing.

The U.S. has travel restrictions with my country, will I be allowed to enter the US?

  • What countries are restricted from entering the U.S.?
  • I hear there are exceptions for students from countries with travel restrictions.
  • Can I travel to a third country to avoid the travel restrictions?
    • While it is technically possible, there are a number of details to carefully consider:
      • Do I have a valid visa to enter the US?
      • Do I need a visa to enter the third country?
      • Does that third country have any travel restrictions (with my country or the US)?
      • Are flights operating out of the third country?
      • Can I quarantine for the required length of time?
  • What countries are closed, partially open, reopening soon, or have no restrictions?
    • Sites such as Kayak.com display this information in aggregate. Please verify any information given by Kayak or other websites before finalizing your travel plans.

The U.S. Embassy in my country is closed (or for emergency visa process only)...

U.S. Embassies are opening up for visa processing.

  • How do I get my visa?
    • U.S. Embassies are opening up for visa processing, starting the week of July 15. We recommend reaching out to the U.S. Embassy for your location, to see if you can schedule your visa appointment.  If you are unable to schedule your appointment, continue to check back with the U.S. Embassy daily, to know when visa processing will resume.
  • My visa appointment is scheduled for after classes begin (August 26) in the fall. What can I do?
    • We encourage you to periodically check-in with the U.S. Embassy to see if there are any changes to visa interviews. Also, you may qualify for emergency appointment times, as you get closer to the program start date of August 26. Check with the U.S. Embassy for your location.

Will I be required to quarantine when I arrive at JMU?

According to new CDC guidelines published on August 5th, travelers are reminded that any type of travel (domestic or international) is associated with a risk of exposure to COVID-19. Please visit the JMU Health Center COVID-19 FAQ for more information.

I’m still in the US, but not in Harrisonburg, what do I need to do for the fall?

Currently, JMU will hold in-person classes for the fall semester. As an F-1 visa holder, if you remain in the US, you are expected to take a full course of study for the fall semester and update your address information in MyMadison.

What’s the latest date I can arrive at JMU for the fall semester?

For new students: attending orientation is critical to your success at JMU.  Please make sure you arrive in time for your orientation program at JMU!   

For returning students: you must be at JMU for the start of classes on August 26.  

If you are unable to arrive in time, please contact ISSS for guidance.

What if I’m unable to arrive in the US and attend in-person classes this fall?

  • Can I take online classes from my home country?
    • Yes. Course registration is open, and you can select online courses for the fall semester. Please reach out to your program director and/or academic advisor to see what classes would work for your situation.
  • Can I take the semester off?
    • Yes, you can take the semester off. You will need to complete the ISSS form to notify our office of your decision and then the University Withdrawal form. This will ensure that you are no longer charged for tuition and fees.
  • How will withdrawing or deferring impact my F-1 student status?
    • For continuing students, ISSS will terminate the F-1 student status.
    • For new/initial students, JMU will defer the I-20 form to the next semester.

When will I receive my new I-20 form for the Spring semester (if I defer or withdraw for the fall semester)?

  • For new/initial students who defer to the spring semester or are taking online courses from outside the US for the fall and plan to arrive on-campus for the spring semester, ISSS will issue new I-20 forms in early September. They will be sent electronically to your dukes email account.
  • For continuing students who withdraw from JMU and their I-20 form was terminated, ISSS will send a new I-20 form after the “Intent to Enroll form” is approved by the Registrar’s office. Please reach out to ISSS when this form is submitted.

Is there any financial assistance I can obtain?

For more information, contact Financial Aid and Scholarships and check out the CGE-ISSS Financial Resource page.

Could I use my tourist visa to enter the country (US) and once in the country obtain my student visa?

We do not advise students to enter on a tourist visa if you plan to start or continue your studies.  A tourist visa does not allow for full time study.  The process to change your status can be rather lengthy (6-12 months) and you are unable to studying during the change of status.  The costs can range from $500-$1500 to file the change of status.  It’s best to enter on the F-1 student visa.

Can I start online course from outside the US then shift to in-person halfway through the semester?

No. ISSS has to register you with immigration (SEVIS Registration) within 2 weeks of the semester start date. So, it’s not possible.

If I defer for a semester or year, will my athletic scholarship/graduate assistantship stay with me?

You need to check with your coach or program director.

Will the 5-month rule apply to me?

5-month temporary absence provision: with students leaving in March and being outside the US for more than 5 months, normally, they would not be allowed into the US. However, due to COVID-19, the guidance has indicated that if they maintained active status for the spring semester and are still active, the 5-month rule will not apply. This will allow students in active status to enter the US for the fall semester.

Can I get a new signature on my I-20 form to return to the U.S.?

The travel signature on your I-20 form, as written on the I-20 form, is good for one year. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) recommends getting a new travel signature every 6 months. If your I-20 has been signed since March 1, ISSS will not re-sign it, as your I-20 form is acceptable.

Do you have a letter indicating classes will be held in-person that I can use for entry to the U.S.?

Yes! You can find it here

*Letter last updated July 24, 2020.

Notes from ISSS

For a recording of the ISSS Town Hall hosted virtually on July 10, 2020, please see here. Please note that some of the advice shared during the Town Hall may have changed since the time of recording, depending on policy changes from ICE and SEVP. The contents of this FAQ page will have the most up-to-date information from ISSS.

The contents of this FAQ page were last updated August 11, 2020.

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