Frequently Asked Questions

 What are JMU’s plans for the Spring semester?

As of today, JMU will provide a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online course instruction for the spring semester, beginning on January 19, 2021. For more information, please see the Stop the Spread website.

 Can I continue to take online course for the Spring semester?

  • For continuing/returning students, you can continue to take a full course load (12 credits) of online courses (as class availability allows).

  • For students with an initial I-20 form who plan to arrive in the US for the Spring 2021 semester, you will need to enroll in at least one (1) in-person/hybrid course for the spring semester.

 What should I carry with me when arriving at the port of entry in the US?

Always carry the following items with you during travel:

  • Passport (valid for up to 6 months beyond the date of your arrival in the US)

  • Valid F-1 Visa in your passport (except for Canadians, who are not required to have a visa)

    • If you need to renew your F-1 Visa, check the availability of visa appointments now!

  • Form I-20 (returning students need to have a valid Travel Signature on page 2)

  • JMU Spring 2021 Plan letter

  • New students – a copy of your course schedule listing at least 1 in-person/mostly in-person class for the fall semester.

 Will my electronic I-20 Form be accepted at the US Embassy to apply for my visa and enter the US?

Yes, SEVP has communicated with the Department of State and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) about accepting electronically issued I-20 forms. This should be acceptable for applying for a student visa and entering the US.

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

Please see JMU's Stop the Spread website for more information.

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

  • What countries are restricted from entering the US?

  • 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?

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

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

  • "How do I get my visa?"

    • Most US Embassies are open for visa processing. We recommend that you contact 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 (January 19) in the spring. 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 January 19. Check with the U.S. Embassy for your location. Contact ISSS if you qualify for an emergency appointment.

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

  • Please visit the JMU Health Center COVID-19 FAQ for more information.

  • If you are living in a Residence Hall, please reach out to Residence Life staff.

 What’s the latest date I can arrive at JMU for the Spring 2021 semester?

  • For new students: attending orientation is critical to your success at JMU. 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 January 19.

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

 What if I’m unable to arrive in the US for the spring semester?

  • "Can I take online classes from my home country?" 

    • Yes. Course registration is open, and you can select online courses for the spring 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. You will need a new I-20 Form (and potentially new F-1 visa) in order to return to the US.

    • 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 Fall 2021 semester (if I defer or withdraw for the Spring 2021 semester)?

  • For new/initial students who defer to the fall 2021 semester or are taking online courses from outside the US for the spring semester and plan to arrive on-campus for the fall 2021 semester, ISSS will issue new I-20 forms in February/March. They will be sent electronically to your email account.

  • For continuing/returning 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 after you submit this form.

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

  • If you are a new student with an initial I-20: No. ISSS must register you with US Immigration (called SEVIS Registration) within 2 weeks of the semester start date. If you are not in person at that time, we will need to adjust the start date of your I-20 to the next term (either May or August 2021), so you would not be allowed to enter the US in the middle of the Spring 2021 semester.

  • If you are a continuing/returning student: Yes*, but you MUST contact ISSS at least 2 weeks BEFORE you re-enter the US, so that you can be enrolled in the required health insurance.

    (*Current guidance allows for continuing students to take a full course load of online courses; therefore, you could start with all online courses, be registered through the required SEVIS Registration, and then enter the US halfway through the semester.)

 If I defer for a semester or year, will my athletic scholarship/graduate assistantship be valid for a later semester?

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 2020 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 spring semester.

 Can I get a new signature on my I-20 form to return to the US?

Travel signatures on page 2 of your I-20 form are valid for one year. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) recommends getting a new travel signature every 6 months. Check your page 2 of your I-20 to see if you need a new one!

If you do need a new one, you can get a travel signature from our office in one of two ways:

  1. Travel Signature Days will be held from Tuesday-Friday, November 10-13 from 1-5pm. Come to CGE (Madison Hall, second floor), enter the CGE office one at a time, and have your I-20 out and ready for a travel signature. If you see others in the CGE lobby getting their signatures, please wait in the hall until they have left the lobby.

  2. Email to request a new, digital I-20 Form with a digital signature.

 Am I eligible for the stimulus payment?

No. Non-resident aliens (for tax purposes) are not eligible and may receive it in error. Refer to this article to ensure eligibility and for information on how to return a payment received in error.

 Do I need to get a COVID test before traveling to the U.S.?

If you travel to the U.S. on or after January 26, 2021, you will be required to get a COVID test and present your negative test result to the airline. Learn more:

If you live in JMU’s on-campus housing, you will be required to take a COVID test at the University Health Center once you arrive to campus. Please check your Dukes email and talk with your RA for details on when and how to get the test.

Notes from ISSS

FAQ for SEVP stakeholders about COVID-19 – last updated August 7, 2020.

All information on this page is based on current guidance from SEVP/ICE, CDC, and other official sources at the time this page was published (October 2020). All information is subject to change without notification.

This page was last updated January 6, 2021.

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