Fall 2021 Information for New International Students

Have you already studied for one or more semesters at the University of Minnesota? Review our information for continuing international students.

Welcome to the University of Minnesota! We are thrilled that you have decided to attend our institution.

We are excited you will be attending the University of Minnesota this fall. All of our campuses (Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and the Twin Cities) are planning to return to fully on-campus operations this fall. We recognize that there are significant challenges and barriers for some new international students in coming to Minnesota.

ISSS wants you to have the information available about your options. This will allow you and your families to make decisions about what is best for your Fall 2021 plans.

We developed this webpage to give you access to the current information. Please be aware that this information may change throughout the summer. We will regularly update the webpage as new information becomes available. For more information:

Answers to Questions Frequently Asked by New International Students

General Questions

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What is the University doing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus?

The University has and remains committed to ensuring the safety of all students, staff, faculty, and community members. Review the SAFE-U website for ongoing updates.

How can I be informed about changes and updates?

ISSS and other offices across campus will provide further updates as these plans are announced. You should regularly read the emails sent to you by ISSS and other offices. We will also continue to update this Frequently Asked Questions document.

It is important that you claim your UMN email if you have not already. Before the start of classes, some offices on campus (including ISSS) will send emails both to your UMN email address and the address you provided on your application. There are some departments, however, that will only email your UMN email account, so you need to check it regularly.

How can I talk to an ISSS staff person?

International students who are starting classes online or will be arriving at the University of Minnesota for the first time can email [email protected] with any questions. We will be happy to answer your inquiry or direct you to the appropriate office.

Who should I contact if I want to defer my admission?

We hope you will be able to join us at the University of Minnesota. If your plans change, please contact the appropriate office as soon as possible:

  • Undergraduate Students: Admissions ([email protected]) and your college of enrollment. The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has additional information.
  • Graduate and Professional Students: Your program/department. 
  • Non-degree Students: Your program coordinator.
  • Sponsored students: Your sponsoring agency and the sponsored student program at [email protected].

Immigration Documents

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Who should I contact to ask a question about my I-20/DS-2019?

If you have an I-20, please contact the following:

If you have a DS-2019, please contact the following:

  • Issued by the University of Minnesota: [email protected] 
  • Issued by a different J-1 program (for example, Fulbright): Your placement office 

Can you send me an electronic copy of my I-20 or DS-2019?

For documents issued by the UMN:

  • I-20: ISSS is issuing electronic I-20s for students through spring 2022.
  • DS-2019: We can send an unsigned, digital copy of the document for information and visa scheduling purposes. The digital copy cannot be used during the visa interview or to enter the United States. You will need to receive the signed, original DS-2019 in the mail before your visa interview. 

Visa Interviews

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I'm having difficulties scheduling an appointment for my visa interview. What can I do?

We recommend checking whether appointments are available at another consulate. Some consulates have begun scheduling visa appointments while others have not, so while the consulate nearest you may not have appointments available, another one in your country or nearby may.

If I paid the SEVIS fee and cannot get a visa appointment, will I be refunded the fee ($350 for F-1, $220 for J-1)?

If you plan to defer your admission, your SEVIS fee will be applied to the new term.

If I know that I am going to be taking classes online while outside the U.S., should I wait to pay the SEVIS fee and schedule my visa appointment?

You can decide whether you wish to start the process now or wait. Your SEVIS fee will be valid for one year from the date of payment and should be paid one to two weeks before your visa appointment. Check the embassy or consulate website for visa appointment availability.

Will I need a physical form (versus an electronic copy) of my I-20 or DS-2019 when I go for my visa interview?

  • F-1 Students: For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, F-1 students are allowed to use the electronic signature and delivery of Form I-20. You must print the I-20 and sign and date the bottom of page 1 for it to be valid. Bring the printed, signed I-20 to your visa interview. 
  • J-1 Students: For those on a J-1 visa, ISSS is not allowed to send you an electronic DS-2019 with an electronic signature. We will need to print and mail your DS-2019 before you go for your visa interview.

Travel Restrictions

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How do I know if the U.S. has issued travel restrictions for my country?

Please review the Center for Disease Control and Protection’s website to ensure you have the most up-to-date information. This website has a list of the included countries and links to the specific Presidential proclamations. Countries not on the list of Presidential Proclamations do not have travel restrictions at this time.

We encourage international students to regularly check the CDC’s website and this FAQ as new travel restrictions may be announced before the start of classes. 

The U.S. has issued travel restrictions for my country. What can I do?

If you wish to travel to the U.S. now you can either 1) travel to a third country or 2) determine if you are eligible for a National Interest Exception (information is below).

What do I need to know about traveling to a third country first?

Individuals coming from one of the listed countries have the option to travel to and stay in a third country for 14 days before coming to the U.S. When deciding whether to do this, you should check the visa requirements of that country along with any quarantine requirements you will be subject to.

National Interest Exception

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What is the National Interest Exception? How do I know if I am eligible?

The Department of State announced individuals “who are seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure; journalists; students and certain academics covered by exchange visitor programs” (emphasis added) may be eligible for a National Interest Exception (NIE). The eligibility and application process varies based on your visa type, so continue reading for more information.

What does the NIE mean for F-1 students?

International students on F-1 visas from the listed countries may be eligible for a National Interest Exception, however, it could depend on when you will arrive in the United States. 

If you are traveling from Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, or Ireland

Students on F-1 visas after being in any of these areas are automatically eligible for an NIE now. You do not need to contact an embassy or consulate unless you need to get a new visa or renew an existing visa.  You can travel to the U.S. without waiting 14 days in another country. 

If you will be entering the U.S. for the first time on your student visa, please remember that you cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start of classes (for those students who have I-20s, this date is printed in the “Earliest Admission Date” field).

What do I need to know if I have an F-2 dependent?

F-2 Dependents traveling from a country with travel restrictions should be prepared to travel with the F-1 Student.

What does the NIE mean for J-1 students?

  • Students needing a J-1 visa to begin or resume classes this fall should request an NIE from their consulate when applying for their J-1 visa, if necessary.
  • Students already holding a valid J-1 visa should confirm with their consulate whether they will need an individual NIE in addition to their visa to enter the U.S.

General Travel Information

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Am I required to show a negative COVID test before flying to the United States?

Yes, the U.S. is requiring all international air travelers to get a viral test. You will need to show this to the airline to board the plane for the U.S.

Important: You should keep your test results with your passport when flying. In addition to showing it before getting on the plane, you will need to show it when you enter the U.S.

Please review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for the most accurate information.

Is the UMN requiring individuals to quarantine after arriving at the UMN?

The University of Minnesota is not currently requiring individuals to quarantine themselves, but we do request that international travelers isolate themselves until they have had a COVID-19 test after arriving. This means you are allowed to leave your housing, but we ask that you limit your time around other people by planning ahead and using delivery services.

Please review the CDC’s website as the UMN is following its recommendations.

What is the earliest I can arrive in the U.S.?

The following information is the earliest date you can arrive under visa regulations. You need to also confirm whether the U.S. has any travel restrictions for your country. If it does, you will not be allowed to arrive until on or after the later date.

  • If you have an I-20: You can enter the U.S. on or after “the Earliest Admission Date” printed on your document. 
  • If you have a DS-2019: You can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the "From" date in box 3 of your document. 

How can students prove to an immigration officer that they are enrolled in courses that are not 100% online?

If you have registered for classes

There has not been an official announcement stating what documents visa officials or immigration officers may ask to see regarding a student’s enrollment in online classes. Based on the systems used at the University of Minnesota, we recommend you do the following:

  1. Go to the Academics tab of MyU.
  2. Click on registration and then the button to register for classes (it states “Register (Shopping Cart)”)
  3. Select Fall 2021 and click “Continue”.
  4. You will then be shown a list of your courses.
  5. Take a screenshot of your classes (the directions for how to do this varies by computer)
  6. Print out your screenshot and this PDF.

You should bring these documents in your carry-on luggage when you enter the U.S. These documents are not required but could be helpful if you are asked questions about your courses. 

If you have not registered for classes

Undergraduate students who are not registered for classes can bring a copy of their orientation schedule (new undergraduate freshman students or new undergraduate transfer students) which indicates they are required to register ​when they attend orientation​.

What is the latest date that I can arrive at UMN and still attend for Fall 2021?

If you will arrive after the Program Start Date on your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to obtain permission to start after this date. 

  1. First, contact your academic adviser or department as soon as you are aware of the delay. They can share specific information about what you need to do for your program specifically.
  2. If you will miss any classes, you must contact EACH of your instructors to get permission to miss class and to start late.
  3. After obtaining permission for arriving late, you will need a new I-20 or DS-2019 with a modified date to enter the U.S. To obtain a new document, email the following contacts: 
  • Undergraduate Students and Professional Students: contact [email protected] 
  • Graduate and Professional Students: Your program/department 
  • Non-degree Students: Your program coordinator
  • Sponsored students: Your sponsoring agency and the sponsored student program at [email protected]

General Enrollment Questions

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I have a question about my degree program and/or what classes I should take. Who should I contact?

ISSS is not able to answer questions about specific classes or academic programs. If you have questions, you will need to contact the following:

  • Undergraduate students need to contact your Academic Advisor.
  • Graduate/professional degree students need to contact your department/Graduate Program Advisor.
  • Non-degree or exchange students need to contact your program coordinator. 
  • Sponsored students with program-specific questions can contact [email protected].

If you are uncertain who this person is, you can email [email protected]. We can help direct you to the appropriate office.

Studying While Inside the U.S.

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I heard that SEVP issued guidance for fall 2021. What do I need to know if I will be studying while within the U.S.?

The University of Minnesota is strongly encouraging all students to enroll in in-person classes if they are able to travel to the U.S. This will allow you to have the best experience. 

You should also consult with your Academic Advisor/department about University policy and program-specific requirements. ISSS can only advise on your immigration-related requirements.

Beginning Students

(Those enrolling at the UMN for the first time who have not previously been in another U.S. educational program)

You will need to enroll in a full-time course load including at least one hybrid or in-person course. You are expected to enroll in courses taught in person, but immigration regulations allow you to enroll in online courses, if available.

SEVIS Transfer Students

(Those who have previously been enrolled in another U.S. educational program)

  • Transfer students who studied inside the U.S. in spring 2021 and will now take courses inside the U.S. during fall 2021 must register full time. You are expected to enroll in courses taught in person, but immigration regulations allow you to enroll in online courses, if available. Immigration regulations state:
    • F-1 students may take all classes online.
    • J-1 students must register for at least one in-person class.
  • Transfer students who studied online outside the U.S. in spring 2021 and now plan to take courses while inside the U.S. must register full time and should plan to take a hybrid or in-person course. 

If I have a class with an online lecture and in-person lab, would it count as an online class or as in-person?

Please contact your Academic Advisor/Graduate Program Coordinator for questions related to individual classes.

Studying While Outside the U.S.

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Will I be able to study online from my home country this fall?

We hope you will be able to join us in person this fall. As the majority of the University of Minnesota’s classes will be held in person, studying on campus will mean you will have access to the widest variety of classes. We also believe this will give you the best experience. The University of Minnesota, however, understands that some international students may not be able to come to the U.S. due to visa or travel difficulties. 

You need to contact your Academic Advisor/department about program-specific requirements and online course availability. ISSS can only advise on your immigration-related requirements, and there is nothing in the regulations that would prevent you from studying online this fall. You are not required to follow the F-1/J-1 student visa requirements until you arrive in the U.S.

Will there be enough online courses for international students who are unable to travel to the U.S.?

Decisions about course offerings are generally made at the college and program level. You will need to talk to your Academic Advisor/Graduate Program Coordinator about your need for online courses when you meet to discuss registration. Staff at International Student and Scholar Services have also communicated with departments and colleges to ask that they give international students options and flexibility, but your academic advisor/department will be able to answer questions about your program’s courses and options.

I am studying from my home country. If there are not enough online courses for me to be a full-time student, can I take below the full-time requirement?

New “Initial Attendance” I-20 Students

Students who have not yet entered the U.S. for their current degree program are not required to follow F-1/J-1 rules while studying from outside the U.S. You can start your UMN studies and take the classes that are available. 

New SEVIS Transfer Students

If you are a SEVIS transfer student and you have an Active SEVIS record with your current/previous institution, ISSS will be required to terminate your SEVIS record for not enrolling full time. Please contact ISSS to tell us if this is your case.

If your SEVIS record is terminated, you will need to contact ISSS before you return to request a new I-20/DS-2019. We request you contact ISSS three months before your planned arrival to allow processing time.

Note: You should be aware that if your SEVIS record is terminated, you will not be eligible to apply for OPT/CPT until you have completed 2 full-time semesters while inside the U.S. (for example, fall and spring). You will also need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

ISSS Requirements for New International Students

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What do I need to do to have the AI Hold removed from my account?

If you will study in-person while inside the U.S.

All new international students arriving at the University of Minnesota for the first time must complete two new student requirements to have this hold removed: 

We also encourage you to attend Global Gopher Events, but this is not required. If you have any questions about new student requirements, email [email protected].

If you are undecided/unsure about if you will study on-campus during Fall 2021

We recommend that you complete the International Student Preparation Course now.

If you will take all of your courses online while outside of the U.S. in Fall 2021

You do not need to complete your New Student Requirements now, but we strongly encourage you to complete the International Student Preparation Course as soon as possible.

  • Undergraduate Students: Your AI hold will be temporarily released so that you can register for classes when you attend your New Student Orientation. 
  • Graduate Students: Your AI hold has been temporarily released to allow registration for the Fall 2021 semester.

I deferred my admission and did not enroll in courses last fall/spring. Do I need to complete the International Student Preparation Course?

Yes, if you deferred your admission and did not enroll in classes for the Fall 2020/Spring 2021 semester, you must complete the new International Student Preparation Course before the start of the Fall 2021 semester.

Health Insurance

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Am I required to have health insurance if I am studying within the United States?

Yes, all international students who are in the United States are required to have the Student Health Benefit Plan or the Graduate Assistantship Plan.

Does the student health insurance cover me if I were to get sick?

Yes, please review the Office of Student Health Benefits website for more information about the Student Health Benefit Plan or the Graduate Assistant Health Plan. You can also email [email protected] if you have additional questions about your insurance plan.

Am I required to have health insurance if I am studying online while outside the United States?

If you are studying outside of the U.S. in your home country, you will need to waive the University-sponsored insurance (SHBP). Every semester you will have to submit a completed waiver form to the Office of Student Health Benefits by mail, email, or fax. You are not required to submit additional documentation if you have not traveled to the U.S. on a UMN visa.

Once approved, your health insurance waiver will be valid for one semester. 

(“Residence in your home country” means you’re physically studying remotely in your home country.) 

I have reported my plans to study this fall while outside the United States, but my account still shows the health insurance balance. What are my next steps?

Your account will be updated by Monday, September 13 if you have reported your plans and completed the Health Insurance fee waiver form. If you still have a charge on your student account on September 14 or later, please contact the Office of Student Health Benefits at [email protected]. There may be a delay in processing waivers.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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Will I be required to have the received the COVID-19 vaccine to attend the University of Minnesota?

All enrolled UMN students are required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or seek an exemption. To meet this requirement, submit the COVID-19 vaccination form before October 8. If you have not already received the vaccine, there will be free vaccination clinics on campus over the next few weeks, and you can always schedule an appointment at Boynton to get your vaccine. For more information, you can review:

Will I be eligible for a vaccine upon arrival?

Yes, UMN students, scholars, and dependents who are older than 18 years old will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine on campus through Boynton Health. To make an appointment after you arrive in the U.S., call 612-625-3222 or schedule online using the MyBoynton Patient Portal.  

Family members aged 12+ are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Use the Minnesota Vaccine Connector to find a location that works well for your family members.

What if I got a vaccine that has not been approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Will I need to get another vaccination once I am in the United States?

This answer is accurate as of August 6. As the COVID situation is quickly changing, we recommend reviewing the Safe-UU.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), and/or State of Minnesota websites to confirm that this information is still accurate.

Boynton Health strongly encourages individuals to get vaccinated if you have access to a vaccine.

At this time, the CDC guidelines state:

  • Individuals who receive any of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) are considered fully vaccinated even if that vaccine has not been approved in the United States. This means you will NOT need to get another vaccine, at this time. It is possible that this may change at a later date.
  • Individuals who receive a vaccine that is not on the WHO's list of approved vaccines will NOT be considered fully vaccinated. Individuals would also not be considered fully vaccinated if they do not complete all of the required doses.

For more information about vaccine availability, please review the Get the Vax and Boynton Health websites.

I was told I can get $100 if I get vaccinated in Minnesota. Is that true?

Review the Minnesota COVID-19 Response website for information.

Student Fees

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Where can I find information about student fees?

You should review the One Stop website and/or contact One Stop if you have questions about your student fees.


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Is it possible for me to have a job as an international student and work outside the U.S.?

Some students will be able to be hired and continue/start new jobs while being outside the U.S. during the fall semester. 

  • Graduate and professional degree students should contact their academic department where they can assist in the next steps to determine if you are eligible for employment.
  • Undergraduate students starting new positions should tell the hiring department that you are hoping to work remotely from another country when you are applying for the position. 

As a student, what paperwork do I need to complete before starting employment?

You should talk to the Human Resources/I-9 Administrator for the department where you will work about the process to complete your Form I-9. You will need to present several documents to complete this form. All new UMN employees must complete their I-9 on or before their first day of employment

Do I need a Social Security Number before I start work?

If you do not have one, you will need to apply for a Social Security NumberThis can be done after you begin work. You do not need a Social Security Number to complete the I-9.

Temporary Housing

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I am arriving before I can move into my housing. Does the University have options for where I live until my housing is available?

Yes, international can stay in the University’s International Early Arrival Housing (IEAH) until August 27. You should go to the Housing and Residential Life website to submit requests. Please be aware:

  • Students are the only people who can stay in Early Arrival Housing. Family and friends will need to make other arrangements.
  • If you are living off-campus: You should be aware that many leases do not start until the beginning of the month. You should ask whether you can move into your off-campus housing on August 27 or if you will need to make alternate arrangements.

Alternatively, there are a variety of hotels near campus. For a list of local hotels, go to Meet Minneapolis or Visit St. Paul. We recommend asking if the hotel has a discount for students/families starting at the University of Minnesota.

What if I become sick or am exposed to COVID-19 while staying in International Early Arrival Housing?

Residents can request isolation spaces if they become sick or are exposed to COVID. Please review Housing and Residental Life website for the current information, as policies are constantly reviewed and modified.

On-Campus Housing

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I have questions about living on-campus. Who should I contact?

For questions about on-campus housing, please review the Housing and Residential Life website for more information. To read more specific information for international students, please visit the Housing’s webpage for international students

What if I become sick or am exposed to COVID-19 while living on-campus?

Residents can request isolation spaces if they become sick or are exposed to COVID. Please review Housing and Residental Life website for the current information, as policies are constantly reviewed and modified.

Off-Campus Housing

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I have questions about living off-campus. Who should I contact?

For questions about living off-campus, please review the Off-Campus Living website. It provides an overview of the neighborhoods surrounding the university and some things to be aware of when you are renting in the U.S. 

You will need to contact a landlord or apartment manager directly to get information about renting a specific property. Check the reviews of a specific rental property for you to know whether it is suitable for your needs. 

I’ve found somewhere I want to live off-campus, and I’m now being told I will need to sign a lease. What should I do?

It is important that you fully understand the lease before signing. We strongly recommend asking Student Legal Services to review your lease and/or to provide advice on negotiating with your landlord. SLS’s support is free for all UMN students who have paid the Student Services Fee.


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What is the University doing to address crime on and around campus? Is it safe to come to campus?

Whether you are currently in the United States or in your home country, we know that you are likely following the news of what has been happening through Minneapolis this summer. It is understandable that you and/or your family have questions about your safety. 

Our University is at the center of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which provides many benefits but also challenges. The University of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), Police Department (UMPD), and other partners are working daily to make our campus safer. DPS and UMPD also work closely with the City of Minneapolis and the City of Falcon Heights because a large number of students live in private housing in these cities. The University also has resources to provide information to help students, faculty, and staff make informed choices about their safety.

Some of the public safety enhancements currently underway to protect our community include:

  • Investing in a personal safety mobile app that will help UMPD respond faster to any perceived threat to a University community member. This app has been used at a number of other universities across the country, and it will be implemented at the UMN this summer,
  • Adding and enhancing lighting and “blue light” security kiosks on campus grounds.
  • Adding UMPD officers to work more hours as part of neighborhood patrols.

For more information, we encourage you to review these resources:


Learn About ISSS's Advocacy Efforts

Staff at International Student and Scholar Services and our parent office, the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, are working closely with University of Minnesota colleges and programs to provide options for international students who are facing challenges due to the pandemic. 

We have joined other institutions and advocacy organizations in asking that flexibility and reforms at the federal level to to ensure international students can arrive in the United States in time for the fall semester. Some of the organizations working on these issues include:

Last updated: August 31, 2021