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Due to the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the Office of International Programs would like to share updates with you regarding immigration, campus services and immigration advising during this time. We understand the concerns of international students regarding COVID-19 and its disruption to campus life. International Programs staff will be here to assist you as you navigate these changes. Please review the information below. This information will continued to be updated.

Updated October 27, 2020

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a branch of the US Department Homeland Security, issued guidance for the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters making an exception to normal face-to-face enrollment requirements for F-1 visa holders to require no face-to-face enrollment. The guidance is considered to be standing guidance. It was therefore implemented in the Fall 2020 semester, as well. To date, no updated guidance has been issued for the Spring 2021 semester and so it is expected the standing guidance will be applied requiring no face-to-face enrollment. Therefore, the enrollment guidance as described below remains in effect. If SEVP releases an update modifying enrollment requirements for Spring 2021, the Office of International Affairs will update this Confluence page and contact all new and returning F-1 visa holders.

Enrollment for Fall 2020

I understand that normally I’m required to attend face-to-face classes in order to keep my visa. I am outside of the U.S. and will not return for Fall 2020. Will my visa status be affected now that all my classes are online?

Per Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance from July 15, F-1 students are approved to continue study online from outside of the U.S.

SEVP approved these emergency measures so that nonimmigrant students can continue to make normal progress in their program of study. Please note that you must maintain full-time enrollment to keep your SEVIS record active.

I am in the U.S. Do I need to attend a face-to-face or hybrid class to keep my visa status?

F-1 students may want to keep in person courses in their schedule. It is possible that the US government may provide further updates that could affect international student enrollment for Fall 2020.

What if I am not able to return to the US to study in person for Fall 2020?

If your courses are completely online, you may take online UWF classes from overseas. According to the current guidance, you must enroll full-time to maintain your F-1 status.

What if I wish to return to the U.S. to continue my studies but more than 5 months have passed since I left the U.S.?

You may return to UWF for Fall 2020. The five-month temporary absence rule will not apply for students who are returning to study.

I heard that I need an updated I-20. Is that true?

No, it is no longer necessary to get an updated I-20.

If I do not maintain my F-1 status for Fall 2020, what is the impact on CPT and OPT? Can  I apply for an internship when I return? Can I apply for OPT when I graduate?

To be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT for an internship or other practical training) or Optional Practical Training (OPT for work authorization after graduation), a student must be in F-1 status for the previous fall and spring semesters. 

I am transferring my I-20 to UWF from a different school. How many face-to-face classes are required for Fall 2020?

Transfer students have the same requirements for Fall 2020 enrollment.

I am a new student. This is my first semester studying in the U.S.  Can I still come to Pensacola and enroll for the Fall 2020 semester?

Yes, you are permitted to fly to Pensacola and enroll at UWF for the Fall 2020 semester. You should take steps now to make sure you are registered for as many face-to-face or hybrid classes as possible and you should take steps now to make your visa appointment.

I am a new student. I would like to start my classes online from home. Can I do that?

Yes, you can study online from outside the U.S. Please email to update your I-20 to the start date of the semester you plan to attend on campus.

I am a new student, but I don’t want to take online classes from home in Fall 2020 and I can't attend classes in person at UWF. What do I do?

Please email and we will work with you to update your I-20 to the start date of the semester you plan to attend on campus.

You also need to work with Undergraduate Admissions or the program director for your graduate program to defer your UWF admission to another semester.

My schedule has changed for Fall 2020 or I need to make some changes to it. How do I update my schedule?

You can update your schedule by contacting your academic advisor.You and your advisor can see UWF updates and descriptions of types of course delivery on this Confluence page: Fall 2020 COVID Enrollment Guidance for UWF International Students

You may log into MyUWF and view My Classes to see if your class is online or in person.

You can see more information here: Viewing Course Delivery Methods

Classes will be online after the Thanksgiving break. Does that mean that I need to leave the US after Thanksgiving?

No, you are not required to leave the US after Thanksgiving. In-person attendance is not required for any UWF student after Thanksgiving. It is the same for F-1 students. You can see dates on the academic calendar for the Fall 2020.

Travel Issues

Can I arrive late for classes? There is a travel restriction. I cannot find a flight. My airport is still closed. I am waiting for my visa.

Do I need to quarantine or self-isolate if I arrive on campus from outside of the US or from another state?

If you are returning from international travel, cruise ships or a location within the U.S. with known community outbreaks, review the UWF COVID-19 resource page for the current UWF policy. Click on FAQs and see the Travel section.

I want to depart the US and have not had my I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel.  What should I do?

You have two options:

  1. Check the travel signature on page 3 of your I-20 .  The travel signature is valid for one year from the last date it was signed. (It is valid for 6 months for students on OPT.) Make sure that your anticipated arrival date back to the US will fall within one year of the last travel signature.  Example:  Your I-20 was signed December 12, 2019 and you intend to reenter the US on August 24, 2020.  You do not need a new travel signature.
  2. Email to request a travel signature . The updated I-20 will be emailed to you. 

I am graduating and plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Can I apply from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I apply from outside of the U.S.?

As always, OPT requires full time enrollment for at least one year and a US address for the application. If these factors are satisfied, the student may continue the application per normal. However, students interested in taking advantage of this visa benefit should consider the possibility of future travel restrictions, either from the US or their home country.

If you choose to depart the United States to complete your courses from your home country, your eligibility to apply for OPT benefits may be subject to change per SEVP guidance.

General Information 

I will graduate in Summer 20. How can I maintain my status?

If you graduated in Spring 2020, your I-20 end date is May 15. Summer 2020 graduates will have an end date of August 15. You have 60 days after that to take action to maintain your F-1 status. Contact your international student advisor or email if you have any questions.

You can see more information here - Study in the States: Upon Program Completion: 

Options include: 

1. Apply for OPT
2. Be admitted to a new degree program and update  your I-20. 
3. Transfer to another school
4. Apply for a change of status if eligible

Must students cease engaging in OPT if they are now working fewer than 20 hours a week due to the economic impacts of COVID-19?

 For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.

I want to depart the US. What documents will I need to return?

The University strongly recommends all students refrain from personal international travel unless you are returning to your home country for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. 

As an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, if you decide to travel abroad you must have the following documents in order to re-enter the United States:

  • Valid F-1 of J-1 Student Visa
  • Valid Passport, valid at least six months beyond you re-entry date
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019, with Valid Travel Signature

Under US Presidential order, some countries are currently prevented from entering the US.  This situation may change and include additional countries or regions.

How can I receive immigration advising?

Please email with any questions or concerns.  International Programs staff will remain available during regular business hours to assist you by email or schedule an appointment by telephone.  We will attempt to answer all emails within 24 hours.

More information and her frequently asked questions can be found online at

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