EducationUSA: COVID-19 FAQs

International Students are Welcome in the U.S.

The United States has long been the destination of choice for international students, and we are pleased that many international students who had planned to study this fall in the United States may still have the opportunity to do so.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced its plan for temporary modifications to F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visa requirements for the fall 2020 semester. This will allow a mixture of both in-person and some online coursework to meet the requirements for nonimmigrant student status. This temporary accommodation provides greater flexibility for nonimmigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.

International students will still have to obtain the appropriate visa and may still be subject to other visa processing or travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Students should check with the local U.S. embassy or consulate for information specific to their country.


Frequently Asked Questions about F-1 Visas During COVID-19 

1. I received an acceptance from a U.S. university. My visa interviewwas scheduled, but I received an email saying that all appointments are canceled for now. When can I do my interview? 

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates have cancelled all routine nonimmigrant visa appointments, including F-1 student visa applications, as of March 20, 2020. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. 

Still, we encourage students to apply for their visas at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-ae/niv as soon as they receive their I20 forms from the U.S. university.  Students should regularly check for guidance on the U.S. Embassy website and also check the visa interview appointment booking site so that they can schedule their visa interviews as soon as appointments begin to open.  

Please note that the earliest you can apply for a student visa in advance of a program start date is 120 days. The fee for the visa appointment (MRV fee) is valid for one full year.  

2. My visa is still valid, but I will be outside the U.S. for longer than five months. Will I keep my student status?  

Yes, as long as you talk to your Designated School Official (DSO) in advance of travel and have no other academic issues. Given the current situation, in many cases the normal five-month rule may not apply. Please speak to your DSO to understand your individual situation BEFORE traveling. Only they can confirm the status of your I-20.  

3. I am an Emirati citizen and had to come back to the UAE due to COVID-19. My visa will expire before fall 2020. How can I renew it? 

Any student of any nationality with an expired F-1 visa who plans to return to study in the United States requires a valid visa.  Unfortunately, in response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates have cancelled all routine nonimmigrant visa appointments, including new and renewals of F-1 student visa applications, as of March 20, 2020. The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time. 

Students should regularly check for guidance on the U.S. Embassy website and also check the visa interview appointment booking site so that they can schedule their visa interviews as soon as appointments begin to open.   

4. I have been granted an F-1 visa and my classes are to start in fall 2020. If my university will only offer online classes given COVID-19, will I need to be issued a new I-20 when the school reopens for in-person classes? 

As a rule, we can issue an F-1 visa for a current I-20.  You will need a new I-20 if it expires before we would issue a visa, or before your travel to the US.  Please consult with the appropriate office at your university, college, or school before you contact the U.S. EmbassConsular section. 

5. I have a specific question about my situation that you haven’t answered. Can I contact you?  

For individuals residing in Abu Dhabi please email abudhabiniv@state.gov and for those residing in Dubai or the northern emirates, please email  USVisaDubai@state.gov or with details of your situation, and we’ll be happy to assist. . For those residing in Abu Dhabi please email  abudhabiniv@state.gov. Please provide details of your situation and we’ll be happy to assist you.  with details of your situation, and we’ll be happy to assist.   

Below please find some helpful Resources: 

General Student Visa Information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/student-visa.html 

  1. Maintaining Student Status: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Website “Study in the States” https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/covid-19-resources 
  2. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdf  
  3. Changing Status in the U.S.:  United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and FAQs https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-response-covid-19 
  4. Travel Advisories and Visa Information: U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi https://ae.usembassy.gov/ 
  5. Department of State COVID-19 Information https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html 
  6. Health Guidance in the U.S.: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html