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March 15th, 2021 

Content of Today's Newsletter:


1 - Fall 2021 Enrollment Guidance - Return to Pre-COVID Requirements (Updated)
2 - Travel - Reminders and precautions (Updated)
3 - Information Regarding PCR COVID tests for Travel (New)
4 - Tax Filings - April 15
5 - Scam Warning
6 - Graduating  - Apply Now
7 - Mandatory OPT/ CPT Training Course
8 - USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants - Filing Form I-765 for OPT
9 - International Student Panel -Event (New)
10- Healthy Eating 101- Event (New)
11- Guided Trips and Instructions with University Recreation (New)
12- Off -Campus housing
13- Research Graduate Assistant Feature
14- Global Café (Updated)
15- Apply to the Honors College
16- Online English Classes
17- COVID-19 Information
18- TeleHealth
19- Public Hours for ISSS and Virtual Advising (updated)
20- Academic Calendar (Updated)

FALL 2021 ENROLLMENT GUIDANCE
RETURN TO PRE-COVID REQUIREMENTS

Based on The University of Alabama’s announced plan to return to full-time, in-person instruction under normal operations in the Fall 2021 Semester, all F-1 and J-1 students must resume regular in-person enrollment under standard F-1 and J-1 guidance beginning in the Fall 2021 Semester as outlined on our Full-Time Enrollment Page.

In preparation for the change back to pre-COVID enrollment requirements, ISSS requires all international students on F-1 and J-1 student visas to follow the standard immigration regulations when registering for Fall 2021 classes as outlined on our Full-Time Enrollment Page.

Generally speaking, F-1 and J-1 students are required to maintain a full-time course load during fall and spring semesters. Full-time enrollment generally means graduate students must enroll for at least 9 credits and undergraduate students must enroll for at least 12 credits every semester.

For F-1 visa holders, only 1 online class (i.e. 3 credit hours) per semester may count towards a “full course of study.”  For example, an undergraduate student is required to register for 12 credits per semester to maintain full-time status. Of the 12 required hours only 3 credit hours may be online. After an F-1 student has met the full-time requirement, any additional hours above the 12 required hours may be either regular campus classes or online.

J-1 student visa holders cannot count any online classes toward their full-time enrollment requirements.  For example, an undergraduate student on a J-1 student visa must enroll the first 12 credit hours in main campus, in-person courses, but after meeting the full-time requirement via main campus courses, they may enroll in additional hours above the full-time requirement in on-line courses.

FOR STUDENTS RETURNING FROM ABROAD, the notice here suspended the 5-month rule for absences from the United States.  So, for those students who have been enrolled online abroad and are returning to the U.S. to resume full-time in-person studies in Fall 2021 and have been outside of the U.S. for 5 months or more since March 2020, your I-20/DS-2019 and F-1/J-1 student status are valid for return. 

Please refer to the RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES for more information regarding what documents to carry with you.


TRAVEL – REMINDERS AND PRECAUTIONS


International Student & Scholar Services ask you to carefully consider and research your travel, keeping in mind continuing COVID restrictions on travel and limited U.S. Embassy operations and visa appointments.

 As you make your plans, take into account the very real possibility of travel delay and restrictions as well as quarantines and/or prolonged self-isolation requirements when entering or transiting through other countries, when you arrive to your home country, and when returning to the United States based on each location’s local guidance for COVID-19.

 For the latest information and guidance, please use our Coronavirus Information Page to find more about UA Operation PlansReturn Travel RequirementsVisa and Entry Bans, and CDC Guidance & Campus Testing.

 Keep in mind that regulations change rapidly.  So, the advice listed on our site today may not be valid if there are any changes or new restrictions put in place.

 VISA RENEWALS – VERIFY APPOINTMENT AVAILABILITY
If you will need to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa while you are abroad, please refer to our Visa Renewal information here for guidance: http://international.ua.edu/isss/currentstudents/travel-requirements/#visa.
 
U.S. Embassies and Consulates have been resuming visa services since July 2020, but each Embassy and Consulate is operating independently, and not all are open for visa appointments.
 
We have routinely seen cases in which visa appointments have been unavailable, with appointment delays and cancelations common.
 
You will need to check your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out their local process for resumption of visa processing.  Visa appointment wait times can be found here, and contact information for Embassies and Consulates worldwide is available at usembassy.gov.
 
TRAVEL SIGNATURE
Should you choose to travel, please make sure you have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019.
 
If you need a travel signature or your travel signature will be more than 1 year old at the time you plan to return, please submit a Travel Signature Request with the subject line “TRAVEL SIGNATURE REQUEST” via email to international@ua.edu.
 
I-20s and DS-2019s will be sent as an electronic document per guidance from the Department of Homeland Security Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and Department of State.
 
F-1/F-2 I-20s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for all official purposes, including visa applications and renewals, entry to the U.S., applications for OPT, etc.  There is no need for the original, physical I-20 at this time.
 
J-1/J-2 DS-2019s signed and sent as electronic scans can be used for most purposes except visa applications, renewals, and entry to the U.S.  For visa applications and renewals and entry to the U.S., the original, physical DS-2019 is required.  ISSS will need to arrange shipment to you, following the steps outlined on our Document Shipping Page.
 
RETURN TRAVEL
To return to the U.S., you will need:
 
Once you get back to the U.S., the CDC requires additional steps (effective February 2, 2021):
  1. a second viral COVID test 3 – 5 days after return travel AND self-quarantine for 7 days even if test is negative;
  2. if not tested for COVID, must self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
 
NOTE: 1 – 2 weeks prior to your return to the U.S., please review our Return Travel Requirements section one more time for any updated information on re-entry to the U.S.
 
And because CDC requirement for quarantine upon return, please plan to return early enough that you will have completed the necessary quarantine in time for a return to campus.  We recommend returning 2 weeks prior to the start of classes at a minimum.
 

Information Regarding PCR COVID tests for Travel

The Student Health Center offers both PCR COVID testing and Rapid Testing.  Keep in mind Rapid Testing (aka an "antigen" test) is NOT the same as a PCR test.  Be sure to check with your airline regarding which test is required.

Students requesting PCR testing for travel must call 205-348-2778 and make an appointment. When you call, please inform the staff that your appointment is a PCR test for travel. PCR testing results are usually returned within 24-48 hours. The Student Health Center cannot report results on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). The SHC recommends that you have the test done Monday - Thursday. Tests done on Fridays will not be reported to the student until the following Monday. Results can be sent to you via the SHC's secure Patient Portal.

If your travel does not require a PCR test, you can call 205-348-2778 to schedule a Rapid Test any time Monday - Friday, and the results will be reported to you that same day. Please inform the nurse that the Rapid Test is for travel and that you will need a copy of the lab report sent to you. Be sure to check with your airline regarding what test is required. If they will accept an “antigen” test then a rapid test will meet that requirement.

To the best of SHC's knowledge, international travel requires a PCR test performed 72 hours or less prior to departure. The SHC recommends that you check with your airline regarding health requirements for travel.

Cost for a PCR test with office visit done at the Student Health Center is around $180.00. Cost of the Rapid Test is around $40.00. Your health insurance may cover some or all of the cost, but you will need to contact your medical insurance company and ask them what is covered.

If you have questions please e-mail shc@ua.edu.

TAX FILINGS - April 15


Did you earn money in the United States in 2020 (between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020)?

  • If yes, you may need to file a tax form with the IRS or Alabama Tax Office.
 Did you live in the U.S. in 2020 (between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020) and hold an F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 visa status?

The UA Tax Office provides support for filing taxes – http://taxoffice.ua.edu/year-end-tax-filing-requirements/.
Tax related questions can be directed to the UA Tax Office:
365-A Rose Administration Building
Box 870136
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0136
Phone: (205) 348-8865
Email: cvjones1@ua.edu  
Website: http://taxoffice.ua.edu/international-tax/
Appointment Scheduler
You can also find some general information on our website – http://international.ua.edu/isss/ssn-itin-taxes/#taxes.  However, International Student & Scholar Services cannot answer tax questions or help students or scholars with tax filings.
 
ONLINE TAX SOFTWARE
International students and scholars should not use Turbo Tax, HR Block, TaxSlayer, 1040.com or other similar tax preparation software that you see advertised on the web to file your federal taxes. These services are intended for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents and do not utilize the correct federal tax forms for non-residents.
If you are looking for software to assist you with tax filing, you may want to consider one of the following companies which provide tax preparation specialized for international students and scholars:

SCAM WARNING
 

Please be aware that there is a high volume of tax and immigration scams this time of year.  Most of these types of scams will spoof a government agency phone number or email address in order to look official.
 
Please note, the IRS, DHS, and other government agencies will never contact you by phone or email.
 
Signs of a Scam Phone Call:

  1. Caller requests you to pay a fine using Western Union, PayPal, Green Dot, MoneyGram or some other wire transfer service
  2. Caller threatens your arrest or deportation for failure to act within a very short period of time.
  3. Caller will try to prevent you from hanging up, asking you to visit a retail store to transfer funds while remaining on the phone.

Scam Resources:
•  For more information on immigration scams: http://www.uscis.gov/avoidscams.    
•  For more information on tax/IRS scams: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing and http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts.  
•  For more information on money transfer and check scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0090-using-money-transfer-services.   
•  In addition to the USCIS, IRS, and Consumer FTC Sites, scams can be reported here: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

F-1 & J-1 STUDENTS: GRADUATING IN MAY 2021?
Apply for OPT/Academic Training NOW!!!

 

If you are an F-1 or J-1 students graduating in Mayr 2021, and plan to work in the U.S, you may file for Optional Practical Training ( for F-1 students) or Academic Training (for J-1 students) work authorization now. 

Processing time at USCIS for OPT ranges from 3-5 months. You can give your application a head start by putting your documents together now. 

USCIS can accept your OPT application as early as 90 days prior to your completion date and as late as 60 days after your completion date. J-1 students must apply before the program completion date.

Please note: F-1 students do not need to have a job offer in hand before applying for OPT. You may apply as long as you are eligible for OPT and INTEND to work in the U.S. J-1 students, however, need to obtain job offer prior to apply for academic training.


If you have questions while filling out forms, please contact one of our international advisers during virtual advising hours via Zoom.  
Trang Nguyen (Student Employment and Practical Training) is doing Virtual advising on Mondays (1-3pm), Tuesdays (11am-1pm), and Thursdays (11am-1pm).
Special appointments outside those hours can be made by emailing trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu.

As we follow preventive health strategies related to COVID-19, ISSS operations have now moved online. OPT and AT applications will still be processed as usual, only not in person during this time.

To apply for OPT or AT, please scan all of the documents in one (1) single PDF file to international@ua.edu or trang.t.nguyen@ua.edu  . Due to the limitation of our database, please limit your file size to 4MB or less if possible. To ensure quick processing, only scan an application when all forms are completed and properly signed. Electronic signatures are acceptable on certain forms. Form I-765 (for OPT applications) must contain a hand-signed, “wet” signature.

Mandatory OPT / CPT Training Course

 

Students studying at the University of Alabama are required to complete the training course about work authorization and on-campus employment. Students who begin their studies in spring 2021 have been assigned the training course in Blackboard. Complete the training and passing the quiz are the requirements to apply for OPT and CPT. The deadline to complete the training is the end of the spring semester May 01, 2021.

USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants
Filing Form I-765 for OPT

From: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-extends-flexibilities-to-certain-applicants-filing-form-i-765-for-opt  

On February 26, 2021, USCIS announced  flexibilities for certain foreign students affected by delayed receipt notices for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. These flexibilities apply only to applications received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive.

USCIS has experienced delays at certain lockboxes in issuing receipt notices for Form I-765 for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students. These delays are a result of COVID-19 restrictions, a dramatic increase in filings of certain benefit requests, postal service volume and delays, and other external factors. While we have made progress in addressing the problem, we are extending the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT impacted by the delays.

14-month OPT Period Flexibilities

F-1 students may participate in up to 12 months of post-completion OPT, which must be completed within 14 months from the end of their program. Due to the delays at the lockbox, some applicants may only be eligible for a shortened period of OPT within that 14-month period. To allow F-1 students to complete the full period of requested OPT (up to 12 months), USCIS will allow the 14-month period to commence from the date of approval of the Form I-765 for applications for post-completion OPT.

Beginning today, USCIS will approve applications for post-completion OPT with validity dates reflecting the same amount of time originally recommended by the designated school official (DSO) from their school on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

F-1 students requesting post-completion OPT who receive an approval of Form I-765 for less than the full amount of OPT time requested (not to exceed 12 months) due to the requirement that the OPT be completed within 14 months of the program end date may request a correction of the EAD due to USCIS error. USCIS will issue a corrected EAD with a new end date, as requested, to cover the full amount of OPT time recommended in the original application.

Refiling Following Rejection

Applicants for OPT must file the Form I-765 during certain timeframes. However, we recognize that due to the lockbox delays, some applicants who timely filed Form I-765 for OPT and whose applications were later rejected are unable to timely refile within the required application timeframes.

USCIS will accept a refiled Form I-765 for OPT and STEM OPT as filed on the original filing date if:

  • The original, timely filed application was received on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021, inclusive; and
  • USCIS subsequently rejected it.

Refiled applications must be received by May 31, 2021, for USCIS to treat the application as though filed on the original received date.

Applicants refiling a Form I-765 for OPT or STEM OPT do not need to obtain a new Form I-20 with an updated OPT recommendation from the DSO, as long as they originally submitted an application for post-completion OPT within 30 days of the DSO’s recommendation or an application for STEM OPT within 60 days of the DSO’s recommendation as required by the regulations.

Applicants refiling an application should include a copy of the rejection notice to facilitate review of the case.

Missing or Deficient Signatures

Applications with missing or deficient signatures are generally rejected at the lockbox. This policy remains unchanged. However, if the lockbox accepts a Form I-765 application for OPT or STEM OPT with a missing or deficient signature, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence rather than deny the application, to give the applicant the opportunity to respond and provide the necessary signature or correct the deficiency. We encourage applicants filing Form I-765 to review the form instructions on our website to ensure their application is complete before filing it.


International Student Panel
 
International Student & Scholar Services is hosting an International Student Panel on Friday, March 19, 1 - 2 pm via Zoom.
 
This event is a great opportunity for American students looking to learn more about what it is like to be an international student at UA (especially during COVID), looking to communicate with UA international students, and those who may be preparing to study abroad themselves. 
 
Attendees will have an opportunity to submit advance questions when they register for this event. 
 
Students/faculty/staff can sign up using this link: https://universityofalabama.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4ZyDrAyP4u7UHc2.

(Please note this picture was taken pre-pandemic)
Healthy Eating 101
 
With so many food choices and so much information on the internet, it can be hard to determine what’s considered healthy eating. Join UA registered dietitian Sheena Gregg as she shares tips for cooking at home and choosing the healthiest options at restaurants.
This event will be held on Zoom on March 26th at 12pm. Check our Facebook and Instagram accounts (@UAInternationalServices) for more information on this event.
 

Guided Trips and Instructions with University Recreation

Outdoor Recreation program offerings include gear/equipment rental, trip program, bike shop, and climbing walls for students, faculty, staff and community members to enjoy. They strive to provide opportunities for personal growth and foster a greater appreciation for the outdoors (https://urec.sa.ua.edu/outdoor-recreation-news/)

Guided trips are one of the activities offered throughout the semester. Most trips are geared towards entry-level activities and aim to teach participants baseline knowledge of the activity.
Below is a list of the upcoming :

Intro to Caving – Tumbling Rock | March 27 | $70

Day Hike – Oak Mountain | April 3 | $20

Swim with Manatees – Crystal River, Florida | April 9 | $295

Rock Climbing – Moss Rock | April 10 | $40

Intro to Canoe – Lake Nichol | April 19 | $40

5-Day Canoe Expedition – Buffalo River Arkansas | May 3 | $295

Sign up for any of our trips at the UREC Shop.

*Student pricing listed. Nonstudent members may register for trips for an additional fee.

The upcoming trip schedule is “tentative” and is subject to change for any reason.  Trips are also subject to being canceled due to low participant turnout.  The deadline to signup for a trip is typically the Wednesday before the weekend of the event.  

You will find more information at : https://urec.sa.ua.edu/outdoor-recreation-news/trips-and-clinics/

OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING

Spring is lease signing season! If you plan to live off-campus next semester you should be aware of these 10 things. You can access further resources at https://offcampushousing.sa.ua.edu/resources/.
Virtual Off-Campus Housing Fair
Wednesday, Mar. 3 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

The Off-Campus Housing Fair is an opportunity to speak with more than 30 properties and companies, as well as UA staff. Explore your options and find out about amenities, rates and upcoming deals.

 

Are you a graduate student
doing research?

We would love to feature you on our social media accounts!!!

Fill out this form, and tell us more about your research, and you might see yourself featured on our Facebook and Instagram accounts: https://universityofalabama.az1.qualtrics.com/.../SV....


(Please note this picture was taken pre-pandemic)


Global Café, an initiative of The University of Alabama Center for Community-Based Partnerships, is created by campus and community partners working together: Capstone International Center, Tuscaloosa’s One Place, the CCBP Student Leadership Team, Shelton State Community College, Stillman College, Tuscaloosa City Schools, the Tuscaloosa County School System, and Tuscaloosa Public Library.  For more information see globalcafe.ua.edu or email globalcafe@ua.edu.

 
 
Did you know that current UA students can apply to the Honors College? All you need to apply is 12 hours of UA credit and a 3.5 GPA!
What do you get by being in the Honors College? Some benefits include: priority registration, access to smaller sections of many classes, Honors seminar courses on unique topics, and additional involvement opportunities on campus.
To apply, visit honors.ua.edu/admissions and apply to the University Honors Program.
If you have any questions, please contact Haleigh Sandlin at hbsandlin@ua.edu.



Online English Classes
 
Online 3-week non-credit certificate course provide an opportunity for you to improve your English and learn about southern US culture. The course length and schedule is ideal for busy professionals and their families. The course are offered by the University of Alabama (UA) English Language Institute (ELI).
For more information: http://international.ua.edu/eli/yes/
COVID-19 Information 
 
To stay up to date on all COVID-19 updates, be sure to regularly check out http://international.ua.edu/isss/coronavirus-information/.

For information on medical care, visit http://international.ua.edu/isss/coronavirus-information/#shc
 
 
 


TeleHealth 
 

If you are enrolled in The University of Alabama's healthcare plan, you are also able to use the 24/7 tele-doc (a doctor through the phone) for doctor access and counseling support, which is fully covered. If you are not on the UA Plan, you can use these services for a fee. To find out more information, please visit: https://shc.sa.ua.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/53/2019/07/2019-2020-Student-Health-Insurance-Summary-Brochure.pdf

ISSS OFFICE HOURS AND ADVISING

PUBLIC HOURS: Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:45 pm.

APPOINTMENTS REQUIRED FOR IN-PERSON MEETINGS – To make an appointment, please email international@ua.edu or call 205-348-5402.

Whether contacting us by phone or email, please be sure to include your name and CWID (if known) with your inquiry.

Advising Via Zoom – Monday – Friday, 11 am – 3 pm
General advising hours are Monday through Friday, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm CST via Zoom.

When seeking advising via Zoom, students and scholars will be connected with one of the UA ISSS Staff.  If there are multiple students and scholars in the queue, you will be placed directly into a waiting room.

Please note, virtual advising is meant for shorter inquiries, and in order to serve all students and scholars, we ask that advising be limited to 5 minutes.

 
 


March 15th, 2021

March 20th, 2021


March 22nd, 2021

March 31st, 2021

April 5th - April 9th, 2021 

April 9th,2021


April 23rd, 2021

April 23rd, 2021

April 26th - April 30th, 2021


April 30th - May 1st. 2021

May 4th, 2021

May 25th, 2021

May 28th, 2021


May 31st, 2021
 Academic Calendar
 

Classes Dismissed - Mid-Semester Study Break (UA offices open)

Registration for Summer and Fall 2021 Begins

Last Day to Drop a Course with a Grade of "W" for Spring Full Term

Last Day to Drop a Course with a Grade of "W" for Spring 2

Honors Week

Honors Day - Classes Dismissed (UA offices open)

Classes End for Full Term and Spring 2

Last Day to Withdraw from the Spring Full/Spring 2 Terms

Final Exams

Spring Commencement

Final Grade Entry Deadline (11:59 p.m.)

Classes Begin for Summer Full Term and Summer 1

Last Day to Add a Course or Drop a Course Without a Grade of "W" for Summer Full Term

Memorial Day (UA closed)

 
These dates are valid as of 03/11/2021 but could be modified as needed.
Please double check https://registrar.ua.edu/academiccalendar/ for any changes/updates.
Copyright © 2021 International Student & Scholar Services, All rights reserved.


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