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April 29th, 2021
 


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.
 
The CDC recommends delaying international travel until you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-Approved Vaccine.
 
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 April 2, 2021):
  1. IF YOU ARE FULLY VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE
    1. You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
    2. You should continue to follow CDC’s recommendations for traveling safely.
    3. Get a viral test 3-5 days after travel.
  2. IF YOU ARE NOT FULLY VACCINATED WITH AN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE
    1. Get a viral test  3-5 days after return travel AND self-quarantine for 7 days even if test is negative.
    2. If you do not get the test for COVID after return, you 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 for non-vaccinated travelers upon return, those without an FDA-Approved Vaccine should 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.

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.
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.

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.

TAX FILINGS


Deadline was extended to May 17.

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


AAPI & Allies support group:
Virtual drop in support group for AAPI and AAPI allies

 

Trauma can have a disruptive impact on our lives. We can be traumatized when we struggle to make sense of an experience that hurt us physically, psychologically and emotionally. Sometimes we can be vicariously traumatized by witnessing violence targeted to people similar to us. Current increases in hate crimes and harassment incidents targeting the Asian population can be difficult for any Asian-identified individual. It is important to have a chance to process these experiences in order to cope with them and work to move forward.
This support group will provide a chance to process thoughts and feelings for any students who struggle to make sense of hate crime targeting AAPI population.  We will discuss coping strategies and offer a virtual place for emotional support.
The group will be led by Dr. Nahree Doh and Dr. Michelle Michaels and will meet Tuesday at 12:00 p.m. and Thursday at 3:00 p.m.
If you are interested in participating in this group, please call the Counselling Center (205-348-3863) and leave your name and CWID or submit your request through  this link. You will receive a zoom link shortly before the group starts.

 
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.

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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