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December 16th, 2020 
The University of Alabama and International Student & Scholar Services will close on Friday, December 18, 2020 at 4:45pm for the Winter break.  Our office will reopen on Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 8 am.

If you have a true emergency (e.g. hospitalization, arrest, or immigration emergency), please contact UAPD at 205-348-5454 and ask to be put in touch with someone from International Student & Scholar Services. You can also consult our Emergency Contacts page.  

For returning F-1 Students who are in need of a travel signature on their I-20 but did not obtain one prior to the break, you can submit a Travel Signature Request to international@ua.edu. We will email you an updated I-20 with Travel Signature after we reopen on January 7th.

For returning J-1 Students and J-1 Scholars who are in need of a travel signature on their DS-2019 but did not obtain one prior to the break, you can submit a Travel Signature Request to international@ua.edu and pre-pay for express document shipping so that we may send you an updated DS-2019 with travel signature after we reopen on January 7th.  

You can refer to our section on international travel for more information (http://international.ua.edu/isss/coronavirus-information/#travel). Again, we will be unable to process any requests until we return on Thursday, January 7, 2021.

STUDENT VISA STATUS – SPRING 2021 GUIDANCE 
UPDATED DECEMBER 15

International Student & Scholar Services received updated guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) regarding Spring 2021 via email on December 15, 2020.  The Fall 2020 Guidance established on July 24 will continue for the Spring 2021 Semester.  For full details, please see our SEVP Guidance section on the Coronavirus Page.

This reconfirms Department of Homeland Security guidance and separate the Department of State guidance that F-1 and J-1 students’ visa status will not be affected by UA’s Spring 2021 plans to offer a mixture of in-person, hybrid, A/V and online courses.

Please note that F-1 and J-1 students must continue to maintain full-time enrollment (generally, 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for graduate students) during the Spring 2021 Semester to maintain visa status.

Exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement are still allowed for students with authorized reduced course loads, those who are in the final semester of study, and graduate students who are in their dissertation or thesis research phase of study.

FOR STUDENTS WITH INITIAL I-20s OR DS-2019s OR WITH I-20/DS-2019 START DATES AFTER MARCH 9, 2020, you must enroll in at least one on-campus class as an in-person or hybrid course to be eligible for an F-1 or J-1 visa, to enter the United States in F-1 or J-1 status, or to remain in the United States in valid F-1 or J-1 status. Those on initial I-20s and DS-2019s or who hold I-20s or DS-2019s with start dates after March 2020 cannot enroll fully online in Spring 2021.

FOR CONTINUING STUDENTS WITH ACTIVE I-20 OR DS-2019 START DATES PRIOR TO MARCH 9, 2020, any combination of enrollment of in-person, hybrid, and online courses (even 100% online) will satisfy the full-time enrollment requirements for F-1 and J-1 status.

Remember that this change in instructional method allowance is temporary, and the suspension of rules will change back to standard enrollment regulations as soon as the COVID-19 Emergency ends.

At this time, there is no anticipation of any change to UA’s plans for on-campus instruction this Spring 2021, but under the current SEVP guidance, if UA were to return to 100% remote learning at any point in the Spring 2021 semester in response to COVID-19, all active F-1 and J-1 students would remain in valid immigration status and be able to remain in the U.S.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR J-1 STUDENTS: Per the U.S. State Department, “The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program is to facilitate in-person exchanges.” Continuing and initial J-1 students are encouraged to enroll in as many on-campus courses offered in an in-person or hybrid format as possible to satisfy the full-time requirements.

FOR STUDENTS RETURNING FROM ABROAD, the notice here suspends the 5-month rule for absences from the United States.  So, for those students who are returning to the U.S. 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“ section of this page for more information regarding what documents to carry with you.

Please be aware that travel may be challenging at the moment.  Many other countries have introduced restrictions on transit and entry.  We recommend that you monitor conditions through your home country’s Embassy page and through resources such as the IATA Travel Page.

 


TRAVEL – REMINDERS AND PRECAUTIONS

As we grow closer to the holiday season and the end of the semester, I and the staff of International Student & Scholar Services want to urge international students who have plans to travel internationally to carefully consider their travel.
 
We understand that many of you are eager to reconnect with family and friends as you would in any other year during the holiday season. If you do choose to travel, please be safe and take the necessary precautions to remain healthy.
 
As you consider your travel plans, please use our Coronavirus Information Page for the latest information on the Spring Semester Plans, Return Travel, Visa and Entry Bans, and CDC Guidance & Campus Testing.
 
We ask that you take into account the possibility of travel delay and restrictions, quarantines or prolonged self-isolation requirements when entering or transiting through other cities/countries based on their local guidances for COVID-19.
 
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a Travel Information website related to COVID-19, and specifically recommends avoiding all nonessential travel to countries at Warning Level 3. Please note that these ratings can change rapidly and without warning.
 
Airlines have been offering to waive their change or cancellation fees in an effort to curb non-essential travel to places which may be deemed high risk. Please contact your travel agent or respective airlines for your options. If you have travel insurance, you should closely review your plan to assure it does not exclude pandemics in the case of need for medical evacuation.
 
Should you choose to travel outside the U.S., please make sure you have the following before leaving Tuscaloosa:
 

  1. a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019,
  2. a valid passport,
  3. a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp.
  4. a printout of the UA ISSS confirmation letter regarding UA Spring 2021 Plans,
  5. a copy of your Spring 2021 schedule (from MyBama) or Enrollment Verification.

 
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.
 
Remember, UA and ISSS will remain open through 4:45 PM on Friday, December 18, 2020, and then will close for the Winter Break.  UA and ISSS will reopen on Thursday, January 7, 2021.

 

UA is offering Free Exit Testing to Students

As students leave campus for the Thanksgiving and Winter breaks, The University of Alabama is offering free exit testing to those students who want it. This new option joins COVID-19 exposure and symptomatic testing available to UA students, as well as sentinel testing.

From Dec. 14 through Dec. 18, students should make an appointment at the Student Health Center for symptomatic and exit testing. Call 205-348-2778 to schedule an appointment. Students should bring their ACT card, CWID, and driver’s license or government-issued ID. While exit testing is free, exposure and symptomatic testing will be billed to students’ health insurance with remaining balances posted to their student accounts.

For more information, contact the UA COVID-19 Hotline at 205-348-CV19 (2819).

 

Spring 2021 Re-Entry Testing

Students who will live on campus, including Greek houses, for the Spring 2021 semester must test for coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) prior to resuming classes or other on-campus activities. Testing must be done within seven days of arrival, no later than Jan. 19. UA will offer a free PCR test on campus, or students may elect to test at home or through a personal physician prior to returning to campus. The PCR test is required.

On-Campus Re-Entry Testing: A free re-entry test for campus residents will be provided at Coleman Coliseum weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Jan. 7. A scheduled appointment is required. The appointment schedule will be available before Jan. 2, and an announcement will be made when appointments can be reserved. Students must bring government-issued identification and their CWID, wear a mask, and maintain social distancing at the testing site.

Re-entry testing uses the PCR test with an observed self-administered short nasal swab. Results will be provided within 24 to 72 hours. Those who test negative will receive an email, and positive results will be relayed via telephone by a member of UA’s COVID-19 support program. Students awaiting results are encouraged to minimize contact with others and answer any phone calls with a caller ID from the COVID Support group.

Off-Campus Re-Entry TestingFor students who choose to be tested off campus by a personal health care provider, a PCR test conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 12 is required and must be conducted no more than seven days before returning to campus housing. Proof of a negative PCR must be uploaded and accepted by the UA COVID-19 Test Result Repository between Jan 2 and Jan. 12. The submitted documentation must clearly show the student’s name and CWID, date and location of PCR test, and test result. The University will not be responsible for charges associated with testing from a personal health care provider.

Prior PositivesStudents who have tested positive for COVID-19 since Oct. 28 should not test again for re-entry testing. Those who received their positive test result on campus do not need to submit documentation. Others must upload verifiable documentation of the positive test to UA COVID-19 Test Result Repository, and affirm they served the required isolation period and have been symptom free for at least 10 days before returning to campus. Details on uploading information will be provided on the Student Health Center website and at healthinfo.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
 

F-1 & J-1 Students: Graduating in December 2020?
Apply for OPT/Academic Training NOW!!!

 

If you are an F-1 or J-1 students graduating in December 2020, 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 is doing Virtual advising on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays Tuesdays 3:00PM -4:45 PM.

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.


 

Scams: Be Alert!!!


Please be aware that there are a large number of tax, Social Security, immigration, and housing scams in the U.S. which target both Americans and international students and scholars.  Most of these types of scams will spoof a government agency phone number in order to look official.  Often they will attempt to steal personal information (identity theft) or attempt to get you to pay a fictitious fee or fine.

The IRS, DHS, and other government agencies will never contact you by phone or email.
A UAPD officer will not call you and ask for personal information over the phone.

Signs of a Scam Phone Call:

  1. Automated call/robocall notifies you that your Social Security Number has been suspended, requesting you to call back.
  2. A live caller requests you to pay a fine using Western Union, PayPal, Green Dot, MoneyGram or some other wire transfer service.
  3. Often the caller threatens your arrest or deportation for failure to act within a very short period of time.
  4. If it is a live caller, they will try to prevent you from hanging up, asking you to visit a retail store to transfer funds while remaining on the phone.
More information is available on our website at: http://international.ua.edu/isss/life-in-tuscaloosa/scams/


International Peer Advisory Council 

Have you ever wanted to help new international students at The University of Alabama? Do you enjoy international student events and want to give back? Then joining IPAC may be the right fit for you. Our International Peer Advisory Council (IPAC) is made up of international and American students who want to serve our international student population here at UA, and applications are now open for the 2021-2022 academic year. Learn more about IPAC and find the application at: http://international.ua.edu/programs-activities/ipac/. Applications are due via email to international@ua.edu by Feb. 19th.

 


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/

FREE FLU SHOTS


The College of Community Health Sciences leads The University of Alabama’s annual campus-wide effort to vaccinate students, faculty and staff against the flu.

The quadrivalent flu shots are free to students, faculty, staff and spouses; insurance is not required. Employees and students must have their CWID.

In addition to the locations indicated on the CCHS website (https://cchs.ua.edu/flushot/), faculty and staff can visit the Faculty-Staff Clinic at University Medical Center for their free flu shot, and students can visit the Student Health Center.

 
 


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

PUBLIC HOURS FOR ISSS


JANUARY 7 – 15, PUBLIC HOURS: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 12 noon and 1 – 3 pm CST.
STARTING JANUARY 19, PUBLIC HOURS: Monday – Friday, 8 am – 4:45 pm.

VIRTUAL ADVISING AVAILABLE (see instructions below)
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.

UA International Student & Scholar Services encourages everyone to help us stay safe, and submit documents and requests via email to international@ua.edu.


Specific Inquiries and Requests
For students and scholars who have specific requests for information, advisement, or virtual appointments, please direct your inquiries to UA ISSS Staff as follows:

VIRTUAL ADVISING

If you have immigration questions, our staff is holding virtual advising Monday - Friday from 11am-4:45pm.
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. 

 
 


December 14th, 2020

December 19th, 2020- January 6th, 2021

January 5th, 2021

January 7th, 2021

January 13th, 2021

January 18th, 2021

January 20th, 2021


February 15th, 2021

March 15th, 2021

March 20th, 2021

 
 Academic Calendar
 

Classes Begin for Winter Interim

UA Offices closed (Winter Break)


Classes End for Winter Interim

UA Offices Resume Normal Business Hours

Classes Begin for Full Term

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (UA closed)

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

Classes Begin for Spring 2

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

Last Day to Drop a Course with a Grade of "W" for Spring Full Term
These dates are valid as of 11/02/2020 but could be modified as needed.
Please double check https://registrar.ua.edu/academiccalendar/ for any changes/updates.
Copyright © 2020 International Student & Scholar Services, All rights reserved.


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