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Return to Campus FAQs (Updated February 25, 2021)

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Welcome! Here is some important information to help you prepare to start or continue your VCU studies in the U.S. for spring 2021.

In a message to the university community on January 12, 2021, VCU President Michael Rao advised that for the spring 2021 semester “all classes will begin virtually, except in instances where a student is involved in clinical and field placements, practica, co-ops, internships and other work-related experiential learning activities. This means that previously planned in-person classes and the in-person component of hybrid (blended) courses also will take place virtually.”

VCU intends to resume in-person (including hybrid) instruction in March 2021 but no decision has been made about this yet. It is possible that VCU will resume in-person instruction for Spring 2021 in March 2021—but it is also possible that VCU will not resume in-person instruction for Spring 2021 at all.

VCU’s decision has some important implications for international students on F-1 visas.

 

Student TypeContinuing StudentNew Student Arrived in the US by January 13, 2021 on an Initial I-20New Student with an Initial I-20 who has not arrived in the US by January 13, 2021
DefinitionYou were in the US in F-1 status on March 9, 2020 and/or for Fall 2020 and you want to continue your VCU studies in person for Spring 2021.You have arrived in the US on an initial I-20 by January 13, 2021 in order to start your VCU studies in person.You have not arrived in the US on an initial I-20 by January 13, 2021.
Spring 2021 Options for F-1 Status

If you are in the US now, you may remain in the US.

If you are outside the US, you may return to the US before January 25, 2021.

Whether you continue your studies from inside the US or from abroad, you may enroll in all online credits if you wish but you must maintain a full course of study (FCS).

Please send an email to GEOIS@vcu.edu as soon as possible for advice.

Do not come to the US at this time.

You cannot legally enter or remain in the US in order to enroll in all online credits.

You should plan to remain outside the US for all of Spring 2021 and to start your VCU studies online from abroad.

If VCU officially resumes in-person instruction for Spring 2021, we will provide further guidance.

For further guidance, questions or information, email GEOIS@vcu.edu.  

Calendar Questions

What is VCU’s Spring 2021 academic calendar?

Classes on the Monroe Park Campus (MPC) will start on January 25, 2021 and end on May 5, 2021. Students on the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) campus should follow their departmental schedule. The full VCU Spring 2021 academic calendar is online at academiccalendars.vcu.edu/default.asp.

When should you plan to arrive in the US?

Before departing for the US, please review the chart above to determine if you are eligible to study at VCU in person for Spring 2021.

What is the latest date you can arrive in the US for Spring 2021?

Before departing for the US, please review the chart above to determine if you are eligible to study at VCU in person for Spring 2021.

What if you decide not to study in the US for Spring 2021?

Please review the chart above.

When is Spring 2021 International Student Orientation?

International Student Orientation (ISO) for Spring 2021 will be online only. Modules are available to be viewed at Get Started.


When is Spring 2021 Immigration Check-In?

Immigration Check-In is for new students in the US in F-1 status as of January 12, 2021 only and will be conducted by email. If you are a new student who is in the US in F-1 status as of January 12, 2021, we will contact you shortly by email to complete Immigration Check-In.

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Travel Questions

What are the current US travel restrictions, including border closings and quarantine requirements?

Before departing for the US, please review the chart above to determine if you are eligible to study at VCU in person for Spring 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and the US response to it changes frequently and without notice.

The most current US travel restrictions are available at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html

Please note that while the travel restrictions on travel from China, Ireland, and the EU (Schengen Area) make exceptions for students with F-1 and J-1 visas, the travel restrictions on travel from Brazil and Iran do not make exceptions for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.

TIP: If you will be flying to the US, current and reliable information about US travel restrictions may be available from your airline. Please check with your airline at the time you book your flight and regularly up to and including the day of departure for the US.

Land Entry to the US from Canada or Mexico

The US borders (including land borders) with Canada and Mexico remain closed to non-essential travel, but the US considers individuals on F-1 or J-1 student visas to be essential travelers.

The only students who should consider traveling to the US by land are citizens or permanent residents of Canada or Mexico who will be entering directly from Canada or Mexico.

We cannot encourage students who are citizens or permanent residents of other countries to attempt to enter the US by land-border crossing from Canada or Mexico.

What are the current VCU social distance, including quarantine, requirements?

VCU is committed to ensuring a safe campus for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. For comprehensive information about VCU’s plans to ensure a safe campus, please go to together.vcu.edu.

If you will be living in VCU campus housing for Spring 2021, please review the quarantine requirement as it applies to campus housing at housing.vcu.edu/together/isolation_quarantine

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Travel Document Questions

  • What documents should I have in hand before I depart for the U.S.?
  • Passport valid for at least six months after the date of your intended admission to the U.S.
  • Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport (NOTE: Citizens of Canada do not require visa stamps.)
  • Unexpired I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) certificate
  • Travel signature: If you are a returning student, your I-20 or DS-2019 needs to have a GEO travel signature no older than 12 months from the date of your intended admission to the U.S. (New students do not need travel signatures.)
  • Proof of a negative coronavirus test, policy taking effect on Jan. 26

Course Registration Questions

How will VCU courses be offered in Spring 2021?

As noted above, spring classes will begin virtually, except in instances where a student is involved in clinical and field placements, practica, co-ops, internships and other work-related experiential learning activities. This means that previously planned in-person classes and the in-person component of hybrid (blended) courses also will take place virtually.

For more information, review the instructional course modalities.

Review President Rao's message to the community for updated information about the resuming of classes for Spring 2021.

 

Registering for Spring 2021 Courses

Full Course of Study (FCS)

If you are in the U.S. in F-1 status, you are required to maintain a full course of study (FCS) and make progress toward your degree or certificate.

FCS is an immigration concept relating to F-1 status. VCU programs, outside funding entities, housing contracts, etc., may have greater or lesser registration requirements.

But if you are in the US in F-1 status you need to maintain FCS as defined here in order to maintain your F-1 status.

Failure to maintain FCS as described here may result in termination of F-1 status.

What is the basic FCS requirement for international students?

Undergraduate Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 12 credits per semester.

Graduate Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 9 credits per semester.

ELP Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 18 credits per session.

Are there any exceptions to the FCS requirements?

Exceptions to FCS requirements are limited by US law and relatively rare. For information about Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Full-Time Equivalent (FTE), please go to global.vcu.edu/students/immigration/f1studentcourses/

For Spring 2021 are there any restrictions on the kinds of courses F-1 students can register for and still maintain FCS?

Please review the information in the chart above.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) Questions

I will be in the U.S. for Spring 2021 and graduating in May 2021. When can I apply for OPT?

You may apply for OPT up to 90 days before your academic program end date. For all undergraduate students and most graduate students, the academic end date is May 13, 2021, the last day of exams. This means the first day that you could apply for OPT would be February 15, 2021.

I will be outside the US for Spring 2021 and will be graduating in May 2021. Can I apply for OPT?

According to current Covid-related guidance from USCIS, you must be physically present in F-1 status in the US in order to apply for OPT.

Will GEO host OPT workshops during the Spring 2021 semester?

Yes. We will offer OPT workshops every Wednesday at 11 a.m. via Zoom starting in January 2021 for the Spring 2021 semester. Please email geois@vcu.edu for the link.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or concerns about the information provided here, or if you have other questions or concerns about your plans to study at VCU in the U.S. for Spring 2021, please send an email to geois@vcu.edu and an Immigration Adviser will respond to you shortly.

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