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DHS Guidance and International Student Academic Continuity- Fall 2021

It has been determined that the University at Albany will continue to provide academic continuity plans to overseas- based international students (new and continuing) unable to return to the U.S. for the fall 2021 semester. The University will therefore continue the process of working with undergraduate students through CIEGS and Academic Advisement Services while graduate students will need to work with Graduate Education/academic departments for scheduling assistance. As the University transitions back to in-person instruction, fully remote/online schedules will be limited to overseas students unable to return to the U.S. for the upcoming semester due to circumstances beyond their control, such as inability to obtain a visa, impeding timely travel for fall semester classes, or travel ban impositions. Because fully remote/online schedules will be limited, all other international students should expect that their course schedules will include in-person instruction in Albany this Fall. Graduate students may be able to make other arrangements if approved by their academic department.

On April 26th, DHS announced a continuance of its March 2020 guidance.  Students who were actively enrolled and in an active F-1 or J-1 SEVIS status as of March 9, 2020 may enroll in a fully online course of study and maintain status during Fall 2021; this includes continuing students enrolled from outside the U.S. who are unable to return in-person in Fall 2021 (full-time registration is still required).  Students who do not meet this criteria are required, according to DHS guidance, to enroll in a minimum of one in-person or blended/hybrid course to maintain F-1 or J-1 status during Fall 2021. While DHS has extended flexibility with online course loads, course modality availability may differ depending on a student’s level of study and/or academic program.

U.S. Department of State Grants National Interest Exception Waiver to F-1 and J-1 Students

The U.S. Department of State has granted a national interest exception (NIE) waiver to F-1 and J-1 students traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, India, the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland.  This waiver-- under certain conditions-- exempts F-1 and J-1 students from the Presidential Proclamations that restricted certain individuals from traveling directly to the U.S..

When entering the U.S. students must have a valid I-20/DS-2019 (continuing students must have a travel signature from within the past 1 year from the date of re-entry; students on OPT must have a travel signature from within the past 6 months from the date of re-entry); a valid F-1/J-1 visa; a valid passport (with 6 months validity remaining); and proof of a negative COVID test or COVID recovery. Please review country specific information for how the NIE waiver is applied below.

ISSS will continue to update students as the situation develops.  More information can be found on NAFSA’s website here:

Students traveling from the Schengen Area, UK & Ireland:

New and continuing F-1 students (including those on OPT) and J-1 exchange visitors may automatically qualify for a NIE waiver to enter the U.S.  If you have questions or concerns about your eligibility for a NIE when traveling from these countries please contact your local embassy/consulate.

Students traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa or India:

  • New F-1 and J-1 students entering the U.S. on an initial I-20 or DS-2019 with an August 15, 2021 start date may automatically qualify for a NIE waiver to enter the U.S.; please contact your embassy or consulate if you have questions.  The earliest new students may enter the U.S. is 30 days prior to their program start date  (July 16, 2021 for students with an August 15, 2021 program start date).  Students must obtain a valid visa before entering the U.S. (see documentation requirements for entry above).
  • Continuing F-1 students (including those on OPT) and J-1 students should contact their embassy/consulate for information on the NIE waiver to return to the U.S.  There are conflicting reports of when continuing students are eligible to use this NIE waiver for entry (i.e. whether continuing students may use it starting 30 days prior to the start of classes, or only August 1st or later).

Welcome New Students- Click Here to Access the Orientation Schedule and Information!

Fall 2021 International Orientation will take place August 15-August 21, 2021.  This Orientation will include both virtual programming on Zoom and limited, optional in-person activities.   Students living on campus can move in to their residence hall starting at noon on Sunday, August 15th.   All new students are required to attend Orientation. 

Scheduling an Appointment with ISSS

During remote operations, the best way to contact us is through email ([email protected]) or by scheduling an appointment to meet with an advisor through Zoom.  (Please note: ISSS does not handle the Admissions/application process, those questions are best directed to Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admissions). Below are the steps to schedule a Zoom appointment:


  1. Click this link.
  2. Select an appointment date.
  3. Click the appointment time you want. Click “Confirm”
  4. Under “Enter Details” answer the questions.
  5. Click the blue “Schedule Event” button.
  6. You should get an initial email from Calendly confirming your request for an appointment. Then, an ISSS advisor will email you with the Zoom Meeting details once the Zoom Meeting is scheduled with an advisor.

COVID19 FAQs for International Students

Please visit our FAQ site for the most up-to-date information on current procedures and immigration policies. You can also find on this page our guide to help students prepare for Fall 2020.  This page covers many topics, including but not limited to: office procedures during remote operations (document requests, advising, etc.); registration and academics, including Fall 2020 information; employment considerations, including for OPT,STEM OPT and CPT; travel, including risks and what to do before traveling; wellbeing and financial considerations, including financial resources for students; and housing/living considerations.

In addition, students should review the University webpage for COVID-19 related updates, available here.

Employment Workshop Schedule for Spring 2021 (OPT, CPT, and STEM OPT Workshops)

Every semester, ISSS offers a number of employment authorization workshops for students. This includes live Zoom workshops on CPT, OPT, and STEM OPT. In order to meet the scheduling needs of students during remote learning, we will also offer recorded versions of these workshops on our website to make them easily accessible if you are unable to attend a live workshop. Additionally, we will now be offering open Q&A sessions on Zoom which students can attend if they have follow up questions after viewing a workshop recording.

Click here to view  a full schedule with Zoom links.

AccessISSS has a New Look!

AccessISSS, the system you use to submit an EForm request to ISSS, has a new look!  The functionality and form availability remains the same as before.  To see an overview of the changes, click here.  To access our Forms page and all EForm instructions, click here.

Follow ISSS on Instagram @ualbanyisss

ISSS is now on Instagram! Follow us to get the latest updates on events and other important announcements @ualbanyisss

Reporting Requirements for Students

Now is a good time to remind yourself of your reporting requirements as an international student.  Our Reporting Requirements webpage also features information for OPT and STEM OPT students.  Visit it here