Winter Term 2021 FAQs for Continuing Students

This page will be updated with new information as it becomes available. If you have other questions and concerns, please email the International Center at icenter@umich.edu.

Whether you plan to come to campus for the WinterTerm or are considering remote study, please be sure to read the Campus Maize and Blueprint web page for detailed information about U-M’s plans for Winter Term 2021, and check it often for updates. If you plan to return to campus for the Winter Term, be sure to review the information about the pre-arrival enhanced social distancing requirement, and about the COVID-19 prevention measures students arriving from international or domestic locations via plane, bus or train are expected to follow.

During Winter Term, courses will be offered in formats that include in-person, remote and mixed (ie: hybrid) instruction, depending on curricular needs.

This FAQ applies to continuing students only. If you are a new student and have not yet entered the United States, please refer to the FAQs for Newly Admitted Students. The FAQs for Newly Admitted Students also apply if you are transferring to U-M after attending an institution located in the U.S. or changing to a new academic level at U-M.

 Immigration Status

As a current, continuing F-1 or J-1 student, can I take all remote classes, or must I take a mixture of in-person, mixed and remote classes?

There are no in-person enrollment requirements for current students, who were enrolled in Winter (and/or Spring/Summer) 2020. This also applies to students who began their studies on-campus in Fall 2020. You can take the most appropriate courses for your degree program as long as you maintain a full course of study (or have an approved Reduced Course Load). You should check with your academic unit to make sure that your proposed course schedule, including your choices of in-person, mixed (hybrid) or remote classes, meets their requirements for your degree program.

You must be enrolled full-time, participate in your online courses, and make normal progress toward your degree in order to maintain your immigration status. If you continue to do these things, your SEVIS record and I-20 or DS-2019 will remain in active status.

I would like to study remotely inside the U.S. but from outside Michigan during the Winter Term. Will I lose my F-1 or J-1 status?

As long as you remain enrolled full-time, participate in your online courses, and make normal progress toward your degree, you will maintain your F-1 or J-1 status. You must also update your current address in Wolverine Access. However, be sure to check with your academic unit, since they may require you to be in residence on the Ann Arbor campus. You may also be required to be in residence on the Ann Arbor campus if you are a Graduate Student Instructor or a Graduate Student Research Assistant.

Do I need a new I-20 or a formal letter from the University in order to return to the U.S.?

No. Current DHS guidance does not require this. You can use the most recent I-20 you received from U-M to enter the U.S. If you want, you can also download and print this letter, which explains U-M’s plans for the Winter Term.

If U-M must switch to all-remote classes during the Winter 2021 term, will I be required to leave the U.S.?

No. You will be able to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status through participating in remote classes as long as you are enrolled full-time.

If I move to a new U.S. address, even temporarily due to isolation measures, do I need to report it within 10 days? How do I report it?

Yes, you need to report any change of residential address in the U.S. to the federal government, within 10 days of the change. If you need to move to temporary housing for a COVID-related period of isolation or quarantine of more than 10 days, you should also update your address. Be sure to change it again when you move back into your regular residence. Follow our guidelines for updating your address, and please remember that your “current” address needs to remain a U.S. address.

Health Insurance

Will the mandatory U-M International Health Insurance plan cover COVID-19 testing and treatment?

Yes. The International Student/Scholar Health Insurance Plan covers testing and treatment. GradCare also covers COVID-19 testing and treatment. Please review the health insurance FAQs for details. If you still have questions, contact the International Center’s Health Insurance Advisor.

Does the mandatory health insurance requirement apply to me if I study remotely?

If you are studying remotely in the United States, the health insurance requirement will continue to apply to you.  If you plan to study remotely outside the United States, you can request a Winter Term 2021 COVID-19 waiver .

Travel and Visas

If I plan to leave the U.S. during the Winter Term and need a new travel signature in order to return, what should I do?

You may drop your I-20/DS-2019 off at the International Center during our office hours if you are on campus, or you may submit an online reprint request.

If I am enrolled for classes but have been or will be outside the U.S. for more than five months, will I lose my F-1 status?

Under normal circumstances, if an international student were to remain outside of the U.S. for five or more months, they would need a new initial I-20 in order to resume their studies at U-M. This is known as the five-month rule. However, according to the SEVP guidance currently in effect, if you were enrolled full-time for online courses during Winter Term 2020 and continued full-time enrollment during Fall Term 2020, then the five-month rule will not apply to you. As long as your visa stamp is valid (unexpired with multiple entries) you can use it to re-enter the U.S.

I would like to study remotely from outside the U.S. during the Winter Term. Will I lose my F-1 or J-1 status?

No. As long as you are enrolled full-time, participate in your online courses, and make normal progress toward your degree, your SEVIS record and I-20 will remain in active status.

Will my plans to come to campus be affected by travel restrictions?

The COVID-19 entry restrictions the U.S. has imposed are still in effect. However, the Department of State has announced that students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can apply for an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. We advise having this announcement from Customs and Border Protection available when you travel to campus since it confirms that that airlines should allow students from these countries to board flights to the U.S. and may also be helpful at the U.S. port of entry. J-1 students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can request a “national interest exception” (NIE) when they apply for a visa. The NIE will allow travel to the U.S.

My visa has expired, or will expire before I plan to return to the U.S. If I leave the U.S. now, will I need a new visa, or can I re-enter on an expired visa?

If you leave or have left the U.S. and your visa will expire by the date you wish to re-enter the U.S., then you will need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can re-enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.).

The U.S. Department of State is resuming routine visa services in a phased-in process, based on local conditions. If you need a new visa, check with the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you to find out more about their plans and about your options for scheduling an appointment for a visa interview. Try to schedule your visa interview appointment as soon as possible.

If you will be travelling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands, please contact the International Center to see if you are eligible to return to the U.S. with automatic visa revalidation. In March 2020, the U.S. partially closed the land borders with Canada and Mexico to all non-essential travel, but these closures should not affect students who wish to return to the U.S. for their studies, whether they cross land borders or take flights.

If I need to renew my F-1 or J-1 visa, will an in-person visa interview be required?

Due to a recent U.S. State Department policy change, you may not need to have an in-person visa interview if your visa expired within the last 24 months. This policy change is in effect through December 31, 2020. If you need to renew your visa to re-enter the U.S., check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply for your visa for detailed information on what services are currently available as well as for eligibility information and instructions on applying for a visa without an interview.

Employment

I have an on-campus job. May I continue that work remotely from my home in the U.S.? May I continue that work remotely from my home country?

Yes, SEVP has issued special guidance confirming that if your on-campus employment has transitioned to remote work or can be performed through remote means, you may continue to engage in on-campus employment remotely.

I need to apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training). Can I do this from elsewhere in the U.S.? Can I do it from outside the U.S.?

You must be physically present in the U.S. at the time you submit your OPT application to USCIS. The International Center will continue to process OPT requests as we receive them. If you are interested in applying for OPT, review the OPT information on the International Center website.

Can I leave the U.S. and return home after I mail my OPT application to USCIS? Will I be allowed to re-enter the U.S. to start working once my application is approved?

Yes, you can leave the U.S. when an OPT application is pending with USCIS, but there has always been an element of risk in doing so. The basic risk factor is that if you receive correspondence from USCIS in the mail, such as a Request for Evidence (RFE), you would not be there to respond. This has always been true, and in these extraordinary times, it remains so.

In the best-case scenario, if your application is approved without any issues, your EAD will be delivered to a valid U.S. address (see the OPT online course for more information). USCIS will not send your EAD to an address outside the U.S. You will need to arrange for someone to send you the EAD because you should have it with you when you re-enter the U.S. Please be aware that you are still considered to be an F-1 student while on OPT, and you will need to have valid travel documents with you when you re-enter the U.S.

Please also remember that the COVID-19 entry restrictions the U.S. has imposed are still in effect, and could make it difficult or impossible to re-enter. If you have been in one of the countries affected by these restrictions in the 14 days prior to seeking entry to the U.S., you will not be able to enter the U.S. However, the Department of State has announced that students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can apply for an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. We advise having this announcement from Customs and Border Protection available when you travel to campus since it confirms that that airlines should allow students from these countries to board flights to the U.S. and may also be helpful at the U.S. port of entry. J-1 students from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland can request a “national interest exception” (NIE) when they apply for a visa. The NIE will allow travel to the U.S.

I am a J-1 student, are there any changes to Academic Training I should be aware of?

As Academic Training requirements are different than OPT, you should refer to Academic Training for J-1 Students for guidance. The Department of State has confirmed that active J-1 students engaged in Academic Training can continue their Academic Training remotely in light of current circumstances.

 Taxes and Social Security

How do I apply for my Social Security Number since Social Security Administration offices are still closed?

If you urgently need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), email the Social Security Office at mi.fo.ann.arbor@ssa.gov to request an in-person appointment. The Social Security Office will review your request and schedule an in-person appointment for you if they agree that your request is urgent. Please remember, though, that you do not need an SSN to begin working. If you cannot obtain an in-person appointment, you should wait until the Social Security Administration reopens their offices. We do not recommend applying for your SSN by mail, since you would need to mail your original documents (including your passport) to the local office, and there is a risk that your original documents could be lost.

I have questions about U.S. taxes.

For the 2019 tax year, the filing deadline for both federal and state tax forms was July 15, 2020. If you did not file your tax forms, you should still do so.You may also review the International Center’s Tax Information Session for some general filing tips. The Glacier Tax Prep software for the 2019 tax year was available through December 31, 2020.  Glacier Tax Prep software for the 2020 tax year will be available in early February.

Reminder: International Center staff are not tax experts. The tax information on our website does not substitute for advice from a qualified tax professional or the Internal Revenue Service.

Is the U.S. Government sending out a second round of economic stimulus payments?

Yes. In late December, the US government passed an act which authorized the IRS to begin delivering a new round of pandemic Economic Impact Payments. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act provides a one-time payment of up to $600 per eligible person.

Am I eligible for the second economic stimulus payment?

Since many international students and scholars are nonresidents for U.S. tax purposes, they are not eligible for the payment.  If you are not a U.S. tax resident for 2020, you probably are not eligible for the payment  The Internal Revenue Service has posted FAQs explaining eligibility for the second round of economic stimulus payments.

Why did I receive an economic stimulus payment? I am a nonresident for U.S. tax purposes. What should I do?

  • If you received the economic stimulus payment in error, you should follow these instructions to return the payment to the IRS. Be sure to keep a copy of the check and of anything else that you send to the IRS.
  • Most likely, you received this payment because you incorrectly filed a resident tax form for 2018 or 2019 instead of a nonresident tax form. In that case, you should correct your error by filing an amended tax return. Glacier Tax Prep software includes detailed instructions for preparing an amended tax return form in the FAQs that you will see once you have logged into Glacier Tax Prep. All U-M Ann Arbor international students can use Glacier Tax Prep free of charge.
  • If you filed a resident tax form in error, this probably happened because you used tax software that is designed for residents, and that software prepared the resident tax form (Form 1040) instead of the nonresident form (Form 1040NR). One example of tax software designed for U.S. tax residents is TurboTax, but there are many others. In the future, be sure to use Glacier Tax Prep, the software that the International Center licenses for you, since it will prepare the correct nonresident tax form for you.

 

I believe that I am eligible for the payment.  What should I do?

These payments are being issued automatically. There is no need to contact I sthe IRS to request the payment.   However, you can check the status of your payment using the IRS Get My Payment tool

I still have questions.

If you still have questions about the second round of economic stimulus payments, the IRS has posted detailed FAQs.

Last updated: 1/13/2021