COVID-19 Related International Student FAQs

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions and useful resources to help international students at Rutgers. Please be aware that federal and state COVID-19 health guidance, immigration and travel regulations, and Rutgers policies continue to evolve, and we will update this page and share additional information as it becomes available. We encourage students to stay informed and regularly track the news, government websites, and Rutgers websites, including this one.

Updated July 30, 2021

University and Government Announcements and Resources

For questions about the COVID vaccine mandate contact covidvax411@rbhs.rutgers.edu.

International Student FAQs

(UPDATED - 7/30/2021) Rutgers Fall 2021 University Operating Policy and Vaccination Updates for International Students

How do the university's fall 2021 plans impact international students? +

Rutgers is planning to welcome all students back to campus, including our 8,000+ international students, for the fall 2021 semester. While we hope to provide an in-person experience for all students, we also understand that there are several variables that may impact an international student’s ability to arrive on-campus for the fall. Please be assured that Rutgers will continue to support you in your educational journey, on-campus as well as online.

As an International student, we realize you may have many questions related to the University's plans and evolving pandemic related circumstances. We have tried to answer some of your questions in the FAQs below and this will be supplemented as additional information becomes available.

Please note that as public health guidelines continue to evolve, additional information will be provided on changes/updates to this policy. 

Which COVID-19 vaccines will fulfill the Rutgers proof-of-COVID vaccination requirement? +

Each student will be required to be vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For students outside of the US who cannot receive a USFDA-authorized vaccine, Rutgers will accept proof of vaccination by a World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccine. The list of currently approved vaccines includes:

  • Pfizer–BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Johnson & Johnson/Jansenn
  • Oxford–AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria, Covishield)
  • Sinopharm–BIBP
  • Sinovac

What if I cannot get a vaccination where I live (in the US or abroad), will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccination when I get to the US? +

Rutgers has received approval from the State of New Jersey to administer authorized COVID-19 vaccines at our three campus locations. If you need a COVID vaccine upon arrival, please make an appointment as soon as possible (at a vaccination site near you, or a  local vaccination location if in NJ, or at a Rutgers site) and get your dose as soon as possible after you arrive.

Appointments will be offered in advance at https://rtr.ipo.rutgers.edu/vaccines/.

Where/how can I upload my proof of vaccination? +

Students who have received one of the approved vaccines either abroad or in the US should submit proof of vaccination through the Rutgers Student Immunization portal before accessing campus facilities by following the instructions for submitting proof of immunizations on the Health Services website. Students who have received a WHO-approved vaccine will not need to be revaccinated. They will not need to quarantine upon arrival. 

Students who have not been fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine before their arrival on campus will be supported in getting vaccinated when they arrive.

Review detailed instructions and information including FAQs, on the Rutgers University COVID Vaccine information page, with links to the CDC and Department of Health.

What if I have been fully or partially vaccinated with a vaccine that is not on the approved list? +

Students who have received a vaccine that is not on the list approved by the FDA or WHO will need to be revaccinated to be permitted on campus. If you have questions about being revaccinated, you can read additional information at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the section titled: People vaccinated outside the United States.

Students will need to upload their proof of vaccination for non-FDA and non-WHO approved vaccines into the Immunization portal as well. 

 

I have been fully vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine. What do I do when I get to the US? +

To increase your immunity against circulating variants, we suggest and offer one booster dose of an FDA-approved vaccine. However, this is not required and you may access campus 2 weeks after your last dose of a WHO-approved vaccine was completed.

I will receive my vaccine (first dose) when I get to the US. What steps do I need to follow? +

To ensure you build your immunity and can access campus as early as possible, international students who are unvaccinated or vaccinated with a non-WHO or non-FDA authorized vaccine, may choose the J&J vaccine and enter campus 2 weeks after.  While the other vaccines are available, they require 2 doses. Contact covidvax411@rbhs.rutgers.edu for guidance on when you may enter campus if you'll receive Pfizer or Moderna. Make an appointment as soon as possible (at a vaccination site near you, or a  local vaccination location if in NJ, or at a Rutgers site) and get your vaccine as soon as possible after you arrive.

What if I can only get one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine that requires 2 doses before I arrive in the US? +

We strongly encourage all eligible students to immediately seek out and receive COVID-19 vaccines that are nationally approved. Rutgers encourages students and all members of the Rutgers community to prioritize their health. 

If you receive an incomplete series of an FDA or WHO approved vaccine prior to arrival, a complementary second dose will be provided to you upon arrival. 

If you receive one dose of a non-FDA or non-WHO approved vaccine prior to arrival, you will need to be vaccinated with an FDA approved vaccine once you arrive. 

If you have been partially vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, you may receive any one of the 3 vaccines available in the US 28 days after your last WHO-approved dose. You may access campus 2 weeks after that dose.

Will I have to pay to be vaccinated in the US? +

No. The US federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccination free of charge, regardless of immigration or health insurance status.

What is the deadline to submit the proof of vaccination? +

Complete vaccination documentation should be uploaded to the Rutgers Student Immunization portal (NetID and password are required) at least two weeks prior to your arrival on campus, but no later than August 1, 2021. 

We understand you have received alerts on your MyRutgers dashboard about the August 1 deadline (stating that complete vaccination documentation should be uploaded to the Rutgers Student Immunization portal (NetID and password are required) at least two weeks prior to your arrival on campus, but no later than August 1, 2021).

International students who are unable to upload their proof of vaccination by August 1, should do so as soon as possible. Please complete all other immunization requirements and submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination once you have received the vaccine. If you have received or when you receive even one dose of the COVID vaccine, please upload that information at the earliest - UPLOAD WHAT YOU HAVE, FINISH THE REST LATER!

Your NetID will not be disabled and you will not lose access to Rutgers systems if you miss the August 1 deadline due to your inability to make it to the US and get a vaccine. 

Are there any exemptions to the vaccine requirement? +

Students may request an exemption from showing proof of vaccination for medical or religious reasons. More information on exemptions can be found on the Rutgers Immunization Portal

When should I arrive in order to start my semester on time? +

Based on current guidance, international students with an F-1 or J-1 visa may enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on their I-20 or DS-2019 forms. When making plans for arrival to the U.S., students are advised to factor in adequate time to receive the vaccine and quarantine (as needed). The university is in the process of developing interim housing space for arriving international students to allow for vaccination wait times.

New International graduate students are advised to contact their academic program for information on school-specific orientation activities for international graduate students.

In advance of arriving to New Jersey, please review the Rutgers webpage on Updated Quarantine and Travel Guidance.

Who will be provided the option of temporary housing? +

International students (enrolling for fall 2021) who need to be vaccinated upon arrival in the US, and have a wait time before full campus access, will be provided with the option of temporary housing on-campus for the duration of the wait time (up to 2 weeks). Please note that you are not required to opt for this university offered temporary housing option and may choose to make your own housing arrangements off-campus, in a hotel, or with friends and family. 

In order to be eligible, students must fit one of the following criteria:

  • International students who are arriving from overseas and were unable to get a WHO or FDA authorized COVID vaccine prior to their arrival. 
  • International students who are arriving from overseas and have been partially vaccinated with a WHO or FDA authorized vaccine.

As we are permitted to enter the USA only 30 days before the semester start date, how will the timeline for our quarantine and COVID vaccination work out? +

Students whose visa prevents them from entering the US before August 1 may book an appointment for vaccination in advance at https://rtr.ipo.rutgers.edu/vaccines/. Appointments will be available during all of August. Different vaccines may be available on each campus. Several vaccination options exist at Rutgers, including Johnson & Johnson (1 shot), Moderna (2 shots, 4 weeks apart), and Pfizer (2 shots, 3 weeks apart). Students will be permitted to access campus two weeks after one shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (with the understanding that they would need to get the second dose as scheduled to continue to be allowed campus access) or 2 weeks after 1 shot of Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Students requiring a USFDA authorized vaccine after arriving in the US may also be vaccinated at any other vaccination site throughout the US.

I will be enrolling from outside the US for the fall 2021 semester. Do I still need to upload proof of vaccination? +

If you have a fully online schedule for the fall 2021 semester, and will remain abroad for the full fall semester, you will be granted a temporary waiver from uploading your immunization information (including the COVID vaccine information). Please complete the Fall 2021 Plans Survey (you should have received an email request from ISSS recently) to inform ISSS of where you will be enrolling from in the fall and this information will be used to process your temporary waiver.

My vaccination report is not in English. Will Rutgers accept a translation? +

We understand that some students may have vaccination records/reports in a different language than English. If your vaccination report is not in English, please upload a physician’s translation or official translation of the report, along with a copy of the original version. The health services staff will evaluate these reports and work with students should there be any difficulties in securing appropriate translations.

When will the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) with UnitedHealthcare Student Resources (UHCSR) become effective? +

The effective/termination dates and waiver/enrollment steps differ according to Student type: 

1) TAs/GAs, Post Doctorate, Graduate Fellows and RBHS should visit https://riskmanagement.rutgers.edu/student-information/rutgers-university-student-health-insurance for specific details.

2) The 2021 policy for ALL OTHER Graduate and Undergraduate students begins 8/15/2021, even if you register for classes after the effective date.

Students are required to waive or enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) each semester before the deadline. Visit www.universityhealthplans.com

If you arrive in the United States and need medical care prior to the effective policies dates with the SHIP, please consider purchasing temporary and alternate coverage. 

For more information about health insurance plans, the waiver process, and additional details, please visit the Rutgers Global Health Insurance webpage.

When is International Student Orientation? +

All new international first-year and transfer students are required to attend our International Student Orientation (ISO). This mandatory program will be offered virtually in August for all incoming students for the Fall 2021 semester. More information about the ISO will be made available at a later date through Rutgers Global International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

New International graduate students are advised to contact their academic program for information on school-specific orientation activities for international graduate students.

Immigration Status: Current/Continuing Students

UPDATED (4/27/21): How does the current government policy and Rutgers mode of instruction affect my immigration status? +

SEVP confirmed on April 26, 2021 that guidance originally issued in March 2020 for the COVID-19 emergency is extended for the 2021-2022 academic year. Based on current guidance, continuing students who are in active SEVIS status, whether inside the US or abroad, can continue to maintain their legal status and enroll in 100% online coursework or any combination of in-person and online study to maintain legal status.

New international students and students who started their programs in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters from overseas are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to attend in-person classes. However, new students may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the U.S. for the fall semester. 

Can I take all online classes in fall 2021 or do I need any hybrid/in-person classes? +

Fall 2020 guidance is still currently in place for 2021. Continuing students who were in active F or J status on March 9, 2020 when modifications for COVID-19 became effective are able to maintain their immigration status while studying entirely online in the US or abroad, provided they continue to be enrolled full-time and are making normal progress toward their degree. Note that if you are in your final semester you are permitted to be less than full-time and maintain status if you do not require a full-time course load to complete degree requirements. 

New students who arrive in the US after March 9, 2020 with an initial I-20/DS-2019 do not appear to be covered by this guidance. Therefore, ISSS recommends that you continue to enroll in at least one hybrid/in-person course to maintain your visa status in the US in 2021. Note that your F-1 status is not activated until you enter the US. The F-1 regulations do not apply to new students who have not yet arrived in the US.

Will I be able to maintain my SEVIS status if I have been outside the US for more than 5 months? +

Yes, students who leave the country, but remain enrolled full-time making normal progress towards their degree by participating in modified modes of instruction (as offered by the university) will be considered to be in active SEVIS status. In this case SEVIS records for students who are outside the US, but maintaining their legal status will remain active. This guidance applies to continuing students in "active" SEVIS status during the Fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. This is a temporary measure put in place by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) due to COVID and is subject to change.

Please note that if a student withdraws from his/her program, the usual five-month rule would apply to their SEVIS status.

I would like to take a gap semester/year, what should I do? +

F-1 regulations refer to a gap semester or year as a Leave of Absence (LOA). If you are considering an LOA, contact the ISSS office for case-specific advice as this decision can have a significant impact on your F-1 student status. To initiate the process you will need to contact your program/school. Please review our website information on Leave of Absence or Withdrawal and returning to Rutgers. 

I am an F-1/J-1 student inside the US and in my final semester of study at Rutgers. What are my options at this time? +

Graduating students have the following options: 
* Optional Practical Training (OPT)/ Academic Training
* Transfer to a New Institution/Program
* Change of Status
* Leave the Country within the Grace Period

F-1 and J-1 students have a grace period, following the end of their programs which enables them to remain in the US legally during this time. 
* F-1 students - 60 days after degree completion date
* J-1 students - 30 days after degree completion date

Detailed information about these post-graduation options can be found on the ISSS website under Graduating Students.

I am an international student in my final semester, currently abroad and I cannot return to the US due to travel restrictions. Can I return after the situation stabilizes? +

International students who were expecting Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 to be their final semester of study and are not able to complete their programs should apply for an extension of their SEVIS program, if eligible.

International students unable to return to the US who are  in their final semester of study (completing their programs while overseas) are faced with the possibility of losing their ability to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students or Academic Training for J-1 students. There is currently no regulatory relief for students caught in this situation.

Please note that even if you have an I-20/DS-2019 valid until a later date, if you have completed all your program requirements, your status will  only be valid while you are actively pursuing a program of study (degree). Students intending to continue their study in the US may return with a new I-20 for that program. If you would like to return for any other purposes, you would need to do so with another visa classification (such as the B-2 visitor visa).

I am an international student in F-1/J-1 status and have submitted an application to ISSS for processing. When and how will I receive my new I-20/DS-2019? +

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has made special allowances for the issuance of electronic I-20s. We will process your application within our usual processing time and email you a digitally signed I-20. The electronic I-20s can be used for the purposes of travel, visa applications, and USCIS applications such as OPT. This is a temporary allowance and may be rescinded once the COVID crisis has passed. There may be certain applications (such as change of status) for which a wet signature is required on the I-20.

If you would like confirmation on whether the electronic I-20 will be acceptable for a specific application, we recommend you contact the specific government agency (e.g. USCIS for OPT, Social Security Administration for SSN, US Customs and Border Protection for travel/re-entry, or the US Department of State for visa applications) to confirm whether a digitally signed I-20 will be acceptable.

J-1 students will require an original DS-2019 for any formal applications such as visas and travel.
If you require a physical I-20/DS-2019 for a specific reason, please notify the ISSS advisor processing your application and our office will work on these requests on a case by case basis.

What are the implications of the Biden presidency on government policies impacting international students? +

We are closely monitoring recent changes to immigration policy as announced by President Biden’s administration. As more changes are expected, Rutgers Global will keep international students and scholars posted of any updates, and we remain steadfast in supporting our international community during this time of transition.

Review a summary of updates on the Rutgers Global Alerts page.

Review the Association of International Educators (NAFSA)’s Biden Administration Immigration Portal for the latest updates and information. 

For a complete listing of executive actions by President Biden, go to the Presidential Actions listing on whitehouse.gov.

Immigration Status: New Students (Including students who started their programs outside the U.S. in Fall 2020)

UPDATED (4/27/2021) How does the current government policy and Rutgers’ method of instruction affect my immigration status and my ability to come to the US for Spring 2021? +

SEVP confirmed on April 26, 2021 that guidance originally issued in March 2020 for the COVID-19 emergency is extended for the 2021-2022 academic year. Based on current guidance, new international students and students who started their programs in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters from overseas are eligible to apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to attend in-person classes. However, new students may not enroll in 100% online courses if they will be in the U.S. for the fall semester. 

With the situation developing, and based on President Holloway's latest message (March 25, 2021), we hope to welcome international students to campus if visa, travel and public health guidelines permit. However, in case students are unable to make it to campus in time for the fall semester, they may enroll in online classes offered by Rutgers or participate in some of the other available options such as the ROSE program or a Rutgers Study Abroad at home program (for undergraduate students).

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Please note that your F-1 or J-1 legal status can only be activated upon entry into the U.S. 

Do I need an I-20/DS-2019 If I am starting my program from overseas? +

You do not need an I-20 or a DS-2019 if you are starting your program from overseas. However, if you have received an I-20/DS-2019 and are unable to come to campus for the Fall 2021 semester, you will be issued a new document with an updated start date. You can enter the US in the following semester with the updated I-20 and a valid unexpired F-1 visa. 

NEW (4/28/2021) Can I take all online classes in fall 2021 or do I need any hybrid/in-person classes? +

Fall 2020 guidance is still currently in place for 2021. 

New students who arrive in the US after March 9, 2020 should enroll in at least one hybrid/in-person course to maintain your visa status in the US in 2021. Note that your F-1 status is not activated until you enter the US. The F-1 regulations do not apply to new students who have not yet arrived in the US.

Graduate students should consult with their academic programs about how to meet the in-person requirement as they may have research, labs, teaching and other in-person components to their programs. 

I have received my new I-20/DS-2019. Can I apply for a visa with it and choose to arrive later? +

Yes, you may use the I-20/DS-2019 you have to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. Your visa will remain valid until its expiration date, even if your I-20/DS-2019 dates change. Please remember that you will need a current I-20/DS-2019 to apply for a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. Check the start date on your I-20/DS-2019 to make sure it is current - the start date should be for a future semester (that you plan  to attend in-person).

If I start the spring semester online, can I come to campus mid-semester? +

If you start your semester fully online, you may not be able to come to campus mid-semester unless your program requires you to attend in-person. Please consult with an ISSS advisor to discuss your options.

I am enrolled in Spring 2021 remotely and expect to be on campus in Fall 2021. When do I apply for my visa? +

You should apply for a visa when a visa appointment is available at the embassy or consulate close to you. However, you will need an updated I-20/DS-2019 document from Rutgers to show a deferred start date. Updated or new I-20s for Fall 2021 will be issued during the spring semester; please check your Rutgers email for updates in this regard. You may have already received an email notifying you that your I-20/DS-2019 is ready.

Transfer, Readmission, or Change of Status Students

I am a newly admitted student, inside the US, transferring my SEVIS record from another institution and planning to attend the spring term. What issues should I be aware of? +

Per the current guidance, you are able to stay in the US and take classes in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain your F-1 status. After receiving your transfer I-20, please review the transfer instructions on our website and make sure you complete the check-in process with ISSS so we can activate your transfer record. 

I am a newly admitted student, outside the US, transferring my SEVIS record from another institution and planning to attend the spring term. Can I study remotely? +

Yes, you may study remotely. As a transfer student, we are not permitted to make your F-1 SEVIS record ACTIVE while you are outside of the US. We will contact SEVP to maintain your SEVIS record and issue you an I-20 with an updated start date based on when you are expected to arrive in the US. We will contact you if we are not able to retain your current SEVIS record based on any change in government guidance and would then issue you a new I-20 in that case. 

I have received my Transfer I-20 and I am outside the US I am planning to return to the US for the spring semester. What issues should I be aware of? +

As a transfer student, you may return to the US and take classes in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain your F-1 status. However, given the current uncertainties regarding travel restrictions, be sure to check the Universitywide COVID-19 Information and all relevant travel advisories.

I have been re-admitted to Rutgers for Summer/Fall 2021. How does the current crisis impact my situation? +

Students who are inside the US in active SEVIS status (possibly at another institution, e.g. a community college) can transfer their SEVIS records to Rutgers and enroll at Rutgers in any format from anywhere in the US to maintain their F-1 status. 

Please review the information on the Returning to Rutgers section of our website for more details. 

Students who are outside the US will need a new I-20 when they are able to return. Per current guidance, students with I-20s marked “initial attendance” will not be able to enter the US if their academic schedule is 100% online. Students who have been readmitted to resume their studies at Rutgers for the spring can do so remotely. If your program has in-person requirements, for which you need to be present in the US, please contact your academic program and an ISSS advisor for further guidance. 

What if I am currently in another immigration status and wish to apply for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 within the US? +

We highly advise consulting an immigration attorney to review this option. Please review information on our website for more information.

Enrollment Deferral and Cancellation

What is the process for deferring my enrollment at Rutgers? +

We understand that some students may choose to defer their enrollment at Rutgers to a later semester. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, several departments/programs/schools at Rutgers are offering this option to new students.

Undergraduate Students – please follow the instructions here.

Graduate Students – please discuss your enrollment options with your graduate program and the graduate admissions office.

RBHS Students- Please contact the RBHS Admissions office of the school you have been accepted into.

I have decided that I will not be attending Rutgers University. What do I need to do? +

If you withdraw or cancel your admission to Rutgers, we will need to cancel your I-20/DS-2019. Please contact the appropriate admissions office to inform them of your decision so your SEVIS record can be properly closed.

Undergraduate Students: ruinternational@admissions.rutgers.edu
Graduate Students: grad_help@gradadm.rutgers.edu
RBHS Students: isss-rbhs@global.rutgers.edu

Travel and Visa Information

General Travel/Visa Support Letter for Fall 2021 Arrival   +

ISSS is providing a general Travel/Visa Support Letter to all students. You may present this letter with your I-20 or DS-2019 when applying for a visa and/or when you are traveling to the US and are being screened by a Customs and Border Patrol Officer either at the point of departure or entry into the US. 

Please note that this letter is not required and does not guarantee visa approval or entry into the US. Students are advised to follow SEVP/ICE guidance and monitor travel and visa restrictions to make informed decisions about travel to the US. 

Will I be required to get a visa if all my classes are online? +

The existing guidance states that new/initial students may only apply for a visa and enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school only for a full course of study that is not 100% online. Please contact Rutgers Global International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for regulatory guidance, resources and information for international students. We will continue to update our websites as more information becomes available and notify you as changes occur.

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 infection if I am traveling internationally? +

New CDC Guidelines for International Travelers

Please review the current CDC travel and testing requirements for entry to the U.S. According to this guidance, all international travelers coming into the US will be required to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. 

According to additional CDC guidance, fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.

Review the CDC website for more information. Also check COVID-19 related rules and regulations at the country to which you are traveling.

Are there requirements or recommendations I should be aware of if I am traveling to NJ/Rutgers? +

NJ STATE RECOMMENDATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS RELATED TO TRAVEL

For those that arrive in New Jersey from any international destination, or from out of the 5-state region (NJ, NY, CT, PA, DE), the CDC and NJ state regulations state:

  • Get tested for COVID-19 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days
    • If you test positive, self-isolate for at least 10 days to protect others from getting infected​​
  • ​If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Review the updated Rutgers Quarantine and Travel Guidance.

What are the current travel restrictions I should be mindful of? +

Please refer to the following resources. Note that the situation is changing daily and you should monitor the latest travel advisories carefully before making any travel plans. 

* Travel Bans and Restrictions on US Visas and Entry
* Immigration Executive Actions Under Trump Administration
* COVID-19 Country Specific Information from the US Department of State
* CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for International and US Travel
* Rutgers Global Travel Updates and Advisories

Review the travel and visa information section of our website for additional resources, information, and travel signature request procedure. 

Please note that the situation regarding domestic and international travel is changing daily. We would like to advise all our students to be careful and alert during any travel and be prepared to face extra scrutiny at visa issuing posts and at ports of entry. As always, follow all rules and regulations to maintain your legal status in the US. Visit the Travel and Visa Information page on the Rutgers Global website for information and detailed recommendations for travel. 

The US government has implemented certain travel and visa restrictions that students should be aware of prior to making any travel plans. There are several geographic-based COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations in effect that restrict nonimmigrant visa issuance and travel to the U.S. ISSS has prepared the following FAQs based on the travel restrictions that are effective as of 06/10/2021: FAQs on Geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations--Updated 6/10/21 (PDF)

Also, many countries are imposing immigration restrictions to contain the virus. For further information, please review travel advisories available from the U.S. State Department, the CDC, and the country/countries outside of the US which you want to travel from or to, or even transit through. 

Updated 6/10/2021: Which countries have suspended entry into the US due to COVID-19? Do they all have National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for students? +

Presidential Proclamations have suspended entry to the U.S. to individuals who were physically present in the 14-day period before entry to the United States from the following countries, with some exceptions.

  • China (January 31, 2020 )
  • Iran (February 29, 2020)
  • Ireland (March 12, 2020)
  • Schengen Area (March 12, 2020)
  • United Kingdom (March 12, 2020)
  • Brazil (May 26, 2020)
  • South Africa (January 30, 2021)
  • India (effective May 4, 2021)

Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland
Students traveling or transiting from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland have had an National Interest Exception (NIE) since the proclamations were first issued. Students and their dependents with valid F visas can travel to the U.S. without seeking an individual NIE from a consulate. Applicants for new F visas will automatically be considered an NIE to travel

Students and their dependents from these areas who are traveling on J visas need to contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate a National Interest Exception request. Individual NIEs are valid for 30 days.

China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, and India
According to the US State Department, students from China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa and India Iran may qualify for the National Interest Exception
“...only if their academic program, including optional practical training (OPT), begins August 1, 2021 or later [emphasis added]. Students with valid F-1...visas intending to begin or continue an academic program, including OPT, beginning August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.”

The language in the announcement is clear that new F-1 students who have an I-20 program start date on or after August 1, 2021 qualify for the NIE, and may not enter the U.S more than 30 days before the start date, but there is confusion about how the NIE applies to continuing students and those on OPT.  

Our current understanding, based on a Q & A session with a State Department official at a national professional conference on June 2, 2021, is that continuing and OPT students qualify for an NIE and may return to the US up to 30 days before August 1, 2021, i.e. July 2nd, with a valid visa. Applicants for new F visas will automatically be considered an NIE to travel. However, there are reports that some consulates are asking to see an I-20 start date or OPT start date on or after August 1, which is not possible for students who started their programs or OPT in the past. Hopefully this will be sorted out soon.

Students and their dependents from these countries who are traveling on J visas need to  contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate a National Interest Exception request. Individual NIEs are valid for 30 days.

Consult with your local Embassy/consulate and airline carrier prior to travel, and keep in mind that Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry make the final determination regarding admissibility to the U.S.

For updated information, refer to COVID-19 Restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry, maintained by the premier professional international education association NAFSA.

ISSS has prepared the following FAQs based on the travel restrictions that are effective as of 06/10/2021: FAQs on Geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations--Updated 6/10/21 (PDF)

Can I apply for a US visa right now? Are consulates and embassies open for applications? +

In response to the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 20, 2020 the Department of State suspended all routine visa services at all US embassies and consulates worldwide. As global conditions evolve, the Department of State (as of July, 2020) began a “phased resumption of routine visa services”. Students should check with the embassies or consulates near them as they prepare for their visa applications. We would also recommend checking the Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy where you intend to apply for a visa.

Please also be aware that global travel conditions remain highly impacted and could change rapidly with visa applicants facing serious delays. Students should continue to monitor the news, airline travel information, along with the Rutgers Global website for additional changes or updates. Please review the travel and visa application information on our website as well.

The visa stamp in my passport has expired/is expiring soon. Can I travel home or to a third country to apply for a new visa? +

International students should consider the following when they plan to travel out of the country to apply for a new visa:

* Students can remain in the US with an expired visa as long as they have legal status in the US The F-1/J-1 visa only needs to be valid at the time of entry into the US If your visa expires while you are in the US, you can still continue to stay here as long as you are maintaining your status. If your visa expires and you travel out of the US, you will need to apply for a new visa. 
* If students must travel out of the country, they should keep in mind the status of visa application operations at the embassy or consulate where they intend to apply, as well as travel and other restrictions in the destination countries visited while out of the US The following links should be closely monitored for the latest information on the status of embassies and consulates around the world:
      * The Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy where students intend to apply for a visa
      * Visa wait times at various embassies
* Students should also be mindful of US government-imposed travel restrictions that may lead to problems with re-entry into the US 
* Students should also consider the implications of their travel on immigration benefits such as OPT.

If I get an F1/J-1 visa, but cannot travel to the US because of travel restrictions, is the visa still valid? +

If you have an F-1/J-1 visa, it will remain valid until the expiration date on the visa stamp. You can use it to attend Rutgers for a later semester, even if you receive an updated/new I-20 from the university.

I am a student currently enrolled at another institution in the US. Do I need a new visa to begin study at Rutgers in the spring? +

You do not need a new visa to begin the new program at Rutgers if you remain in the US while between schools. If you choose to travel internationally, you will need to check with your embassy or consulate to determine if you need to apply for a new visa. If you have a valid visa (valid at the time of expected entry to the US), chances are you won’t need to apply for a new one.

Please review the information for transfer students on our website. 

I need to leave the US but have not received my I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature. Can I travel out of the US without the new I-20/DS-2019? +

Please know that you do not need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 document to either remain in OR to depart the US. You DO need a valid travel signature to return to the US in F-1 or J-1 status. A valid travel signature must be no more than 12 months old on the date that you return to the US. For F-1 students on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT Extension, travel endorsements are only valid for 6 months. You will only need a valid signature to apply for a new visa if the F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport is expired and/or for your reentry into the US Review the Travel and Visa Information section of our website for more information.

Can I travel within the United States? +

Even within the US, different regions are experiencing travel impacts and restrictions. The CDC: COVID-19 Cases in the US website  has updated numbers per state, but this is changing quickly. If you choose to travel domestically, please be sure to consider your own health and safety. We encourage you to follow the CDC and local recommendations for travel. States may have their own travel restrictions/advisories, shelter in place orders, and disruption in infrastructure that you should take into consideration as well.

What if I am unable to get a visa to start my Rutgers education in New Jersey? +

Should travel to the U.S. not be possible due to visa issues, we will work with you to provide a virtual experience until we can welcome you to campus as soon as feasibly possible. The university will continue to process I-20 and DS-2019 documents as students request them to ensure that you are able to schedule a visa appointment should one become available for you.

We realize there are concerns with getting a visa and arriving on-campus in time for the fall term. Students should check with the embassies and consulates near them as they prepare their visa applications. We also recommend checking the U.S. Department of State website for the status of operations at the embassy or consulate where you intend to apply for a visa.  Please be assured that Rutgers, along with other U.S.-based universities, are strongly lobbying the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and we are urging them to take immediate action and allow international students to enter the U.S. in time for the fall semester. 

Employment and Taxes

Can I work on-campus remotely and get paid by the University in my home country? +

Continuing fully supported PhD students who have active SEVIS records may receive tuition remission, stipends/pay, and Fellowship funds while overseas as long as they have been issued a Social Security Number (SSN), have a US bank account, and are able to be onboarded in the Rutgers HR/Payroll systems. The graduate program will ultimately determine if the student can carry out the duties associated with the academic appointment while overseas. There may be other factors influencing this decision which will be considered by the specific graduate program.

New students who were promised financial support as part of their acceptance to Rutgers (TAs/GAs/Fellows) can be provided with tuition waivers and a commitment can be made to them that other fellowships or scholarships they have been promised will be paid when they are able to meet the legal and payroll requirements. Final decisions on providing tuition remission or fellowship/scholarship/stipend funds rest with the department/programs/hiring units.

New students who are outside the country and do not have active SEVIS records, cannot be paid for on-campus work at Rutgers. There is no further formal guidance on other forms of funding/employment for continuing students (PTLs, hourly work, etc.) while they are overseas. There may be international tax and labor laws as well as US labor implications to these decisions. If you have questions about on-campus employment while in F-1 and J-1 status from outside the US, discuss your specific case with your employing unit and ISSS.   

Will I be able to work off-campus in an internship in Summer 2021 or earlier if I take my first/second semester at Rutgers outside the United States? +

Newly admitted students who were not previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States and who enroll in their first semester remotely outside of the United States, must complete two consecutive semesters in F-1 status in the United States to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Under these circumstances, students would NOT be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the summer following their first academic year, unless their program requires an internship or practicum during that summer. If it is permissible for students to complete their internship or practicum at a later time in their academic program, then CPT would not be possible for students who have not fulfilled their one academic year in F-1 status requirement.

Newly admitted students who previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States and transferred their SEVIS record to Rutgers are eligible to apply for either CPT or OPT during the summer following their first academic year at Rutgers even if they enroll in their first semester at Rutgers from outside of the United States (as long as their current SEVIS record remains active).

I am currently on OPT/STEM OPT or CPT. How does the current situation impact me and my ability to work? +

OPT/STEM OPT and CPT work authorizations, that have been authorized, remain valid for the dates of authorization. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has provided guidance and accommodation recognizing that changes to workplace requirements may impact students pursuing practical training. Students should consult with their employers and seek alternative ways (e.g. teleworking or other arrangement) to maintain employment as appropriate. Remote work is permitted as part of the temporary accommodations. DHS has indicated that you DO NOT need to update the employer address information in SEVIS nor on the Form I-983 for students working remotely. Students on OPT should be sure that the work continues to meet OPT requirements or STEM requirements for eligible employment.

If there are any substantial changes to OPT employment, living address, or unemployment, make sure you follow OPT reporting guidelines to report the change to ISSS so we can update your SEVIS record.

Students on authorized CPT should check with their employer about the viability of the employment/experience. If there is any change to employment dates, contact ISSS to have the authorization updated on your I-20.

Can I work on CPT from outside the US? +

SEVP has provided guidance that allows students to engage in CPT while abroad, as long as they meet all the standard eligibility criteria for the CPT and, either the employer has an office outside the United States, or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically. You should discuss the possibility of remote work arrangements with your employer.

I’m currently on an OPT/STEM OPT extension and I have been furloughed or laid off. What is the difference and how does this impact my OPT or STEM extension unemployment days? +

Furlough, leave of absence, laid-off, and termination have different meanings. You should confirm in writing with your employer exactly what your employment status is. 

A furlough or paid or unpaid approved leave of absence may still be considered employment for OPT/STEM OPT purposes. F-1 regulations allow for “time off taken consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer's similarly situated US workers in the area of employment.” If this is your situation, request documentation from your employer (usually your supervisor or human resources department) confirming your period of furlough or official leave of absence.

A termination or lay-off would be an ending of the employment and would result in the beginning of days of OPT or STEM OPT unemployment. You would need to follow the OPT reporting guidelines to report this change to ISSS so we can update your SEVIS record.

I am a J-1 student on Academic Training and I have been furloughed or laid off. What can I do? +

Please contact ISSS as soon as possible so we can discuss available options with you.

Have there been any changes to the overall OPT application processes? Does the 90-day unemployment rule still apply in light of the current crisis? +

At this time there have been no changes to the application process for OPT. There is also no revised guidance on the unemployment rule while on OPT. Please remember that you can also participate in volunteer/unpaid employment of more than 20 hours/week, directly related to your field of study and appropriate for your level of education. Make sure you follow the OPT reporting guidelines and report your employment in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in the termination of your record as a result of SEVP action.

Please continue to check the USCIS website for updates or visit the USCIS COVID-19 response page regarding any changes to USCIS processing of requests.

I cannot return to the US in time to apply for OPT. Can I apply for OPT from outside the US? +

Currently, regulations require you to be physically in the US at the time you submit your OPT application to the USCIS.

I am graduating soon and applying for OPT. Can I travel internationally after mailing my OPT application to USCIS from the US? +

Students are allowed to leave the US while their OPT application is pending at USCIS, but they have to make sure they get the receipt notice for the OPT application prior to traveling out. There is always an element of risk involved with international travel and return to the US (particularly when you have completed the primary purpose of your visa status – that is your degree program), and given these unprecedented times, the risks are further heightened.

If you do choose to travel, please make sure you have your receipt notice with you. If your application is approved while you are overseas, make sure it is delivered and received at a valid US address, and someone checking your mail sends you an electronic copy/image of the EAD card, which you can print and keep with you at the time of re-entry into the US Students are advised to follow the travel tips and OPT guidance on the ISSS website.

Do I need employment authorization to volunteer as part of COVID-19 relief efforts? +

No, international students who work without wages, taxable compensation or other remuneration are considered volunteers and are not required to obtain an employment authorization document. Check with an advisor at ISSS if you are not sure if the opportunity you are considering qualifies as volunteer work. It is important to be careful that the work does not violate any labor laws or your legal status. Visit the ISSS website for more detail.

Do I have to be in the US to file my taxes? Can I file them from abroad? +

You do not have to be physically present in the US to file your taxes. As long as you have the required documents, you may complete your tax return in your home country and mail it to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Please refer to this page for more information about the tax filing process and required documents.

Social Security Applications and Denial Letters

UPDATED (3/21): How can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) at this time? +

The New Brunswick SSA center, as well as all other SSA offices, are closed until further notice. ISSS has coordinated with the SSA office in New Brunswick and the following procedure is now offered for international students who are eligible to apply for a SSN.

Step 1. Students prepare their SSN application packet
Complete packet must include:
* Hard copy of completed SSN application
* Original valid passport with F-1 visa
* Printed I-94 record
* Original I-20 documents (both current and previous)
* Rutgers Global Social Security Letters, signed by the student’s Designated School Official (DSO) (you will need the SS letter even if you are applying based on OPT or CPT)
* Job offer letter (for students applying based on CPT or OPT)

Step 2. Call the SSA office at 877-803-6313 to schedule an appointment.

Step 3. At the scheduled appointment time, the student must come to the SSA office alone and be prepared to wear a mask before entering the building.
Social Security Administration
550 Jersey Ave, Suite 200
New Brunswick NJ 08901

Step 4. An SSA staff will review the SSN application packet and, if everything is in order, will provide a receipt notice for the application. The student should receive their SSN card in the mail within 7-14 days. 
Please note:
* It is not possible to apply online.
* Applications for replacement cards are not being accepted at this time.

Can I get an SSN denial letter? +

Yes, please complete the SSN application and mail it to the SSA. There is no need to submit any additional documentation like the I-20 or I-94 if applying for the denial letter.

Social Security Administration
ATTN: Mrs. Diouf
550 Jersey Ave, Suite 200
New Brunswick NJ 08901

You will receive the denial letter in the mail.

Health, Housing, and Other Useful Resources

Related External Resources +

* SEVP COVID-19 FAQs - August 7 (for students in F Status)
* EVP COVID-19 Information (Exchange Visitor Program, for students in J-1 Status)
* NAFSA: Association of International Educators COVID-19 Guidance Sources

Am I eligible for Fall 2021 on-campus housing? Where can I find more information? +

Students on the New Brunswick/Piscataway Campuses - visit the Rutgers - Residence life office website for information about on-campus housing: http://ruoncampus.rutgers.edu/ 

Please note that you need to comply with the vaccine mandate to be permitted to live on campus. Students with on-campus housing assignments will not receive keys to their residence halls or apartments until they are in compliance with the vaccine mandate. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccination requirements and upload your documentation.

RBHS students in the Newark campus, please contact the Housing Office at the Health Sciences Campus - Newark

Do international students get any discounts on tuition and fees? +

The Student Health Insurance Premium will be waived for students who are outside the US, but attending from overseas in Fall 2021. New students receive this waiver automatically, and continuing students are required to apply for the waiver.

The International Student Fee will be waived for new students who are outside the US for the Fall 2021 term.

Students eligible for a refund can request it by following the procedure outlined on the student accounting website

For information about university policy on tuition and fees, please review the Universitywide COVID-19 Information.

What are some other resources and support services available for students at Rutgers? +

Students Participating in the ROSE China Program +

Students participating in the ROSE program, please visit the ROSE Initiative webpage for detailed information.