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Read Smith’s plans for the spring 2021 semester.
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Spring 2021 International FAQ

Here are some common questions from international students regarding spring 2021. If you have additional questions, please contact the ISSO via During this busy time, it may take us a few days to respond to your questions. If you would like to talk through your individual situation, you can also arrange a meeting with Dean Caitlin via the ISSO appointment scheduler.

Visa and F-1 Status

As an F-1 student, can I take my courses fully remotely in the U.S.?
If you had an active F-1 SEVIS record in March 2020 and have maintained that SEVIS record until now, then you have the freedom to return to the U.S. in F-1 status, regardless of your course enrollment. A returning student can enter the U.S. without restrictions on the online course limits normally in place. You are not limited to living on or near campus in order to return to the U.S. As a reminder, your F-1 status is not contingent on your presence in the U.S. As long as you enroll in a full course of study, Smith will continue to maintain your F-1 status regardless of your location.

If you did not have an active SEVIS record in March 2020, then you must adhere to guidelines published by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for “initial” students. These guidelines state that you cannot enter the U.S. for a 100% remote course of study. As a result, if you plan to travel to the U.S., you must enroll in at least one course this spring that is designated “in-person” or “enhanced remote.”

Can I enroll remotely from home this semester?
If you prefer to enroll online from your home country, you are welcome to do so as an international student. If you have an initial F-1 I-20 (and have not used it to enter the U.S. yet), the ISSO will simply defer your program dates to coincide with when you will eventually enter the U.S. If you are a returning F-1 student who had an active SEVIS record in March 2020, you will continue to maintain your F-1 status, regardless of where you engage in your coursework. The ISSO will simply need to provide you with an updated travel signature when you eventually travel to the U.S. again.

I need an F-1 entry visa, and U.S. consulates/embassies in my country are not scheduling visa interviews. What should I do?
Complete as much of the paperwork as possible, and continue to check back for available appointments. After December 13, you could be eligible for an expedited visa appointment, since you’ll be within 60 days of your printed February 11 program start date. Please keep in touch with the ISSO regarding your visa progress. If you are unable to obtain a visa in time, you may need to enroll from abroad, defer or take a personal leave of absence. 

Below is one of the stated emergency appointment eligibility categories given by the U.S. Department of State:

Students or exchange visitors
Purpose of travel is to begin or resume a valid program of study in the United States within 60 days when no regular visa appointments are available. This option is limited only to students and exchange students who are within 60 days of their start date.

Essential documentation

  • Original Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 indicating start date of program within 60 days.
  • Evidence that you have paid the SEVIS fee (when applicable).

If you are a returning F-1 student renewing your entry visa, there may be a possibility of applying for a visa interview waiver. Check your local consulate website for details.

My visa appointment is scheduled just before/just after the semester begins. Can I come to campus late if my visa is delayed?
In order to enter the U.S. as an initial international student, you must show evidence that you have an in-person component to your program. As a result, entering mid-semester after taking courses fully online for a period of time holds quite a bit of risk of being denied entry at the border. Please work with ISSO individually to determine the best course of action. If possible, we recommend trying to expedite your visa appointment. Generally this can be done once you are within 60 days of your program start date. 

As a returning student with an already active SEVIS record, you can enter the U.S. at any time. Please work with Residence Life, if applicable, to determine how late you can arrive on campus to live in residence.

Can I use the DS-160 visa application that I completed for my visa this fall, to get my visa for spring semester?
You should be able to utilize your DS-160 for a new visa interview appointment. The MRV (fee you paid for the DS-160) is normally valid for one year from payment, and the Department of State has now extended that period of validity to December 31, 2021, due to COVID-19. You will need to log back into your application to change your appointment, and you must bring your updated documentation with you for your interview. That said, we recommend contacting the consulate where you began your visa application to inquire about any consulate-specific policies. 

Can I use the F-1 visa I got for the fall semester, even though I didn’t come to the U.S.?
If you were successful in obtaining a U.S. F-1 entry visa last summer/fall, you may utilize that visa for U.S. entry this spring. The dates of validity on the visa will indicate when it is valid for use (along with your Smith-issued I-20). Although the dates of your program have changed, the SEVIS ID (the number that begins with “N00…”) remains the same, as does your school name.

I had my SEVIS record transferred to Smith last spring/summer, but then I went home before Smith began the fall semester. What do I do?
Please contact the ISSO. We will do our best to reactivate your prior SEVIS record and issue you an I-20 based upon that record. The ISSO cannot undertake that action more than 60 days in advance of your program start. The I-20 will have the same SEVIS ID as your old I-20, so if your old F-1 entry visa is still valid, it can be used for entry along with your new Smith I-20. This process should mean that when you return to the U.S., your F-1 record is continuous.

If we are unsuccessful in reactivating your prior SEVIS record, we will issue you a new one. This could mean that you would need to apply for a new entry visa from the local embassy.

I took the fall semester off. Are there different procedures for me?
If you took a personal leave of absence for the fall semester, you will have the option to enroll online or to come to the U.S. (depending on whether you’ve been invited to campus). If you plan to enroll online, you won’t need to complete any paperwork with the ISSO, since you won’t need an F-1 visa until you arrive in the U.S. If you plan to come to the U.S., you’ll need to complete a new Certification of Finances and send your documentation to the ISSO. We will issue a new I-20, and you’ll need to pay your SEVIS I-901 fee again online. If your previous F-1 entry visa still has valid dates, you may utilize it for entry. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a new F-1 entry visa much like you did in your first year. Please note: if you are restarting with a new SEVIS ID and I-20, you’ll need to adhere to SEVP regulations as an “initial” student and enroll in at least one “in-person” or “enhanced remote” course.

Can I apply for OPT if I’m not in the U.S. for spring?
The instructions for Form I-765 (the USCIS application for work authorization) state that you must apply for OPT “while in the U.S.” In extenuating circumstances, there may be a workaround option, but it is a risk to apply from outside the U.S. If you are a senior planning to use OPT and are not able to return to campus, please contact the ISSO.


What if there’s a U.S. travel restriction in place from my country of residence?
Travel to the United States is currently restricted from the following countries: Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, Schengen Europe and the United Kingdom. Under proclamations made by President Trump, any foreign national will be restricted from entry to the U.S. if they have traveled within the above-mentioned countries within the 14-day period prior to entry. The proclamations do not apply to U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents, or certain other exception categories.

Depending on your personal circumstances, it may be possible to quarantine in a third country for 14 days prior to traveling to the U.S. This would satisfy the terms of the current travel bans.

If you have a valid F-1 visa from Ireland, Schengen Europe, or the UK, you qualify for a National Interest Exemption (NIE), according to this announcement from the U.S. Department of State. If you have an upcoming visa appointment in a U.S. Consulate in the above European countries, you will be automatically considered for an NIE.

Can Smith help pay for third-country quarantine?
Unfortunately, Smith is not able to help with the costs of quarantine in a third country before travel.

How do I find out about my country’s requirements for boarding a flight?
Each country has its own rules and regulations around COVID-19. You will be responsible for learning and understanding your local restrictions. Please bear in mind that some countries have requirements for testing and results prior to boarding a flight. If you miss a flight because of delayed test results or other in-country restrictions, Smith cannot reimburse your lost costs, so please be mindful of local restrictions.

Is a (negative) test result required to enter the U.S. or Massachusetts, and is there a required quarantine? 
The U.S. does not have nationwide policies regarding international entry to the country, apart from the countries named above. If you are eligible to enter the U.S., there are no nationwide requirements for negative test results. Instead, each state determines its own policies and procedures. It is advisable to learn about the requirements for the state of your final destination.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) requires that any traveler not coming from a low-risk state must complete the Massachusetts Travel Form and self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or produce a negative test result administered within 72 hours of arrival into the state. Non-compliance with the travel order could result in a $500/day fine. Please see Massachusetts DPH’s website for details about exemptions from the order. Once on campus, students are expected to follow Smith’s protocols for testing and quarantine.

How early can I arrive in the U.S. if my I-20 states a February 11, 2021 program start?
If you are a new F-1 student, you are legally eligible for entry to the U.S. up to 30 days in advance of your program start date (listed on page one of your I-20). Residence Life will announce assigned move-in dates for the spring semester by the end of the fall semester.

I already bought a flight for a certain arrival date. What if my assigned arrival date is different? Can I change it to arrive on campus according to my flight?
Please contact the ISSO and Residence Life if you need to make a change to your arrival date. We will troubleshoot this on a case-by-case basis.

What happens if the college’s plans change? Would I be eligible for airfare reimbursements?
The college will make every effort to bring students back as announced. That said, Smith must also be responsive to current on-the-ground conditions, should they change significantly. We recommend purchasing flights with travel insurance, in case there is a change in plans. We do not anticipate issuing reimbursements for canceled or changed travel plans.

Campus Procedures

What if I go home after the fall semester and then get stuck abroad?
If you have been in the U.S. for the fall semester and choose to go home over the winter recess and remote January term, please bear in mind the risks that travel assumes. In the case that you are unable to return to the U.S. for the spring semester, it’s good to think about what you would do. If you were unable to return to the U.S., you would have the choice to enroll online or to take a personal leave.

How do I defer another semester or take a personal leave?
If you have deferred your admission until the spring semester and would like to defer once more, please contact the Admission Office.

If you are a currently enrolled student—either on-campus or online—please contact the Class Deans Office via either their Google Form or their PDF Leave Request. Graduate students and diploma students must contact Graduate Student Programs to request a leave of absence.

If you have an active SEVIS record, then at the start of the semester, the ISSO will terminate your SEVIS record with the code “Authorized Early Withdrawal.”  During this leave you will be unable to stay in or enter the U.S. in F-1 status. When you’re ready to re-enter the U.S. (for the fall semester) we will work with you to get a new SEVIS record. This will mean that you’ll need to pay the SEVIS fee ($350) again, but if your F-1 entry visa in your passport is still valid at that time, you can continue to use it along with your new I-20. See this page for more information. Since you will be restarting your F-1 record, you will need to be in F-1 status for 9 months (2 semesters) before you are eligible for CPT or OPT work authorizations. 

If you have an initial SEVIS record, the ISSO will simply defer your program start date to your anticipated return to Smith. If you have already paid your SEVIS fee, it will still be applicable. If you've received an F-1 visa, it would be usable for your eventual entry to the U.S. If you have not yet received an F-1 entry visa, you could once again defer your application until this summer.

If you have already had two semesters of leave, please contact your class dean to inquire whether you are eligible for another semester of leave.

When will I register for courses as a new student?
Course registration will be a standard part of new student orientation when you arrive on campus, as it is for all students new to Smith. Information about the advising and registration process will come with details about new student orientation. In the meantime, the Class Deans’ Advising & Registration page offers a timeline for this fall semester to use as an example of timeframe.

What if I need to purchase things when I arrive, such as sheets, towels, or sundries?
The ISSO is aware that new students will need various items for their rooms. If you are required to quarantine upon arrival to campus, Smith will provide you with sheets, towels, and many necessary items in your room. More information will be included with information distributed about Spring International Student Pre-Orientation (ISP).

For students not needing to quarantine or released from quarantine, the ISSO will help direct you toward resources for purchasing items online or through organized events in orientation.

Will there be transportation from airport? Which ones?
Information about airport transportation will be coming soon.

Will there be an International Student Pre-orientation program? What if I attended Virtual ISP in the fall—do I have to attend again?
Yes, the ISSO will hold an orientation program specific to international students. As we did this fall, we will have an online orientation that allows students to meet and interact with one another across the world, as well as to delve into topics such as cultural transition and U.S. constructions of race. For those students arriving on campus, we’ll also offer a guided program to get you settled into your new U.S.-based life. Please monitor your email for more details about both programs.

If the college shuts down midway through the semester, will I be able to stay? Will the college assist me in getting home?
In the event that the college must shut down midway through the semester, the ISSO will once again advocate for any international student who cannot return home to be granted extended housing on-campus. As was available in spring 2020, there would be limited funding to assist in returning students home or to other safe locations.