Frequently Asked Questions-Spring 2021

Welcome to this page where you will find comprehensive information, frequently asked questions, and step-by-step instructions on how to maintain your immigration status as you approach and start the Spring 2021 semester.


 Whether you are a new, transfer, or continuing student, these charts below are intended to provide you with all the details and instructions to follow for Spring 2021 (subject to change based on SEVP Guidance). Click on each chart to get access to the links. Please read all the information very carefully, and follow instructions accordingly based on your situation and location. Contact our office at or access our Virtual Office if you have further questions or doubts.


IMPORTANT: If you started your program in the Fall 2020 but stayed in your country studying remotely, the Spring 2021 will be considered your first semester as an F-1 student and you are expected to enroll in at least one hybrid/in-person course.


  • If you are a newly admitted student (new or transfer) for SPRING 2021 and you decide not to come to FIU, or you are unable to travel due to travel restrictions, you MUST contact the Office of International Admissions to let them know via:
  • If you will be in the United States and at FIU in person in the SPRING 2021, learn about the different steps to follow as you prepare to arrive in the United States, and upon your arrival on our PRE-ARRIVAL INFORMATION page.

Please follow instructions very carefully. In order to accurately report your immigration status and keep your SEVIS record current, ISSS requires all continuing students to report their plans for Spring 2021. Below you may find three different options (You can click on the chart to access the links). Please take a moment to review this chart and based on where you will be during the upcoming semester, access the FIU ISSS PORTAL and submit your response using the Spring 2021 Reporting E-Form (available NOW).



  • Access the FIU ISSS PORTAL
  • Click on the F-1 Students Services link
  • Click on the SPRING 2021 Reporting link from the drop-down menu
  • Select the E-Form that applies to you (Category  2, or 3).
  • Enter ALL the information and documents requested
  • Submit for approval


If you are in the United States and will be leaving the country to spend the Spring Semester at home, please keep in mind that you MUST leave the country before December 31. If you leave the country after December 31, you will be liable for Health Insurance and your HOLD will not be released until you show proof that you are covered UNTIL YOU LEAVE THE USA. Instructions will be provided when you complete the Spring 2021 Reporting E-Form.

Based on the latest SEVP update, international students must be enrolled full time in online/remote/hybrid/in-person courses as long as they are complying with their F1 visa requirements.


If you are in your country and wish to start planning for your return to the United States, please be reminded that the ISSS Office is not the best source for travel information. The best sources are your airline, your local American Embassy, and the Center for Disease Control information

Upon arrival, you will be required to follow FIU policies and guidelines when accessing any physical university premises regardless of where you travel from (across the street, local, national, international). FIU will only require a period of quarantine if it is required by local, state or federal health authorities. Please frequently visit the Panthers Protecting Panthers page  for the latest updates pertaining to travel guidelines.

In addition, outside of FIU’s premises, members of the FIU community must abide by guidelines and requirements of the respective local and state authorities such as Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida Health Department. This includes the mandatory wearing of face masks in public, the enforcement of curfews, quarantine periods etc.


If you need to renew your visa, please continue to monitor the opening of your local American Embassy. Each country will be following its own schedule and conditions, so check with them in order to make an appointment for your visa interview. You can check the status of your local embassy here


  • In order to maintain your F-1 status while in the US, international students at FIU must be enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours (Undergraduate) and 9 credit hours (Graduate). Based on the latest update, if you are a continuing student, there is no limit on the number of online/remote courses you can register for. If you are a NEW (initial) student you have to be enrolled in AT LEAST one hybrid/in-person course. SEVP requires F-1 international students to take these classes and make normal progress toward completing the degree program.
  • Students attending schools adopting a hybrid model—that is, a mixture of online, hybrid, and in person classes—will be allowed to take more than one class or three credit hours online.
  • Contact your academic advisor for assistance if you are having difficulty finding your courses.


If this is your last semester of study and you are unable to register for a full course load, please read below:

  • Student must also apply for graduation and submit a Reduced Course Load for Completion of Degree form in order to justify their under enrollment in their last term.
  • Based on the latest update, there is no limit on the number of online/remote courses you can register for in your last semester of study.


  • If you are a continuing student who is back in your home country and you decide that you are not returning to FIU for the Fall 2020, or you are unable to return due to travel restrictions, access the FIU ISSS PORTAL  to report your decision based on the chart above. Failure to do this may impact your SEVIS record/immigration status negatively.
  • Once you are ready to return to the United States in the SUMMER or FALL 2021 or any subsequent term, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to get in touch with the ISSS Office to get your updated I-20.
  • If your F-1 visa expires while you are in your country during your Leave of Absence, it is your responsibility to renew it at your local US Embassy/Consulate to be able to enter the United States when you are able to come back.
  • If you decide to take courses while you are still in your country, you will not be subject to the full-load requirement (you can be enrolled for as many credits as you wish). If you decide to take a full course load, your SEVIS record can remain ACTIVE and you need to complete, or if you don’t take a full course load, you MUST report this on the  FIU ISSS PORTAL as instructed above.   


  • If you are a newly admitted student for fall 2020 and you decide not to come to FIU in the fall, or you are unable to travel due to travel restrictions, you MUST contact the Office of International Admissions to let them know. You may contact admissions via:
    • WhatsApp: +1(786)702-0031 – Students should send a message to set up an appropriate time for a phone call.

More Frequently asked questions:

If I travel to the Unioted States and Florida in the SPRING 2021, will I need to Quarantine?

You will be required to follow FIU policies and guidelines when accessing any physical university premises regardless of where you travel from (across the street, local, national, international). FIU will only require a period of quarantine if it is required by local, state or federal health authorities. We encourage you to frequently visit for the latest updates pertaining to travel guidelines.

In addition, outside of FIU’s premises, members of the FIU community must abide by guidelines and requirements of the respective local and state authorities such as Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida Health Department. This includes the mandatory wearing of face masks in public, the enforcement of curfews, quarantine periods, etc.

If the information indicates that you will need to quarantine for a certain period, you are responsible for procuring the location where you will be complying with this requirement. If you are staying at FIU Housing, please check their website for updates.

What do I need to do if I am not able to return to the United States for Fall?

In order to retain your status you must remain enrolled full time and you are able to take your courses overseas. See chart above. If you alreday submitted the information for fall, YOU MUST SUBMIT AGAIN FOR SPRING.

If I want to return to the United States and more than 5 months have passed, what do I need to do?

The 5- month temporary absence rule does not apply and you may return to the United States to continue your studies.

If I do not maintain my F-1 status for SPRING 2020, what is the impact on CPT and OPT? Can  I apply for an internship when I return? Can I apply for OPT when I graduate?

The same rules that have been in place will continue to apply. To be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT ) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), a student must be in F-1 status for the equivalent of an academic year (2 semesters in a row). Visit our CPT and OPT pages for more information.

Can I apply for OPT outside of the United States?

No, you must be in the United States to apply for OPT. This is a requirement that has no exception. If you are outside the country and make arrangements to come back to apply in the middle or towards the end of the semester, there is no guarantee that your application will be approved (based on your I-94 information). Do not risk it. Consult with one of our ISSS Advisors before making any decision. Visit our OPT page for more information.

My Florida Driver’s License is about to expire- what should I do?

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes has issued an Emergency Order extending certain expiring Florida driver licenses.

The Executive Order, among other things, authorizes the following:

  • Extends the effective period of driver licenses and identification cards with expiration dates on or after March 16, 2020, through April 15, 2020, for 60 days.

For more information visit Visit

PASS/NC Grade Option: If I am an international student, should I choose to change my grade?

If you are worried about your international student status if you happen to opt for the Pass/NO Credit Earned choice, USCIS has established that

“…full course of study requirements can be waived as a direct result of the impact from COVID-19” (March 26 Update)

So, although our  would highly advise you to remain within the regular grading option, if you have a circumstance related to the COVID-19 situation and you have discussed the possibility with your academic advisor, you may opt for the new P or NC alternative. Also, please be reminded that ISSS only responds to immigration-related questions, all academic/GPA inquiries should be directed to your academic advisor.

Once you have discussed your decision with your academic advisor, if you still If have questions about how this may impact your visa status ALWAYS ask ISSS! And ALWAYS read our immigration updates, because this policy may change in the future.

More information

As an International Student- am I allowed to receive a stimulus check?

As an international student you are considered a non-resident for tax purposes, therefore the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states that you do not qualify for a stimulus check. Visit the Economic Impact Payment Information Center for more information.

You can also visit to determine if you are considered a non-resident for tax purposes. Important: Most international students are considered non-residents for tax purposes. 

Important: If you received a stimulus check in error, please visit for instructions; and if you are still unsure, please contact a tax accountant or attorney. Tax policies are very complex, and please keep in mind that the ISSS staff is not qualified to give you advice on tax related issues. 

Additional Information:

I am close to my 60-day grace period expiration date, what do I do?

The International Students offices around the country are waiting for an answer to this question. Unfortunately there is no specific extension being announced as of yet for our F-1 students and dependents. However, if you are in this situation, please see the link above on Extension or Change of Status. For the time being, this would be one solution that you can seek.

Remember, for all these processes, it is highly advisable that you seek the help/counsel of an immigration attorney.

For additional USCIS In formation you can access  COVID-19 Delays in Extension/Change of Status Filings

I need to obtain my Social Security Card/Social Security Number (SSN)- how do I go about it?

For all job-related activities, you will need to have a Social Security Number/Social Security Card (SSN). Unfortunately at the moment, all Social Security Offices are closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our office has no way of anticipating when these offices will reopen.

Please keep in mind that you cannot start any work-related activity on or off campus without a SSN. It is  important that you keep this in mind, because in the future, if you happen to have worked without the proper paperwork, your immigration status will be negatively impacted. 

Keep checking with the Social Security Office for future re-openings- our office will keep you informed too.

What happens if I decide to leave the US? (Information on I-20 Travel Signature)

You must realize that the COVID 19 crisis continues to be a fluid and rapidly changing event, therefore, there are scenarios that may arise that are unpredictable and the consequences of which are unknown.  Travel and returning home will carry inherent and perhaps unknown risks. If you decide you want to leave the country and go home you must

  • ensure that your F-1 visa will be valid at the time you intend to return. 
  • ensure your passport is valid. 
  • have a valid travel signature on page two of your I-20 (this is valid for 12 months from date of the first signature)

If you already left the US and still require a signature, you may submit a request through the FIU ISSS Portal at least three weeks before you are planning to return to the United States and we will send a signed I-20 to your home country via email.

Important: If you renewed any of your immigration documents (passport or visa) and haven’t provided a copy to our office, please do so with your document request. Your Travel Signature will be delayed if we do not have your updated information

What happens when I come back if my I-20 is not properly signed?

Due to the temporary closure of FIU because of the COVID 19 crisis, it may be difficult to meet your needs immediately.  If you are a student who has already departed the US or one who intends to leave shortly and are unable to get your I-20 travel signature, please be advised that when you come back to the United States, if your I-20 does not have a current signature or if you do not have your I-20 with you, the US Custom and Border Protection (USCBP) Officer who you see when you arrive typically issues students lacking a proper I-20 a form called I-515A at the port of entry. 

If CBP issues you a Form I-515A, tell your designated school official (DSO)/International Student Advisor that you have been given this form. He or she can help you submit the right information to complete this form.

What is the “I‐515A” Form? The I‐515A is a form issued to international students/scholars/dependents by a United States Port of Entry (POE) when the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer is not satisfied with the admission documentation that a student/scholar/dependent provides. For example, the border patrol may issue an I‐515A if the I‐20 or DS‐2019 is missing a valid travel signature. The I‐515A Form allows temporary entry into the United States of no more than 30 days.                             

This information will be updated as we receive more guidance from USCIS. Please follow up with ISSS two weeks before you are coming back to the US.

Can I make a phone/remote appointment to speak with an ISSS Advisor?

Yes, you can schedule a phone/virtual appointment accessing the ISSS Virtual Appointment Request Form. Once our system received this form, you will receive an email with your appointment date and time.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)OPT (Optional Practical Training), or STEM OPT extension applications are also available by appointment. Once you have scheduled the appointment, an advisor will contact you via email with further instructions.

If I graduate in the Spring term, can I apply for OPT?

In order to apply for OPT you need to be present in the United States. Once you are ready to start the process (you should be starting it as soon as possible)

If a student decides to travel back home, would it affect his/her visa status if they stay out of the country until the end of the semester?

Students’ status will remain current as long as they remain enrolled in their classes maintaining full time status.



Do I have to attend orientation?

Yes. Orientation is coordinated by the Office of Orientation and Family Programs– if you are an undergraduate student. If you are a Graduate student you MUST attend yourt college’s orientation. In addition, ISSS will invite you to a WELCOME INTERNATIONAL STUDENT IMMIGRATION SESSION. This session is mandatory and all international students on F-1 and J-1 visas are required to attend. During this session, you will receive information regarding federal regulations affecting your immigration status, as well as have an opportunity to meet other international students and international peer mentors who can assist you with your transition.

Do I need to have medical insurance?

Yes. All international students in F-1 or J-1 status must have medical insurance that meets certain requirements in order to register and continue their studies at FIU. Your compliance with this requirement is monitored by Student Health Services (SHS). You may purchase the university-approved medical insurance plan online at by credit card or by e-check. If you have your own insurance, your insurance policy must be approved by SHS. For more info visit the SHS website.

Do I need to schedule an appointment to speak to an advisor?

Yes. You must make an appointment with an ISSS advisor so that you can receive the necessary attention and appropriate advice needed to address any complex issues.  You can do so using our ISSS Appointment Request System. However, the ISSS office does have walk-in hours on Wednesdays from 9:30am to 12:00pm on the Modesto Maidique Campus and from 2:30pm to 4:00pm on the Biscayne Bay Campus. Applications for CPT and OPT require an appointment and may not be submitted during walk-in hours.

Can I take classes at another institution while studying at FIU?

Yes. If you have maintained your status you may be able take classes at another institution, but you must enroll for a minimum of six credits at FIU in the fall and spring terms.  If summer is your first term, then you must enroll for a minimum of six credits at FIU in that term.  You must enroll for a total of at least 12 credits as an undergraduate student or 9 credits as a graduate student between the two institutions.  You must obtain a letter of recommendation from your academic advisor or a printout of your transient form and submit this documentation together with a Document Request Form to ISSS. If all is in order, you will receive authorization from an ISSS advisor to study at the second institution; a copy of your
grades/transcript from the second institution must be submitted to the ISSS office by the end of the term.

Can my enrollment drop below full-time?

No. To maintain your immigration status you are required to enroll full-time during the fall and spring terms (12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 graduate level credit hours for graduate students). Exceptions to the full-time requirement must be approved by an ISSS advisor BEFORE dropping below full-time.

I am out of status. What should I do?

If you are out of status you must schedule an appointment to meet with an ISSS advisor immediately to review your options in returning to status.

Can I take the summer semester off?

The answer to this question varies from case to case. Below you may find some of the most common scenarios

  • Enrollment during First Semester: You are required to be enrolled full-time if Summer is your first semester at FIU. This also applies to transfer students.
  • Enrollment during Last Semester: You are required to be enrolled during the Summer Term if it is considered your last semester and you had applied for graduation. Please keep in mind that students who only need one course to complete their program of study, the course cannot be completed through online or distance education. F-1 students must enroll in at least one course that requires physical attendance in their final academic term.
  • Enrollment Depending in Academic Program: You may be required to be enrolled during the Summer Term if your program of study requires you to be enrolled. Confirm this with your academic department.
  • Summer Term Optional Semester: Summer enrollment is optional ONLY if you are a continuing student and have completed a full course of study in Fall or/and Spring term. This means you can take the summer off (take no classes at all), take a part-time load, or take all online classes.

I need an expense letter. Where can I get this information?

You may obtain an expense letter from ISSS after you have registered for classes by completing a Document Request Form. This letter will only indicate the average costs for attending FIU.

Do I have to attend or view an F-1 Employment Workshop in order to apply for CPT or OPT?

Yes. If you are planning to work off-campus in the U.S. you must get authorization for either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). To apply for either of these F-1 employment benefits, you must view the online employment workshop on the ISSS website, or attend a live employment workshop hosted by ISSS. You must complete the workshop acknowledgement form and set up an appointment to meet with an ISSS advisor before engaging in any type of off-campus employment. Find all the information here 

Can I work full-time on-campus?

You can work up to 20 hours per week during the fall and spring terms with authorization from ISSS. During the summer vacation, spring break and holiday season, you may engage in full-time on-campus employment.

Can I work in more than one place on campus?

Yes, but the total hours cannot exceed a maximum of 20 hours per week between both employers. You must obtain authorization from ISSS.

Am I eligible for a STEM Extension of OPT?

If you have been authorized for Post-Completion OPT (OPT after graduation), you are eligible to apply for an extension of the OPT period ONLY IF the degree you earned from FIU has an assigned Classification of Instructional Programs code (CIP code) that has been designated by ICE as science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM degrees). If you are on OPT following completion of a STEM degree AND working for an employer registered with E-Verify, you may apply for a 17-month extension of your OPT. You may visit for a list of CIP codes that qualify for the STEM extension. You may find the CIP code for your program at FIU at the top of page 3 of your I-20; the code will be in the format xx.xxxx (for example the CIP code assigned to the Computer Science programs at FIU is 11.0101).

I need a Social Security Number (SSN). What should I do?

You may apply for a social security number ONLY if you have been offered a job on-campus or if you have been granted practical training (CPT or OPT) employment authorization (keep in mind that practical training options are generally not available to new students). An SSN will be given to you for employment purposes only, NOT for purposes such as applying for credit cards, renting an apartment, etc.

If you do have a job offer and need an SSN, you must apply for a social security number through your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. If the SSN is for an on-campus job you must first bring your offer letter to ISSS because an ISSS advisor must sign off on the letter from your hiring department. For the SSA location nearest you, please go to and type in your zip code. You may also call 1-800-772-1213 or visit You may download the social security application (Form SS-5) online at

Do I need a new signature on my I-20 every time I travel?

No, the travel signature on page 3 is valid for 12 months.

What happens if my visa expires?

A visa is an “entry document” used to enter the U.S. If it expires in the U.S., there is no need for concern as long as you are maintaining valid status (maintaining full-time enrollment etc). However, if you plan to leave the U.S., you will need a valid visa for re-entry to the U.S. Visas are issued at U.S. embassies/consulates abroad. Check with the U.S. embassy/consulate in your home country regarding visa renewal requirements. Students must obtain a new I-20 from ISSS before applying for a new F-1 visa.

What happens if my I-20 expires?

You are considered to be out of status with the Department of Homeland Security if the program end date on your I-20 has passed and you have not graduated. DO NOT LET THIS DOCUMENT EXPIRE. If it has expired, schedule an appointment to meet with an ISSS advisor immediately to discuss how to get back in status.

What if my I-20 will expire before I complete my program?

To maintain status, you must obtain a new I-20 showing a program extension BEFORE your current I-20 expires. You may request an extension of your I-20 no earlier than 120 days prior to the current program end date listed on your I-20.

I lost my I-20. What should I do?

If your I-20 is lost, damaged, or stolen, you must request a new I-20 from ISSS by completing a Document Request Form. If your I-20 is stolen, you should also file a police report with the police department as soon as possible.

Is there a problem if my I-94 record does not say “D/S”?

YES. “D/S” means “duration of status” and all F-1 and J-1 students must have an I-94 admission record which indicates they have been admitted for the duration of their status (rather than admitted until a specific date). If your I-94 record does not reflect this, you must meet with an ISSS advisor immediately.

I want to travel outside the U.S. What should I do?

If you want to travel outside the U.S. you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, a valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature, and a valid passport (valid at least six months into the future). If you are planning to travel to a country other than your home country, visit for travel guidelines and visa requirements. For more information on travel and re-entry, you can also visit

My EAD has been pending for more than 75 days. What should I do?

If your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, has been pending more than 75 days, you may contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 and ask that an Approaching Regulatory Timeframe “service request” be created. The NCSC will route the service request to the appropriate office for review. Please have your receipt number ready when contacting the NCSC.

What happens if I am dismissed from my program?

If you get dismissed from your program of studies, you should contact our office immediately. We will assist in the appeal process. If the request is denied you will not be allowed to enroll at FIU for the upcoming semester. In order to keep your F-1 or J-1 status, you will have to make plans to transfer to another institution to continue your studies. Once your dismissal is official and you have not transferred to another institution, your I-20 will be terminated and you will have to leave the US as soon as possible.

You can find more information on dismissal and appeal policies here.