Additional Information for International Students

The information below was updated on 2/3/2021:

The Office of International Student Affairs is dedicated to helping international Grinnellians navigate unique challenges related to visa services; status compliance; border and travel issues; etc. –in the midst of this global pandemic. Compliance issues differ based on your class year; your SEVP status (initial vs. active); and/or your physical location. Your personal situation, nationality, and class year may also impact your options.

The U.S. government’s regulatory accommodations for COVID-19 are extended through the end of Spring 2, 2021.

You are invited to consult with the OISA! Send questions to or set up a Calendly/Webex appointment with: ​Karen Edwards, associate dean and director, PDSO/RO; Brenda Strong, assistant director, DSO/ARO; or Emily Perry, international student advisor.

OISA Immigration Handouts & Forms are posted at OISA GrinnellShare [login required]
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Updates for International Students

If your in-person arrival has been delayed until August 2021, you are not alone and the OISA is here to support you! Some of you will enroll online this spring (full or part-time); some of you took a leave of absence; and some of you requested a gap year. The OISA has already deferred the start of your F-1 program in SEVIS. We will communicate more this spring about planning for your arrival, including issuance of a revised I-20. We look forward to having you on campus next fall!

Note: The College cannot employ students who are outside of the U.S

If you were able to come to campus this spring, welcome!

  • F-1 initial status students must enroll in one hybrid or in-person course. FYE meets this requirement.
  • Students from outside the U.S. are eligible for continued residency through Spring 2. It is also possible to relocate within the U.S. for Spring 2 — please communicate directly with the OISA.
  • Watch your account, and review the schedule posted on the OISA’s IPOP page on GrinnellShare (login credentials are required).
  • Note: F-1 students are eligible for on-campus employment, but you must be enrolled in F-1 status for one full academic year before you become eligible for off-campus engagement (internships (paid or unpaid), etc.) via curricular practical training.

Please seek individual advising in the OISA. Here are a few general reminders, but every situation has the potential for unique considerations:

  • If you are re-enrolling at Grinnell following a leave or suspension, you are eligible to enroll online (full or part-time) from outside of the U.S. Your F-1 status cannot be activated, however, until you return to the U.S. as a full time student.
  • You may not enter the U.S. in “initial F-1 status” to enroll fully online. If you secure permission from the College to return to Campus, immigration regulations require you to enroll in at least one course with in-person learning.
  • If/when you return to the U.S. and to campus, you will need to enroll in two consecutive semesters of study before you will become eligible for practical training benefits.
  • We cannot invite ‘initial status’ students to begin their program during the summer. Summer classes and/or MAP enrollment do not constitute an ‘initial’ academic term.

Active status upper level F-1 students who are inside the U.S. are allowed to continue your studies remotely through Spring 2021.

Full-time enrollment is required. You must register for at least 6 Grinnell College credits per block.

*Exception: Reduced Course Load authorization is available for a documented medical condition or for seniors in your final term. RCL authorization must be pre-approved via the OISA.

If you do not live on campus, you are required (per your F-1 status) to report your current physical address to the OISA within 10 days of any move. *The OISA’s address update form temporarily redirects current students to the College’s “Current Physical Address” portal, since this information is also important for other offices.

If You Depart the U.S.

  • Please report your plans to the OISA.
  • Re-entry is never guaranteed. As always, please review the validity of your travel documents; including your I-20 travel endorsement (DSO signatures are valid for 12 months, for currently enrolled students). Electronic devices and/or social media engagement are also subject to search at the U.S. border.
  • Confirm the current status of the international borders that you will cross when you travel, and when you will reenter the U.S. If you need assistance with COVID testing, please contact Deb Shill in SHAW, well in advance of your departure.
  • If you have been arrested in the U.S., consult with the OISA and your immigration attorney before you travel.

Other Things to Consider

  • If you wish to secure an internship (paid or unpaid, remote or in-person) and you are inside the U.S., you must seek CPT authorization — regardless of the location of the employer.
  • Students who live inside the U.S. may work remotely for the College without additional authorization. You are limited to 20 hrs. per week while school is in session, and you may work full time over break or vacation periods
  • If you are living outside of the State of Iowa, please visit the SHAW website to learn more about your access to medical assistance and counseling services, and to seek advice regarding your Grinnell Student Health Insurance.
  • If you are considering a personal leave, please consult Academic Advising and the OISA and review: F-1 Mid-Program Departure and Return. This will necessitate a departure of the U.S., or a Change of Status application.

*Students who are re-enrolling following a leave or suspension need to read the section for initial status students.

F-1 students who continued to enroll full-time, online, from outside of the U.S. can temporarily maintain an active SEVIS record, because the COVID-19 accommodations that have been extended through the Spring 2021 semester.

Full-time enrollment is required, including at least 6 Grinnell College credits per block.

*Exception: Reduced Course Load authorization is available for a documented medical condition or for seniors in your final term. RCL authorization must be preapproved via the OISA.

*The OISA added a notation in your SEVIS record confirming that you ‘departed the U.S. temporarily due to COVID-19 and will continue to enroll full time.’

Other Things to Consider

  • The College has accepted numerous petitions for continuous residency based on personal challenges, international time zones difficulties, and access to practical training benefits. (Seniors, for example, must be inside the U.S. to apply for OPT, and adjudication takes approximately 3 months.)
  • As an online student from outside the U.S., you still have access to nearly all campus offices and services — including Academic Resource Centers, Careers Life and Services, Student Affairs, etc. There are two exceptions:
    • SHAW is not able to offer direct services to students who are outside of the U.S. due to compliance/licensure limitations. You can seek general advice or referrals, and other confidential services are available (Title IX; Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice; Ombuds).
    • Students may not be employed by the College from outside of the U.S. This includes any paid campus jobs, leadership positions, and/or paid research or tutoring.
    • You can engage in a remote MAP (Mentored Advanced Project) from outside of the U.S. this summer. Since students participating in Summer MAPs are receiving academic credit, they are able to participate even while living outside of the U.S. 
  • When you are outside of the U.S., you are not subject to the limitations of practical training authorization; if you pursue an internship experience while you are outside the country, without seeking CPT (for example). 
  • Please contact the OISA if you plan to return to the U.S. (either to Campus, or to another location).
    • Report your current physical address within 10 days of your re-entry or relocation. *Our form temporarily redirects current students to the Current Physical Address portal, since other campus offices also require access to this information.
    • If you waived the Grinnell Student Health Insurance Plan in the fall (because you were outside of the U.S.), you must be sure to purchase into the plan before you return to the U.S.! The cost will be prorated based on the term of your return. Contact Student Accounts for assistance.
    • Review the validity of your travel documents prior to traveling — including your I-20 travel endorsement. (DSO signatures are valid for 12 months for currently enrolled students.) Electronic devices and/or social media engagement are also subject to search at the U.S. border.
    • Confirm the current status of the international borders that you will cross when you travel home and when you will reenter the U.S. (see the next section regarding recent shifts in CDC entry restrictions)
  • If you prefer to reduce your enrollment to part-time or to apply for a personal leave, this is possible since you are outside of the U.S. In either scenario, the OISA will need to terminate your SEVIS record [as an ‘authorized early withdrawal’ with a notation that ‘we anticipate this student’s return to the U.S. to complete their degree at Grinnell College.’]. You will only be eligible to return to the U.S. for hybrid or in-person learning, but we anticipate that this will be possible. You will need to secure a new ‘initial status’ I-20, to submit a new $350 SEVIS fee, and to enroll in active status for two consecutive semesters in order to [re]gain access to practical training benefits. If your F-1 visa is still date-valid on your return, you will not need to renew it.

It is your responsibility to confirm border/travel/COVID testing requirements prior to traveling.

As always, returning (active status) F-1 visa holders who enter the U.S. must present a date-valid passport, F-1 visa, and their I-20 (with a valid DSO travel endorsement). Alums authorized for post-completion OPT must also present an active EAD.

In addition:

  • Effective Jan. 26, 2021, the CDC requires all air passengers entering the U.S. (including U.S. citizens and permanent residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 3 days of departure​, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of recent recovery for all passengers prior to boarding.
  • A Jan. 25, 2021, presidential proclamation reinstates the COVID-19 Travel Bans impacting the entry of foreign nationals who have been physically present in Brazil, the European Schengen countries, Ireland, and the U.K. prior to their travel to the U.S. will continue — but the Department of State has also indicated that F-1 students will continue to qualify as National Interest Exceptions. DOS posts updates at Presidential Proclamations on Novel Coronavirus. *The new proclamation adds the Republic of South Africa to the list of countries with regional COVID-19 travel bans, and the bans will be reviewed every 30 days and will remain in place until terminated by the President.
  • Proclamation 10143 of Jan. 25, 2021 (President Biden), clarifies that President Trump’s China Proclamation 9984 of Jan. 31, 2020, “shall remain in effect until terminated by the President” (Biden). That action, 85 FR 6709 (Feb. 5, 2020), suspended entry into the U.S. of immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non-U.S. citizens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Additional resources include:

Feel free to contact the OISA to recommend additional resources.

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