Additional Information for International Students

The information below was updated on 5/11/2021.

We are pleased that the College is returning to in-person learning in August 2021!

We know that international students still face unique challenges and questions -- about border restrictions, limited access to consular (visa) services, COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements, etc. The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) continues to guide, advocate, and plan with your unique needs in mind, and we offer additional guidance below.

If you have questions that are not addressed below, feel free to contact OISA, or email Karen, Brenda, or Emily directly. You may schedule a virtual appointment with OISA staff via our Calendly links. In addition, the OISA GrinnellShare site (login required) includes forms and handouts on important topics.

Standard F-1 travel reminders apply for domestic and/or international travel:

  • Carry your grey passport sleeve (passport/visa and I-20) if you leave Grinnell.
  • I-20 travel endorsements are valid for 12 months (6 months during post-completion OPT/STEM).
  • Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months into the future.
  • Electronic devices and/or social media are subject to search by U.S. Border officials.

COVID-19 Guidance for International Students

First-Year Students in the Class of ’25

Online-Only Students from the Class of ’24

  • Please plan to arrive in Grinnell on Saturday, Aug. 21.
  • You will not attend IPOP, but you will need to attend some in-person meetings with OISA staff prior to the start of fall classes on Aug. 26.
  • Use your most recently issued I-20 (with an Aug. 26 program start date) as you work to secure a visa appointment. Your visa will allow entry into the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the state of classes.
  • Since you have only enrolled online from outside of the U.S. this year, you will enter the U.S. this fall in “initial F-1 status.” You may enter the country up to 30 days prior to your program start date.

* Please also read the information below about travels, borders, visas, and vaccination.

Residence halls open to returning students on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

If you plan to travel this summer, please review the reminders listed above and make sure your documents are in order. Watch the FYI for dates and details about travel endorsement availability.

Report changes to your U.S. residential address within 10 days of any relocation. Use the OISA’s SEVIS Address Update Form (login required).

F-1 students gain access to practical training benefits only after holding an active SEVIS record for two consecutive semesters. If your feet are on U.S. soil, F-1 Practical Training requirements apply (regardless of the employer’s location). Read F-1 Curricular Practical Training (PDF) and watch the video on our STREAM channel. (login credentials are required).

* Please also read the information below about travels, borders, visas, and vaccination.

Residence halls open to returning students on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

If you maintained full-time enrollment online and you have an active SEVIS record, you can re-enter the U.S. by presenting a date-valid passport and F-1 visa, with an endorsed I-20 (travel signatures are valid for 12 months). Please contact the OISA if you need a new travel endorsement. We can support this need via encrypted email. As an “active status” student, you can enter the U.S. at any time (pending border restrictions)

If your SEVIS record was terminated (because you took a leave or reduced your course load) the return process is outlined on our handout: F-1 Mid-Program Departure and Return. You must notify Academic Advising of your intent to re-enroll. Once your return is confirmed, the OISA will email you an I-20 Request Form. We can send your new I-20 via encrypted email, and you will need to submit a new SEVIS I-901 Fee. If your Passport and/or your F-1 visa are no longer valid, you must renew them prior to your return. Please act promptly, since visa appointments are limited. As an “initial status” entry, you can only enter the U.S. within 30 days of Grinnell’s Aug. 26 program start date.

* Please also read the information below about travels, borders, visas, and vaccination.

COVID-19 Testing

The U.S. Center for Disease Control requires all air passengers traveling to the U.S. to be tested for COVID-19 within 3 days of their departure. You must present a negative result prior to boarding your flight.

National Interest Exceptions (NIE) to Border Restrictions, as of Aug. 1, 2021

On April 26, the U.S. State Department expanded NIE eligibility to F-1 students and J-1 Exchange Visitors. After Aug. 1, you will be allowed to enter the U.S. directly from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the UK, or Ireland. The announcement says that F-1 students who intend to “begin or continue an academic program commencing Aug. 1, 2021, or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. They may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies.”

You can read NAFSA’s overview here.


Effective May 4, the Biden Administration has restricted most inbound travel to the U.S. from India. It is not yet clear if F-1 students traveling from India will be eligible for the National Interest Exception, but we will post that information here when we know for sure.

Most new and some returning students and scholars need to secure an F-1 or J-1 visa before they can travel to the U.S. The OISA has been sending new I-20 forms via an encrypted email. Please submit your I-901 SEVIS fee and work to secure a visa appointment.

The U.S. Department of State has announced a phased reopening of many consulates globally, as well as prioritized appointments for students and scholars — but services remain limited and the availability of visa appointments vary based on local conditions. In some cases, students may seek appointments in a neighboring country.

Your health and well-being are our highest priority and Grinnell supports the use of vaccination against COVID-19. We know that access to vaccinations varies greatly around the world, and that the inoculations available in your home country might be different than those being distributed in the U.S. Please consult with your local medical provider regarding your options. In some cases your fall travel plans may increase your access to vaccination. The College will honor vaccinations secured internationally, though in some cases SHAW may require a booster.

The College’s regular arrival and move-in dates apply to all students regardless of your vaccination status. [IPOP participants arrive on Aug. 15; second year students who are coming to campus for the first time should arrive on Aug. 21, and residence halls open for returning students on Aug. 24. Classes begin on Aug. 26.] For students who arrive without a record of vaccination, the College will facilitate onboarding testing that is self-collected by an anterior nasal swab. If your test turns positive, you will be required to isolate and your SHAW nursing team will provide guidance on next steps. SHAW will also support students who need access to inoculation here in Iowa.

For general information and questions about COVID-19 vaccines, please visit the CDC's FAQs about COVID-19 Vaccination and our COVID-19 vaccine FAQs.

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