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OIS NEWS - 1/13/2021

Spring 2021 International Student Status Maintenance Reminders

During the spring 2021 semester, the immigration status maintenance requirements for F-1 international students will be a continuation of the temporary COVID-19 guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2020 and further clarified in July 2020. The Office of International Services has outlined standard immigration status reminders for the UIC international student community along with notes where the temporary COVID-19 guidance has allowed for flexibility due to the circumstances of the pandemic.

While our physical office remains closed to visitors, OIS encourages anyone with questions about the following reminders to connect with us at ois@uic.edu or +1 (312) 996-3121 during our regular hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (CST). In addition, members of the UIC international community may request a virtual advising appointment by emailing ois@uic.edu with the subject line “Virtual Advising Appointment Request.” Please include in the body of the email your name, UIN, and the general reason you are requesting an advising session. An OIS Advisor will email you back as soon as possible with a virtual meeting link.

Please note: F-1 and J-1 students who have completed their academic program and entered into a period of Optional Practical Training or Academic Training may disregard this message. Students in special programs such as CMBA, UIC Global or other contract programs who enroll for classes under the direction of their program should consult with their program advisors regarding their specific enrollment requirements and employment eligibility.

Full-Time Enrollment Confirmation Required by Friday, Jan. 22

All F-1 and J-1 international students must be enrolled full-time by the spring 2021 add/drop deadline of Friday, Jan. 22 in order to maintain status. Any student who qualifies for an exception to the full-time enrollment requirement must submit documentation to OIS by Jan. 22 as well. Please see below for details.

In addition, F-1 student enrollment must align with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s temporary COVID-19 guidance for international students according to their status as a continuing or new international student and their location within the U.S. or abroad. While UIC is beginning spring 2021 instruction exclusively online, the intention is for classes with in-person elements to return to on-campus instruction as soon as state and local guidelines permit. Therefore, international students that register for traditional in-person classes or blended classes (with in-person and online components) must be prepared physically visit campus as soon as in-person instruction resumes. Please see below for details.

DHS Temporary COVID-19 Enrollment Guidance for F-1 International Students

  • Continuing degree-seeking F-1 students located in the U.S. – Continuing degree-seeking F-1 international students who had active SEVIS records during the fall 2020 semester and are physically in the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester must enroll full-time. This includes F-1 international students that are new to UIC for the spring 2021 semester but have transferred an active SEVIS record to UIC from another U.S. academic institution. Classes can be traditional in-person classes, blended classes (with in-person and online components) and/or fully online classes. Students in this category are allowed to take all of their classes online provided they are taking the minimum number of online classes necessary to make progress in their program of study as listed on the Form I-20. Students in this category should reside in the Chicagoland area and have the ability to physically visit campus for any enrolled in-person and/or blended classes or in the event the University returns to normal operations.
  • Continuing degree-seeking F-1 international students located outside the U.S. – Continuing degree-seeking F-1 international students who had active SEVIS records for the fall 2020 semester and are physically outside the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester must enroll full-time. Classes can be fully online. Students in this category who reside in a country under U.S. export restrictions (Cuba, Crimean Region of Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela) should contact OIS to confirm eligibility to participate in online classes from abroad prior to registration. If you are a continuing F-1 international student who will take classes online from abroad for the spring 2021 semester and have not yet notified OIS of your plans, please email us at ois@uic.edu as soon as possible.
  • New degree-seeking F-1 international students located in the U.S. - New degree-seeking F-1 international students who physically enter the U.S. must enroll full-time. Classes can be traditional in-person classes, blended classes (with in-person and online components) and/or fully online classes. Students in this category are not allowed to take all of their classes online; at least one class must be a traditional in-person class or a blended class (with in-person and online components). Students in this category should reside in the Chicagoland area and have the ability to physically visit campus for their required in-person or blended classes.
  • New degree-seeking international students located outside the U.S. - New international students who begin their UIC programs online from abroad during the spring 2021 semester do not obtain F-1 status because they never physically enter the U.S. using a Form I-20 and F-1 visa. Therefore, these students are not subject to F-1 enrollment requirements during the spring 2021 semester nor do they accrue eligibility for F-1 benefits. Students in this category can enroll full-time or part-time as directed by their program and all classes can be fully online. Students in this category who reside in a country under U.S. export restrictions (Cuba, Crimean Region of Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela) should contact OIS to confirm eligibility to participate in online classes from abroad prior to registration. If you are a new degree-seeking international student who will take classes online from abroad for the spring 2021 semester and have not yet notified OIS of your plans, please email us at ois@uic.edu as soon as possible.
  • New and continuing non-degree F-1 international students located in the U.S. – New and continuing non-degree F-1 international students who will physically reside in the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester must enroll full-time. Classes can be traditional in-person classes or blended classes (with in-person and online components.) Students in this category are not allowed to take fully online classes. Students should work closely with their specific program advisors in order to register for the appropriate classes. Students must also reside in the Chicagoland area and have the ability to physically visit campus for required in-person and/or blended classes.

Full-Time Enrollment Exceptions for F-1 & J-1 International Students

  • Graduate students with 50% appointments - F-1 and J-1 students holding Graduate Assistantships at 50% may enroll for 8 credits during the semester they hold their assistantship and still be considered full-time for immigration purposes. To be considered full-time for immigration purposes at 8 credits, students must submit a copy of their 50% Graduate Assistantship letter to OIS by email (ois@uic.edu) no later than Jan. 22. Please note that other UIC offices, such as the U-Pass program, may not consider students full-time at 8 credit hours.
  • Students in their final semester of study - F-1 and J-1 students in their final semester of study are allowed to enroll below full-time provided they are enrolled for what is required in order to complete their program. Students in their final semester must submit a letter from their department confirming that the current term is their final semester of study and the number of credits remaining for completion of the degree. Letters must be on department letterhead and signed. Final semester letters should be submitted to OIS by email (ois@uic.edu) no later than Jan. 22.

Academic Skills Program (ASP) Courses
Academic Skills Program (ASP) courses do not count toward the full-time enrollment requirement F-1 or J-1 international students. For more details, please see the OIS website.

J-1 On-Campus Employment Reporting
J-1 students must report on-campus employment to OIS so that the work may be authorized and recorded on their SEVIS record. Students should submit a copy of their UIC assistantship or job offer letter along with a completed J-1 On-Campus Employment Authorization form to OIS at minimum 5 days prior to the start of employment. For more information about J-1 student employment, please see the OIS website.

Authorization for Off-Campus Educational Work Experience
F-1 and J-1 students planning to participate in in-person or virtual off-campus educational work experience (internship, fieldwork, research, practicum, etc.) during spring 2021 must obtain the proper work authorization from OIS before the work begins. See the OIS website for more information on F-1 Curricular Practical Training or J-1 Academic Training eligibility and application processes. If you have any doubts, please consult with an OIS advisor prior to the start of any off-campus experience. Working off-campus without proper authorization is a violation of status which can have significant negative consequences that OIS Advisors want to help you avoid.

F-1 and J-1 Employment Hours
F-1 and J-1 students must also ensure that their total employment (authorized on and off-campus jobs combined) does not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session. F-1 and J-1 students may work more than 20 hours per week during official university breaks such as winter and summer break. More information about F-1 employment and J-1 employment can be found on the OIS website.

F-1 Optional Practical Training
F-1 students planning to complete their programs during the spring 2021 semester should begin thinking about Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT applications are ideally submitted to United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) 90 days prior to the expected program completion date. The first step in the process is for the student to attend a mandatory OPT Workshop presented by OIS. OPT Workshops will be offered online for the spring 2021 semester and dates will be advertised on the OIS website, OIS Student Newsletter and on OIS social media channels.

Required Reporting of Other Status or Academic Changes
F-1 and J-1 students experiencing or anticipating other major changes to their immigration status or academic plans are strongly encouraged to discuss these with an OIS Advisor as early as possible - in many cases the change must be reported to OIS prior to it taking effect. Such changes could include a program extension, change of major or degree level, leave of absence from studies, transfer to a new academic institution, departure from the U.S., or change of immigration status. OIS continues to process all requests virtually.

Address Updates
F-1 and J-1 students must always maintain accurate local U.S. and international addresses at all times. Please see the OIS website for more information on how to confirm and update your addresses via my.UIC.edu. Students who will reside outside the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester must take the extra step of notifying OIS via email at ois@uic.edu