UKIC / International Student & Scholar Services / Spring 2021 Plans

Spring 2021 Plans

*Note:  Many answers in this FAQ are unavailable until SEVP provides guidance to universities  ISSS anticipates that there will continue to be changes to how SEVP expects universities to handle student immigration records regarding COVID-19.  Should there be any changes/updates to SEVP guidance, ISSS will communicate those changes directly to our international student population and update those changes on this FAQ.* 


Have the start and end dates changed for spring 2021?

Classes will begin on January 25 and end on May 14, 2021.

REMINDER:  The end of the term was shortened to December 4 which may impact your on-campus employment authorization. Your academic program end date determines your last date of employment on-campus.  If you have any doubts please speak to an immigration specialist in ISSS. 

What is the last date to withdraw or drop any classes?

Sunday, January 24 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time in the United States) is the last day a student may officially drop a course or cancel registration with the University Registrar for a full refund of tuition and fees. For more details, visit the fall calendar on the Registrar’s website

Is there a chance the university will go online in spring 2021?

UK has announced no alternative plans for the spring 2021 semester. 

Should I go home during the winter break?

Due to the changing nature of the coronavirus outbreak, ISSS recommends minimizing international travel. Students and scholars who choose to travel outside of the U.S. at any time during this pandemic should be aware that they may encounter difficulties associated with returning to the U.S. and/or entering other countries. For example, you may wish to reconsider your winter break plan due to the fluidity of the situation to avoid travel restrictions that could be implemented before you return to the U.S.

Policy & Visa Information

Is it okay for CURRENT international students inside the U.S. to take all their courses online this spring 2021?

J-1 Students

Current J-1 students can enroll fully in online coursework for the Spring 2021 semester.

F-1 Students

Current F-1 students who have been continuously enrolled in the USA since before March 9, 2020 can enroll in fully online coursework for Spring 2021.  (Continuously enrolled can be defined as those students who have maintained the same SEVIS record since before March 9, 2020.)

Current F-1 students who began their academic program after March 9, 2020 or whose studies have been disrupted since March 9, 2020 must enroll in at least one in-person or hybrid course in order to maintain status.

I am outside the U.S. (or planning to leave and/or start a new program), but I am enrolling in fully online coursework as a continuing student. Can I maintain my F-1 status?

Yes. This is the current guidance.  If this changes for spring 2021 we will notify you. At this time ISSS hasn’t received notification regarding spring 2021.  As long as your SEVIS record remains active, you will not be required to apply for a new visa until the expiration date.  

What happens to my SEVIS record if I’m unable to arrive to campus on-time for the spring 2021 semester?

At this time, ISSS hasn’t received guidance about the spring term but we expect the rules to be the same or similar to fall 2020.  If this changes, we will notify all internationals students. 

Will I need to get a new visa if I don’t arrive until the following semester?

Please be sure to check your visa expiration date.  If your visa is still valid, you can re-enter the U.S. before the expiration date. 

I’ve heard that F-1 students traveling from Schengen countries in Europe are granted a “national interest exception” of the Presidential Proclamation which currently restricts travel from Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Is this true?

On July 22, CBP published a 2-page summary that explained that F-1 students may take advantage of this NIE waiver.  DHS also requires travelers using an NIE waiver to fly into one of 15 specifically designated airports. The Dept. of State updated their website with the following information which indicates that F-1 student are eligible for exceptions and may enter the U.S. with valid visas regardless of the previous Presidential Proclamations in the Schengen countries:    

According to this guidance, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid (unexpired) F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel.  

Students are reminded that their entry into the U.S. remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at ports of entry.  DHS also requires travelers using a NIE waiver to fly into one of 15 specifically designated airports.  
NOTE:  Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.   

When will the U.S. embassy or consulate in my country begin routinely processing visas again?

U.S. embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions. Please monitor the specific embassy or consulate’s website for details.  

If spring 2021 is my last semester, can I still apply for OPT?

Students must be in Active F-1 status to be eligible to apply for OPT. If your record remains active through spring 2021 and you are otherwise eligible, you may file an application for OPT. 

Can I apply for OPT from outside the U.S. by filling out a form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization”?

USCIS and SEVP have not clarified if it is possible to apply for OPT from outside the U.S.  DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance.

I am enrolled in a hybrid course that requires very few on-campus meetings. Does SEVP count this as an in-person or distance learning course?

SEVP considers this as an in-person course. Although most of the class meetings may be online through Zoom or other software, hybrid courses are considered in-person by SEVP. F-1 students may enroll in as many hybrid courses as necessary to meet their full-time enrollment requirement. 

If I am outside the U.S., do I need approval to enroll in distance learning?

You should check whether the University of Kentucky can offer distance education in your country. You can find information on countries where UK is permitted to offer distance learning courses by going to this link.   

I am a new student and I can’t arrive on campus for the spring 2021 semester, what happens to my admission?

Freshman may be eligible to apply for our Global Wildcats program.  If you are ineligible for this program you can defer your admission to a later term or possibly begin your University of Kentucky program from outside the U.S. 

I am a NEW student outside the U.S. and I can’t return to campus by the start of the spring 2021 semester, can I begin online or arrive late?

If you wish to request a late arrival, you must first contact all of your professors and get permission to commence in-person classes after your arrival to campus. To arrive late, you must be approved to arrive for all your classes no later than February 19. When you receive permission, forward it in an email to  


I am a graduate student and I want or need to take a leave of absence in the spring semester. What should I do?

You will need your Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to approve the leave before the beginning of the semester.  If approved, the DGS will contact the Graduate School admissions officer who will modify your record accordingly. If you are considering taking a leave of absence, you should speak with a Student Immigration Specialist in ISSS to discuss the impact it may have on your student visa status. 

When will my health insurance coverage begin at UK?

Health insurance for the spring term begins on January 1, 2021.  See details about health insurance on our website here

Can I request to waive the in-person visa interview at my U.S. Embassy or Consulate spring 2021?

Yes, some students are eligible to Waive the in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.  The U.S. Department of State “has temporarily expanded the ability of consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification. 

For more information please visit 

Financial Questions

How do I pay my tuition if I’m outside of the U.S.?

There are many ways students can pay their tuition from outside of the U.S. Check this link for more information. Cash is not accepted.   

I have a graduate assistantship, but I am remaining in my home country. Can I still be paid?

New Students: The university does not permit newly admitted graduate students who are living outside the US and who cannot enter the US to assume a TA or RAship, without approval from the Provost and Dean of the Graduate School. This is because as a US university, we have to be careful about employing people in other countries where there are different laws.  Please contact the Graduate School  if you have questions.    

Continuing Students: TAs and RAs should plan to be back in Lexington for the start of the Spring 2021 semester, as they would for the start of any semester. In cases where there are travel disruptions, TAs/RAs and grad students in general should keep in close contact with their DGS and with the faculty member who is supervising their assistantship duties.  


I’m a current UK student. What if I’m due any kind of refund because of changes I made in myUK (e.g. withdrawal, dropping a class etc.).

If possible, students should maintain a bank account inside the U.S. to facilitate these refunds. 

What can I do if I'm having financial difficulty in paying my rent, buying food, etc.?

If you are experiencing financial difficulties, please submit your financial situation to the UK Center for Support and Intervention (CSI) here

Center for Support and Intervention (CSI) is a group of individuals working in the UK Dean of Students office and they try to find resources to help students with difficulties they face as a student at UK.   

Also, you can consider applying for Severe Economic Hardship employment.  This is employment authorization available to F-1 students who are experiencing unexpected and severe economic hardship.   The authorization is granted by an application submitted to USCIS.  USCIS makes case-by-case decisions for off-campus employment for students who can show that new, unexpected circumstances beyond their control have created severe economic hardship. You can find more information our website:  

What can I do if I'm having financial difficulty in paying my tuition, etc.?

Scholarship applications are accepted beginning in April each year with a deadline of May/June.  The awards are granted for one academic year (fall/spring).  For example, the International Student Scholarship applicants in 2020 were awarded for fall 2020 and spring 2021.  International students are encouraged to apply during this time.  However, if you miss the deadline and/or discover later that you have financial difficulties in paying tuition, please explain your financial needs in an email at ISSS   An ISSS staff member will reach out to you with information about resources which may be available to you.   

Campus Arrival & Healthcare Questions

Do I need to take a COVID-19 test before traveling to the U.S.?

The CDC requires all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. More details here:

Do I need to take a COVID-19 test when I arrive on campus?

All students coming to campus this spring will be required to receive a baseline COVID-19 test.  Also, any student coming directly to campus from an international location is required to receive this baseline COVID-19 test within 48 hours of their arrival on campus. 

  • When: Students should receive the test, either through free on-campus testing or through an off-campus provider, between Jan. 14-30.   
  • How:  Click the link for instructions on scheduling your test:
  • Where: Free testing will be available at several of the same on-campus locations as the fall, including:   
    • The Blue Lot at Kroger Field (drive-thru)  
    • K-Lair, located in Haggin Hall on the central campus (walk-up)
    • The Blue Box Theater in the Gatton Student Center (walk-up)

What if I arrive before January 14?

New international students who arrive on campus before January 14 may receive a test prior to the Jan. 14-30 baseline testing timeframe by visiting University Health Service’s Student Health Clinic during their regular operating hours. These early arrival students can schedule a Student Health Clinic testing appointment online through their MyUK dashboard (selecting “UK Accounts and Services” and then clicking “UK Information” and “MyUK Health Service”) or by calling the Student Health Clinic’s patient access line at 859-323-2778.  

Will I be required to self-quarantine for any period of time after I arrive in Lexington?

While all students and scholars coming to campus this spring will be required to receive a baseline COVID-19 test, only individuals who arrive with COVID-19 like symptoms will be required to quarantine while awaiting their test results.

What other steps is UK taking to ensure a safe and healthy spring semester?

The University Kentucky has a detailed plan to ensure the safety of all students and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Welcome to the UK International Center! Bradley Hall is currently open for document drop-off and appointments only. Please contact a member of our team to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!