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Welcome!

Here is some important information to help you prepare to start or continue your VCU studies in the U.S. for spring 2021.

Please Check This Page Frequently

The information on this page was updated on October 23, 2020. While accurate as of that date, some of the information may be subject to change without advance notice. Please check this page often between now and your arrival at VCU to ensure that you have the most accurate information available.

Calendar Questions

What is VCU’s Spring 2021 academic calendar?

Classes on the Monroe Park Campus (MPC) will start on January 25, 2021 and end on May 5, 2021. Please note that, unlike previous years, there is no spring break; however, there are two new reading days: one at the end of February and another at the end of March. Students on the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) campus should follow their departmental schedule. View the full VCU Spring 2021 academic calendar.

When should you plan to arrive in the U.S.?

If you were a VCU student in the U.S. for Spring 2020 or Fall 2020, your SEVIS record is currently active, and you will be continuing your studies in the U.S. for Spring 2021, you may return to the U.S. at any time between November 25, 2020 and January 25, 2021.

If you were not in the U.S. in F-1 status for either Spring 2020 or Fall 2020, you should have received an “initial status” I-20 from VCU for Spring 2021.Please check your I-20 now and review the box called Earliest Admission Date. If the date in that box is December 16, 2020, you may enter the U.S. as early as that date. If the Earliest Admission Date on your I-20 shows a different date, please contact us by email immediately to obtain an updated initial status I-20.

What is the latest date you can arrive in the U.S. for Spring 2021?

If you cannot arrive in the U.S. on or before January 24, 2021, you should plan to remain abroad for all of Spring 2021 and to take your VCU classes online.

What if you decide not to study in the U.S. for Spring 2021?

If you decide not to come to the U.S. for Spring 2021, please contact Immigration Services by email at geois@vcu.edu to discuss the matter.

When is Spring 2021 International Student Orientation?

International Student Orientation (ISO) for Spring 2021 will be online only. Modules will be available soon. Please check back here for more information.

When is Spring 2021 Immigration Check-In?

Immigration Check-In is for new students only, and it will be online for Spring 2021. Immigration Services will be sending an email to new students with information about Immigration Check-In after January 2, 2021.

Travel Questions

What are the current restrictions on inbound travelers to the U.S., including border closings and quarantine requirements?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and the U.S. response to it changes frequently and without notice.

The most current U.S. travel restrictions are available at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Please note that while the restrictions on travelers from China, Ireland, and the EU (Schengen Area) make exceptions for students with F-1 and J-1 visas, the travel restrictions on travel from Brazil and Iran do not make exceptions for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.

TIP: If you will be flying to the U.S., current and reliable information about U.S. travel restrictions may be available from your airline. Please check with your airline at the time of booking your flight and regularly check for updates prior to traveling, including on the day of your departure for the U.S.

Land Entry to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico

The U.S. borders (including land borders) with Canada and Mexico remain closed to non-essential travel, but the U.S. considers individuals on F-1 or J-1 student visas to be essential travelers.

The only students who should consider traveling to the U.S. by land are citizens or permanent residents of Canada or Mexico who will be entering directly from Canada or Mexico.

Where can I find information about VCU’s return-to-campus in the spring, including any quarantine requirements?

VCU is committed to ensuring a safe campus for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. For comprehensive information about VCU’s plans to ensure a safe campus for the spring, please visit together.vcu.edu. Quarantine requirements can be found on the pages for students and faculty/staff under “latest travel advisory.”

If you will be living in VCU campus housing for Spring 2021, please review important information as it applies to campus housing.

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Travel Document Questions

  • What documents should I have in hand before I depart for the U.S.?
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of your intended admission to the U.S.
  • Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport (NOTE: Citizens of Canada do not require visa stamps.)
  • Unexpired I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) certificate
  • Travel signature: If you are a returning student, your I-20 or DS-2019 needs to have a GEO travel signature no older than 12 months from the date of your intended admission to the U.S. (New students do not need travel signatures.)

Course Registration Questions

How will VCU courses be offered in Spring 2021?

For Spring 2021, VCU courses will be offered in the following instructional modes:

In-PersonOnlineBlended (sometimes called Hybrid)
The course is taught in a traditional in-person classroom setting only (no online instruction component) The course is taught online only (no in-person instruction component) The course mode of instruction is a blend (hybrid) of in-person and online instruction.

Although VCU as an institution will be offering instruction in all three modes, individual courses will be offered in one mode only.

You will have a choice of courses, but you will not have a choice of instructional mode. The instructor for each course determines the instructional mode for that course.

Registering for Spring 2021 Courses

Full Course of Study (FCS)

If you are in the U.S. in F-1 status, you are required to maintain a full course of study (FCS) and make progress toward your degree or certificate.

FCS is an immigration concept relating to F-1 status. VCU programs, outside funding entities, housing contracts, etc., may have different registration requirements that may be greater than or lesser than FCS, but if you are in the U.S. in F-1 status, you need to maintain FCS as defined here in order to maintain your F-1 status.

Failure to maintain FCS as described here may result in termination of F-1 status.

What is the basic FCS requirement for international students?

Undergraduate Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 12 credits per semester.

Graduate Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 9 credits per semester.

ELP Students: To maintain FCS, you must register for at least 18 credits per session.

Are there any exceptions to the FCS requirements?

Exceptions to FCS requirements are limited by U.S. law and relatively rare. Visit Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) for more information.

For Spring 2021 are there any restrictions on the kinds of courses F-1 students can register for and still maintain FCS?

All F-1 students in the U.S. are required to register for a full course of study (FCS) unless they receive prior, written authorization from GEO for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) or Full-Time Equivalent (FTE).

Continuing Student: If you were a VCU student in the U.S. for Spring 2020 or Fall 2020, you may select in-person, blended (hybrid), or online classes however you prefer. You must maintain FCS but there is no limit on the number of online credits that you can take.

Transfer Student: If you were in the U.S. in F-1 status at another university in Fall 2020 and will be continuing your studies in the U.S. at VCU for Spring 2021, you may select in-person, blended (hybrid), or online classes however you prefer. You must maintain FCS but there is no limit on the number of online credits that you can take.

New Student: If you were not in the U.S. in F-1 status for either Spring 2020 or Fall 2020—that is, you will be entering the U.S. in F-1 status for the first time for Spring 2021 using an initial status I-20-- you may select in-person, blended (hybrid), or online classes. You must maintain FCS but you cannot take more than 3 online-only credits.

New students who plan to study remotely outside the U.S. can do so and take as many or as few credit hours as they wish. Their SEVIS record will remain in initial status.

Continuing students studying outside the U.S. will remain in active F-1 status while studying remotely as long they are enrolled full-time.

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Accessing VCU resources from abroad

Please view important information about online learning resources and accessing VCU resources from abroad on the Technology Services website.


Optional Practical Training (OPT) Questions

I will be in the U.S. for Spring 2021 and graduating in May 2021. When can I apply for OPT?

You may apply for OPT up to 90 days before your academic program end date. For all undergraduate students and most graduate students, the academic end date is May 13, 2021, the last day of exams. This means the first day that you can apply for OPT will be February 15, 2021.

I will be outside the U.S. for Spring 2021 and will be graduating in May 2021. Can I apply for OPT?

According to current Covid-related guidance from USCIS, you must be physically present in the U.S. in order to apply for OPT.

Will GEO host OPT workshops during the Spring 2021 semester?

Yes. We will offer OPT workshops every Wednesday at 11:00 am via Zoom starting in January 2021 for the Spring 2021 semester. Please email geois@vcu.edu for the link.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or concerns about the information provided here, or if you have other questions or concerns about your plans to study at VCU in the U.S. for Spring 2021, please send an email to geois@vcu.edu and an Immigration Adviser will respond to you shortly.

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