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Coronavirus Updates: Visit Cornell’s COVID-19 and Reactivation Planning for campus-wide information. Visit FAQ for Cornell's International Community for university coronavirus plans, academic resources, visa status, travel, and more.

FAQ for Cornell’s International Community

Answers for Cornell's international community about university plans, academic resources, visa status, travel, and more.

For Students

Fall 2021 Semester and Vaccine Mandate

How is Cornell planning to operate in the fall 2021 semester?


Will COVID-19 vaccinations from outside the United States be accepted for in-person attendance?

At this time, the list of vaccines recognized by New York state includes only the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Based on current guidance, students who arrive on campus in the fall without one of the vaccines on the above list will likely be required to be vaccinated as soon as possible with a U.S.-approved vaccine. Cornell is investigating ways to facilitate this process.

International students who are not vaccinated with one of the New York State–approved vaccines do not need to arrive on campus early to get vaccinated. Currently, unvaccinated travelers arriving from international destinations need to quarantine for seven days and "test out" or quarantine for a full 10 days. International students will need to come early enough to accommodate the required quarantine period, but no extra time is needed for students who need to receive an approved vaccine. 

See the CDC's guidance for international travel during COVID-19. Ithaca students, please monitor Cornell’s COVID-19 website, and Cornell Tech students, please monitor the Cornell Tech COVID-19 website, for up-to-date information on vaccine, travel, testing, and quarantine policy.

What if I can’t get a vaccine before arrival?

You will be expected to be vaccinated as soon after your arrival as possible. Cornell is investigating ways to facilitate this process. Ithaca students, please monitor Cornell’s COVID-19 website, and Cornell Tech students, please monitor the Cornell Tech COVID-19 website, for up-to-date information on vaccine, travel, testing, and quarantine policy.

Can an international student be considered a New York State resident for purposes of vaccination? 

Ithaca students, please see the Tompkins County eligibility guidelines.  Cornell Tech students, please follow the NYC eligibility guidance.

How can I apply for a medical or religious exemption to the vaccine mandate for students?

Federal, New York State, and Cornell COVID-19 policies continue to evolve as the pandemic progresses. More information on the exemption process will be forthcoming. Please continue to monitor Cornell’s COVID-19 website, and Cornell Tech students, please monitor the Cornell Tech COVID-19 website, for information on medical and religious vaccine exemptions.


U.S. embassies and consulates in some countries are still closed, and travel bans are still in place. How will this affect my ability to study in person at Cornell this fall?

We hope that embassies and consulates will open as soon as possible for visa appointments, and we understand that they will prioritize students when they are able to begin issuing visas. Please monitor the status of appointments in your home country if you expect to be impacted.

Cornell will continue to monitor visa and travel issues that might affect returning international students and will make adjustments to address your needs as much as possible. While Cornell does not officially recommend this practice due to the risk of delays or denials, we understand that some students and scholars have been successful in applying for a visa in a third country. 

Will Study Away be available for fall 2021?

Students should plan for a return to in-person teaching and learning in the fall of 2021. Because Study Away depends on the availability of online Cornell courses, the planned return to in-person learning means Study Away will not be offered for fall 2021.

For international students unable to get to the Ithaca or Tech campus this fall, will Cornell require faculty to provide online access to courses?

We strongly hope that international students will be able to attend Cornell in-person this fall, but we recognize that this may not be possible for all students. We are watching the situation closely, and we appreciate how difficult this is. Faculty will not be asked to provide online access for their courses. 

If on-campus attendance is not possible for you, we hope you will work with your advisor, department, or college to determine what flexibility might be possible at the beginning of the semester. Deferral or a leave of absence are also options. If you’re a new undergraduate, please contact the admissions office.

What are my options to defer my admission if I cannot obtain an F-1/J-1 visa to attend this fall?

If you are unable to obtain a visa or will arrive late, you should contact your department or the admissions office and request information about your options for attending in a later semester. Ithaca students, please also submit a late arrival request form, so that any necessary updates to your I-20 or DS-2019 form can be made. Cornell Tech students, please email

Am I eligible to enroll in fully online courses?

F-1 students are normally permitted to take no more than 3 credit hours per term of on-line study. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, ICE permitted F-1 students who were physically present and enrolled  prior to March 9, 2020 to participate in a fully remote program of study. New students arriving in the US after that date were not permitted a 100% on-line program. We do not know when ICE will determine that the COVID-19 emergency provisions are no longer applicable, but when that happens, federal policy will revert back existing regulations limiting on-line study to no more than 3 credit hours per term.

Will there be a fall orientation for new/transfer students, as well as continuing students who were not in Ithaca in fall 2020 or spring 2021?

Ithaca students, please check the Orientation Options page for updates as they become available. Cornell Tech students, visit the Admitted Students page.

What if I start the semester under the hybrid model, but classes move online during the semester?

Students pursuing studies in the spring 2021 term will be able to continue study in the U.S. if Cornell shifts to online instruction due to the pandemic. If you choose to go home mid-semester, maintaining full enrollment in your online classes will maintain your SEVIS record.

I took classes online from abroad last semester and plan to return to campus in Fall 2021. Will International Services issue a new I-20, or can I return with the same I-20?

Under the terms of the March SEVP guidance, if you are a continuing student with an active SEVIS record, you may study remotely from abroad and we can keep your SEVIS record active. In this case, you can return to the U.S. with the same I-20.

If I’m pursuing an activity that would normally occur abroad (registered in-absentia, PhD field research, etc.), can you keep my SEVIS record active?

If you are not taking classes abroad, but are instead engaged in another activity abroad which standard policy would have permitted, we will keep your SEVIS record active. Please note that ICE guidance on this may change. If we are permitted to keep SEVIS records active for continuing students abroad, we will do so.

What immigration laws govern online and in-person learning?

The governing regulation for online study is 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(G), which states: “For F-1 students enrolled in classes for credit or classroom hours, no more than the equivalent of one class or three credits per session, term, semester, trimester, or quarter may be counted toward the full course of study requirement if the class is taken online or through distance education and does not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class.”The July 24 ICE guidance exempts new and continuing international students from the regulation, meaning that they can take more than one class or three credits of online or remote instruction. For continuing students, this may include a hybrid of online and in-person classes or a fully online course load. For new students, this must include at least one hybrid class with a significant in-person component. New international students may not enter the United States to take fully online courses.

We do not know when ICE will determine that the COVID-19 emergency provisions are no longer applicable, but when that happens, federal policy will revert back existing regulation limiting on-line study to no more than 3 credit hours per term.

Travel and Visa Status

Can Cornell assist in making a visa appointment or filling out my DS-160?

While we can’t assist in scheduling a visa appointment, you can find the most up-to-date wait times on the Department of State website. The DS-160 is a personal application, so we cannot assist in filling out the form. The Department of State website offers guidance on the DS-160 form.

I'm thinking about traveling over the summer. Will I be able to get back to Ithaca or Cornell Tech?

Unfortunately, we are not able to predict travel conditions in the coming months with certainty. Existing travel bans may be tightened and new ones may be put into place. We will monitor the situation and advise as possible. If you intend to leave campus, ensure that your immigration documents are in order. If you leave and are not able to return before graduating in May, be aware that you will not be eligible for OPT status.

I'm worried about obtaining a visa for the upcoming semester.

Please refer to your local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance.

Do I need a negative COVID test to enter the United States?

As of January 26, all travelers boarding international flights to the United States are required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of departure. Alternately, travelers may provide proof of recovery from COVID-19 (a recent positive COVID-19 test and a letter from a healthcare provider or health official approving travel). Check Cornell's COVID-19 Travel page for policies and FAQ about student, faculty, and staff travel.

As an international student, will I be required to quarantine when I enter the United States?

Cornell continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and will follow guidance on travel advisories, quarantine, and other requirements from global, national, and local health and government officials. Read Cornell Health's quarantine information. Visit the move-in page for information on move-in procedures for on- and off-campus housing, quarantine procedures after arriving in another state, and checking in for COVID-19 testing.

I've heard that there is an National Interest Exception (NIE) to the travel ban for students from the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland, China, Iran, India and South Africa. Is this true?

On May 13, the U.S. State Department updated their National Interest Exception for certain travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. This new announcement does not include India, which on April 30, 2021, was added as an NIE-eligible country. Therefore, until the Department of State clarifies the policy, we recommend that applicants in India check eligibility with the local U.S. consulate.

Students and scholars subject to these proclamations due to their presence in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa may qualify for an NIE only if their academic program begins August 1, 2021, or later. 

If you're a student with a valid F-1 and M-1 visa intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1 or later, you do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of your academic studies.

At this time, we recommend that students and exchange visitors carry a copy of the May 13 State Department announcement with their other travel documents. Please see more information at the Center for Disease Control.

Can I use an electronic version/scan of my I-20 at the border?

For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, the Department of State and CBP will allow electronic issuance and signing of I-20 forms. Please print your I-20 prior to boarding your flight. We will also send you your original. If you need clarification on when the COVID-19 emergency is considered over, please contact us.

If I get my visa after the start of the semester, can I come to campus—as late as the middle of the semester?

Undergraduate and professional students, please contact International Services. For those arriving after March 15, for the Spring 2021 semester, we have created a late arrival request form. You need to have a confirmed visa appointment in order to complete the form.

Note: Does not apply to Cornell Tech students.

I've heard that if I'm outside the U.S. for more than five months, I need to apply for a new I-20 and F-1 visa stamp. Is this true?

Guidance for the spring is based on the March 2020 guidance, which temporarily relaxes the five-month rule, during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are outside the U.S. and will return, you can find travel documents on the Travel Documents for Students page.

I am reaching the end of my five-year F-1 visa. What do you recommend for students like me who will need to reapply to enter if we leave, especially while the embassies are closed?

Please avoid any unnecessary travel. We cannot predict when embassies or consulates will reopen, and delays may impact your ability to return to the U.S.

I'm planning to come to the U.S. on a tourist visa, instead of an F or J visa. Can I study on a tourist visa?

No. Immigration regulations do not allow tourist visa holders to participate in degree programs. Students who are issued a Cornell I-20 for an F-1 visa or DS-2019 for a J-1 visa must apply for the appropriate visa to study in the United States.

I am outside the U.S. conducting research for my degree. How do the current Cornell travel restrictions affect me?

Transfer Students

I'm an incoming transfer student and was not in the U.S. for the spring semester. What will happen to my I-20 and SEVIS record?

We will need to request a correction of your I-20 and SEVIS record from the government. Your I-20 and SEVIS record must be corrected before you can enter the U.S. To request a correction of your SEVIS record, please email our office and include a copy of your travel itinerary.

Academic Resources

Can I borrow books from the library?

Online resources and virtual research help are always available, but there are some limits on browsing in the stacks and use of study spaces. Read about enhanced online resources and see what is currently available at the library.

Can Cornell provide a reliable VPN to address Chinese students’ internet issues?

Cornell does not provide VPNs to students off campus. Based on student experience, you will have the best success connecting from China if you can connect via cellular service. Verizon and AT&T are widely available, and students report that local carriers and wi-fi in China also allow access to Canvas and Zoom. Faculty have been made aware that Canvas is accessible in China, but Google is not, meaning that students may not be able to access their Cmail accounts. Cornell has recommended that faculty communicate with students by sending announcements in Canvas or using the Canvas inbox to mail students directly from Canvas. Zoom is also currently accessible in China and can be used to communicate directly with faculty if needed.

Is there a possibility of extra funding to purchase books?

Please check with your college's student services office to find out if you are eligible for support. 

Employment and Immigration

Does Cornell’s spring 2021 semester count as one semester of in-residence for OPT/CPT?

Yes, if you are in F-1 status and you enroll in Cornell (or Cornell Tech) classes, the spring 2021 semester will count as part of your two-semester eligibility requirement for OPT/CPT.

How will my OPT/CPT status be affected if I am not able to study in Ithaca? Will I be eligible for OPT/CPT if I Study Away?

Based on F-1 regulations, a student must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for OPT/CPT. If you are a current student and participate in Study Away or are otherwise enrolled in a full course of student from abroad, the time outside of the U.S. will be counted toward the two-semester OPT/CPT eligibility requirement. If you are a new student, who has not yet had active F-1 status within the U.S. time spent studying abroad will not count towards CPT/OPT eligibility.

Will I be eligible for off-campus work authorization (OPT/CPT) if I complete the first semester of my program remotely from outside of the United States?

Newly admitted students who were not previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States and do their first semester remotely outside of the United States must complete two consecutive semesters in F-1 status in the United States to be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Newly admitted students who previously did another academic program in the United States and transferred their SEVIS record to Cornell will be eligible to apply for either CPT or OPT during the summer following their first academic year at Cornell even if they do the first semester at Cornell remotely outside of the United States.

Newly admitted graduate students who were not previously enrolled in another academic program in the United States, and who complete their first semester remotely outside of the United States will not be eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) during the summer following their first academic year.

If it is permissible for students to complete their internship or practicum at a later time in their academic program, then CPT would not be possible for students who do the first semester of their program at Cornell outside of the United States.

I am graduating in Spring 2021. Can I apply for OPT from outside of the United States?

Current regulations affecting F-1 students do not allow for OPT applications from outside of the U.S. The Office of Global Learning will provide an update if the Department of Homeland Security introduces any flexibility in these regulations.

I’m in OPT/STEM OPT. When permitted by my employer, can I start to work remotely? If so, do I need to submit an updated Form I-983 or update the SEVP portal?

Students currently participating in OPT and STEM OPT may work remotely if their employer has an office outside of the U.S. or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. Students participating in OPT do not need to update the SEVP portal, and STEM OPT recipients do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work. However, requirements to submit an updated Form I-983 for other changes (pay, duties, supervisor, etc.) remain in effect.

I can only work 20 hours per week on OPT because of the pandemic. Will this count as unemployment?

During the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students who are working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT. If you need clarification on when the COVID-19 emergency is considered over, please email us.

Can I use CPT while abroad?

Students can engage in CPT from abroad if the employer has an office outside the U.S. or if the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.

How can I apply for a social security number if the Social Security Administration is closed?

You do not need an SSN in order to start working, but you can apply for one once the SSA resumes full public services. More information can be found here.

Has COVID affected processing times for OPT applications?

Yes, based on our experiences from the fall, students are experiencing a longer wait time than normal. Please plan accordingly and apply as early as possible. Read more about F-1 OPT here

Will I be able to start off-campus employment earlier than listed on my OPT card, given the circumstances?

No. You must wait until the start date on your OPT card to perform any paid employment.

I am an F-1 or J-1 student. I'm staying in the U.S. Am I authorized to work remotely for my campus employer?

As an F-1 or J-1 student, off-campus employment is restricted by U.S. law, but may be authorized under certain conditions. If you are maintaining your visa status, and you will be paid by Cornell as usual, you may work remotely so long as you remain in the United States and are otherwise maintaining the conditions of F-1 status. Don't hesitate to email us if you have questions about your situation.

I am an F-1 or J-1 student. I need to leave campus and return to my permanent home residence. Am I authorized to work remotely for my campus employer?

International students, including graduate assistants, who have left the United States are generally ineligible for remote work abroad. The university has developed a narrow framework of options for engaging qualified students who are legally stranded in their home countries during the spring semester. International students who are impacted by travel restrictions, government-mandated stay-at-home orders, and or other government-imposed orders related to COVID-19 should contact their appointing units or assignment supervisors to discuss eligibility. Please note that some options will require prior approval by the Department Chair or Dean. Cornell cannot approve additional exceptions for students who choose to remain abroad after travel restrictions are lifted.

For Everyone

Get Information

I heard that your campus office is closed! How can I get advice?

The International Services team is ready to work with you during our regular hours. Our advising staff is working remotely to support Cornell's international community and campus partners. Reach us by email or phone. Read Get Advice for more information about hours and services. Cornell Tech students should continue to work with Cornell Tech Student Services during office hours or by email.

Where can I find the most up-to-date information on Cornell policies related to the coronavirus?

Consult Cornell’s Coronavirus Resources and Updates and FAQ pages. A COVID-19 Study Abroad FAQ is also available. For information on the Cornell Tech campus, please visit Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

Where do I find answers to questions about on-campus housing and meals, campus safety, Cornell Health, and general campus operations?

New and Proposed Immigration Rules

Does the new rule about H-1B employment mean that companies will no longer sponsor international students?

January 20, 2021: The Biden administration has issued a memorandum requiring that all rules not yet published in the Federal Register be withdrawn. Therefore, the DHS rule to revise the specialty occupation definitions and employer-employee definitions is no longer expected to be published or implemented.

Does the new rule about H-1B wages mean that international students will be paid more than their domestic peers for the same jobs?

January 15, 2021: A new H-1B wage regulation was published (Strengthening Wage Protections for the Temporary and Permanent Employment of Certain Aliens in the United States).

Update: The Department of Labor has proposed to delay the High-Skilled Wage rule that would increase the required wages for H-1B and PERM applications (along with E-3 and H-1B1 petitions) until November 14, 2022, with the first transition period to begin on January 1, 2023. 

Travel Rules

Is there a travel ban in effect for me?

There have been several Presidential proclamations limiting travel to the U.S. for those who have been in one of the following countries within the past 14 days. See a comprehensive list of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Currently, there are travel bans in place for China, Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and the European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City).

On July 16, 2020, the U.S. State Department announced a National Interest Exception for Certain travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland. "Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request."   At this time, we recommend that students and exchange visitors carry a copy of the July 16 State Department announcement with their other travel documents.

All Cornell-related travel is currently restricted to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please see Cornell's coronavirus FAQ for more information and policies regarding travel. If you are at Cornell Tech, see Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

What about travel within the United States?

All Cornell-related travel is currently restricted to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please see Cornell's coronavirus FAQ for more information and policies regarding travel. If you are at Cornell Tech, see Cornell Tech's COVID-19 Updates.

How does the presidential proclamation suspending Chinese students' and scholars' entry to the United States affect me?

The May 29 proclamation only applies to certain graduate students and postgraduate researchers. Learn more about the proclamation.

Was the presidential proclamation seeking to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” revoked?

The April 22 presidential proclamation (“Suspension of Entry of Immigrants Who Present a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,”) was revoked on February 24, 2021. It only applied to those applying for U.S. permanent residence from a location abroad. Cornell faculty and academic staff filing for permanent residence typically file these applications from within the United States. This proclamation did not apply to F-1, J-1, H-1B, TN, or other nonimmigrant visa holders.

Health and Wellness

Is seeking treatment for COVID-19 a violation of the public charge rule?

Treatment or preventive services related to COVID-19 concerns will not negatively affect any foreign national as part of a future public charge analysis. Learn more about the public charge rule and read more FAQS on our public charge page. For information on COVID-19 in the state of New York, visit the NYS Department of Health website

How can I learn more about immunization options at Cornell Health?

Contact Cornell Health to confirm the current availability of services.

I want to to get out of the house and stay active. What is there to do around Ithaca?

Businesses throughout our region are now open, although some indoor activities are closed or limited. You can track the industries that are reopening by phase. The Ithaca area offers many opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. Explore the natural trails around Ithaca.

Is childcare available this spring?

Many childcare services are temporarily closed. Use the resources provided by the Cornell Students with Families page to learn about your options during regular operations.

How can I stay safe on campus?

Learn more about campus safety and operations.

Stimulus Funds and Scams

Are nonresident aliens eligible for the $1,400 stimulus check from the U.S. government?

Please read this post on the subject from our tax return provider Sprintax.

I received a stimulus check, but I don't think I should have. What do I do?

Follow these instructions from the IRS if you need to return a payment that you're not entitled to receive.

How can I avoid coronavirus-related scams?

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines steps to protect yourself from these scams. 

For Faculty and Staff

I am a J-1 professor or researcher. I am currently in a travel-restricted country, and now I can’t return to the United States. What does this mean for me?

As a J-1 professor or research scholar with a valid DS-2019, we are permitted to keep your J-1 program active in SEVIS, if you will be continuing your exchange program activity with your Ithaca-based department or faculty while abroad. If your re-entry is delayed for more than 30 days due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, please contact International Services for your immigration status. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.

How does leave of absence work for J-1 scholars?

A leave of absence (LOA) is not permitted for J-1 exchange visitors who remain in the U.S. If you are abroad, a LOA is possible, but not recommended. The Department of State considers a J-1 exchange visitor in “active” status to be indicative of uninterrupted program participation.

If the J-1 exchange visitor takes a LOA, International Services will seek verification from the host department, that program participation is expected to remain uninterrupted while the J-1 is abroad. On return to the U.S., if the J-1 exchange visitor was on a LOA, the host unit must immediately reappoint the J-1 exchange visitor in Workday effective the date of their admission to the U.S. There may be tax or benefit implications to a LOA and you are encouraged to discuss this with your supervisor or local HR representative.

I am an H-1B or O-1 temporary worker. I am currently in a travel-restricted country, and now I can’t return to the United States. What does this mean for me?

Under limited circumstances and with prior approvals from the appropriate offices and individuals (International Services, HR, Export Controls, Divisional representatives, etc.), it may be possible to go on a leave of absence (LOA) or continue working from abroad. Please note that the continuation of benefits during a LOA can vary by employment type and eligibility. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.

How does leave of absence work for H-1B or O-1 temporary workers?

International Services must review and approve all leave of absence requests for H-1B and O-1 temporary workers in advance to ensure compliance with immigration regulations.

I am a faculty or staff member in J-1, H-1B, or O-1 status. I am currently in the United States. Since classes are online, am I authorized to work remotely from abroad?

Working remotely outside the United States is not permitted. Cornell is a U.S.-based employer and unable to sponsor work authorization in other countries. Please reach out to your supervisor with any questions related to your work activities and your current appointment.