COVID-19 FAQ & Information Page

On this dedicated page, the ISSO has assembled the latest and most accurate information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to COVID-19 and its impacts on international students and scholars at UNC Charlotte. 

Information regarding UNC Charlotte’s broader response to Coronavirus can be accessed via the latest NinerNotice

In late April 2022, SEVP announced that regulatory guidance in place since the start of the pandemic would be extended through the end of theFall  2022- Spring 2023 school year. The answers found in the FAQ below are based on that latest guidance.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Yes, you must have competed a full course of an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine to enter the U.S. if entering after November 8th, 2021. Additionally:

  • Your vaccine and COVID test documentation should be hard copy (not on your phone) and in English 

    • It is fine to carry back up electronic copies on your phone

  • Your name on your records should match your name as listed on your passport

If you are unable to complete COVID-19 vaccination in your home country, you will not be able to enter the United States.

People who have received all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine that has been listed for emergency use by the FDA or World Health Organization (WHO) do not need any additional doses with an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

Course Registration

It depends. Continuing students with 100% online courses can exit the U.S. mid-semester to finish their courses from abroad or from a different part of the U.S. -- with the permission of professors. If you are a continuing student and have decided to study full-time online while outside the U.S. for a semester before classes have begun for that semester, please complete our form indicating you will study online outside the U.S. We will add a note to your SEVIS record confirming that you are outside the U.S. for the relevant semester. A new I-20 is not needed for continuing students to study 100% online outside the U.S. Continuing students studying fully online from other parts of the U.S. should keep their SEVIS-Local address up-to-date in Banner.


Newly admitted students (students completing their first semester) may choose to study 100% online for their first semester, but to do so, they must remain outside the U.S. In this situation, the ISSO will not activate the new student's SEVIS record since they will not be physically present in the U.S. The new student will need a new I-20 with a start date for the first semester that they will be physically present in the U.S. Semesters spent studying outside the U.S. before we activate your SEVIS record do not count toward F-1 employment benefit eligibility, such as for CPT/OPT. New students studying online outside the U.S. are not eligible for GASP tuition funding or TA/RA assistantships. Additionally, the University is unable to offer remotely-delivered educational services to any international students who are currently or normally resident in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea (a region of Ukraine occupied by Russia) due to export control regulations.

In most cases, no. International students are expected to enroll on a full-time basis unless they qualify and are approved for a Reduced Course Load. However, if you are approved for a Reduced Course Load, you may enroll less than full-time and all of your courses may be online; no in-person course will be required. This allowance for all online courses with an RCL is an exception to the normal rule, and only applies up until the end of Spring 2022. This is true regardless of the type of RCL you may be approved for (medical, final semester, academic difficulty, etc.). 

A continuing student (a student who has already completed their first semester) in the U.S. may take all online courses for Fall 2021 & Spring 2022 and still maintain F-1 nonimmigrant status. No in-person course will be required to maintain your F-1 nonimmigrant status if you are a continuing student. 

Yes. Admitted students (students who are completing their first semester) planning to take classes from the U.S. and who can physically travel to the U.S. to do so, must be registered full time (with at least 1 in-person or hybrid class) by the first day of class of their first semester.  New, admitted students who have entered the U.S. cannot be enrolled entirely in online courses during their first semester --they must take at least one in-person or hybrid course.

You are responsible for dropping your classes if you do not intend to study at UNC Charlotte for the semester that you've been admitted to. 

If you enroll in classes for the semester you've been admitted for, but do not plan to attend and do not drop your courses by the end of the semester's Add/Drop Deadline (found here), you will be responsible for paying that semester's tuition and health insurance, even if you never enter the U.S., attend a different university etc.  

These are complex and stressful times. If you are a continuing student who, for personal reasons, cannot or chooses not to enroll full-time in 100% online classes from outside the U.S., and you will not be studying inside the U.S. on a full course of study, you will need to apply for a Leave of Absence. See our Leave of Absence webpage for more information, including how this can affect CPT and OPT time.

Employment Issues

It's technically possible, but extremely unlikely that you'll be able to undertake on-campus employment from outside the U.S. 

Here's the practical reason why:

Hiring departments at UNC Charlotte may need to pay additional administrative costs associated with paying employees who reside outside the U.S. to a third party Human Resources manager. These additional costs can run in the thousands of dollars. Does it make sense for a hiring unit to have to pay an additional $20,000 in administrative costs, for example, to hire a student to work a part-time summer job from outside the U.S.? -- probably not. 

Therefore, if you are wondering if you can be outside the U.S. and still work as an on-campus studentt employee, you must receive approval from your hiring department before working while outside the U.S. as the additional administrative costs would need to be absorbed by the hiring department. Hiring departments at UNC Charlotte must review the Provost’s Physical Location of Workforce webpage to evaluate the costs involved in paying employees who reside outside the U.S. 

Yes, the COVID-19 adaptations to the F-1 visa regulations have altered the CPT work location requirements that are normally in effect. To see how the CPT work location requirements have been relaxed in certain situations, click and read more here, under "CPT Location Requirements". 

The latest guidance does not fundamentally impact CPT/OPT regulations for students who are within the U.S. Students who are in the U.S. can learn about CPT here, and about OPT here. Even though the basic regulations remain the same, some aspects of the application processes for CPT/OPT might be diferent from previous years due to Covid-19. For example, e-signed CPT/OPT I-20s will be issued electronically and the ISSO will offer CPT/OPT workshops and OPT Reviews virtually -- these and other ISSO operating adaptations are designed to keep everyone safe. 

Continuing students taking a full-time courseload for Fall 2021, whether inside the U.S. or outside, will accrue one semester towards CPT/OPT eligibility. 

Lastly, continuing students who are outside the U.S. and who are completing their final semester will face a complex situation when it comes to applying for OPT in particular. Namely, current USCIS guidance does not allow students to apply for OPT from outside the U.S. Because of this, a student who plans to graduate and apply for OPT  would need to enter the U.S. mid-semester in order to apply. This type of mid-semester entry is riskier than a normal re-entry, and is up to the discretion of CBP.

If your employer allows you to work remotely due to Covid-19, there is no impact on your OPT.  Students should never enter a Work From Home Address as an Employer Address in the SEVP Portal or on an I-983; instead, students who are working from home on OPT should enter their employer's usual site of business or headquarters address. 

Travel

Whether you need an NIE to enter or re-enter the U.S. depends on your visa type:

  • If you are an F-1 student, you do not need to secure a National Interest Exception (NIE) for entry or re-entry into the U.S. using a valid F-1 visa. NIEs for F-1s were issued in the past, such as those issued in the summer of 2021, but these have been phased out and rendered void for those trying to enter the U.S., per the President's Proclamation of November 26, 2021.
  • If you are a J-1 scholar or H-1B faculty, you may need an NIE. If you had been granted an NIE previously, it has been rendered void per the President's Proclamation of November 26, 2021. You may need to apply for a new NIE to enter the U.S. after 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on November 29, 2021. The government will hopefully clarify this policy in the coming days.

Travel signatures for currently enrolled students are valid for one year from the date of the last signature. If you are on OPT your signature is only valid for six months. If this signature will expire prior to your anticipated return, visit the ISSO Travel page to request a new travel signature. For the time being, you will not have to submit your original I-20/DS-2019 document to be signed, instead it will be reprinted and uploaded into the same portal you will use to submit the travel endorsement request.

For your visa interview (if applicable -- continuing students may already have a valid F-1 visa) and for entry at the U.S. border, you must be prepared to show UNC Charlotte's instructional methods, and, if you are a newly admitted student, provide evidence that you are registered for at least one class with an in-person or hybrid instructional method (See NinerCentral instructions - viewing instructional methods). All students entering must have the previously issued I-20 and other required entry documents, which can be reviewed here.

Though UNC Charlotte is not requiring a mandatory quarantine for students coming to campus, certain students may need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus. Students can learn more about this effort here.