COVID-19: Guidance for admitted international graduate students for fall 2020

April 8, 2020

Updated June 29, 2020, 7:15 p.m.

MU will continue to accept and admit international graduate students for the fall 2020 semester. The visa certificate (I-20/DS-2019) will be issued with a start date of Aug. 17, 2020, which is one week prior to the first day of fall semester classes. We strongly recommend that students admitted for summer 2020 be deferred to the fall semester. Certain situations may require special consideration depending on departmental justification and the student’s circumstances.

Over the next weeks and months, it is imperative that graduate programs work with the Graduate School and International Student and Scholar Services to manage the uncertainties that result from the COVID-19 pandemic. The following guidelines provide an operational framework, recognizing that many departments have recently made or are making admission decisions and offering assistantship appointments for the coming academic year.

International students already in the U.S.

These students may be currently attending MU or another U.S. school or completing practical training and have been admitted to a graduate program at MU for fall 2020. Students do not have to depart the U.S. to renew their visa as long as they have maintained their current nonimmigrant status.

Current MU students should follow the instructions to change their program. They first must be fully admitted to the MU graduate program.

Students attending other U.S. schools or completing practical training (including intensive English programs) should follow the existing school transfer process. This process can be accomplished remotely between the international student services offices at both institutions. MU International Student and Scholar Services will ensure the processing of the student’s I-20/DS-2019 and register their SEVIS record upon arrival to the MU campus.

International students residing outside of the U.S.

Admitted students who currently reside outside of the U.S. must obtain a student visa in order to enter the U.S. in lawful nonimmigrant status. Academic departments may continue to accept international graduate students for the fall 2020 semester, including offering assistantship appointments. MU will continue issuing visa certificates (I-20/DS-2019) with a program start date of Aug. 17, 2020.

If the student cannot obtain a student visa as planned and is unable to travel to the U.S. to arrive in time for the fall 2020 orientation program (Aug. 17), the Academic department may consider enrolling the student online.

  • Graduate departments will need to develop contingency plans to manage late arrivals and those unable to arrive for the fall term, particularly if the student has an appointment as a graduate assistant. It is permissible to enroll graduate international students in online coursework until they are able to arrive on campus. However, while graduate departments may offer scholarships to admitted international graduate students who are unable to travel to the U.S. and choose to enroll online, departments may not provide tuition waivers or stipends to those students as long as they are residing outside the United States.
  • Once the U.S. consulate resumes visa processing, students will be able to proceed with visa appointments, obtain visas and, provided all travel restrictions are lifted, enter the United States.
    • This option is only feasible for students able to arrive on campus within 30 days of the start of fall semester classes. All others will need to defer their visa certificates to spring 2021, but may continue to participate in online classes during the fall semester.
  • Contingency plans will also be necessary to provide orientations, check-ins, etc. for staggered arrivals on campus if students are able to come to the U.S. during that 30-day period after the start of fall classes.

If you have any questions or need additional guidance, please contact David Currey (, director of International Student and Scholar Services, or refer to our staff directory. ISSS staff serve as MU’s designated school officials and responsible officers for all immigration-related matters for international students and scholars. We are closely monitoring federal immigration guidance pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regular updates are available on our website.