COVID-19: Guidance for fall 2020 incoming international students

May 7, 2020

Updated July 27, 2020, 2 p.m.

The University of Missouri’s Show Me Renewal Plan outlines specific guidance for a full in-person return to campus for the fall 2020 semester. Currently, MU plans to implement a hybrid academic model, which allows for face-to-face, blended and fully online courses. The plan is a living document and will likely change as the situation evolves.

It is imperative that incoming international students work with their assigned MU international student adviser, and home university or sponsor as applicable. The following information is provided to help guide students, sponsors and exchange partners as they make plans for the fall 2020 semester at MU.


MU will continue to accept and admit international students for the fall 2020 semester. Admitted students who currently reside outside of the U.S. must obtain a student visa to enter the U.S. in lawful nonimmigrant status. 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. Certain situations may require special consideration depending on departmental justification and the student’s circumstances. Additional guidance is available for admitted international graduate students.

Enrollment guidelines

On July 14, the U.S. government agreed to rescind the SEVP guidance for the fall 2020 semester issued on July 6. That guidance, which imposed restrictions against F-1 students taking only online courses for the fall semester, will not be implemented or enforced. Guidelines for F-1 international students will return to the status quo established in March 2020, which allows students to maintain active nonimmigrant status as long as they continue to pursue a full course of study, regardless of the method of instruction.

On Friday, July 24, the Student Exchange Visitor Program provided clarification for the fall 2020 semester. International students planning to begin or continue their studies with MU this fall should review this information about maintaining their nonimmigrant F-1 student status.

The Exchange Visitor Program guidance for J-1 students (last updated June 25, 2020) also provides information about allowing for hybrid/online course options.


On March 20, U.S. Department of State announced the suspension of routine visa services. It is understood that missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, but there is no specific date set at this time. We encourage you to closely monitor visa processing time frames and consult the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate for additional information.


We encourage you to wait to buy plane tickets until there is more certainty about fall/academic year travel guidance. Be aware of your airline’s waiver and refund policies. We recommend purchasing flight insurance that offers maximum flexibility should tickets need to be changed or canceled. For information about current travel restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak, refer to the International Air Transport Association.

Delayed arrival

If you cannot obtain your F-1/J-1 visa as planned and are unable to travel to the U.S. in time for the fall 2020 orientation program (Aug. 17), notify your MU international student adviser — and sponsor or exchange adviser, if applicable — as soon as possible. We will work, in consultation with your MU academic department, to determine suitable accommodations.

International travel and self-quarantine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided the following guidelines and restrictions related to COVID-19 and international travelers coming to the U.S.:

You should plan to arrive in Columbia, Mo., no later than Aug. 10, which is 14 days prior to the first day of classes, Aug. 24, 2020. This will facilitate the 14-day stay-at-home period. If you have contracted with Residential Life for on-campus or apartment housing, you will be advised on your self-quarantine options based on your housing assignment. Email Residential Life ( before you arrive or if your arrival will be delayed. If you are living off-campus, you may choose to self-quarantine in your previously arranged accommodations. If you have not yet selected housing, you may elect to utilize a local hotel as self-quarantine accommodations at your own expense. Every effort will be made to help you identify reasonably priced self-quarantine accommodations. Please refer to the following resources for temporary housing.

Travel insurance

We recommend purchasing a travel insurance policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. If your sponsor purchases flight tickets on your behalf, be sure to consult your sponsor for specifics regarding itinerary cancellation policies.

Presidential proclamation

We understand that you may have concerns about President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation suspending individuals seeking initial entry to the U.S. as an immigrant (green card holder). It is important to note that the proclamation does not impact student visa categories. For additional information, see our website.


We encourage you to work with MU Residential Life to secure a flexible housing contract should your travel plans need to be postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. In the case that you are unable to join MU for the fall semester in result of travel restrictions or visa processing delays, Residential Life will waive cancellation fees. To learn more about your housing options at MU for fall 2020 or spring 2021, visit the Residential Life website or email with any questions.

If you plan to make off-campus housing arrangements, consult your housing complex representatives directly for details on flexible leasing options.

Pre-arrival information

Review the pre-arrival checklist on our website and gather necessary information before arriving at MU. See the International Student Welcome Guide for more information about life at Mizzou.

International Student Welcome and orientation sessions

International Student Welcome will take place online this year. Some orientation content will be available in late July, and you will complete your mandatory check-in session online upon your arrival. Details for sponsored student and exchange student orientation sessions will be shared as they become available.

Stay updated

Please refer to the MU Alert website for up-to-date information about the university’s response to COVID-19. Updates specific to International Programs are available on our website.