International student guidance for fall 2021

April 27, 2021

Updated July 28, 2021, 8:46 a.m.

MU Provost Latha Ramchand announced operational plans for the summer and fall 2021 terms. MU’s current hybrid model and classroom capacities will remain unchanged for summer 2021 — face-to-face, blended and fully online courses will be offered.

MU plans to return to pre-pandemic classroom capacities for the fall 2021 semester. MU faculty and staff are expected to transition back to in-person work by May 17. See the Show Me Renewal website for the comprehensive campus plan and specific guidance for students.

The following information is provided to help guide students, sponsors and exchange partners as you make plans for the summer and fall 2021 terms at MU. It is imperative that new and continuing international students work with their assigned international student adviser, and home university or sponsor as applicable.

SEVP guidance for new and continuing students

On April 26, SEVP announced that the guidance from March 2020 will remain in effect for the upcoming 2021/22 academic year. This guidance allows for students to take more than three credit hours of online coursework while maintaining their nonimmigrant status.

  • Students who were in F-1 status on March 9, 2020: You are eligible to take 100% of your coursework online during the 2021/22 academic year.
  • Students who obtained F-1 status after March 9, 2020: You will need to have at least one course that meets face-to-face. This includes all students who entered the U.S. to start a program at MU for summer and fall 2020 and spring 2021, and those who will enter for summer and fall 2021 and spring 2022.

You must continue to enroll in a full course of study to maintain your status. If you are eligible for a reduced course load, you should submit a request by the end of the first week of classes.

If you plan to remain outside the U.S. and enroll in online courses, you must inform your international student adviser so we can review your SEVIS record and keep you informed of any changes in SEVP policies.

Be aware that plans are fluid and subject to change. We will communicate any updates regarding the 2021/22 academic year via email and on our website. You can also review updates from the Department of Homeland Security and check the NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources for updates on government policy and guidance related to COVID-19.

Enrollment and registration

Coursework for the fall 2021 semester will begin Monday, Aug. 23. New and continuing students are encouraged to review the University Registrar’s guidance for enrollment. Operational plans and course schedules for fall 2021 are subject to change based on state, county and campus health guidelines. Any changes to campus operations will be updated on the Show Me Renewal website. New and continuing students will be notified once official updates are available.


MU continues to accept and admit international students for the 2021/22 academic year. Admitted students currently residing outside the U.S. must obtain a student visa to enter the country in lawful nonimmigrant status. The visa certificate (I-20/DS-2019) will be issued with a start date of Aug. 16, 2021, which is one week prior to the first day of fall semester classes. Certain situations may require special consideration for the adjustment of arrival dates based on departmental justification and student circumstances.


On April 26, the U.S. government extended the National Interest Exceptions for COVID-related proclamations to permit students from Brazil, China, Iran and South Africa to travel to the United States for programs beginning after Aug. 1, 2021, similar to existing exceptions for Schengen countries, the U.K. and Ireland. See below for details about travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue the resumption of routine visa services. Regularly check the website of your local embassy or consulate and the Department of State website for updates on which embassies are open for visa appointments. You may be able to complete form DS-160 and schedule a visa interview online. See information about nonimmigrant visa wait times.

This letter of support confirms course modalities and campus operations for fall 2021. You may download and print the letter to bring with you to your visa appointment or when entering the U.S., if necessary.

Visa appointment, processing or international travel delayed

If you cannot obtain your student visa as planned and are unable to travel to the U.S. in time for the start of the fall 2021 semester, notify your 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. It will not be necessary to update the visa certificate (I-20 for F-1 students, DS-2019 for J-1 students) unless arrival may be delayed 30 days beyond the program start date.

U.S. consular operations continue to prioritize student visas; however, services greatly depend on conditions at each location. Refer to the U.S. embassy/consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence.

Graduate students

Graduate departments will develop contingency plans to manage late arrivals and those unable to arrive for the fall term, particularly for students who have graduate assistantships.

If you are unable to arrive by Monday, Aug. 16, you should contact the director of graduate studies in your academic department to determine whether your late arrival can be accommodated. In most cases, arriving one to two weeks after the first date of classes (Monday, Aug. 23) may be manageable. Once the director of graduate studies confirms your late arrival can be accommodated, you should forward that confirmation to your international student adviser, who will issue a late arrival letter.

It is permissible for your department to enroll you in online coursework until you are able to arrive on campus. However, while graduate departments may offer scholarships to 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 students residing outside the United States.

Undergraduate students

In addition to notifying your international student adviser, you should contact your school/college academic advising office to discuss course enrollment options. Course availability and proper course placement will be limited if you arrive more than one week after the start of the semester on Monday, Aug. 23. In most cases, it is not recommended to arrive more than two weeks after the first day of classes. International student advisers will provide late arrival letters on a case-by-case basis after consultation with your academic adviser.

International travel guidelines and restrictions

Travel restrictions and National Interest Exceptions

Certain international travelers are prohibited from entry to the United States. Currently, there are four presidential proclamations that suspend entry into the U.S. of all noncitizens who were physically present in any of 33 countries during the 14-day period before entering the U.S.:

The Secretary of State has issued a national interest determination regarding categories of travelers eligible for exceptions to these restrictions. If you are otherwise subject to one of the proclamations due to your presence in a restricted country, you may qualify for a National Interest Exception:

  • Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program, including OPT, commencing Aug. 1, 2021, or later do not need to contact an embassy/consulate to seek an individual National Interest Exception to travel. You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of your academic studies.
  • Students seeking to apply for new F-1 visas should check the status of visa services with the nearest embassy/consulate. Applicants who qualify for an F-1 visa will be considered for a National Interest Exception automatically.
  • J-1 exchange students should check the website for the nearest U.S. embassy/consulate for instructions on applying for a National Interest Exception (includes J-1 students transiting through a restricted country).

Travel health guidelines

Travel increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Everyone is encouraged to carefully review the Show Me Renewal travel guidance before any travel to or from the University of Missouri campus. Those traveling internationally should also review the current CDC and Department of State travel information.

  • If you are planning to travel outside of the U.S. in the near future, review the COVID-19 travel regulations for your destination and any countries you will travel through, including any requirements for pre-travel testing. You can obtain an order for a pre-travel COVID-19 test by contacting the MU Student Health Center at 573-882-7481. If the test is not covered by your insurance, the cost will be $125.
  • International students planning to arrive for the summer or fall 2021 terms should continue to monitor CDC and Department of State travel advisories. If you have questions as you make your travel arrangements, please contact your international student adviser.

Students arriving at MU should follow all CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Be sure to review MU’s COVID-19 safety and expectations guidance.

All air passengers coming to the United States, including fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight to the United States.

Arrival guidance

MU is referring to CDC guidelines for international travel, which currently advise the following depending on individual circumstance. This guidance is not final, and we anticipate it could change over the course of the next two months, depending on how the public health situation evolves.

Scenario Instructions
Fully vaccinated* with WHO/FDA-authorized vaccine (at least two weeks from final dose) Get tested with a PCR test 3–5 days after arrival.

  • If test is positive, isolate to protect others from getting infected and wait for a call from a case investigator.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
Vaccinated with WHO/FDA-authorized vaccine, but it has not been two weeks since final dose
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after arrival.
  • Get tested with a PCR test 3–5 days after arrival.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
    • If you test positive, isolate to protect others from getting infect and wait for a call from a case investigator.
  • If you don’t get tested between days 3–5, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
Not vaccinated with WHO/FDA-authorized vaccine
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after arrival.
  • Get tested with a PCR test 3–5 days after arrival.
    • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
    • If you test positive, isolate to protect others from getting infect and wait for a call from a case investigator.
  • If you don’t get tested between days 3–5, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

*People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series vaccine, such as the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines.
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Additional resources:

If you decide not to get tested after arrival in any of the above scenarios, you must quarantine for 10 days before you are able to join campus activities.

Fall 2021 recommended dates of arrival in the U.S. for new students
Scenario Arrival date in the U.S. Arrival information for students with Residential Life housing contracts
You are fully vaccinated with WHO/FDA-authorized vaccine Sunday, Aug. 15 Can move into your fall housing assignment beginning:

  • Saturday, Aug. 14, for residence halls and undergraduate apartments
  • Monday, Aug. 2, for graduate and family housing
You will get tested + quarantine for 7 days Monday, Aug. 9 Contact to make arrangements for placement in temporary quarantine housing
You will not get tested + quarantine for 10 days Friday, Aug. 6 Contact to make arrangements for placement in temporary quarantine housing

Vaccine availability

All Missouri adults, including MU students, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals 12 years and older can get the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available to anyone 18 years and older. The vaccine is free; no health insurance is required. Information about scheduling a vaccine appointment is available from MU Health Care and the Missouri COVID-19 Vaccine Navigator.


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 COVID-19, refer to the International Air Transport Association.

Travel insurance

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

Housing and quarantine arrangements

Be careful to plan ahead, particularly if you are not able to arrive in time to complete the recommended quarantine period prior to the start of Welcome Week or the fall semester. You will not be able to attend in-person activities until you complete the recommended quarantine period for your situation.

On campus

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 because of travel restrictions or visa processing delays, Residential Life will waive cancellation fees. To learn more about your housing options at MU for fall 2021, visit the Residential Life website or email with any questions.

Only students who have a fall contract on file with Residential Life can request quarantine housing. If you are a degree-seeking student, have a housing contract with Residential Life and are not fully vaccinated, contact to arrange your quarantine housing.

Off campus

If you plan to make off-campus housing arrangements, consult your housing complex representatives directly for details on flexible leasing options. If necessary, make any temporary housing arrangements for quarantine before you arrive in Columbia.

Pre-arrival information

Review the pre-arrival checklist 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

Plans for the fall 2021 International Student Welcome are in progress. Content will be delivered the week before classes start and details will be provided as they are finalized. Information for sponsored student and exchange student orientation sessions will be shared as soon as they are available.

Stay updated

Refer to the Show Me Renewal website for up-to-date information about the university’s response to COVID-19. Updates specific International Programs are available on our website.