International student guidance for spring 2021

Nov. 16, 2020

Updated Dec. 23, 2020, 9:40 a.m.

The University of Missouri’s Show Me Renewal Plan outlines specific guidance on campus operations. MU implemented a hybrid academic model beginning with the fall 2020 term, which allows for face-to-face, blended and fully online courses.

Spring 2021 guidance

It is imperative that new and continuing 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 spring 2021 semester at MU.

SEVP guidance for spring 2021: New and continuing students

On Dec. 22, the SEVP director announced that COVID-19 guidance from March 2020 will remain in effect until further notice. This guidance allows for students to take more than three credits 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 for the spring 2021 semester.
  • 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.

All students must continue to enroll in a full course of study to maintain status. Students who are eligible for a reduced course load should submit a request by the end of the first week of classes.

You can also review updates from the Department of Homeland Security and check the NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources for updates on governmental policy and guidance related to COVID-19.

Enrollment and registration

Coursework for the spring term will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19. New and continuing students are encouraged to review the University Registrar’s guidance for spring enrollment. Operational plans for spring 2021 are being finalized and 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. You will be notified once official updates are made available.


MU continues to accept and admit international students for the spring 2021 semester. Admitted students currently residing 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 Jan. 11, 2021, which is one week prior to the first day of spring semester classes. Certain situations may require special consideration for the adjustment of arrival dates based on departmental justification and individual circumstances.


U.S. Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services in July. Regularly check the website of your local embassy or consulate and the Department of State website for updates on which embassies may be open for visa appointments. You may be able to complete form DS-160 and schedule a visa interview online.

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


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 start of the spring 2021 semester (Jan. 19), 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 guidelines

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

  • Certain international travelers are prohibited from entry to the U.S.
  • Testing before and after travel is recommended:
    • Get tested 1–3 days before your flight. Beginning Jan. 26, all air passengers entering the U.S. will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was conducted within three days of their scheduled flight.
    • Get tested 3–5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days after travel.
      • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
      • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 14 days after travel.
    • Always follow state and local recommendations or requirements related to travel.
    • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.

Information about how to get tested for COVID-19 at Mizzou is available on the Student Health Center website. Students arriving at MU should follow all CDC and university guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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.


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 spring 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 spring 2021, visit the Residential Life website or email with any questions.

On Dec. 22, MU announced that arrival testing will be mandatory for undergraduate students living in university residential housing. You must provide test results from a PCR or rapid antigen viral test that took place no more than five days before arriving in Columbia. Additional information will be sent prior to the start of the spring semester. In the meantime, you can view additional information on the arrival testing page, which will be updated as information becomes available.

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 is currently available online, but you must complete your mandatory check-in session online after your arrival to campus. Details for sponsored student and exchange student orientation sessions will be shared as they become available.

Stay updated

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