The U.S. Department of State has suspended all routine visa processing. What will happen if I can’t get my visa and arrive in the U.S. by the start of the Fall semester?

U.S. federal regulations require that incoming students arrive in the U.S. prior to their program start date. Students who cannot enter the U.S. by the start of the Fall 2020 semester can consider the following options:


  1. New incoming international students may be able to study through Carolina Away. Visit for more information.
  2. Consult with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions about the possibility of deferring your admission.
  3. Any student who may be receiving a 2020-2021 scholarship or other University Award and is planning to defer admission should contact the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid at to discuss preserving the scholarship for the following year.


  • Consult with your academic department at UNC to determine your options for deferring admission to a later semester or starting your program remotely from abroad. You should also discuss any impact deferring may have on your scholarship or fellowship.


  • Work with your exchange coordinator to see what option(s) may be best for you.

What happens if I have to start my program online? Will I be eligible for CPT?

Students become eligible for practical training (OPT or CPT) once they have been enrolled in the U.S. for one full academic year. Beginning a program online outside of the U.S. does not count towards this one academic year requirement.

I visited the website of the U.S. embassy in my home country, and it says that visa services have been suspended. What do I do?

Students should continue to monitor the website of the U.S. Embassy in their country for updates and to determine when visa appointments will resume.

Do you know when the U.S. Department of State will resume issuing F-1 and J-1 student visas?

At this time, the U.S. Department of State has not announced when visa processing is anticipated to resume. For the latest information on visa processing timelines, please contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate closest to you.

I was issued a Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a start date of 8/18/2020, but I see that the Fall semester will now start on 8/10/2020. How can I get a new Form I-20 or DS-2019?

ISSS is currently developing a procedure to issue new Forms I-20 and DS-2019 for students to reflect the new 8/10/2020 Fall semester start date, and more information will be provided as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience as we work to assist all of our incoming students.

If I was already issued a Form I-20 for F-1 status, will I have to pay for shipping to receive the new I-20 with the 8/10/2020 start date? Can it be sent electronically?

ISSS is currently developing a process to send updated I-20 forms to students electronically – but only if students have already been sent an original Form I-20. More information will be provided in the coming weeks.

Can I book a visa appointment while I am waiting for my new Form I-20 or DS-2019 with the 8/10/2020 start date, or do I need to wait until I have my new Form I-20 or DS-2019?

Yes, you may book a visa appointment using the information on your current Form I-20 or DS-2019. The new Form I-20 or DS-2019 will contain the same SEVIS ID but will include different program dates. Please note, however, that the U.S. Department of State has suspended all routine visa services. Although it may be possible to make an appointment in the system, changes in embassy operations can occur with little notice. Students should be sure to monitor all correspondence from the U.S. Department of State regarding their visa appointment and respond accordingly.

Can you help me expedite my visa process when the U.S. Department of State resumes routine visa processing?

Requests to the U.S. Department of State for an expedited appointment must be made directly from the applicant (the student). The U.S. Department of State will then review the request and determine if it is possible to expedite the visa appointment. Unfortunately, UNC cannot make this request on your behalf. Please note that if you are from a country affected by a U.S. Presidential Proclamation it will not be possible to request an expedited appointment until travel restrictions have been lifted.

Can I enter the U.S. with my valid visitor/tourist visa or on the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) to start my program in Fall and just change to F-1 or J-1 status later?

Unfortunately, students are not eligible to begin a degree or exchange program on a visitor/tourist visa or on the Visa Waiver Program.

Do I have to self-quarantine for 14 days after I arrive in the U.S.? Will I be allowed to miss classes during this time?

Students who enter the U.S. from abroad should follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University in regard to self-quarantine.

I am a transfer student and am currently in the U.S. Am I allowed to travel outside the U.S. this summer?

Students are allowed to depart the U.S.; however, they may have difficulty returning to the U.S. prior to the start of classes. ISSS recommends discussing your situation with an International Student Advisor.

Information provided is not intended as legal advice. Students are encouraged to consult a licensed attorney for legal advice.