Coronavirus, Immigration Updates on SEVP Spring 2021 Guidance for International Students

December 22, 2020

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance issued for Fall 2020 will remain the same for the Spring 2021 semester.  We would like to remind you of this guidance and address what SEVP will permit in certain key areas based on when and/or if you have come to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status.

  1. Online Coursework

For continuing F-1/J-1 international students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status (including transfer-in students with active SEVIS records):

  • Full-time online study is permitted from either inside or outside of the U.S. 
  • F-1/J-1 status and SEVIS will remain valid.

For new, initial F-1/J-1 international students who either have not yet entered the US or those who entered after March 2020:

  • An in-person course component is required if you intend to arrive or stay in the United States during the Spring 2021 semester, even if you participated in an in-person class in the fall semester.  Undergraduate students: You will receive further information about in-person course offerings from the Office of the Deputy Provost and should rest assured that there will be options available to satisfy this requirement. Graduate students: You should consult with your program director or department advisor.
  • Note:  You may continue to remain outside of the United States and take online coursework if permitted by your academic school/department.

  1. Five-Month Rule
  • The five-month rule continues to be suspended. Students with active F-1/J-1 SEVIS records may continue to remain outside the U.S. for more than five months (if otherwise maintaining their immigration status).

For more information on the U.S. Government’s guidance for Spring 2021, please see this page on the NAFSA website:

We are closely monitoring the situation and will notify you if there are any updates to the guidance. 

Finally, we congratulate you on reaching the end of an unprecedented semester and wish you a relaxing holiday season. We know that this is not how you envisioned your Fall semester, but we are committed to making sure your time at Penn is fulfilling and successful, whether in your home countries or on campus.

For more information, view our COVID-19 FAQs for continuing students and new/incoming students.