Immigration Update: SEVIS, NIE, and Travel

July 20, 2021

SEVIS Guidance

On April 26, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released a Broadcast Message and Clarifying Questions indicating that guidance provided in March 2020 will remain in place for the 2021-2022 academic year.

What does this mean for F-1 and J-1 international students?

  • Continuing students who remain abroad may keep open an active SEVIS record so long as they maintain the conditions of their status by maintaining full enrollment.
  • Continuing students who are already in the U.S. can maintain their status by enrolling in a full course of study, even if all of their courses are delivered remotely.
  • Continuing students who began their studies from outside the US during the 2020-2021 academic year but will now enter the US with an initial I-20 must enroll in at least one in-person course during Fall 2021.  Please encourage these students to enroll in at least one in-person course for Fall 2021 at their earliest opportunity to avoid status problems before and after their arrival. 
  • New students, who are entering the U.S. for the first time in F-1/J-1 status are also required to enroll in an in-person course for Fall 2021.  We strongly recommend that they enroll in an in-person course before attempting to enter the United States. This does not apply to students who are transferring their SEVIS record to UC Santa Cruz from another school in the United States.
  • Students who have been admitted to study at UC Santa Cruz but are unable to travel to the U.S. may begin their studies remotely.  
ISSS will begin distributing I-20/DS-2019 documents to new students via iGlobal. Students are encouraged to upload all items as soon as possible. Current SEVP Guidance allows ISSS to continue to issue electronic I-20s, without physical signing or mail delivery, which allows for quicker processing and receipt of the I-20 by the student.

NIE and Consulates

The Department of State (DOS) is requiring National Interest Exceptions for travelers from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, Schengen Area, United Kingdom and Ireland. The NIE has a validity of 12 months once issued.


Individuals in F-1 status to enter the U.S. even though CDC travel restrictions prohibit entry into the US by people who had been in certain affected regions in the past 14 days. Students may travel to the US to begin or continue their studies up to 30 days prior to the start of their term, after August 1, 2021. Students will automatically be considered for this exception; no additional application or documentation is required. 

At this time, many U.S. consulates continue to offer limited or emergency visa services and the availability of appointments may be limited. Students are eligible to receive their visas as early as 120 days prior to the start date on their I-20/DS-2019, and may be eligible for an emergency visa appointment within 60 days of their start date. Students are encouraged to check with their local consulates and monitor appointment wait times with the Department of State.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact an ISSS advisor via


All current and prospective J-1 visa holders from the countries listed above must apply for the NIE at their home embassy or consulate office prior to entering the United States for academic and research purposes.

To assist our scholars in the visa and NIE application process ISSS has developed a template for departments to use to support their scholar’s NIE application. Please note that the approval of an NIE is at the discretion of the individual country embassy/consulate office, applicants are encouraged to check with their home office for application guidance. 

The NIE is not required for scholars applying and traveling from countries not on the list. 

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact