Fall 2020 Information and Resources for International Students

The 2020 fall semester will present a unique set of challenges for NIU, the DeKalb community, the United States and the world as a whole. We understand that as international students, you are navigating this pandemic away from your family and loved ones. NIU and ISSS are here to support you as best we can.

Many campus offices are continuing to adapt the services they provide to allow for as much physical distancing as possible. Some have a limited number of staff in the office at one time, others are asking any students/visitors to make an appointment in advance, while still others will continue to conduct their business & support services remotely. NIU has launched the Protecting the Pack page for detailed campus-wide information and polices for Fall 2020.

Best Practices for Engaging with Campus Offices

  • Start with an email – as many offices will be reopening with limited staff presence phone and in-person services may be limited. Many questions can also be easily and quickly answered by email.
  • If you make a phone call and no one answers – leave a message so that staff are able to return your call.
  • Request virtual appointments as often as possible for the safety of yourself and others
  • Please have patience as you engage with the NIU community. Faculty and Staff are working diligently to support students, while making the best decisions for the safety of the community.

ISSS Office Information

  • Our staff will be in the office beginning August 17. We will be providing services by appointment only. 
  • Emailing isfo@niu.edu remains the best way to have your questions answered. If you make a phone call, please leave a message.
  • All application forms are available as fillable PDFs and digital signatures will be accepted.

Immigration Regulation and Guidance for F-1 International Students

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has finally issued clarifying guidance for fall semester 2020. We thank you so much for your patience. It is overall positive news and it is very different from the previous guidance issued in early July.

Current students with Active F-1 SEVIS record will be allowed to maintain their F-1 status as long as they enroll full-time, regardless of what type of classes you take and where you are when you take them. 

We have outlined scenarios below, please read them carefully.

Continuing/Active Student

Inside the United States 

  • You must enroll full-time (9 credit hours for graduate students, 12 credit hours for undergraduate students).
  • You must continue to make normal academic progress towards your degree.
  • You may take any combination of courses you wish.
    • An all online course load is allowed if it is available to you in your department.
  • If you intend to enroll less than full-time, the process and rules for underloads remain the same.
    • If you have an approved underload, all of your courses may be online.
  • New I-20 is not

Outside the United States

Your record will remain active if:

  • You must enroll full-time (9 credit hours for Graduate Students, 12 credit hours for Undergraduate Students).
  • You must continue to make normal academic progress towards your degree.
  • You may enroll in all online courses.
  • If you intend to enroll less than full-time, the process and rules for underloads remain the same.
    • You remain eligible for both Medical underloads and Final Semester underloads while maintaining an active SEVIS record.
Note: New I-20 is required! – In order to maintain an active SEVIS record we must issue a new I-20 with an annotation. We understand that you may have already completed the form that was created under the previous guidance. We ask that you please confirm you decision. Please email isfo@niu.edu with the following information:
  • Full Name, SEVIS ID, Z-ID
  • That you will remain outside the United States and that you will enroll full-time.

New/Initial/Transfer Student

Inside the United States

  • You must register for and complete online orientation.
  • You are required to check in to ISSS through the online orientation module.
  • You must enroll full-time (9 credit hours for Graduate Students, 12 credit hours for Undergraduate Students).
  • You must make normal academic progress towards your degree.
  • You may take any combination of courses you wish.
    • An all online course load is allowed if it is available to you in your department.

Note: You will receive a new I-20 once ISSS has completed the full immigration registration process in late September.

Outside the United States

  • You may choose to begin your academic program through online enrollment, but your immigration status will not activate until you enter the United States.
  • You must defer your I-20 to a future semester.

Immigration Regulation and Guidance for J-1 International Students


The Department of State (DOS) and Department of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) last updated their guidance and FAQ on 06/29/2020. Under the section ‘Future Programs’ the following information is provided for those who are currently in the United States in ‘active’ status:

  • With respect to exchange visitors who are currently in “active” status in SEVIS and are continuing programs that were underway in a manner compliant with regulations when the pandemic reached the United States.
  • ECA understands that program sponsors have adjusted program activities to meet their obligations to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of their exchange participants. In keeping with ECA's message on March 11, 2020.
  • ECA continues to ask sponsors and exchange visitors to consult with host organizations to find alternative ways to maintain program objectives, including online classes or other arrangements, while preventing unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.
  • A temporary modification along these lines of a current exchange participant's program due to exigent circumstances beyond a sponsor’s or host entity’s control does not undermine the program’s original consistency with the regulations.
DOS and ECA have extended the guidance from spring 2020 semester. As long as you continue to make normal academic progress towards your degree (your program objective) and otherwise maintain your status, you may enroll in as many or as few online courses as you wish.

Other Campus Resources

  • Bursar Office is encouraging all students to make payments online via echeck, credit card or flywire
  • One Card:
    • Before arriving, please request your ID card online and upload your photo by visiting the website. 
    • Your OneCard is your official NIU ID card and you'll need it to purchase textbooks, access residence halls and academic buildings, and get food both on and off campus. Your OneCard can also be used to access your “Huskie Bucks” – which you’ll need to do laundry or print on campus.
  • Health Services: NIU is committed to providing students with a high-quality, comprehensive on-campus health care experience. Health Services offers a variety of services to students, including Northwestern Medicine Student Health Center at NIU, Immunization Compliance and Records, and Student Health Insurance
  • Graduate School: If you are a graduate student, you may need to coordinate with the Graduate School for a variety of academic concerns during your time at NIU. Examples include:
    • Verification of international education documents
    • Schedule changes
    • Grade changes
    • Dissertation and Thesis
  • Center for Student Assistance supports students during their time at NIU. They can provide resources and information or direct you to the appropriate office. They also oversee the Student Emergency Fund and has resources on food security
  • Students’ Legal Assistance offers free legal services to current NIU students. The office is encouraging remote appointments.
  • Counseling and Consultation Services is planning events specifically designed for international students during fall 2020.
  • Registration and Records maintain NIU student records, all records except immigration which is handled by ISSS. Common situations International Students need Registration and Records:
    • Transcripts
    • Degree Certificates
    • Course Withdrawal
  • Office of the Ombudsperson is a confidential, neutral, informal, and independent resource to help you through issues related to NIU. Email ombuds@niu.edu for online/virtual appointments. Reach out if you have had issues/concerns such as:
    • Grades
    • Faculty or work relationships
    • Financial aid
    • Discrimination
    • Work concerns
    • Academic misconduct
    • Student Conduct

Contact Us

International Student Scholar Services (ISSS)
Williston Hall

Phone: 815-753-1346
Fax: 815-753-1488
Email: isfo@niu.edu

Office Hours

8 a.m.-noon and 1-4:30 p.m.

Schedule an Appointment