Dear International Student Community,

As we plan ahead for the Spring 2021 term, we are writing to share the updated Global Brown Frequently Asked Questions resource for international undergraduate, graduate and medical students that provides relevant information on travel, visas and employment eligibility, financial aid, academic advising, and campus support. This resource is designed for international students on an F-1visa; if you’re not an international student on an F-1visa, please refer to other available resources.

Even as we share this resource, we do so with the understanding that there are additional considerations for international students related to ongoing consular closings, travel restrictions and other issues. While this document may leave some of those questions unanswered, especially as they relate to your individual circumstances, we also want to take the opportunity to remind you of the individual advising resources available.

Below are a few of those offices and the best contact information:

Please know that these and many other offices and staff are available to support you as you consider, reflect and decide on the options that best suit your academic and co-curricular needs. You are important members of our community, and Brown is committed to providing you with guidance and support.


The Global Brown team

Last updated November 23, 2020. Information on this page may be updated as the University’s planning evolves and/or immigration guidance prompts a shift in Brown’s operations and protocols.


Travel Health & Safety

Brown University partners with International SOS to provide emergency travel assistance, and important travel health, safety and security alerts and resources. To access the information on this website you will need to login with Brown’s membership number; the Brown member is available on the International SOS website. Their COVID-19 page provides country-by-country (and also U.S. state-by-state) guidance on the following: 

  • International travel disruption (including details on commercial travel as well as inbound and outbound travel restrictions),
  • Domestic mobility considerations, and 
  • Other non-movement related conditions that could affect your travel.

Additional guidelines on Rhode Island COVID-19 public health policies are available on the Rhode Island Department of Health website.  See the “Alerts and Latest Guidance” section of this page for specific travel restrictions. We also encourage you to read Brown’s Plan for a Healthy and Safe 2020-21.

If you have travel health, safety and security questions, please refer to Brown’s travel policies on the Healthy Brown website, which includes contact information for relevant offices. You can also refer to the International Travel Risk Management website or contact Christine Sprovieri, Director of International Travel Risk Management. If you have questions, about visa requirements, please contact OISSS at [email protected]

Information about health and safety guidance for return to campus is available on the Healthy Brown website, which includes contact information for offices that can assist you with questions about your specific circumstances. For additional information, refer to the COVID-19 FAQ for Graduate Students, or Undergraduate Student FAQ website. If you are an international medical student and have questions about the fall return plans or the academic year, please reach out to Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Roxanne Vrees ([email protected]) and Associate Dean for Medical Education, Paul George ([email protected]).

In the event that on campus activities are suspended due to public health or other considerations, the University will provide clear guidance about how students can complete the semester remotely considering the implications from current and/or forthcoming SEVP guidelines.

Visa & Immigration

Brown University follows a hybrid model during the spring semester that offers online and in-person instruction. As per SEVP guidelines, students whose SEVIS record was active on March 9, 2020, may continue to follow the SEVIS guidance from Spring 2020, which is currently still in effect. New F-1 students in initial status (including transfer or change of educational level students), who entered or will be entering the U.S. after March 9, 2020, are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course and attend the in-person component throughout the entire term.

New international students only: Your program begin date is indicated on your immigration document I-20/DS-2019, which also is the begin date of the Orientation for International Students (January 10, 2021, for undergraduate students and January 11, 2021, for graduate students). If you are not able to enter the U.S. by this date, undergraduate students should contact the College ([email protected]), and graduate students should contact their respective academic department to request a letter of support. The letter should indicate up to which date during the present semester you may enter the U.S. to begin your program (not to exceed 30 days from the program's begin date). Please forward a copy of the letter to OISSS, so that we can adjust your immigration document accordingly.

New international students in initial status who begin their academic program remotely, while waiting for their student visa or travel restrictions to be lifted, will have their immigration document deferred until they can enter the U.S. OISSS will forward a copy of your new I-20 to you.

Please check with the Department of State (DoS) and individual U.S. Consulates regularly. Until U.S. Consulates resume normal operations, consular staff might cancel existing visa appointments or reschedule them to a later date. Students with existing appointment dates that are later than desired can also check the U.S. consulate website regularly for earlier, expedited appointment times. For current DoS information please visit the U.S. Visas website.

Students who wish to engage in CPT have to be in lawful F-1 status for a minimum of two semesters prior to becoming eligible to apply. There is one exception to this requirement: International graduate students only, whose program requires a summer internship (e.g. Master’s in Computer Science), may apply for CPT without first completing one full academic year. More information about CPT eligibility requirements can be found on the OISSS CPT webpage.

Based on previous guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), transfer students who are outside the U.S. and unable to begin their program in person, may request a deferral of their program's begin date for immigration purposes. As an example, a transfer student who was scheduled to begin an academic program in the fall but was unable to enter the U.S. in time will be forwarded a new I-20 with the spring program begin date (January 10, 2021, for undergraduate students; January 11, 2021, for graduate students) once the SEVIS record has been re-activated. The request for re-activation can be made no earlier than 60 days prior to the program's begin date.

The five-month rule does not impact your ability to take classes remotely for continuing students with active SEVIS records, who are covered by the SEVP spring 2020 guidance.  We are awaiting additional SEVP guidance and will keep students informed with any updates.

Your visa can expire while you are in the U.S. without impacting your legal status as long as your immigration document I-20/DS-2019 has not expired and you are pursuing a full course of study. As of now we recommend that you stay in the United States and limit international travel to emergencies only until the travel and visa renewal situation has become more stable.

According to guidance from the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), continuing students with active SEVIS records on March 9 2020, may take classes entirely online and their SEVIS records will remain active as long as they are full-time enrolled. Students who are in the U.S. and who began their program in Fall 2020 and did not transfer from another U.S. school, must continue to take at least one hybrid class and participate in the in-person component in the spring. Brown’s hybrid online and remote model accommodates this. Students will also be able to participate remotely until they can join their cohort in the U.S.

You cannot work on campus while on leave, per Brown policy. You would also not be eligible for CPT or pre-completion OPT while on leave.

You can take a leave of absence and remain in the U.S. only under certain documented medical circumstances and with pre-approval by OISSS.

If you are enrolled abroad, your F-1 SEVIS record will remain active. However, you must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT. Please consult with OISSS about your specific case: brown.edu/go/oisss

Pending confirmation from Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and due to Brown’s three semester model for the 2020-21 academic year, you may be able to reactivate your SEVIS record. This would allow you to remain eligible for part-time summer off-campus employment, provided that you will also be a full-time enrolled student in the summer semester. If you will not be taking a full course of study this summer, you would not be eligible for SEVIS reactivation and would also not be able to work in the U.S. during this time. Instead, you would need to request an initial I-20 to return to Brown for the fall semester. Please consult with OISSS about your specific case: brown.edu/go/oisss

Billing & Financial Aid

Due to limited available resources, the University prioritizes aided international undergraduate students with highest demonstrated financial needs and/or who are receiving university aid. To support those students, the University has launched the Aided International Students Travel Pilot to assist with travel support and eligible students. More information regarding the Aided International Undergraduate Students Travel Pilot will be included in your financial aid award letter. Eligible students can contact the Travel Pilot Team at ([email protected]).

For more information about tuition and fees, including leave refund policies, installment payment plan options and related policies, visit the Bursar Office website

The University has a policy and process for eligible undergraduate international students and families to petition for need-blind financial aid. To review the guidelines, eligibility criteria, and to submit an application, visit the Financial Aid website. For information about graduate student emergency funding, please contact Dean Maria Suarez ([email protected]). Graduate students should also ask their programs if any additional funding is available.

Academic Continuity


If you are an international student attending Brown on an F-1 visa, please also refer to the The College Frequently Asked Questions.

Students who are unable to arrive on campus by their spring program begin dates (January 10, 2021, for undergraduate students) should immediately contact their academic advisors ([email protected]). In addition, students in campus housing should inform Residential Life ([email protected]) if their Spring 2021 housing plans change. All registered students can engage fully either remotely or while in residence in Providence. First-year students may engage remotely until they arrive on campus no later than up to 30 days from the program begin date. Once in the U.S., first-year students are required to enroll in at least one hybrid course and participate in the in-person components of that class.

International students on F-1 visa status with established legal residency in the prospective home country of study may be eligible for Brown's study away option which enables them to enroll in and take courses as a non-degree visiting student in an approved institution in their country of residence. For more information, students can email the College at ([email protected])

Given the uncertain nature of the global health crisis’s continued effects on both public health and on travel between countries, Brown made the decision to cancel all University-sponsored undergraduate study abroad for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. This decision was made in consultation with Brown’s Global Travel Risk and Assessment Committee (GTRAC) in consideration of a number of factors, including student health and safety, country and site-specific health infrastructure restrictions, reduced flight availability, cessation of visa issuances, and restrictive entry requirements. In addition to Brown’s GTRAC recommendation, the University’s decision was informed by guidance from a number of national and international agencies, including the U.S. Department of State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and International SOS, along with local country-specific government policies and public health mandates. Brown will continue to monitor the situation before making any determinations about study abroad for Fall2021. We encourage interested students to continue exploring study abroad options during that semester. In the event that study abroad for Fall 2021 is restricted, we will convey any decisions with as much advance notice as possible.  For additional study abroad questions relating to COVID-19, visit the Study Abroad COVID-19 Updates page of the Office of International Programs website.

Undergraduate students who are required to complete an internship as a part of their concentration are able to satisfy those requirements with either an overseas internship completed or a capstone project. For more information, please contact your concentration advisor, or consult with OISSS advisor Kelsey Dennis (brown.edu/go/oisss). 

Graduate Students (Master's and Doctoral)

In order to remain in status on F-1 visas, first-year graduate students (whether in their first or second semester) cannot be enrolled in exclusively online courses. In other words, students enrolled in courses must take at least one course in a hybrid format and participate in the in-person component.  In other respects, all matriculated students will be given the option to take courses online, whether they are in Providence or not.

In-person class meetings will be limited to 19 students to enable safe distancing of students and instructors within classrooms. Many courses with enrollments above 19 will have in-person section meetings of 19 or fewer students. Brown has developed plans for every classroom space which allow for six-foot or greater separation between individuals and three-foot circulation zones. In addition, exiting students and instructors will be asked to wipe down physical property (desks, chairs, lecterns, etc.) between class sessions.

Being registered for research/dissertation after the completion of required coursework is considered full-time, and students working on their thesis or dissertation are considered to be maintaining valid F-1 status. Students who need to re-enter the country at this stage in their program are advised to obtain from their graduate program a letter indicating their need to be in residence at Brown in order to make progress toward the completion of the degree.

All spring courses will be available to be taken remotely. Masters students should contact their program and the Associate Dean of Master’s and Professional Programs, Shayna Kessel ([email protected]), if they find they need to study remotely for more than one semester.

If you were or are a new or initial F-1 student (new to enter the U.S. in either Fall 2020 or Spring 2021), you must be enrolled in a minimum of one hybrid course, per SEVP guidance. This requirement involves attending in-person components of this class, even in the case that the class has a remote option.

As per current regulations, students are required to spend a minimum of two semesters in the U.S. prior to becoming eligible for curricular or optional practical training. Graduate students whose program requires an internship prior to graduation are exempt from the two semester requirement for CPT purposes only.  As of now, SEVP guidance has not been provided otherwise. Please contact [email protected] for further information

All graduate students who are appointed to teaching assistant and teaching fellow positions (primarily PhD and MFA students) will be given the option of instructing in person or remotely for the spring and summer terms of 2021. For international students who are not in the U.S. during the spring term and are serving as a Teaching Assistant, there may be an impact on the taxes that are withdrawn from the monthly stipend. Your stipend will otherwise continue to be issued through direct deposit each month.

The Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS) has issued immigration documents in time for you to matriculate for the spring semester, assuming all required documentation was received in time. Students who have not completed this process are advised to submit all required passport copies and funding documents to the Graduate School ([email protected]) as soon as possible so the immigration document issuance can proceed on your behalf. We realize that you may be experiencing difficulty getting documents from educational institutions and banks, for example and encourage you to do your best to send the necessary documents, as they become available.

Incoming Ph.D. Students

We understand that, due to multiple delays and complications caused by COVID-19, a number of students may not be able to arrive on campus prior to the start of Spring 2021. If you are unable to arrive before January 11 but can expect to arrive in Providence by February 10, you may be able to matriculate and begin your program remotely and continue in person once you arrive.

If you will not be able to arrive by February 10, please review your deferral options with your Director of Graduate Study (DGS). It may be necessary to defer until Fall 2021. Requests for deferrals should be made to the Director of Graduate Study (DGS) in your program no later than December 10. Please discuss your deferral options directly with your program before making a final decision.

One important factor to keep in mind is that Brown is unfortunately unable to pay students their stipends until the students have completed the I-9 process, and that cannot be done until the student has entered the country. Thus, we are unfortunately unable to pay the stipend prior to your arrival in the US and completion of this process.

Unfortunately, Brown is unable to distribute your stipend until after you have completed the I-9 process, which can only be done once the student’s visa has been issued and the student has entered the country.

Incoming Master's Students

If you are unable to arrive before January 11, 2021, you may be able to matriculate and begin your program remotely. Once you arrive in the U.S., no later than February 10, you may continue your studies remotely. However, as a first-year student you are required to take at least one hybrid course and attend the in-person component. Please communicate with your department or program as soon as possible if you cannot arrive on campus by January 11, 2021.

You may also defer your admission. Students in the School of Public Health may only defer their admission to Fall 2021. Students in all other master’s programs may defer to Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. If you would like to defer your admission, please contact your department administrator.

Please discuss your options, questions, and concerns directly with your graduate program before making a final decision.

Medical Students

If you are an international medical student and have questions about the spring return plans or the academic year, please reach out to Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Roxanne Vrees ([email protected]) and Associate Dean for Medical Education, Paul George ([email protected]).

Campus Support & Resources

Over the past several years, Brown and its international students and scholars have experienced an unprecedented array of immigration-related challenges and setbacks. We have worked closely with peer institutions, higher education associations, Rhode Island congressional delegations, and other partners to advocate for inclusive support of international students and scholars including:

It is impossible to overstate the impact and contributions of international students and scholars to Brown and the U.S., and Brown will continue to advocate for inclusive and equitable immigration policies.

The Global Brown Center for International Students (GBC) and the Graduate School are working to transition the international orientation experiences (at both the undergraduate and graduate levels) to online and remote options. More information about Spring 2021 International Orientation for undergraduate students, including registration, dates, and further details can be found here.  The Graduate School is finalizing details for graduate students starting January 11, 2021. More information will be available soon! For questions about general orientation, please contact [email protected].

There are several resources for students that are experiencing stigmatization, bias and xenophobia. For individual support, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has remote appointments and resources for students here. Staff members within the Campus Life Centers and Student Support Services are also available by appointment to support students and direct you to further resources. You can also report the incident(s) to the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity using the online incident reporting tools. If you are interested in creating a space for discussion around these issues, please contact the Global Brown Center for International Students at [email protected]. 

English Language Support staff are available remotely to support students with questions around language, terminology, or usage, and using English in different academic and social settings. Students can schedule an appointment on the ELS website or email [email protected].

For information about personal leaves for undergraduate students, visit the CRC leave-taking resource page and the Personal Leave FAQ. Undergraduate academic deans are available virtually by individual appointments or drop-in advising to discuss leave options; you can contact an academic dean online.  Graduate students have multiple types of leave, including personal leave, available to them through the Graduate School and School of Professional Studies. Graduate students with questions should contact Associate Dean Maria Suarez or Shayna Kessel.

The Global Brown Center for International Students is planning to continue our virtual gatherings for students to come together in community. The GBC will collaborate with other offices, including student staffers, to create events and webinars that meet the needs of our international students. This will include community, cultural, and mentorship based programming, along with programs specifically for graduate students. If you have any suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact us at [email protected].

Brown Auxiliary Services “Guide to Living Off-Campus” is a resource page for off-campus housing. In addition, graduate students can join GSBB, a Brown graduate student listserv, which often has postings about roommates and sublets.