International Student COVID-19 Updates and Procedures

Fall 2021 International Student Updates

At this time, Blinn has been authorized to continue to follow the March 2020 ICE COVID-19 Guidance (updated April 2021) for the fall 2021 term. This means that nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled with the Blinn College District on March 9, 2020, are allowed to remain active even if they are taking courses entirely online while outside of the U.S. However, they must notify the International Student Office of their plan to enroll completely online through the International Student Check-in process at the beginning of the term on the student’s myBLINN portal. Students who did not possess an Active I-20 from Blinn College on March 9, 2020, are not authorized to enroll entirely online.  

Initial students who began enrollment with the Blinn College District for fall 2020, spring 2021, and fall 2021 cannot take completely online courses from outside of the U.S. All international students who began studying at Blinn College for either fall 2020, spring 2021, or fall 2021 must register for at least three hours of coursework with face-to-face instruction in the United States to remain active. 

Enrollment Requirements for Fall 2021 

In accordance with the Blinn College District International Operational Plan, the following courses count as face-to-face instruction: Traditional and Blended. The following courses are considered online-only instruction: Live Online, Flex Online, and Blended Zoom. If students have questions about their compliance with F-1 regulations for the upcoming fall 2021 term, they can reach out to the International Student Office by email or phone.  

International Students must be registered in a full course of study (at least 12 credit hours) by August 30, 2021, to remain active. International students can enroll in part-of-term sections, but cannot take all of their required 12 credit hours in one half of the semester. International students must spread their required credit hours across the entire semester and must maintain the minimum requirements in total hours and type of instruction method. Students who wish to defer or request a temporary leave of absence must do so through their myBLINN student email account no later than noon on August 19, 2021. 


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Fall 2021 Beginning of Term Information

When will the fall semester begin and end? 

  1. Blinn College will resume full services and activities this fall term. Classes will begin on August 30, 2021. 
  2. Initial students for fall 2021 are required to enter the United States by August 19, 2021 and attend a mandatory online orientation event on August 20, 2021. If you are not able to enter the country by August 19, 2021, you must contact the International Student Office immediately.  
  3. Part-of-term courses such as 4-week, 8-week, and 12-week classes may have different start dates. Check the chart on the Add/Drop registration screen or Academic calendar to make sure you are beginning your part-of-term courses on time. It is your responsibility to know what part-of-term courses you are scheduled for and to begin your course on time. If you have questions about your schedule reach out to Academic Advising or the International Student Program office for assistance. 

Self-Isolation for International Travelers No Longer Required

The Blinn College District will no longer require international travelers to self-isolate prior to arriving on campus. It is the student’s responsibility to utilize the Campus Clear self-certification process daily to report any COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. Please see blinn.edu/back-with-blinn/covid-self-certification to download the Campus Clear App or Utilize the Campus Clear website for this process.

Beginning of the Term Check-in: 

Each student (Both New and Current) will be required to complete a mandatory check-in process for the beginning of the term to provide updated immigration and entry documents. The check-in process must be complete prior to the beginning of the term. We will post the check-in forms on the student’s myBLINN portal under the Admissions Forms icon in August 2021. 


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Other Related Announcements 

  • All students seeking to travel into the U.S. should monitor travel.state.gov website regarding restrictions and travel instructions. 
  • May 28, 2021 CDC requires all air passengers entering the United States to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within 3 calendar days of departure prior to being allowed to board airline flights to the United States. Airlines may deny boarding of passengers who do not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery. 
  • There are National Interest Exceptions (NIE) policies that have been put in place that allow students with a valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later to not need to contact an embassy or consulate to apply for an individual National Interest Exception Waiver to travel. For more information regarding the Presidential proclamations and the NIE please see https://www.nafsa.org/regulatory-information/covid-19-restrictions-us-visas-and-entry#countryproclamations.

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Procedure to Request Deferral/Temporary Leave of Absence

Current Students: 

  • Students who do not wish to take classes for the Fall term because they cannot re-enter the United States, or they are affected by the pandemic can request a Temporary Leave of Absence.
  • To request a leave of absence you must email the International Office from your Blinn Student email. State the reason you are requesting the leave of absence and when you plan to return to Blinn College.
  • The International Office will review each request and if approved, will process a termination of your I-20 for the “Approved Early Withdrawal” which will allow the student an approved temporary leave of absence in the SEVIS system for up to 5 months.
  • Students must request a Temporary Leave of Absence by noon on August 19, 2021. 
  • If in the United States, once approved the student will have 15 days to leave the United States.
  • Traditionally temporary leave of absence is only allowed for up to 5 months, the International Office will advise when you can re-enter the U.S. and assist to re-activate your SEVIS record. 
  • Students cannot re-enter the United States until their SEVIS record is made Active again. Contact the International Office prior to making plans to return to the United States.
  • Students who were on a Temporary Leave of Absence cannot re-enter the United States 60 days prior to the next program start date.

Initial Students Outside of the United States: 

  • Initial international students who are not able to enter the United States due to visa issuance issues or flight issues can request a deferral of their I-20 record to spring 2022. 
  • To request a deferral, email the International Office from your Blinn Student email account. 
  • Students must request a deferral by noon on August 19, 2021. 
  • Students will receive an updated I-20 with spring 2022 program dates. 
  • Students can request a visa up to 120 days from the start of a program. If you have a visa appointment DO NOT cancel it. Contact the International Office so we can advise you of your options.
  • Students that request a deferral will be required to re-submit updated confirmation of financial resource documents which must be within 6 months from the start of spring 2022. We will temporarily accept these documents via email.

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What is the Class Format for Fall 2021 term?

  • For the fall 2021 semester, Blinn College is beginning to offer traditional face-to-face courses again which will offer an on-campus experience with direct interaction with your classmates. On-campus services and activities will resume as well.  
  • The schedule will continue to utilize 4-week, 8-week, and 12-week term courses which provide greater flexibility in scheduling options. International students are required to take no more than 2 – 3 classes during each 8-week timeframe.  
  • Blinn College will still be offering many classes in an online format and international students can enroll in an online course as long as they are maintaining their required 3 hours of face-to-face instruction
  • When registering make sure to understand what format course you are registering for by reviewing the chart below. This chart is also posted on the registration screens. 
  • Blinn College has posted great information about what to expect regarding courses for the fall 2021 term; check it out at blinn.edu/back-with-blinn/academics 

Which course format is best for me? 

A comparison of the different course formats can be found at blinn.edu/back-with-blinn/academics

Choosing to take online courses: 

International Students who are considering taking online courses for the fall term need to consider these items:

  • You must be enrolled in a full course load (12 hours) across the entire semester. Students will not be able to drop below 12 hours for the semester if the online modality does not work for you.
  • Double-check that you have all the required technology resources to complete the class online. (See section on Back with Blinn website: blinn.edu/back-with-blinn/academics)
  • You are responsible to meet all course requirements online regardless of where you are located this includes technology outages and service disruptions that may occur due to being in another country. 
  • All course deadlines and due dates will be in the Central Standard Time Zone and it is your responsibility to keep up with these deadlines. 
  • Online courses often have discussion requirements and attendance requirements, READ the syllabi to understand the requirements. DO NOT BE DROPPED for non-attendance for not understanding the requirements.  
  • Online courses will be charged a distance education fee. 
  • Zoom meetings are used for online classes. For more information about using Zoom in the classroom, please visit Zoom for Blinn Students. 

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Address Changes/Notification of Returning Home

  • International students are still required to notify the International Office of any change in address, email, or phone number within 10 days of the change.
  • Travel signatures will still be required. If you are returning to the United States for the Fall and you do not have a travel signature on the second page of the Form I-20, notify the International Office prior to re-entry.
  • If you plan to leave the United States during the fall you will need to receive your travel signature before you depart.

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SEVP Updates and Guidance

History of Events: 

On July 6th & 7th the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) posted a long-awaited guidance specific to fall 2020 for F-visa holders. However, on July 14th the SEVP rescinded the July 6th guidance and reverted to the previous guidance documents from March 2020. The SEVP posted an updated FAQ sheet on July 15th. At 12:30 pm on July 24th the SEVP issued follow-up guidance regarding the fall 2020 term clarifying certain topics not addressed in the March guidance. All updates and guidance from the SEVP can be seen at https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus. 

Terminology: 

When reading the SEVP guidance and updates keep these important distinctions in mind. 

  • Current F-1 Students - students who previously attended Blinn College for spring 2020 on an I-20 and are returning to Blinn College for fall 2020. 
  • Initial/New F-1 Students - students who are new to Blinn for fall 2020. This includes students who are transfer F-1 students to Blinn College. 

What this Means: 

Current F-1 Students: 

  • The March 2020 guidance that we are still under applies to the fall 2020 term and non-immigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020 and are otherwise complying with the terms of their non-immigrant status. 
  • The SEVP will not issue a temporary final rule impacting F students for the fall term. 
  • Current students will be allowed to temporarily take more than 3 hours of online/blended coursework. 
  • Current students outside of the U.S. will be able to take all online courses and maintain their Active status in SEVIS if they can maintain a full course of study (12 hours).  
  • Current students who were outside of the U.S. as a result of the pandemic can re-enter the U.S. for the fall term even if their school is engaging in solely distance learning. 
  • If the school is required to unexpectedly close or return to a completely online modality following the start of the fall term, current international students will be allowed to take completely online classes from either inside or outside of the U.S. 
  • The DSO will be required to place notes in a current student’s I-20 record if they departed the U.S. due to the pandemic and has not returned to the U.S. but is continuing to take a full course of student completely online. 
  • Current students will need to notify the international office within 10 days of any address change if they are in the U.S. so the DSO can update the addresses in SEVIS. 
  • If a current student does not wish to take alternative courses being offered (online or blended) for the fall term they may request a temporary absence and we will process an authorized early withdraw. We will provide more information regarding this process at a later date. 

Initial/New Fall Students: 

  • Initial students who are in the U.S. (mostly applies to transfer students who did not leave the U.S.) will be allowed to begin for the fall term and will be allowed to take more than 3 hours of online/blended coursework. Although they cannot be in a 100% online course load. 
  • Initial students who are not able to enter the U.S. on a valid F-1 visa for the fall term are not able to begin a new program remotely. 
  • DSO’s should NOT issue a form I-20 for a student in new or initial status who is outside of the U.S. and plans to take classes at a SEVP-certified institution that is operating 100% online. 
  • Initial students will NOT be able to enter the U.S. to enroll in a U.S. school as a non-immigrant student for fall term to pursue a full course of student that is 100% online. 
  • Initial transfer students who are outside of the U.S. will remain in initial status until they are ready to re-enter the U.S. to begin study. You will need to contact the DSO for us to process a data fix in the SEVIS system. We will provide more information regarding this process at a later date. 
  • Initial transfer students who are inside the U.S. must report to the DSO in-person or with electronic check-in. We will provide more information regarding this process at a later date. 

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