FAQ: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information for International Students

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Berkeley Global International Students

Currents Students - check out our COVID-19 Resource Guide for Students

This page is maintained by International Student Services (ISS) at extension-intl@berkeley.edu.

Due to the fluidity of the situation on campus regarding the coronavirus, the answers to the questions below may change. Please be sure to check back often for updates.

Updated: 5/11/2021 at 4 p.m.

Travel to the U.S.

National Interest Exception for F-1 Students

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State updated its National Interest Exception (NIE) page to expand certain NIE eligibilities to all countries subject to a geographic COVID-19 entry ban. This includes those present in China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India (added 4/30) and means that:

  • Students with valid F-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 can travel to the United Status no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies. Students do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.
  • Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.

Effective January 26, 2021: Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease

President Biden signed a proclamation to continue the 14-day U.S. entry restrictions on individuals who were recently present in the Schengen Area, UK (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), Ireland, Brazil, China or Iran, and, effective January 30, 2021, adds South Africa to the list of countries. This means that those who were physically present within these areas during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States will not be allowed to enter. 

Effective January 26, 2021; Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States

Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger...This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021 and will become effective on January 26, 2021."  

Fall 2021 Enrollment

Will Fall 2021 classes be offered in person or remotely?

The University of California announced on Jan. 11 that it is planning for a return to primarily in-person instruction systemwide starting Fall 2021. On March 16, the UC Berkeley Office of Chancellor released an update on Fall semester planning. Specific plans for resumption of fall classes, including additional safety measures and starting dates, will be announced in the future as we continue to coordinate closely with local public health agencies and follow all local and state health guidelines. Please check back for more information.

Can international students study with Berkeley Global in the Fall 2021 semester?

Yes, as announced on Jan 11, most programs plan to resume in person or hybrid courses for the Fall 2021 semester. As such, international students, pending travel regulations and any other public health requirements, will be able to come to the U.S. to study as full-time students. 

If cannot arrive by the start of the semester, can I still attend?

This will depend on your situation and your program's requirements. We understand that travel may be very difficult this summer and we are committed to being as flexible as possible while adhering to immigration policy and supporting your academic success. If you know your arrival will be delayed, please contact your program and extension-intl@berkeley.edu

Can I defer my admission to a future semester?

Yes, students have the option to request to defer their admission to another semester if they can not attend in Fall.  Contact your program about this and they will assist you with the process. 

Visa Concerns for Spring 2021 students

I have applied to start in the Spring 2021 semester. Will I be able to get an F-1 visa and enter the U.S.?
Unfortunately, given that most courses will be offered only remotely, new F-1 students will not be able to enter the U.S. to start a program in Spring 2021 to participate in a remote only program. Hybrid programs may offer some exceptions. Please contact your program as soon as possible for options and additional details; options may include cancellation, deferral, or part-time remote study from your home. Your I-20 will be cancelled if you do not communicate your preferences. F-1 Transfer students should contact ISS immediately.

I am a continuing/returning student, can I stay in the United States?
Yes, F-1 students who were inside the U.S. as of March 9 may remain in the U.S. in the Spring 2021 semester regardless of mode of instruction (in-person, hybrid, remote, etc) as long as they pursue a full course of study.

I am trying to leave the U.S. and travel to my home country, but can't find a flight. What do I do?
Flight availability is changing from week to week. Students who are struggling to find a flight home should reach out to their country's Embassy or Consulate in the U.S.  Many countries are arranging special travel for international students in the U.S. trying to get home.
Students who cannot leave before the end of their grace period should contact ISS for guidance and alternate options. ISS can document your inability to leave the country due to COVID-19 in your SEVIS record.

I have finished my program. How long can I stay in the U.S.?
As long as you maintain your F-1 status, you are granted a 60-day grace period after the I-20 program end date. If you want to stay longer, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu as soon as possible to discuss options.

I have or plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). How does this impact my OPT?
If you are planning on completing your program in Spring 2021 and were planning on applying for OPT, but haven't yet, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu immediately.

If you've applied for OPT already, we recommend that you remain in the U.S. while your application is pending. However, if you need to leave, please contact ISS at extension-intl@berkeley.edu immediately for advising.

I am leaving Berkeley, but I still have a lease/rent payments. What do I do?
You should contact your landlord in writing and let them know you are leaving Berkeley. The city of Berkeley city council passed an ordinance on June 30, which allows tenants to terminate their leases with 30 days' notice if they qualify under “Covered Reasons for Delayed Payment,” which include material loss of income, or if they “are or were registered at an educational institution that cancelled or limited in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the item’s cover memo. However, landlords may still require you to pay the rent owed for the duration of a lease. If you need assistance, please let us know at extension-intl@berkeley.edu and we can help review your lease and direct you to resources with the Berkeley Rent Board and East Bay Community Law Center.

Health and Safety

Is it safe to come to the United States in due to COVID-19? 
The COVID-19 situation is vastly different across the United States and even within California.  The Bay Area has taken strict measures in order to keep its residents safe and to “flatten the curve.”  If students arrive in the Bay Area, they should be prepared to follow all guidelines in order to keep themselves and others safe.  Check City of Berkeley COVID-19 news for the most up-to-date information.

How do I stay healthy? What should I do if I am sick?
Follow the recommendations from the CDC website. If you think you might have COVID-19, call your doctor or urgent care before coming in so they can prepare for you. Contact your program adviser if you are unable to attend or participate in classes. If you have the UC Berkeley Anthem Health Insurance, check out Anthem's helpful guide about COVID-19 health plan benefits and download a free app to assess your COVID-19 symptoms and connect to a doctor. Also, Carbon Health offers the Coronavirus Assessment Tool and offers same-day virtual appointments. 

Does the Extension Health Insurance (Anthem) cover COVID-19? And the vaccination?
Yes. We confirmed with Anthem Blue Cross that there is no exclusion for COVID-19. This means that hospital stays, doctor visits and medications, and vaccinations are covered at the same rate no matter what illness you have. Members can call the number on their ID card to confirm coverage. See your plan summary, and look up doctors and hospitals in your network.

Check out Anthem's helpful guide about COVID-19 health plan benefits. You can even download a free app to assess your COVID-19 symptoms and connect to a doctor. For more information about your health insurance coverage, see our Health & Safety webpage.

I am a returning student. What kind of housing can I find in light of COVID-19?  Will I be able to live with roommates?
Apartments are still available to be rented and various housing providers have provided information about what they are doing in light of COVID-19.  You can reach out to them with more specific questions about their practices, or reach out to our housing coordinator at extension-intl@berkeley.edu. If you are considering signing a lease, you should be aware that the city of Berkeley city council passed an ordinance on June 30 that allows tenants to terminate their leases with 30 days’ notice if they qualify under “Covered Reasons for Delayed Payment,” which include material loss of income, or if they “are or were registered at an educational institution that cancelled or limited in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the item’s cover memo. However, landlords may still require you to pay the rent owed for the duration of a lease. You should be certain that you, and any potential roommates, will stay in that housing for the duration of a lease before signing it. If you are unsure about committing to the whole duration, ask your landlord about a shorter lease, or changing the termination clause to better accommodate your needs, before signing.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Will I be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend Fall 2021 in person?

On April 24 (updated on May 7), the University of California has proposed a policy on COVID-19 vaccination as part of an expected return of students, faculty, academic appointees, and staff to in-person instruction across the state this Fall. Under the proposed policy, the university would require students, faculty, academic appointees, and staff who are accessing campus facilities at any UC location beginning this fall to be immunized against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This policy is under review and more details will be posted as soon as it is available. Please review the Student FAQ for helpful information.

If the policy is adopted:

  • Vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization administered consistent with your country’s implementation will be accepted as proof of vaccination.
  • If you cannot come back to campus 3-4 weeks before school starts and cannot get vaccinated in your country, you will be allowed on campus but will be referred to a vaccine site to get vaccinated immediately and may be subject to special safety measures such as masking, more frequent testing and/or quarantine.

I am currently in the U.S., how can I get vaccinated? 

Please refer to the COVID-19 Resource Guide for current students to learn about vaccination and other Berkeley COVID-19 related news.


Check your email for messages from campus, International Student Services and your academic programs.

Also check out our up-to-date blog post on resources, including Essential Services, available in and around Berkeley.

Where can I get information?

Student Services

Is International Student Services (ISS) still open? How do I talk to an adviser?
Yes. While the UC Berkeley Global buildings (Berkeley and San Francisco) are closed, we continue to offer services remotely. Advisers are available via email or virtual appointment, Monday-Friday, 9 am-5 pm (Pacific Time). We offer 15- and 30-minute appointments. OPT appointments require a 24-hour notice.

Are campus libraries open? How can I return books?

As of April 5, students will be able to reserve study spaces at Moffitt Library. Students also still have full access to the online library database (download the VPN first), and librarians are available via email through the 24/7 online chat service.

Is Counseling and Psychological Services open?

Yes! Appointments are available via phone. See their website for contact info and hours.

How do I maintain connections with my classmates and community?

We will be offering multiple virtual opportunities for you to continue to engage and connect—from a virtual cooking contest, a virtual trivia night, pen pal program, mindfulness and meditation practice, and more!

Check out all upcoming ISS Virtual Activities.