International Students

This page was updated 7/9/21.

For questions or concerns not answered below, please contact:

Duke Visa Services: visahelp@mc.duke.edu

International House: ihouse@duke.edu

All faculty, staff and students received this letter about updated plans for the beginning of fall semester, including vaccination requirements for faculty and staff; entry testing for students and changing mask requirements.

On June 29, 2021, the US Department of State announced that all National Interest Exceptions (NIE) are now valid for 12 months and multiple entries as long as one is traveling for the same purpose for which an NIE was originally granted. 

Previously, all NIEs were only valid for 30 days and only approved for a single entry into the US. This new policy allows for greater flexibility in travel into the U.S. for those already issued NIEs, as they are now allowed to enter the country multiple times, provided they are traveling for the same pre-approved purpose stated in their original NIE.

There will be no need to apply for a new NIE until the one-year expiration date of the original. If you received an NIE within the past 12 months, that exception will remain valid until one year after its original approval date. 

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On June 1, 2021, the US Department of State (DOS) updated the National Interest Exception (NIE) criteria for individuals subject to proclamations restricting travel to the US due to physical presence in China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.  

Students who have been present in Brazil, China, India, Iran, or South Africa are eligible for NIE only if their program of study, including Optional Practical Training (OPT), will begin on or after August 1, 2021.  Students may enter the United States up to 30 days before the start of their program of study.  Students with valid F-1 visa stamps traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland to begin or continue an academic program, or those who will be applying for visas, do not need an individual NIE to travel.

Please note that currently, due to safety concerns, some US embassies and consulates are only accepting emergency appointments.  Your I-20 and the acceptance letters will verify the start date of your academic programs for emergency appointments.  The DOS remains committed to student visa applications and will add additional student visa appointments as soon as it is able to do so safely.  Be sure to review the website of your nearest US embassy or consulate for up-to-date instructions.  

For more information about exceptions to the current travel restrictions, please see https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/presidential-proclamation-on-the-suspension-of-entry-as-nonimmigrants-of-certain-additional-persons-who-pose-a-risk-of-transmitting-coronavirus-disease-2019.html

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April 30, 2021

To the Duke international student community,

We write today to share recent updates on U.S. immigration policies related to higher education:

ICE Guidance on SEVP

This week ICE announced that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will extend its March 2020 guidance regarding distance learning for the 2021-2022 academic year.

This guidance enables schools and students to engage in distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the continuing public health concerns created by COVID-19. The March 2020 guidance applies to nonimmigrant students who were actively enrolled at a U.S. school on March 9, 2020, and are otherwise complying with the terms of their nonimmigrant status, whether from inside the United States or abroad.

Duke welcomes all students for in-person teaching in the fall and we expect that in-person will be the dominant form of teaching, with some remote classes offered. For these reasons, Duke will continue to operate in hybrid mode for fall.

National Interest Exception

This week, the U.S. State Department announced that it has made a new National Interest Exception (NIE) for certain students and exchange visitors, which would exempt them from the COVID-related visa and entry restrictions currently in place for China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Only students whose academic programs begin August 1, 2021, or later can qualify for the exemption. If qualified, travelers must follow the procedures outlined by the State Department.

While this is positive news for Duke and our international students and scholars, visa issuance remains delayed in many places. Duke and the broader higher education community are continuing to advocate for the government to resume normal visa processing as soon as possible.

For additional information or clarification regarding individual student situations, please contact Duke Visa Services.

Duke welcomes all students for in-person teaching in the fall. We expect that in-person will be the dominant form of teaching. There will be some remote classes offered. For these reasons, Duke will continue to operate in hybrid mode for fall.

  • When will fall registration begin? 
    • The registration window for Graduate and Professional students in the Divinity School, Engineering Professional – Pratt School of Engineering, Graduate School, Nicholas School of the Environment, Sanford School of Public Policy, and the School of Nursing is Wednesday, July 7.
    • Fuqua School of Business, School of Law, and the School of Nursing have their own registration schedules.
    • The first registration window for Fall 2021 undergraduates opens on Thursday, July 8. For detailed information on fall registration dates and registration windows, please visit https://registrar.duke.edu/registration/about-registration.
  •  What if I am unable to arrive in Durham before my program starts? 
    • Duke Visa Services will work closely with campus partners to determine how any policy changes will affect our international students and their ability to study in-person at Duke.
    • Information regarding visa requirements will be forthcoming.  
    • Specific information about whom to contact about late arrivals will be forthcoming.
    • New International graduate students are advised to contact their academic program for information on school-specific orientation activities for international graduate students. 
  • What if I cannot or don’t feel comfortable returning to Durham for in-person studies? Can I study remotely?
    • Duke welcomes all students for in-person teaching in the fall. We expect that in-person will be the dominant form of teaching. There will be some remote classes offered. For these reasons, Duke will continue to operate in hybrid mode for fall. Please check Fall 2021 course listings for course mode of delivery before committing to course registration in July.  
  • Do I have other options?
    • Undergraduates: International undergraduates unable to return to the United States for in-person studies at Duke may consider the following options: (1) Deferral or Gap Year (first-year students) (2) personal leave of absence (continuing students); (3) Study Away; or (4) Duke Kunshan University (China-based students able to study at Chinese universities without a visa).  
    • Graduate/Professional students who cannot come to campus: Please consult with your academic program directors/advisors about Fall 2021 options, including leaves of absence.  
  • I’m a returning undergraduate. Is there a way to request a Leave of Absence from Duke? Returning undergraduates wishing to request a Personal Leave of Absence from Duke should contact the Time Away Office.  
  • I am a new undergraduate student. Can you provide more information about a gap year and deferred enrollment?
    • Incoming first-year students may request a gap year/deferred enrollment: Enroll at Duke University through your student portal (no deposit required). You may request your gap year through your student portal or by SUBMITTING THIS FORM. Submit your request to us by May 31, 2021.
    • Duke offers a unique funding opportunity for some students pursuing gap years. For more information go to OUR GAP YEAR WEBPAGE. For more information, visit the FAQ at https://admissions.duke.edu/admit/
    • If you choose to defer enrollment, you must accept the following conditions:
    • You agree not to apply for admission to any other college or university during the remainder of this year or during the coming year. 
    • You may not enroll at another college or university during your gap year with the expectation of receiving Duke credit for those courses.
    • You may not enroll in a post-graduate program at a secondary school. 
    • If you do take any college courses during your gap year, you cannot retake those courses at Duke. 
    • You continue to abide by both the Conditions of Application and the conditions mentioned in the next to last paragraph of your letter of admission. 
  • President Price announced on April 9 that Duke intends to require all students – undergraduate, graduate and professional – to be vaccinated in order to attend classes and other campus activities this Fall. Underlying this plan are several factors which we will closely follow, including the anticipated FDA approval of vaccines, WHO recognition of vaccines related to international students, ongoing availability of vaccines, and continuing (and new) travel restrictions. We will expect all of our students to provide proof of vaccination or to obtain a medical or religious exemption. For more information about vaccination and fall COVID policies, please read updates on the Health Guidance page.
  • What are the vaccine requirements for Fall 2021?
    • All new and returning Duke students, including international students, are required to present proof of vaccination to Student Health before they can attend classes for the Fall 2021 semester. This policy covers all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students – in all degree programs – who intend to be on the Duke campus for any program starting with the Fall 2021 semester. Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated. 
  • I’m an international student who has received a vaccine in my home country that is not FDA-approved. Will Duke accept it when I arrive to start classes in the fall?
    • All vaccines on the World Health Organization (WHO) approved list will fulfill Duke’s Proof-of-Covid vaccination requirement. 
      • Vaccines not on this list will be reviewed on an individual basis, so please be sure to have a picture/copy of your vaccine record that includes your name, the vaccine name, and date of administration. 
      • If necessary, you will be able to receive another vaccine when you arrive at Duke. There is not yet a lot of clinical data to support a definitive answer on potential negative consequences from receiving multiple COVID vaccines, but based on our experience with other vaccines and current COVID management protocols, we feel it is reasonable to conclude that there is little risk to getting a vaccine upon arrival to the US if you’ve previously received one in another country.
  • What if I arrive on campus without a vaccine?
    • We advise you to get a vaccine in your home country, but Duke students arriving to campus without having received a Duke-approved COVID-19 vaccination will have access to a Duke-approved vaccination locally.
  • Do I have to quarantine if I come with a non-WHO approved vaccine, or if I am not vaccinated, and plan to receive the vaccine at Duke?
    • You will receive a vaccine at Duke in either case, but you will not have to quarantine. We advise you to wear a mask and to participate in more frequent surveillance testing until you are fully vaccinated. You will have full DukeCard access to buildings while you complete your immunization compliance process.
  • How much will a vaccine cost?
    • There will be no charge for the vaccine.
  • Are there any exemptions to the vaccine requirement? 
    •  Documented medical and religious exemptions will be accommodated. 
  • Please go to Health Guidance page for more details on testing and health guidelines.

I’m an international student already at Duke in Spring 2021. What is my vaccine eligibility? Does it matter if I don’t have citizenship? The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status (source: CDC). Your status as an international student is not a barrier to you receiving the vaccine here in NC, whether through Duke or elsewhere.

Fall 2021 Guidelines

If your questions are not answered on this page or in the document above, please contact Duke’s Office of Duke Visa Services for advice.

If you have additional questions or need support please contact the International House at 919-684-3585 or ihouse@duke.edu