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Guidance for International Student In Person Courses

The below information provides clarification about requirements for “in person course” enrollment for international students, and guidance for programs to ensure that incoming international students are able to meet visa requirements for Autumn quarter 2020-21. This information is subject to change for future quarters and will be updated, as needed.

The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) will ensure that all incoming undergraduate international students have an in person course in which to enroll. For graduate students, this responsibility falls to the student’s degree program.

In Person Enrollment Requirement

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines permit international students who were present in active status before March 9, 2020 to remain in the U.S. even if their full course of study is entirely online. In contrast, international students who entered the U.S. after March 9, 2020 are required to enroll in at least one in-person course per quarter (defined below) to fulfill visa requirements. This requirement will continue for Winter and Spring quarters 2021.

Students who are transferring from another U.S. institution and were in the U.S. for Autumn Quarter may be considered continuing rather than incoming. If a transfer student spent Autumn Quarter 2020 outside the U.S., they should consult with Bechtel. If you are unsure about whether a new international student is incoming or continuing, please consult with Bechtel.

In some cases, and with prior approval of the student’s degree program (if a graduate student), newly admitted  international students could choose to begin their program remotely (i.e., outside the U.S., for example in their home country) for the time being and delay coming to campus until a future quarter. However, they will need to enroll in an in-person course in the first quarter in which they are physically in the U.S. based upon current immigration requirements.

In Person Instruction Defined

“In person instruction” has been further clarified with the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) as:

A course may count as in person for the purposes of international student enrollment if the course is taken in residence and that the units accumulate toward the university’s minimum units required for degree, and
a) where regular class meetings are in person OR
b) where regular class meetings of a single component (i.e. lab or discussion) are in person OR
c) where there is independent study work that can only take place using specific campus resources

Examples of In Person Instruction for Graduate Programs

Programs have great flexibility in how they will meet in person instructional requirements for incoming international students. In considering options, this flexibility extends to units of enrollment (a course may be 1 unit) and frequency of class meetings (“regular” is not defined).

Any course that counts towards university degree units, has academic content, and that includes regular in person meetings or use of specific campus resources fulfills this immigration requirement.

It is not appropriate to create a course or section that is restricted solely to international students as other students might benefit from the opportunity to enroll. However, it is permissible to prioritize international students if there is limited “classroom” capacity (see below).

Below are some examples for in person instruction that may be adapted by graduate programs. 

Research, Independent Study or Directed Reading Utilizing Campus Resources

Graduate students may enroll in one or more units with a faculty member. For an international student to count this as in person instruction, there should be a requirement that the student meets regularly with the faculty member or utilizes specific campus resources on a regular basis. For example, the student and faculty member might meet in person every other week on campus (observing Stanford requirements for instructional class meetings) to discuss academic work. Or, the student may be regularly accessing specific campus resources (e.g., university archives, lab space, studio space, servers that cannot be accessed remotely, etc.) as part of their academic work and have their interaction with the faculty member be over Zoom.

Add an In Person Section to a Currently Scheduled Course

Degree programs may add an additional section that meets in person to a currently scheduled course. Graduate students would have the option to enroll in a remote section or the in person section. The program may wish to reserve some or all of the seats in the in person section for incoming international students (i.e., enrollment requires departmental consent).

Schedule an Existing or New Course with an In Person Section or Component

Degree programs may schedule a course that was not previously scheduled for Autumn quarter 2020-21.  If a new course is created, the content should not be designed for incoming international students only.

Course Configuration

For any course section that will be meeting in person, the designated staff member in the program (e.g., Student Service Officer) should update CLSS to reflect that the section will be meeting ‘In Person’.  In person sections should have a meeting pattern and a location to meet for audit purposes, should this be necessary.

An Outdoor Ad Hoc location has been set-up for scenarios where an instructor and student will be regularly meeting but not in a pre-designated outdoor space.  For adding additional locations, or general questions, please contact  In some situations, the program may need to add an additional in person course section.  For example, if some of the students will be completing the independent study remotely, and some in person, the program will require two course sections configured, one Remote and the other In Person, respectively. 


If your graduate degree program is unable to provide in person course opportunities in Autumn quarter to support incoming international students, the following alternatives are available.

Coordinate with other Degree Programs

In person instruction offered by another degree program in Autumn quarter 2020-21 may be suitable for your student to enroll in to meet their in person immigration requirement. The program should coordinate directly with other programs to identify appropriate in person courses.

Defer Entry to the U.S. and Enroll Remotely

If the program is unable to offer in person instruction in Autumn quarter 2020-21, incoming international students may defer entry to the U.S. to a future quarter or year and enroll in courses remotely.

Defer Matriculation to a Future Year or Quarter

If the program is unable to offer in person instruction in Autumn quarter 2020-21, a student may defer matriculation to a future quarter or year.