International Student Services

Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students

International Student Services is deeply concerned about the current coronavirus outbreak and sincerely hope that you, your families, and your friends have not been directly impacted. The health, safety, and well-being of our international students, staff & faculty, and broader UW community are our priority. The best way to receive updated information is to check this website as we will post updates here as soon as more information is available.

We encourage you to review Important Updates & Announcements below as well as our frequently asked questions about travel, enrollment, and campus resources for current UW international students. University-wide information & updates can be found at UW Coronavirus Facts & Resources.

COVID-19 ISS FAQ’s

Updated: July 10, 2020

UW Announcements & Updates | ISS Updates & Procedures | U.S. Government Updates | Autumn Quarter | Summer Quarter | Graduating Students | CPT | OPT | International Student Health Insurance Program | Travel Restrictions – students in the U.S. | Travel Restrictions – students outside the U.S. | Campus Resources | Financial Resources |

Important Updates & Announcements

President Cauce addresses recent SEVP announcement impacting international students in the U.S.

President Ana Mari Cauce posted a statement to her blog in response to the U.S. government’s announcement ending flexibility for international students to take online courses for autumn 2020. Read more here.

UW announces new details about autumn quarter 2020 instruction

The University sent an email message to all incoming and returning UW students announcing plans for autumn quarter instruction. Autumn quarter classes will begin as scheduled on September 30 and will include courses with in-person instruction, hybrid courses with both in person and remote learning, as well as courses with full online instruction. 

 

ISS Information and Online Procedures

Remote Learning for Autumn 2020: What international students need to know - updated July 10

ISS staff are angry and disappointed with the July 6 SEVP announcement. We are working with UW leadership, campus partners, our state’s congressional delegation and other key federal officials, as well as higher education professional organizations and legal experts across the U.S. to try and change this proposal which is not final.

The ISS has compiled a list of trending questions about the SEVP broadcast message on July 6. Although we do not have all of the answers yet, we are posting Remote Learning for Autumn Quarter 2020: What International Students Need To Know with what we know right now. We will continue to update these FAQs as further clarification and guidance becomes available.

We are also working to identify students who may be impacted by this policy proposal and will communicate directly with those students once we are able to provide options and next steps. We will also be scheduling online webinars starting in late July for continuing and incoming new international students where we can provide updates, options, and answer your questions. The dates will be published to the ISS calendar soon.         

July 6: SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for F1 students taking online courses during autumn 2020

The Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications today to temporary exemptions for F1 students taking a significant number of online courses while remaining in the U.S. due to COVID-19 for autumn 2020. 

We understand how anxious students and staff are to understand these modifications, but these changes have not been published to the Federal Register, are not yet final and are unclear how they can be put into practice.

The University will work with our state’s congressional delegation and other key federal officials as we seek to understand these modifications and try to influence the final rules so they do not negatively impact UW students.   

ISS staff are reviewing the proposed modifications and also consulting experts in the field to interpret these upcoming changes. Once we understand what any final changes mean specifically for UW international students, we will update our COVID-19 information page and will send a follow up message to all currently enrolled F1 students.  

New ISS summer hours & processing timeline

ISS will be reducing our business hours during summer quarter due to a significant increase in processing requests, staffing changes, and upcoming staff vacation schedules. The ISS staff will be available to answer Have a Question emails, process benefit requests, schedule zoom appointments or phone calls, and all other routine work Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Fridays will be reserved for staff projects, training, and other essential work.

In addition, processing requests for F and J benefits will now be completed within 15 business days. Online travel signature requests will continue to be processed within 10 business days. Requests are processed in the order they are submitted and we will not accommodate expedited requests. Please plan ahead and submit requests early. Time sensitive immigration requests, as determined by an advisor, will be prioritized whenever possible.

ISS Cancellation Request form available online

If you submitted a request to ISS and your plans have changed, you can now submit our new Cancellation Request web form. Please indicate the type of request previously submitted and whether or not the request was already approved/processed.

 

U.S. Government Updates

July 6: SEVP modifies temporary exemptions for F1 students taking online courses during autumn 2020

The Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications today to temporary exemptions for F1 students taking a significant number of online courses while remaining in the U.S. due to COVID-19 for autumn 2020. 

We understand how anxious students and staff are to understand these modifications, but these changes have not been published to the Federal Register, are not yet final and are unclear how they can be put into practice.

The University will work with our state’s congressional delegation and other key federal officials as we seek to understand these modifications and try to influence the final rules so they do not negatively impact UW students.   

ISS staff are reviewing the proposed modifications and also consulting experts in the field to interpret these upcoming changes. Once we understand what any final changes mean specifically for UW international students, we will update our COVID-19 information page and will send a follow up message to all currently enrolled F1 students.  

June 22: Proclamation extending suspension of immigrants to the U.S.

On June 22, the President signed a Proclamation that extends the suspension of entry to the U.S. of immigrants abroad seeking U.S. permanent residency (adjustment of status) and individuals who present a risk to the U.S. labor market due to COVID-19. This proclamation does not apply to F or J academic visas who will enter the U.S. for the purpose of study. J-1 academic exchange categories, and J-1 professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, and college or university students are excluded from this proclamation. 

This proclamation does not apply to F-1 students authorized for OPT.  OPT was excluded from this proclamation and no changes have been made to the current OPT benefits. 

The proclamation suspends and limits entry through the end of December 2020 for immigrants abroad seeking permanent residency to the U.S. The proclamation also suspends entry to the U.S. of new H, J (non academic categories), and L visa categories through the end of December. This does not apply to immigrants or visa holders already in the U.S. under these visa categories or anyone abroad who already holds one of these valid visas. For individuals outside the U.S. who are applying for an immigrant visa for U.S. permanent residency (adjustment of status) or an H, J (non academic category), or L visa, consult an immigration attorney for advice and options.

Where can I read SEVP and DOS guidance directly?

Universities receive updates from the U.S. Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of State (DOS). The U.S. government also makes these updates available for the public.

Department of Homeland Security – Study in the States: COVID-19 Resources

Department of State guidance for J-1 students – Exchange Visitor Program Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Department of State temporarily suspends routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates

As of March 20, the U.S. Department of State announced they are temporarily suspending routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. They will  resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

If you need to travel outside the U.S. and will require a new visa before returning, we recommend you review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you be traveling before you make final travel plans. You may want to reconsider your travel plans since we do not know how long this suspension will last.

Social Security Administration has closed all offices to in person services

As of March 17, SSA has suspended all face-to-face services at all Social Security offices. Review information and updates online at Social Security & Coronavirus or contact the local office to determine whether appointments are available.

Proclamation on Coronavirus travel restrictions

 

Autumn Quarter Enrollment for International Student

Remote Learning for Autumn 2020: What international students need to know - updated July 10

ISS staff are angry and disappointed with the July 6 SEVP announcement. We are working with UW leadership, campus partners, our state’s congressional delegation and other key federal officials, as well as higher education professional organizations and legal experts across the U.S. to try and change this proposal which is not final.

The ISS has compiled a list of trending questions about the SEVP broadcast message on July 6. Although we do not have all of the answers yet, we are posting Remote Learning for Autumn Quarter 2020: What International Students Need To Know with what we know right now. We will continue to update these FAQs as further clarification and guidance becomes available.

We are also working to identify students who may be impacted by this policy proposal and will communicate directly with those students once we are able to provide options and next steps. We will also be scheduling online webinars starting in late July for continuing and incoming new international students where we can provide updates, options, and answer your questions. The dates will be published to the ISS calendar soon. 

Will fall quarter classes be online?

The UW sent an email to all students on June 29 announcing plans for autumn quarter to begin as scheduled September 30. UW classes begin almost a month later than many schools on the semester system, which will give UW additional time to finalize plans for in person and remote options for autumn quarter.

The Back to School Task Force has been working on plans for autumn quarter that will include both in-person or remote learning options. The autumn quarter Time Schedule has been updated with which courses will be taught in person or offered remotely. Schools and colleges will continue to update the schedule over the summer as plans are finalized. The Back to School Task Force continues to review and update University protocols to protect student, faculty, and staff health in campus spaces, including residence halls, classrooms, labs, and libraries. The UW will continue to follow directives from state and local governments as part of the collective effort to combat this virus.

Can I take all of my autumn classes online? Will my I-20 stay valid?

We know that based on UW fall quarter options, it will be possible to have a full-time online schedule. We do not yet know, however, if the I-20 can stay valid with full-time online study. 

The ISS is waiting for further guidance from the U.S. government regarding online study for autumn quarter. Continue to check the Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students for updates as they become available. 

I am currently inside the U.S. and plan to study full-time autumn quarter. Can I travel internationally during the summer?

We do not know how long COVID-19 travel restrictions will last and what additional countries may be added or removed from the restrictions already in place. If you are concerned you may not be able to return to the U.S., you may want to reconsider your travel plans. If you decide to travel and have carefully researched your plans, be prepared, understand the risks, and be advised you might not be able to return to the U.S. before the quarter starts on September 30.

Things to consider:

  • Essential travel: Is your travel this summer essential, for example health or family related reasons?
  • Risks: Are you comfortable with the travel risks, both health risks and reentry to the U.S. for autumn quarter?
  • Visas: Do you require a new F-1 visa? If yes, consider the U.S. consulate closures and visa delays.
  • Travel restrictions: Are you traveling to a country with current travel restrictions? Be prepared for quarantines and limited flights or additional restrictions that may impact your return to the U.S.
  • U.S. immigration rules: Exceptions were made to the online enrollment rules to keep SEVIS records active and I-20s valid for spring and summer quarters, but we are waiting for further guidance about what they will allow for autumn quarter. If you are unable to return to the U.S. for autumn quarter, consider the disruption to your immigration record and future benefits if the U.S. government does not allow the continuation of your SEVIS record. 
  • Graduating students planning for OPT: See Graduating Students on the ISS COVID-19 FAQ page.

Continue to check the Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students for updates as they become available. You can also monitor the U.S. Government’s Study in the States: COVID-19 Resources for updates.

I am currently outside the U.S. but plan to study full-time autumn quarter. Can I reenter the U.S. for the start of autumn?

We do not know how long COVID-19 travel restrictions will last and what additional countries may be added or removed from the restrictions already in place. Both current travel restrictions and visa processing delays at U.S. consulates, for students who need a new F-1 visa, might make it impossible for some students to return to campus for autumn quarter.  

We recommend you register for classes or stay registered for autumn quarter. UW is planning to offer both in-person and remote learning options options for autumn quarter, so you will still be able to take online classes even if you if you remain outside of the U.S. Choose a schedule for autumn quarter that may give you the most flexibility in case you are unable to return for autumn quarter. 

ISS is also waiting for further guidance from the U.S. government regarding online study counting towards full-time enrollment to keep a SEVIS record active and I-20 valid. Continue to check the Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students for updates as they become available. 

I am not planning to study full-time in autumn quarter. Can I take autumn quarter off or study part-time?

Every student’s situation is different. If you want to take autumn quarter off (0 credits or part-time) and maintain an active F-1 SEVIS record and valid I-20, you must meet one of these enrollment exceptions

If you do not qualify for the exceptions above, you must request an immigration Leave of Absence.

If you take an immigration Leave of Absence in autumn 2020, you must depart the U.S. If you are registered for summer or autumn quarter, then you must depart the U.S. within 15 days from the date you drop/withdraw from summer or autumn quarter. If you return to UW for full-time studies for winter 2021, ISS can request reactivation of your current SEVIS record / I-20 (Pathway A).    

ISS will accept Leave of Absence Requests for autumn 2020 starting September 1, 2020. This timeline allows for summer quarter to complete, and for students and staff to have the most up-to-date information on important factors like COVID-19 cases and U.S. government guidance. To be eligible for the annual vacation quarter in summer, you must stay registered for autumn quarter until after you submit the Leave of Absence Request in September. 

If you have further questions after reviewing the enrollment exceptions and Leave of Absence information, complete the ISS Have a Question form. An ISS advisor will reply to you directly about your options. It may take 2-4 business days for a reply due to the very high volume of emails we receive

Can I take a gap year and resume my studies in autumn 2021 if I do not want to take classes autumn quarter?

If you choose not to enroll at UW for 2 or more quarters, you must request an immigration Leave of Absence for autumn 2020 and then depart the U.S. If you are registered for summer or autumn quarter, you must depart the U.S. within 15 days from the date you drop/withdraw from summer or autumn quarter. If you return to UW for full-time studies after winter 2021, you must complete the Return to UW process to request a new I-20 (Pathway B). 

ISS will accept Leave of Absence Requests for autumn 2020 starting September 1, 2020. This timeline allows for summer quarter to complete, and for students and staff to have the most up-to-date information on important factors like COVID-19 cases and U.S. government guidance. To be eligible for the annual vacation quarter in summer, you must stay registered for autumn quarter until after you submit the Leave of Absence Request in September.  

If you have further questions after reviewing the Leave of Absence and Return to UW information, complete the ISS Have a Question form. An ISS advisor will reply to you directly about your options. It may take 2-4 business days for a reply due to the very high volume of emails we receive. 

What is the deadline to submit the immigration Leave of Absence Request for autumn quarter 2020?

The Leave of Absence (LOA) Request can be submitted to ISS starting September 1, 2020. We recommend you wait to make a final decision about taking autumn quarter off until after you review the UW autumn quarter instructional options and after the updated U.S. government immigration guidance is available. Depending on the options, you may want to stay enrolled. Continue to check the Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students for updates as they become available. 

After submitting the Leave of Absence Request, you must drop all your autumn classes. Be aware you are required to depart the U.S. within 15 days from the date you drop/withdraw from autumn quarter. ISS advises that you submit the Leave of Absence Request and then drop autumn quarter classes by October 6 (last day to withdraw without owing tuition and fees).

I am an admitted international student for autumn quarter. Will I be able to defer my admission if I cannot begin classes in September?

The Undergraduate Admissions and Graduate Admissions offices work with all newly admitted international students. Those offices process and issue immigration documents for new students. ISS will begin processing immigration records and benefits for students once they physically arrive in the U.S. and are enrolled full-time at the UW. 

Questions about immigration documents, obtaining a visa, and deferring admission should be directed to Undergraduate Admissions for freshman and transfer students or Graduate Admissions for Master’s and PhD students.

UW Graduate School: COVID-19 Admissions FAQs or Covid-19 Information

Undergraduate Office of Admissions: COVID-19 Admissions FAQs

 

International Student Enrollment for Summer Quarter

If I enroll full-time for summer quarter, can it count as a regular quarter instead of my annual vacation quarter?

Yes, if you will enroll full-time for summer quarter (12 credits for undergraduate students / 10 credits for graduate students) and will not work more than 20 hours per week on campus, it will be considered a regular quarter. Summer quarter credits are a combination of full term, A term, and B term credits.

Note: Only during the annual vacation quarter can you work on campus more than 20 hours per week. Review our Annual Vacation Quarter Eligibility.

If you want to change your annual vacation quarter to autumn, winter, or spring instead, you must complete the Alternative Vacation Quarter Request. You can submit the alternative vacation quarter request after registration begins for that quarter.

I am planning to return home this summer but my planned time outside the U.S. may be 5 months or more. Will I be able to return to the U.S. with my SEVIS I-20 and F1 visa?

If you were enrolled full-time through online course work in spring quarter 2020, you will not be impacted by this rule. Whether you decide to stay in the U.S. or travel home, you will be able to return to the U.S. using the same SEVIS I-20.

If you decided not to take courses spring quarter and you requested a Leave of Absence, but you plan to study full-time for summer quarter, then you will not be impacted by this rule.

If you decided to take both spring and summer quarters off and you requested a Leave of Absence but you plan to return to the UW for autumn quarter 2020, then you will be impacted by this rule. Under current government policies, you must complete the Return to UW process to request a new I-20. Also, if your F-1 visa is still valid, you will not need to renew your visa regardless of the length of time outside the U.S.. If your existing visa will expire, you will be required to apply for a new visa. Review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you before you make final travel plans.

 

Graduating Students

I am graduating and want to apply for OPT. Do I have to remain in the U.S.?

Currently, government guidance states you must be in the U.S. to apply for OPT. There has been no official USCIS change or update to that policy. Because this policy is still in place, students who choose to leave the U.S. and enroll in spring quarter remotely will need to balance the risks. Universities across the U.S. have advocated together for a temporary change to the current policy and a formal petition letter has been submitted to USCIS. There has been no response or update yet but we continue to monitor the situation and will post updates to this page if anything changes.

I am planning to graduate soon. What are my options?

Every student’s situation is different. We encourage you to review the Final Quarter Checklist to learn about your options. If you still have questions after reviewing the information, complete our “Have a Question” form. An ISS advisor advisor will reply to you directly about your options. We are receiving a very high volume of emails, however, so it may take 2-4 business days for a reply.

I am nearing the end of my F-1 status and was planning to return home. What are my options?

Every student’s situation is different. We encourage you to review the Final Quarter Checklist to learn about your options. If you still have questions after reviewing the information, complete our “Have a Question” form. An ISS advisor advisor will reply to you directly about your options. We are receiving a very high volume of emails, however, so it may take 2-4 business days for a reply.

My status is expiring soon and flights to my home country are cancelled. What should I do?

We recognize it is a highly stressful and unpredictable time, with limited travel options and restrictions.

  • Check our “Final Quarter Checklist” to see if any of the options apply to you (practical training, transfer out, etc).
  • Contact your country’s embassy here in the U.S. to see if any accommodations could be made to assist with your return home.
  • Complete the Have a Question web form to report your situation to an ISS advisor.
  • Submit a Change of Status application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you wish to consider this option, we recommend you to consult an immigration attorney for legal advice on the change of visa status process.
  • The U.S. government has not announced any kind of automatic extension of grace periods as of now, but this concern has been raised by U.S. institutions and immigration attorneys across the U.S. We will post to this page any updates or changes to this policy when new information becomes available.

We encourage you to check this page and the FAQs regularly since this scenario will be very common for many international students. We hope to have an update from the government on this topic.

How do I change from F status to tourist or visitor status?

Many students apply for employment authorization, or start a new program. But if those are not an option for you and you are unable to depart the U.S. within the grace period following your UW program, you can apply to change status to another visa category. It is possible to file a Form I-539 change of status application from F-1 or J-1 student to B-2 visitor for tourism. As the change of status application can be complex and involves risks, we recommend consulting an immigration attorney.

 

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

If my CPT offer becomes remote, can I do it from my home country? Do I still need CPT authorization?

If you will remain in the U.S. for spring quarter and will be doing work remotely, you must apply for CPT authorization. You are permitted to do remote work in the U.S. for your CPT activity during the current COVID-19 situation.

If you will be outside of the U.S. for the entire length of your internship, you do not need to apply for CPT authorization. We recommend you keep documentation to prove you were physically outside of the U.S. during the entire internship period.

Due to COVID-19, my CPT has changed to remote work because of "Stay Home, Stay Healthy." Do I need to report this change to ISS?

You are allowed to proceed with your work if you have CPT authorization. The temporary change to remote work (work from home) does not require an update to your I-20 or that you report this information to ISS. However, we do recommend you keep documentation of your remote work for your personal records.

Due to COVID-19, my CPT position has been cancelled. How do I cancel my CPT or notify ISS of this change?

Report your pending or approved CPT position has been cancelled to the ISS by submitting our Cancellation Request web form.

  • If you have already started worked or participated in any orientation/training activities for this employer:
    • SEVIS does not allow retroactive CPT authorization cancellations. ISS advisers will shorten the authorization to the last day you worked with the employer.
    • You will still be required to register for and earn CPT-related credit according to the CPT application.
  • If you have not worked or participated in any orientation/training activities for this employer:
    • If ISS processes your cancellation request after the approved CPT start date, ISS advisors can only shorten the authorization to one-day. We cannot remove the CPT authorization after the start date, even if you actually did not start the position.
    • If ISS processes your cancellation before the approved CPT start date, your CPT authorization will be fully cancelled in SEVIS.

Due to COVID-19, my CPT position has been delayed to a future quarter. How do I update my CPT?

If you have already submitted a CPT application, please complete the Cancellation Request web form.

If you plan to delay or resume your CPT, a new CPT application would be required. You should check with your employer and your academic department before submitting a new CPT application. Allow 10 business days for processing your request once the ISS receives a completed application.

If I start my program studying online from outside the U.S. due to COVID-19, does that quarter count toward the "one academic year" for CPT eligibility?

Under current immigration regulations, a student must complete one academic year (three quarters) of full-time study in the U.S. to be eligible for CPT.

An exception to the academic year rule is provided for graduate students whose programs require immediate participation in CPT. The program requirement must be for all students in the program and listed in the program’s online curriculum description.

Per U.S. government guidance, a student’s F-1 SEVIS record cannot be activated by the institution until the student physically arrives in the U.S. for their first in-person quarter; which is when eligibility for CPT starts to accrue.

The international education community and advisers nationwide have asked the U.S. government if there will be an exception to the CPT eligibility rules, and we are waiting for further guidance or updates. We do not know if or when the U.S. government will provide additional information, but we will update our COVID-19 related web page as soon as any updates or additional guidance is available.

 

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Can I work remotely during Post-Completion OPT and/or the STEM OPT Extension?

The U.S. government has allowed Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT students to engage in remote work on a temporary basis due to COVID-19. Please see the government’s response below. Additional employment information available from SEVP’s COVID-19 FAQ information.

Q: Can students engaged in OPT and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) OPT extension work remotely when appropriate and permitted by the employer? Do they need to submit an updated Form I-983? 

A: Students currently participating in OPT, including STEM OPT, may work remotely if their employer has an office outside of the United States or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. Students participating in STEM OPT do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work. However, requirements to submit an updated Form I-983 for other changes remain in effect. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(9)(ii) for additional information. 

I am currently on OPT and cannot find work due to COVID-19. Can the 90-day limit on unemployment be extended?

Currently there has been no new guidance from the U.S. government that waives the 90-day unemployment limit for students on OPT. Universities across the U.S. and immigration attorneys have advocated for temporary relief to this limit. As of now, there has been no update. We will post updates to this page when the U.S. government provides updates or new guidance.

If you will exceed the 90-day unemployment limit, you should make arrangements to depart the U.S. before the 90 days expires.

Note: Unpaid work also counts as OPT activity. You may have better luck finding a volunteer position or an unpaid internship related to your studies. Review information about the kinds of activities that count as OPT employment.

What should I do if I have been furloughed or laid off due to the COVID-19 situation?

Currently there has been no new guidance from the U.S. government regarding international students on OPT who have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 situation. Universities across the U.S. and immigration attorneys have requested new guidance, but there has been no update. We recommend consulting an immigration attorney to discuss your options.

Things to consider:

Will you remain on company payroll with benefits? Do you expect to return to work after a period of time (temporary furlough)?

  • This situation may be less risky to your unemployment accrual since you are maintaining an employer/employee relationship even though you are not currently following your day to day work schedule.

Were you laid off with the expectation that you would need to re-apply or be re-hired by them?

  • This situation is more of a risk to your unemployment limit and recommend consulting an immigration attorney to discuss your options. This scenario is unprecedented, so working with an experienced immigration lawyer is strongly advised.

We will post updates to this page when the U.S. government provides updates or new guidance.

Can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility for unemployment benefits is a complicated combination of immigration and labor laws. There is some concern that accepting unemployment benefits could count as being a “public charge” and potentially affect eligibility for future immigration benefits. It seems, however, some exceptions might be made by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for cases severely affected by COVID-19.

We recommend consulting an immigration attorney before applying for unemployment benefits to learn more about potential consequences. If you decide to apply for unemployment, be sure to keep documentation of how your employment was directly impacted by COVID-19.

You may also want to consider other financial support resources.

If I start my program studying online from outside the U.S. due to COVID-19, does that quarter count toward the "one academic year" for OPT eligibility?

Under current immigration regulations, a student must complete one academic year (three quarters) of full-time study in the U.S. to be eligible for OPT.

Per U.S. government guidance, a student’s F-1 SEVIS record cannot be activated by the institution until the student physically arrives in the U.S. for their first in-person quarter; which is when eligibility for OPT starts to accrue.

The international education community and advisers nationwide have asked the U.S. government if there will be an exception to the OPT eligibility rules, and we are waiting for further guidance or updates. We do not know if or when the U.S. government will provide additional information, but we will update our COVID-19 related web page as soon as any updates or additional guidance is available.

 

International Student Health Insurance Program (ISHIP)

For updates on ISHIP waivers, remote medical care, coverage during spring or summer quarter, etc., review the ISHIP and Coronavirus FAQ page.

 

Travel Restrictions – students in the U.S.

I am currently inside the U.S. and plan to study full-time autumn quarter. Can I travel internationally during the summer?

We do not know how long COVID-19 travel restrictions will last and what additional countries may be added or removed from the restrictions already in place. If you are concerned you may not be able to return to the U.S., you may want to reconsider your travel plans. If you decide to travel and have carefully researched your plans, be prepared, understand the risks, and be advised you might not be able to return to the U.S. before the quarter starts on September 30.

Things to consider:

  • Essential travel: Is your travel this summer essential, for example health or family related reasons?
  • Risks: Are you comfortable with the travel risks, both health risks and reentry to the U.S. for autumn quarter?
  • Visas: Do you require a new F-1 visa? If yes, consider the U.S. consulate closures and visa delays.
  • Travel restrictions: Are you traveling to a country with current travel restrictions? Be prepared for quarantines and limited flights or additional restrictions that may impact your return to the U.S.
  • U.S. immigration rules: Exceptions were made to the online enrollment rules to keep SEVIS records active and I-20s valid for spring and summer quarters, but we are waiting for further guidance about what they will allow for autumn quarter. If you are unable to return to the U.S. for autumn quarter, consider the disruption to your immigration record and future benefits if the U.S. government does not allow the continuation of your SEVIS record. 
  • Graduating students planning for OPT: See Graduating Students on the ISS COVID-19 FAQ page.

Continue to check the Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students for updates as they become available. You can also monitor the U.S. Government’s Study in the States: COVID-19 Resources for updates.

 

Travel Restrictions – students outside the U.S.

Which countries are impacted by the coronavirus travel restrictions to the U.S.?

The May 24 Presidential Proclamation updates previous travel restrictions. It suspends entry into the U.S. of all non-U.S. citizens who were physically present within the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry to the U.S.

  • People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau)
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Schengen Area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland)
  • United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe
  • Ireland
  • Brazil

Please continue to monitor the news, airline travel information, and this web page for changes or updates.

Can I travel to another country before traveling to the U.S.?

If you plan to travel to another country before entering the U.S., be sure to review travel restrictions for that country before making travel plans. Many countries around the world have restricted travel to/from other countries so be sure to review travel restrictions before you travel. Be aware that you must remain physically present outside of the country impacted by travel restrictions for 14 days or more before you will be allowed to enter the U.S. ISS advisors cannot advise on travel to countries other than the U.S. Make sure you do your research and understand any restrictions or requirements before traveling.

How long will these travel restrictions last?

This is unknown. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services will monitor the situation and will advise whether the restriction continue, change, or end. See the proclamation.

I am currently in a country impacted by the travel restrictions. Can I provide a negative test result for COVID-19 to enter the U.S.?

The U.S. government is not allowing exceptions at this time. Continue to monitor the news or this web page for updates.

I am currently in a country impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions but have not been near any of the impacted cities. Can I return to the U.S.?

The U.S. government is not allowing exceptions at this time. Continue to monitor the news or this web page for updates.

My planned time outside the U.S. will be 5 months or more. I have heard there is a maximum 5 month limit. Can I still return to the U.S.?

If you stay enrolled full-time in online coursework during Spring 2020, you will not be impacted by this rule.

If you request a Leave of Absence because you will not study in Spring 2020, but you are able to return and study full-time in Summer 2020, you will not be impacted by this rule.

If you request a Leave of Absence and your goal is to return for Autumn 2020 (no study in Spring or Summer) then you will be impacted by this rule. Under current government policies, you must complete the Return to UW processes. Also, if your existing F-1 visa will expire before your return, you would need to apply for a new one at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you can travel to the U.S. Review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you before you make final travel plans.

 

Campus Resources for International Students

I am feeling very anxious about COVID-19. What should I do?

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety about this situation, we encourage you to reach out to counselors, advisers, or friends to talk about your feelings. UW Counseling Services and UW Hall Health and are available to help. You can visit the ISS Campus Resources webpage for a list of support services.

I need to stay in the U.S. this summer but I am not planning to take any summer classes. Will on-campus housing be available for summer quarter?

Students are eligible for summer quarter housing, even if you are not taking classes in the summer. If you are enrolled on the Seattle campus for spring quarter or you will be enrolled for autumn quarter, you may apply for on-campus housing. Review the Summer 2020 Housing Guide or email HFSinfo@uw.edu with questions.

How can I connect with other international students at the UW?

A great place to start is with UW’s CIRCLE or FIUTS. Both organizations offer a variety of programs and support for international students. They are dedicated to global engagement, leadership, and cultural understanding.

Are there other campus departments or resources to help me?

Yes! We have compiled a list of many campus resources on topics such as Academics, Emergency, Employment & Financial, Health & Student Support, Housing, Food, & Family, etc.

 

Financial Resources for International Students

How do apply for Severe Economic Hardship or Special Student Relief work authorization?

We recognize this is a difficult and financially challenging time for international students. Below is information about applying for Economic Hardship.

  • Currently enrolled students in F-1 status
  • Currently enrolled students in J-1 status
  • Graduated students in F-1 status with pending OPT applications
    • The work authorizations referenced above require you to be a currently enrolled student or for there to have been a Federal Register announcement for Special Student Relief (there has not been such an announcement currently).
    • OPT will be the fastest form of work authorization through USCIS currently.

We will post updated information here if the U.S. government makes announcements providing financial relief for students in F-1 status.

I am having difficulty paying my tuition by the deadline. What should I do?

Contact Student Fiscal Services about your situation before the tuition deadline to help you determine what options may be available.

For limited short-term Emergency Aid, including medical bills, housing/rent, food, transportation fees, or other basic necessities, please complete the Emergency Aid Request.

Are international students eligible to receive COVID-19 economic stimulus relief?

ISS advisors are not tax experts and are unable to provide tax advice. ISS purchases access codes for UW international students and scholars to access Glacier Tax Prep (GTP), a software program developed for international students. We recommend you create a profile and login to Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) to use the software to understand your tax situation.

Most international students and scholars in F or J status are considered nonresidents for tax purposes, which is different from your immigration status. GTP will determine whether you are a resident or nonresident for tax purposes by calculating the number of days you have been in the U.S. After logging in to GTP, you can access answers to the following tax stimulus check questions:

  • Am I eligible to receive a COVID-19 stimulus payment?
  • I received a COVID-19 stimulus payment and should not have – do I have to return it?
  • How do I return an incorrectly received COVID-19 stimulus payment to the IRS?

We recommend you review the Glacier Tax Prep FAQ page by logging in or consult a tax expert about the COVID-19 stimulus relief.