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. UW leadership and ISS staff are monitoring the rapidly changing information. 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 updates and information will be available at UW Coronavirus Information.

Updated: March 30, 2020

Important Updates & Announcements

ISS Information, Updates, and New Procedures

Spring Quarter Enrollment for International Students

Spring Quarter Graduating Students

Spring Quarter Employment & Training

International Student Health Insurance Program (ISHIP) for spring quarter

Travel Restrictions – students in the U.S.

Travel Restrictions – students outside the U.S.

Campus & Financial Resources for International Students

Important Updates & Announcements

March 24: 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 online and updates at Social Security & Coronavirus.

March 20: Department of State temporarily suspends routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates

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 of March 20, 2020. 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 are planning to travel outside the U.S. and will need a new visa before returning, we recommend you review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you be traveling to before you make final travel plans. ISS advisors do not know how long this suspension will last, so please plan accordingly.

March 18: UW announces it will move to remote instruction for spring quarter 2020

President Cauce sent a message to students on March 18 announcing spring quarter courses will be held remotely. Spring quarter will begin as scheduled on March 30, with remote instruction through the end of the quarter. There will be a grace period the first week of the quarter with no written assignments due that first week. The quarter will end as scheduled on June 12, 2020. More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020.

March 9 & 11: SEVP and DOS announce new F1 student and J1 scholar guidance

The U.S. Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Department of State (DOS) announced that they are focused on ensuring that non-immigrant students are able to continue to make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations during this time. SEVP and DOS intends to be flexible with temporary accommodations, including moving courses online. Under this accommodation, F-1 and J-1 students may continue to make normal academic progress and maintain their visa status by enrolling in a full time (12 cr undergraduates/10 graduate students) course of study through online learning. This guidance applies to students and exchange visitors currently in the U.S. This initial guidance is not intended for new or initial-status students or exchange visitors who have not yet entered the U.S.

 

ISS Information and New Online Procedures

March 30: ISS Cancellation Request form now available

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.

You can submit the Cancellation Request to cancel the following requests:

  • Alternative Vacation Quarter
  • CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
  • Final Quarter Reduced Course Load
  • J-1 Withdrawal Request
  • Leave of Absence
  • OPT (Optional Practical Training).

To cancel any other requests, please submit the Have A Question online form.

March 23-27: ISS Online Spring 2020 Enrollment & Government Updates

ISS is hosting Spring 2020 Enrollment & Government Updates online information sessions for international students. An ISS advisor will provide general updates and answer provide answers to many of your questions. Sessions will be repeated March 23-27 at different times to accommodate all schedules.

March 10: New temporary online travel signatures now available

To help keep the UW community healthy, ISS has launched a Temporary Online Travel Signatures request process and form.

The new request form is 100% online. ISS staff will then process your request and mail you an I-20 with a new travel signature. Indicate your preferred mailing address (either in the U.S. or outside the U.S.) and your preferred mailing method when you complete the form.

Reminder: travel signatures are not required to depart the U.S. They are required for re-entry only. You can leave the U.S. and then request ISS mail you a new I-20 that will include an updated travel signature.

Travel signatures are valid for 1 year for enrolled students, and 6 months for alumni on OPT

March 9: ISS transitions all advising & services online

ISS has transitioned all advising & services online. ISS advisors will process immigration requests, updates, and other student services remotely. We are currently experiencing a very high volume of emails and questions. Our responses may be delayed and we encourage you to review answers to commonly asked questions on this page and at UW Coronavirus Facts & Resources as well as Spring Quarter Facts and Information.

The ISS staff is committed to providing you with uninterrupted advising, case processing, and information sessions as we transition to remote work. Operating under these modifications is new to us too, so thank you for your patience, understanding, and humor during this challenging time for all of us.

 

Spring Quarter Enrollment for International Students

What is the status of spring quarter classes?

On March 18, President Cauce sent a message to students announcing spring quarter courses will be held remotely. Spring quarter will begin as scheduled on March 30, with remote instruction through the end of the quarter. There will be a grace period the first week of the quarter with no written assignments due that first week. The quarter will end as scheduled on June 12, 2020. More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020.

We recognize that there are many questions about this change. The ISS advisors and staff are working on additional FAQs and updated information. The best way to receive updated information is to regularly check this website.

Spring quarter classes will be online: can I return home for classes and will my F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record and I-20 or DS-2019 remain valid?

On March 18, President Cauce announced spring quarter courses will be held remotely More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020.

As an international student, additional factors to consider when making your decision about spring quarter:

  • Technology challenges with online study from home
  • Time differences in case of synchronous classes

The U.S. government confirmed last week that international students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in light of COVID-19. SEVP will provide updated guidance as additional information concerning the scope and length of this situation becomes clearer. More information can be found here, PDF

This will allow ISS to keep F-1 and J-1 SEVIS records active for students studying online full-time, either in the U.S. or at home.

The best way to receive updated information is to check this website, as we will post updates as soon as more information becomes available.

I am considering returning home for spring quarter and possibly summer quarter as well? What should I do?

Every student’s situation is different and we understand your concern about the current situation. We want to reassure you that the University is taking all necessary precautions to protect students, staff, and the broader UW community.

On March 18, President Cauce announced spring quarter courses will be held remotely More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020. We encourage you to review the information about spring quarter classes being offered remotely as you may still decide to take spring quarter off, but you may want to consider taking courses remotely, whether you remain in the U.S. or return home.

It is important to understand the impact taking time off from your studies may have on your immigration status. If you decide to take spring quarter (and possibly summer quarter) off, please review the following information.

Also, consider these factors before making your decision:

  • Are you completing winter quarter or withdrawing from winter quarter?
  • How many quarters do you plan to be away from UW?
  • Are you close to graduation? Do you plan to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

If you still have questions after reviewing the above web pages, sign up for one of our U.S. Government Updates for International Students between March 16-20. Each session can host 300 students so please register in advance. Webinars will be offered on different days and times to accommodate all schedules.

I am planning to return home but my planned time outside the U.S. will 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 stay enrolled full-time through online course work during spring quarter 2020, you will not be impacted by this rule. Whether you remain in the U.S. or travel home, you will be able to return using the same SEVIS I-20.

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

If you decide to take both spring and summer quarters off and you request 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 existing F-1 visa will expire or shows a different school/university name, you will be required to apply for a new visa at a consulate outside the U.S.

I am currently in my home country and was planning to return to UW for spring quarter. What should I do?

Every student’s situation is different.

On March 18, President Cauce announced spring quarter courses will be held remotely More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020. We encourage you to review the information about spring quarter classes being offered remotely as you may want to consider enrolling in spring quarter remotely from home.

Options to consider:

If you have further questions after reviewing the above web pages, complete our “Have a Question” form if you have not already done so. An ISS 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. Continue to monitor this web page for updates and new information.

Spring Quarter Graduating Students

I am graduating spring quarter 2020 and want to apply for OPT. Do I have to remain in the U.S.?

Currently, government guidance is you must be inside the U.S. to apply for OPT. There has been no official change 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 that guidance and a formal petition letter has been submitted to USCIS. Continue to monitor this web page for updates or responses to that letter.

I am planning to graduate at the end of spring quarter 2020. 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 if you have not already done so.  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. Continue to monitor this web page for updates and new information.

I am nearing the end of my F-1 status and my plan was to return to my home country. 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 if you have not already done so.  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. Continue to monitor this web page for updates and new information.

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 travel options and restrictions changing daily.

  • Check our “Final Quarter Checklist” to see if any of the options apply to you (practical training, transfer out, etc.).
  • You may want to contact your country’s embassy here in the U.S. to see if any special accommodations could be made to assist with your return home.
  • A more complicated option–if you find yourself nearing the end of your grace period and unable to obtain a flight home–would be to submit a “Change of Status” application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. We are not experts about the change of status process, so you should consult an immigration attorney for legal advice if you are unsure about starting the process on your own.
  • As of now, the U.S. government has not mentioned any kind of automatic extension of grace periods. However, the government is providing fairly frequent updates, and we will post updates to this page when new information becomes available.

We encourage you to check this page and the FAQs regularly before filing anything with USCIS. This scenario will be very common for many students so 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.

 

Spring Quarter Employment & Training

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 spring quarter 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?

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

  • If you have 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 before starting or resuming CPT training/employment for a future quarter.

International Student Health Insurance Program (ISHIP)

For an update on how ISHIP will cover tests and treatment for COVID-19, please check the ISHIP and Coronavirus page.

If I plan to take spring quarter courses online from outside of the U.S., am I still required to purchase insurance through ISHIP?

International students who are outside of the U.S. taking online-only courses at the UW are eligible to waive the ISHIP requirement and the associated fees.

Review How to Apply to Waive ISHIP and then complete the waiver request form. Waiver requests for spring quarter are due by April 17. You may submit the waiver request form any time after registering for UW courses and no later than April 17.

Can I access medical care remotely with ISHIP?

In light of social distancing recommendations, ISHIP provides in-network coverage through Teladoc, an app-based way to receive medical care and fill prescriptions without seeing a doctor in person. Teladoc provides access to licensed doctors over phone or video and the service is available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. All Teladoc visits are covered under in-network benefits* and are automatically billed to LifeWise on the student’s behalf.

*In-network coverage: ISHIP pays 75% of the cost of services (student pays 25%) after meeting the $100 quarterly deductible

Travel Restrictions – students in the U.S.

I am currently in the U.S. but was planning to travel outside of the U.S. Should I cancel my trip?

We do not know how long these travel restrictions will last and what additional countries may be added to the restrictions already in place. With the growing cases now in the U.S., additional restrictions could be implemented within the U.S. Although there are no restrictions now, that could change without much notice.

If you decide to travel, be prepared, understand the risks, and be advised that you might not be able to return to the U.S. for an unknown period of time. Your trip could be disrupted, or you may be quarantined upon your return.

If your travel is related to your academic program, please consult your department or academic adviser about your travel plans.

 

Travel Restrictions – students outside the U.S.

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

The March 14 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
  • United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe
  • Republic of Ireland

No other countries are impacted at this time, but the situation is changing rapidly. 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 any travel restrictions in that country before making travel plans. Many countries around the world are restricting 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., so make sure you do your research and understand any restrictions or requirements before traveling.

How long will these travel restrictions last?

This is unknown currently. The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services will monitor the situation. No more than 15 days after the date of the proclamation, and every 15 days after, the Secretary 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 a) expires or b) shows a different school/university name, you would need to apply for a new one at a consulate outside the U.S.

 

Campus & 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 encourage you to frequently review this page for government updates and the ISS FAQs. We will post updated information here if the government makes announcements providing relief for students in F-1 status.

I am having difficulty paying my tuition by the deadline due to related bank closures in my country. 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.

I am feeling very anxious about the 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.

Are there campus 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.