International Student Services

Coronavirus information for F1 & J1 students

As a result of COVID-19, the U.S. government has made temporary changes and allowances to F-1 and J-1 regulations. The allowances continue through the 2022 – 2023 academic year.

University-wide information & updates can be found at UW Coronavirus Facts & Resources.

ISS Coronavirus FAQ’s

UW Announcements & Government UpdatesTravel Information | Vaccine Requirements | Final Quarter and GraduationOptional Practical Training (OPT)| Insurance| Campus Resources for International Students| Financial Resources for International Students

Updated 12/29/2022

UW Announcements & Government Updates

Return to Husky Stadium Graduation Celebration

Can ISS provide a letter for me to attend the Return to Husky Stadium Graduation Celebration on June 12?  

 The Return to Husky Stadium Graduation Celebration is managed by the UW Office of Ceremonies. ISS cannot provide individual invitation letters.  

 If you will apply for a tourist visa to attend the event, we recommend you gather these documents: 

 Enrollment/degree verification 

  • Printout of the Return to Husky Stadium Graduation Celebration webpage information: pair the degree information with the ceremony eligibility page so that it’s clear you are eligible to attend. 
  • Email from the Office of Ceremonies notifying you of the event 
  • This email was sent between March 1-3, 2022 

In addition, review the U.S. State Department Tourism & Visit information for additional instructions and required documentation.  


SEVP Immigration Updates for F-1 and J-1 Students

SEVP has communicated temporary changes to F-1 policy and practice through different communications (listed below). ISS continues to use this guidance as we advise students on their F-1 status during COVID-19.

Students can also read COVID-19 Guidance from the government directly on the websites below:

Travel Information

How can I get a new travel signature before traveling to the U.S.?

Students who are traveling to the U.S. should confirm that they have a valid travel signature before traveling to the U.S. It is helpful to review the Travel and Visas information and check the travel signature expiration date on page 2 of the I-20s. Travel signatures are valid for one year for continuing students. Students on OPT or STEM OPT need a new travel signature every six months.

Students with initial I-20 documents will not have a travel signature until after they have established their F-1 status in the U.S.
If your travel signature is expired, complete the Travel Signature request in your MyISSS profile. Allow up to 10 business days for processing. Once processed, you will receive a digital I-20 with an e-signature in your MyISSS profile.

Are there restrictions on returning to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico?

We recommend reviewing the Travel Restrictions Fact Sheet for updated information on land border closures with Canada and Mexico.  Before traveling from Canada or Mexico, we recommend checking for the most up-to-date information and you should be prepared to explain why your travel to the U.S. is “essential.”

What travel documents am I required to have when I enter the U.S.?

At this time, international students must have the following documents in order to travel to the U.S. in F-1 status:

  • Valid I-20 issued by the UW (valid travel signature required if you are returning to the U.S. to continue studies)
  • Valid passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond your expected return to the U.S.
  • Valid F-1 U.S. visa stamp (Canadian citizens exempt)
  • Proof of funding or financial evidence (recommended)
  • Current quarter class schedule showing your courses (recommended)
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt (recommended)

We recognize it is a highly stressful and unpredictable time, with travel options and restrictions changing frequently. Reentry to the U.S. is always at the discretion of U.S. Customs & Border Protection. For more information regarding re-entry requirements and how to prepare for possible questions, please visit the ISS Travel & Visas page.

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.?

The five-month rule is less strict under COVID-19 conditions and guidance.
ISS plans to work with students who are outside the U.S. to ensure their I-20s are valid when they return. Advisors continue to work with SEVP to activate student’s records who may have been outside the U.S. for over five months.
Students who are fully enrolled and outside the U.S. during the pandemic will have an easier time navigating this exception. Students who are not enrolled and are remaining outside the U.S. will need to 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 has or will expire, you will be required to apply for a new visa before returning to the U.S. Review the Embassy or Consulate’s visa appointment information where you before you make final travel plans.

Vaccine Requirements

I can't get vaccinated in my home country. Can I get the vaccine in the U.S.?

Yes. You will be able to get a vaccine when you come to the U.S. Please check the university’s vaccine page for more information.

I'm a student that works on campus. Do I have to fill out two forms about my vaccination status?

Yes. The university requires you to complete the form as a student and as an employee.

Which vaccines meet the requirement?

The University allows vaccines approved by the World Health Organization. See the University page for more details.

Final Quarter and Graduation

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

The I-765 form to apply for Optional Practical Training instructs you to submit the form within the United States. We recommend that you follow the instructions on the form. If you follow different instructions, we cannot provide guidance on how USCIS will respond or whether they will accept your application.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

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Can I work part-time while on OPT?

Yes. The SEVP guidance allows you to work part-time while on approved OPT. This part-time employment does not count as unemployment/underemployment.

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

Yes. Students can work remotely on OPT and STEM OPT. Students on STEM OPT do NOT need to submit a new I-983 form with remote work details. Students should keep accurate records of where they are working for their future reference.


International Student Health Insurance Program (ISHIP)

For updates on ISHIP waivers, remote medical care, benefits, and coverage information, review the ISHIP and Coronavirus FAQ page.

Campus Resources for International Students

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.
We encourage you to connect to your classmates as much as possible as well.

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?

Students who have extreme hardship may apply for Severe Economic Hardship with USCIS. Details about applying for Severe Economic Hardship with USCIS are listed below.

  • 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 StudentFiscal 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.