COVID-19 Information

This page is used to provide timely information for Penn's international community on the COVID-19 outbreak.

Throughout the Fall 2020 semester, ISSS will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and is closely following local, national, and global developments to understand its impact on Penn's international students and scholars. 

update Page last updated August 25, 2020. 

News and Announcements

8.25.2020: Department of State temporarily expands visa interview waiver eligibility

On August 25, 2020, the Department of State (DOS) announced a temporary expansion of statutory and regulatory provisions that allow consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying to renew a visa in the same nonimmigrant visa classification and category if not more than 12 months have passed since the prior visa expired. Until December 31, 2020, the temporary expansion allows such waivers if the prior visa has not expired more than 24 months ago. Read the full announcement here.

8.11.2020: University issues revision to fall semester plans regarding on-campus housing, tuition, and fees

On Tuesday, August 11, the University announced revisions to its plans for Fall 2020, including changes concerning on-campus housing, tuition, and fees. See below for a list of FAQs related to this announcement. 

8.4.2020: Update for International Students on Travel and July 31st University Announcement
7.27.2020: SEVP issues clarifications about Fall 2020 guidance

On July 24, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published an FAQ document to clarify its policies and offer additional guidance for new or initial international students. Read our summary of the guidance here.

7.17.2020: US Department of State Grants National Interest Exception to F-1 and M-1 Students from Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

As of July 16, 2020, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas have been granted an exemption from the Presidential Proclamations that suspended entry from these areas. J-1 students from these areas may contact the nearest US embassy or consulate to request an exemption. This does not guarantee these travelers' admission into the United States at the port of entry, which will still be subject to an inspection by Customs and Border Protection. Travelers can use this template to request a support letter from their Penn Schools. They should also be mindful of possible self-isolation requirements upon arrival to the US and/or before arrival on Penn's campus.  

Information for...

people

Current students

people_outline

Incoming Students

people

Scholars and Employees

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a J-1 scholar who has recently arrived in the US. How do I check in? Should I come to the ISSS office? 

ISSS is not currently open for in-person services. All J-1 scholars are required to complete the J-1 Scholar Orientation and Arrival Form in iPenn and virtually check in with an ISSS specialist. The check-in process should be completed within 10 days of the program start date on your DS-2019.

I am unable to arrive in the US by my DS-2019 program start date due to the pandemic. What should I do?

If your scheduled arrival date has changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact your department administrator as soon as possible regarding to update them on your plans and projected arrival/start date.

What categories of scholars are impacted by the "Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China?"

The proclamation suspends entry by Chinese nationals in F (student) or J (exchange visitor) status who seek to pursue graduate studies or research, and have received funding from, have been employed by, or have conducted research on behalf of an entity that supports China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.” It impacts only those who were outside of the United States at the time of the proclamation (June 1, 2020). Read our summary of the proclamation here.

What categories of scholars and employees are impacted by the "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak?"

Effective June 23, 2020, the proclamation temporarily suspended the entry of the following nonimmigrant visa categories until December 31, 2020:

  • H-1B (specialty occupations) or H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers), and their dependents
  • Specific J visas to include interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, summer work travel program participants, and their dependents;
  • L-1 visas, which are typically used or intracompany transfers of managers and executives, and their dependents.

The proclamation does not apply to exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants in the J professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories. Read our summary of the Proclamation here.

people_outline

Department representatives

Sign up for one of the ISSS administrator listservs to receive timely updates on our COVID-19 procedures for Penn business administrators and admissions representatives.

ISSS Administrator Listserv Signup

For Admissions Representatives

Fall 2020 Reporting Procedures for Admissions Representatives

Confirmed updates should be reported as follows:

  • For students who have canceled their admission and will not attend Penn now or in the future:  

    • Email a list of these students 8-digit Penn IDs to ISSS.

      • Undergraduate students: send to Aaron Debruin, debruin@upenn.edu
      • Graduate and professional students: send to Chao-Hung Chung, chaoch@upenn.edu

      • ISSS will cancel these SEVIS records and any I-20 issued will no longer be valid.

  • For incoming, initial students who will not come to the US and Penn until a future semester (i.e., Spring 2021: 1/13/2021, or Fall 2021: 8/31/2021) and will either defer the start of their academic program or begin their studies online from abroad:

    • For graduate and professional programs: Please re-upload your admissions list via iPenn with the updated semester start date. (If a student is deferring to Summer or Fall 2021, please note that we may need to request this information again.)

      ISSS will work with undergraduate schools to collect the information.
    • Please inform students who will arrive for Spring 2021 that:

    • If ISSS has already issued a Fall I-20, we will issue them an updated I-20 under the same SEVIS ID.

    • A new I-20 application is not required in iPenn.

  • Please note that ISSS will:

    • Initially process I-20 deferrals for Spring 2021 start dates.

      Issue electronic I-20s to students via email. New shipments of the original I-20 will not be required.

    • Provide further guidance for students deferring beyond Spring 2021.

FAQs for Admissions Representatives (updated 8/10/2020)

How is ISSS operating during this time?

In accordance with University COVID-19 guidance, all ISSS services are being offered remotely at this time. No in-person services will be available until further notice. We continue to process, print, and ship documents. We aim to process I-20s/DS-2019 applications within three weeks. Students may continue to use the Shipping Request eForm in iPenn to request physical copies of their documents.

What can School/admissions representatives do to support initial students' visa applications/travel to the US?

ISSS has developed a template for a letter to support students' visa applications and travel to the US. The template can be modified to reflect your School's circumstances. See here for the template.

Will initial students face difficulties being admitted into the country at the port of entry?

It is possible that some students may experience delays when entering the country. We recommend providing students with a travel support letter to alleviate any possible issues with admission into the U.S.

Is SEVP continuing to allow electronic Form I-20 issuance for the fall 2020 semester?

SEVP will still allow electronic Form I-20 issuance for the fall semester, and DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. J-1 students must have an original DS-2019 with a valid travel signature for travel or other official purposes. These students should be directed to their assigned ISSS advisors.

When should students deferring until a later semester apply for Forms I-20?

Students who plan to arrive to Penn in Spring 2021 and who have already applied for an I-20 or already have this document in their possession do not need to apply for a new I-20. Your upload of their record will prompt us to generate a new I-20 (see the above section on "Fall 2020 Reporting Procedures for Admissions Representatives"). Students who have not yet applied should plan do to so in early Fall 2020. We will provide further guidance about students arriving after Spring 2021.

Can I pay my international graduate students their non-service stipend payments if they cannot come to campus for the fall semester?

Yes, graduate students receiving Educational Fellow or pre-doctoral trainee non-service stipends may be paid these stipends regardless of their location. If the student is a returning student, with proper documentation for an I-9 as well as a US bank account, follow the established process to create the appropriate role in Workday. If the student is a new student, cannot meet the I-9 requirements, or does not have a U.S. bank account, you may process these non-service stipends via a Non-PO payment through the Penn Marketplace. See this page for more detailed information.

My J-1 scholar cannot arrive in the United States as planned. Can they still be added to US payroll and start work from their home country?

No, this individual does not have US work authorization and cannot be onboarded or added to payroll. The best course of action is to contact ISSS to delay the start date of the scholar’s program. See this page for more information.


For Business Administrators

New Shipping Procedure for Immigration Documents

As part of our ongoing commitment to improving our remote work procedures, we have created a shipping eform to allow departments to request immigration documents (H-1B approval notices, DS-2019 documents, etc.) from our office for shipment. To request hard copies of these documents, please:

  • Navigate to the individual’s iPenn Detail View page;
  • Click the Request Document Shipping eform in iPenn;
  • Complete the Request Document Shipping eform by uploading a prepaid shipping label. ISSS will ship the document using the label within 3-5 days of receiving the completed eform.

We hope this new process makes document shipping more efficient and user-friendly.

people

Current students

people_outline

Incoming Students

people

Scholars and Employees

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a J-1 scholar who has recently arrived in the US. How do I check in? Should I come to the ISSS office? 

ISSS is not currently open for in-person services. All J-1 scholars are required to complete the J-1 Scholar Orientation and Arrival Form in iPenn and virtually check in with an ISSS specialist. The check-in process should be completed within 10 days of the program start date on your DS-2019.

I am unable to arrive in the US by my DS-2019 program start date due to the pandemic. What should I do?

If your scheduled arrival date has changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact your department administrator as soon as possible regarding to update them on your plans and projected arrival/start date.

What categories of scholars are impacted by the "Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China?"

The proclamation suspends entry by Chinese nationals in F (student) or J (exchange visitor) status who seek to pursue graduate studies or research, and have received funding from, have been employed by, or have conducted research on behalf of an entity that supports China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.” It impacts only those who were outside of the United States at the time of the proclamation (June 1, 2020). Read our summary of the proclamation here.

What categories of scholars and employees are impacted by the "Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak?"

Effective June 23, 2020, the proclamation temporarily suspended the entry of the following nonimmigrant visa categories until December 31, 2020:

  • H-1B (specialty occupations) or H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers), and their dependents
  • Specific J visas to include interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, summer work travel program participants, and their dependents;
  • L-1 visas, which are typically used or intracompany transfers of managers and executives, and their dependents.

The proclamation does not apply to exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants in the J professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories. Read our summary of the Proclamation here.

people_outline

Department representatives

Sign up for one of the ISSS administrator listservs to receive timely updates on our COVID-19 procedures for Penn business administrators and admissions representatives.

ISSS Administrator Listserv Signup

For Admissions Representatives

Fall 2020 Reporting Procedures for Admissions Representatives

Confirmed updates should be reported as follows:

  • For students who have canceled their admission and will not attend Penn now or in the future:  

    • Email a list of these students 8-digit Penn IDs to ISSS.

      • Undergraduate students: send to Aaron Debruin, debruin@upenn.edu
      • Graduate and professional students: send to Chao-Hung Chung, chaoch@upenn.edu

      • ISSS will cancel these SEVIS records and any I-20 issued will no longer be valid.

  • For incoming, initial students who will not come to the US and Penn until a future semester (i.e., Spring 2021: 1/13/2021, or Fall 2021: 8/31/2021) and will either defer the start of their academic program or begin their studies online from abroad:

    • For graduate and professional programs: Please re-upload your admissions list via iPenn with the updated semester start date. (If a student is deferring to Summer or Fall 2021, please note that we may need to request this information again.)

      ISSS will work with undergraduate schools to collect the information.
    • Please inform students who will arrive for Spring 2021 that:

    • If ISSS has already issued a Fall I-20, we will issue them an updated I-20 under the same SEVIS ID.

    • A new I-20 application is not required in iPenn.

  • Please note that ISSS will:

    • Initially process I-20 deferrals for Spring 2021 start dates.

      Issue electronic I-20s to students via email. New shipments of the original I-20 will not be required.

    • Provide further guidance for students deferring beyond Spring 2021.

FAQs for Admissions Representatives (updated 8/10/2020)

How is ISSS operating during this time?

In accordance with University COVID-19 guidance, all ISSS services are being offered remotely at this time. No in-person services will be available until further notice. We continue to process, print, and ship documents. We aim to process I-20s/DS-2019 applications within three weeks. Students may continue to use the Shipping Request eForm in iPenn to request physical copies of their documents.

What can School/admissions representatives do to support initial students' visa applications/travel to the US?

ISSS has developed a template for a letter to support students' visa applications and travel to the US. The template can be modified to reflect your School's circumstances. See here for the template.

Will initial students face difficulties being admitted into the country at the port of entry?

It is possible that some students may experience delays when entering the country. We recommend providing students with a travel support letter to alleviate any possible issues with admission into the U.S.

Is SEVP continuing to allow electronic Form I-20 issuance for the fall 2020 semester?

SEVP will still allow electronic Form I-20 issuance for the fall semester, and DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. J-1 students must have an original DS-2019 with a valid travel signature for travel or other official purposes. These students should be directed to their assigned ISSS advisors.

When should students deferring until a later semester apply for Forms I-20?

Students who plan to arrive to Penn in Spring 2021 and who have already applied for an I-20 or already have this document in their possession do not need to apply for a new I-20. Your upload of their record will prompt us to generate a new I-20 (see the above section on "Fall 2020 Reporting Procedures for Admissions Representatives"). Students who have not yet applied should plan do to so in early Fall 2020. We will provide further guidance about students arriving after Spring 2021.

Can I pay my international graduate students their non-service stipend payments if they cannot come to campus for the fall semester?

Yes, graduate students receiving Educational Fellow or pre-doctoral trainee non-service stipends may be paid these stipends regardless of their location. If the student is a returning student, with proper documentation for an I-9 as well as a US bank account, follow the established process to create the appropriate role in Workday. If the student is a new student, cannot meet the I-9 requirements, or does not have a U.S. bank account, you may process these non-service stipends via a Non-PO payment through the Penn Marketplace. See this page for more detailed information.

My J-1 scholar cannot arrive in the United States as planned. Can they still be added to US payroll and start work from their home country?

No, this individual does not have US work authorization and cannot be onboarded or added to payroll. The best course of action is to contact ISSS to delay the start date of the scholar’s program. See this page for more information.


For Business Administrators

New Shipping Procedure for Immigration Documents

As part of our ongoing commitment to improving our remote work procedures, we have created a shipping eform to allow departments to request immigration documents (H-1B approval notices, DS-2019 documents, etc.) from our office for shipment. To request hard copies of these documents, please:

  • Navigate to the individual’s iPenn Detail View page;
  • Click the Request Document Shipping eform in iPenn;
  • Complete the Request Document Shipping eform by uploading a prepaid shipping label. ISSS will ship the document using the label within 3-5 days of receiving the completed eform.

We hope this new process makes document shipping more efficient and user-friendly.

Quick FAQs
August 11, 2020 University Notification: FAQs
The University has announced that campus housing will be reserved, with only very limited exceptions, "for international students and those students dealing with significant housing or personal hardships." How do I know if I qualify for an exception? 

Most incoming and continuing international students with a need to reside in on-campus housing will be eligible for an exception. Students needing to live in University housing during the Fall 2020 semester were required to fill out the Housing Exception Form by the deadline of August 17. Please direct questions about the form and about on-campus housing to living@upenn.edu. Please also review the University's Fall 2020 FAQs.

I am an initial international student who plans to come to Penn's campus for Fall 2020. In light of the University's announcement from August 11, can I still come? 

The University has stated that in-person experiences will still be offered where these experiences are "essential for students to meet their curricular or pedagogical requirements." While most coursework will take place online, the University will work with initial international students to ensure that they have an in-person course that satisfies the conditions of their entry into the US.

The decision to come to campus or enroll from home is a personal one and should be made in consultation with your admitting school, academic advisor, and with your family. Please consider that many aspects of life on campus will be different in Fall 2020 due to social distancing and other measures to control the spread of COVID-19. Access to certain resources on campus, including libraries, gyms, and dining halls may be unavailable or restricted. Students arriving from abroad will also be expected to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Philadelphia. If you decide to defer your in-person studies, please notify your admitting school.

How can I prove upon entry into the United States that part of my course of study will take place in person? What documents should I carry with me and how should I respond to questions by border protection officers? 

Your admitting school can provide you with a signed travel support letter to attest to the fact that you will have an in-person educational experience as a required component of your course of study. If asked by immigration officers or other US government official for more details, inform them know that Penn is offering some in-person instruction for undergraduates and that you will have an in-person educational experience. You should also consider carrying a printed copy of your schedule

Will I have to self-isolate once I arrive in the country?

While there is no national-level mandate for travelers arriving in the United States to self-isolate, please be advised of the following:

  • International students arriving from outside of the U.S. and students arriving from states that are designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health as hotspots, public health guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recommends quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Philadelphia.
  • To minimize risk of spreading COVID-19, the University will require all international students and students arriving from “hotspot” states to take an additional test within 5-7 days of when their first on-campus test was administered (at move-in). Regardless of result, these students will still be asked to quarantine upon arrival to campus for the full 14 day period. More information is available here.
Is ISSS open? How will I get my documents/speak with an advisor?

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and in accordance with University guidance, ISSS has temporarily suspended in-person services and all staff members are working off-site. We continue to process documents and offer virtual advising services. You can complete the Shipping Request e-form in iPenn to have your documents shipped to you. SEVP has temporarily permitted schools to issue electronic I-20s. For J-1 students, you must have an original DS-2019 with a valid travel signature for travel or other official purposes. Please contact your assigned advisor if you need to have an original copy shipped to you.

For business administrators: Please check our email from Tuesday, July 22 ("New Shipping Procedure for Immigration Documents") regarding our procedure for requesting documents for scholars/employees or read more in the "Information for Department Representatives" section below. 

Can I do OPT/CPT remotely due to the pandemic?

Students currently participating in OPT, including STEM OPT, can engage in remote work on a temporary basis due to COVID-19 if their employer has an office outside of the United States or the employer can assess student engagement using electronic means. Please consult your employer to determine the feasibility of working remotely. You will still need to do OPT reporting through iPenn in order to keep your SEVIS record active. See the SEVP policy guidance for more information. Remote work is possible while on CPT and this will not impact your visa status; however, you must first reach out to your employer and make arrangements for working remotely.

I'm an incoming initial student/a continuing student planning to re-enter the country. Do I need a new I-20 indicating my program's course format?

Due to the reversal of the SEVP guidance from July 6 and 7, you no longer need a special comment on your I-20 indicating your program’s course format for Fall 2020. Students who have already received I-20s may use the same document to schedule visa appointments and to travel. You may request a support letter from your School to provide additional evidence of your enrollment at Penn and your need to enter the United States. Find the letter template here.

I'm an incoming J-1 Scholar, but I will not be able to arrive by the program start date listed on my DS-2019. What should I do?

Please contact your department as soon as possible and notify them that you will not arrive on time. They will use iPenn to submit a J-1 Scholar Late Arrival form within 14 days of your DS-2019 start date.

Travel

Please be aware that ongoing travel restrictions, changing public health guidance, and immigration policy shifts may impact students' and scholars' ability to re-enter the United States or enter the country for the first time. To ensure that you have the smoothest trip possible, please: 

Make sure you have all necessary travel documents

When traveling to the United States, please ensure that you have a passport valid for more than six months from the date of your intended return in addition to the other required documents listed on the ISSS Travel Information page.

Electronic I-20s: Due to COVID-19, SEVP has allowed the issuance of electronic Forms I-20 via email addresses listed in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) instead of physically mailing them. If you need to request a travel signature, complete the travel signature request e-form in iPenn. Once an ISSS staff member reviews the e-form and approves your request, a new I-20/DS-2019 for the purpose of travel will be generated and sent to you via email. Documents received electronically must be printed out to be used for travel. 

For J-1 students, you must have an original DS-2019 with a valid travel signature for travel or other official purposes. Please contact your assigned advisor if you need to have an original copy shipped to you.

Review current travel bans and restrictions

Ensure that you are not subject to any travel bans in the U.S or in any transit countries. Stay up-to-date on the list of travelers prohibited from entry into the United States. For a comprehensive list of global travel restrictions, see the regularly-updated Fragomen website.

Please note: As of July 16, 2020, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas have been granted an exemption from the Presidential Proclamations that suspended entry from these areas. J-1 students from these areas may contact the nearest US embassy or consulate to request an exemption.

Request a travel support letter from your School (optional)

If you are concerned about not being permitted to board your flight to the United States or being denied at the US Point of Entry, you may request a travel support letter from your academic department confirming that you are seeking entry into the country under the sponsorship of the University of Pennsylvania. Please note that this support letter does not guarantee that you will be permitted entry into the United States and does not override any existing travel restrictions.This letter is only meant to provide additional documentation of your affiliation with Penn.

To request a support letter from your department, please contact your academic advisor or your admissions office. Here is an example of a support letter from an academic department (pdf).

Review emergency travel information

Review the "Travel Difficulties and Resources" section on the ISSS Travel Information page.

For emergency assistance with leaving the US, you are advised to contact your home country’s local consulate or embassy in the US for support and information.

Find your local embassy/consulate
Update your contact information

Once you reach your final destination, please be sure to update your information in Penn InTouch (students) and the Penn Directory (scholars/employees).

Affected Government Services

how_to_reg

US Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS ceased all in-person operations in March 2020; as of June 4, it will resume non-emergency face-to-face services to the public, with application support centers to resume services at the end of July. 

USCIS has closed the vast majority of its international offices, and it is thought that the agency may furlough up to 80% of its staff by August 2020. It is unclear how these developments may affect USCIS operations. Prior to the outbreak, processing times for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is adjudicated by USCIS, ranged from 3-5 months. If you intend to apply for OPT, please do so well in advance of your anticipated employment start date. 

Contact USCIS

attach_money

Tax filing (Internal Revenue Service)

In response to the pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service extended the 2020 tax filing deadline to July 15. If you missed the deadline, please see the Sprintax blog to review your options. 

Please note that all international students and scholars have some form of tax filing obligations, even if they have not earned income in the US. See this page to review your obligations, and consult Sprintax for case-specific guidance. ISSS is unable to advise on tax-related issues. 

flight_land

Visa Services

The US Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 14, 2020, US embassies and consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services. As local conditions permit, embassies and consulates will resume processing of some routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases, for example: travelers with urgent travel needs; students (F-1, M-1, and certain J-1); and some family members of U.S. citizens consistent with Presidential Proclamation 10014.

Please check with your local embassy/consulate (https://www.usembassy.gov) for updates about its operating procedures. Each consulate will also have their own procedure to request an expedited appointment.  Please note these are not commonly granted. Unfortunately, ISSS is unable to request visa appointments on behalf of applicants. 

emoji_transportation

PennDOT

At the beginning of May 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) resumed offering in-person services at some Driver License and Photo License Centers across the state. See here for a list of currently open locations in Philadelphia.

On this page, you will find a list of the documents required to apply for a Pennsylvania Driver's License or Photo ID card. ISSS has been advised that PennDOT may be able to accept electronic I-20s. However, please confirm this with the specific PennDOT location prior to your arrival.  

PennDOT: Coronavirus information

assignment_ind

Social Security Administration

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all Social Security Administration offices have suspended most face-to-face services. Please monitor the Administration's website for updates. Students who need to schedule an appointment to apply for an SSN should reach out to their local SSA office for further assistance. The Philadelphia SSA office can be reached at 1-877-541-5846.

security

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Due to the outbreak, all CBP Trusted Traveler Program Enrollment Centers have suspended in-person operations until at least August 20, 2020. This temporary closure includes all public access to Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST enrollment locations.

See the CBP website for all COVID-19 updates.

how_to_reg

US Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS ceased all in-person operations in March 2020; as of June 4, it will resume non-emergency face-to-face services to the public, with application support centers to resume services at the end of July. 

USCIS has closed the vast majority of its international offices, and it is thought that the agency may furlough up to 80% of its staff by August 2020. It is unclear how these developments may affect USCIS operations. Prior to the outbreak, processing times for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which is adjudicated by USCIS, ranged from 3-5 months. If you intend to apply for OPT, please do so well in advance of your anticipated employment start date. 

Contact USCIS

attach_money

Tax filing (Internal Revenue Service)

In response to the pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service extended the 2020 tax filing deadline to July 15. If you missed the deadline, please see the Sprintax blog to review your options. 

Please note that all international students and scholars have some form of tax filing obligations, even if they have not earned income in the US. See this page to review your obligations, and consult Sprintax for case-specific guidance. ISSS is unable to advise on tax-related issues. 

flight_land

Visa Services

The US Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 14, 2020, US embassies and consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services. As local conditions permit, embassies and consulates will resume processing of some routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases, for example: travelers with urgent travel needs; students (F-1, M-1, and certain J-1); and some family members of U.S. citizens consistent with Presidential Proclamation 10014.

Please check with your local embassy/consulate (https://www.usembassy.gov) for updates about its operating procedures. Each consulate will also have their own procedure to request an expedited appointment.  Please note these are not commonly granted. Unfortunately, ISSS is unable to request visa appointments on behalf of applicants. 

emoji_transportation

PennDOT

At the beginning of May 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) resumed offering in-person services at some Driver License and Photo License Centers across the state. See here for a list of currently open locations in Philadelphia.

On this page, you will find a list of the documents required to apply for a Pennsylvania Driver's License or Photo ID card. ISSS has been advised that PennDOT may be able to accept electronic I-20s. However, please confirm this with the specific PennDOT location prior to your arrival.  

PennDOT: Coronavirus information

assignment_ind

Social Security Administration

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all Social Security Administration offices have suspended most face-to-face services. Please monitor the Administration's website for updates. Students who need to schedule an appointment to apply for an SSN should reach out to their local SSA office for further assistance. The Philadelphia SSA office can be reached at 1-877-541-5846.

security

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Due to the outbreak, all CBP Trusted Traveler Program Enrollment Centers have suspended in-person operations until at least August 20, 2020. This temporary closure includes all public access to Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, and FAST enrollment locations.

See the CBP website for all COVID-19 updates.

Town Halls and Webinars

Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty for Penn International StudentsAugust 6, 2020

 

On August 6, 2020, Dr. Amy Gadsden (Associate Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, University of Pennsylvania) led a discussion with University of Pennsylvania Trustee and School of Arts and Sciences Overseer Ramanan Raghavendran (EAS'89, W'89, LPS'15) to address questions from Penn international students about their current challenges and fears.

Ramanan is managing partner of the venture capital firm Amasia and reflected on his experiences as an international student at Penn and beyond. Dr. Gadsden provided insights based on her oversight of Penn’s support organizations for international students.

This event was sponsored by ISSS, Penn Global, and the Assembly for International Students (AIS). 

Visa Interview Dos and Dont's August 5, 2020

 

Sprintax Webinar on Tax Filing and COVID-19 Stimulus Payments June 15, 2020

Click here to view the webinar

ISSS Immigration Law Forum for International Students and Scholars June 29, 2020

On June 29, ISSS hosted an Immigration Law Forum to discuss recent changes in immigration policy. The Forum was moderated by H. Ronald Klasko (Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP) and Jane Goldblum (Goldblum & Pollins).

ISSS Virtual Town Hall on Fall 2020 SEVP Guidance July 13, 2020

Note: As the SEVP Guidance from July 6 and 7, 2020 has been rescinded, please be advised that some of the information shared during this town hall is no longer relevant.

Relevant Presidential Proclamations

The President of the United States has issued a number of Proclamations in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. See below for an overview of the scope and impact of these Proclamations.

More info: What is a Presidential Proclamation?

assignment

Presidential Proclamations

Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusJanuary 31, 2020

Effective date: February 2, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting CoronavirusFebruary 29, 2020

Effective date: March 2, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusMarch 11, 2020

Effective date: March 13, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Note: As of July 14, 2020, F-1 and M-1 students traveling from the Schengen Area qualify for a "national interest exception" to this proclamation, and J-1 students may request an exception from their local US embassy/consulate. More information here.

Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusMarch 14, 2020

Effective date: March 13, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe, or the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Note: As of July 14, 2020, F-1 and M-1 students traveling from the UK and the Republic of Ireland qualify for a "national interest exception" to this proclamation, and J-1 students may request an exception from their local US embassy/consulate. More information here.

Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak April 22, 2020

Effective date: April 23, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States of immigrants for 60 days if:

  • They are outside the U.S. as of the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation [April 23, 2020];
  • Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
  • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa [i.e. transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document] that is valid on the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission.

Certain exemptions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, aliens seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals or as COVID-19 researchers, and certain other categories. This Proclamation did not further limit entry into the United States by non-immigrants.

Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus May 24, 2020

Effective date: May 28, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of aliens "who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Certain exemptions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, aliens seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals or as COVID-19 researchers, and certain other categories. This Proclamation did not further limit entry into the United States by non-immigrants.

Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus OutbreakJune 22, 2020

Effective date: June 22, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This proclamation temporarily suspends the entry of the following nonimmigrant visa categories until December 31, 2020:

  • H-1B (specialty occupations) or H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers), and their dependents
  • Specific J visas to include interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, summer work travel program participants,  and their dependents;
    • NOTE: the proclamation does not apply to exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants in the J professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories.
  • L-1 visas, which are typically used or intracompany transfers of managers and executives, and their dependents.

The proclamation does not impact the immigration statuses of F-1 and J-1 students and scholars.

assignment

Presidential Proclamations

Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusJanuary 31, 2020

Effective date: February 2, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting CoronavirusFebruary 29, 2020

Effective date: March 2, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the Islamic Republic of Iran during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusMarch 11, 2020

Effective date: March 13, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Note: As of July 14, 2020, F-1 and M-1 students traveling from the Schengen Area qualify for a "national interest exception" to this proclamation, and J-1 students may request an exception from their local US embassy/consulate. More information here.

Proclamation—Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel CoronavirusMarch 14, 2020

Effective date: March 13, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of all aliens "who were physically present within the United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe, or the Republic of Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Note: As of July 14, 2020, F-1 and M-1 students traveling from the UK and the Republic of Ireland qualify for a "national interest exception" to this proclamation, and J-1 students may request an exception from their local US embassy/consulate. More information here.

Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak April 22, 2020

Effective date: April 23, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States of immigrants for 60 days if:

  • They are outside the U.S. as of the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation [April 23, 2020];
  • Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
  • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa [i.e. transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document] that is valid on the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission.

Certain exemptions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, aliens seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals or as COVID-19 researchers, and certain other categories. This Proclamation did not further limit entry into the United States by non-immigrants.

Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Novel Coronavirus May 24, 2020

Effective date: May 28, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This Proclamation suspended entry into the United States as immigrants or nonimmigrants of aliens "who were physically present within the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States."

Certain exemptions apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States, aliens seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals or as COVID-19 researchers, and certain other categories. This Proclamation did not further limit entry into the United States by non-immigrants.

Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus OutbreakJune 22, 2020

Effective date: June 22, 2020 
Still in effect?: Yes

This proclamation temporarily suspends the entry of the following nonimmigrant visa categories until December 31, 2020:

  • H-1B (specialty occupations) or H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers), and their dependents
  • Specific J visas to include interns, trainees, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, summer work travel program participants,  and their dependents;
    • NOTE: the proclamation does not apply to exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants in the J professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories.
  • L-1 visas, which are typically used or intracompany transfers of managers and executives, and their dependents.

The proclamation does not impact the immigration statuses of F-1 and J-1 students and scholars.

Stay Strong, Penn!
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Our hearts are with every member of Penn's international community during this difficult time, and we can't wait to be reunited on campus. Stay Strong, Penn!