COVID-19 Information

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

ISSS continues 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 December 7, 2021. 

Information for...

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Continuing students (Updated 12/7/2021)

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Incoming Students (Updated 12/7/2021)

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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? 

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. We will contact you with information on how to arrange for your DS-2019 to be picked up from our office.

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.

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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

Penn department representatives may schedule a document pick-up or drop-off at the ISSS office (3701 Chestnut St.) using this link: https://www.ipenn.oip.upenn.edu/appointment/?view=documentappt

 

people

Continuing students (Updated 12/7/2021)

people_outline

Incoming Students (Updated 12/7/2021)

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? 

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. We will contact you with information on how to arrange for your DS-2019 to be picked up from our office.

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

Penn department representatives may schedule a document pick-up or drop-off at the ISSS office (3701 Chestnut St.) using this link: https://www.ipenn.oip.upenn.edu/appointment/?view=documentappt

 

Travel

For students and scholars currently in the United States, we urge caution when considering international travel. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve in unpredictable ways, global 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 requirements for entering the U.S.

For comprehensive information about testing and vaccination requirements for entry into the U.S., please see these pages on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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. Please consult the "International Travel" section of Penn Global Support Services' Coronavirus (COVID-19) Travel Updates page for information about entry/exit and quarantine requirements for countries around the globe. Up-to-date information regarding exceptions to COVID-19 travel bans is outlined on the Department of State website.

Update 11/8/2021: As of November 8, 2021, the Biden Administration has lifted the country-by-country COVID-related travel restrictions for foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated. For information about which vaccines will be accepted, how to show proof of vaccination, exceptions to the requirement, and other frequently asked questions related to vaccines and international travel, please see the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The full text of the October 25 Presidential Proclamation can be found on the White House's website

Update 11/29/2021: As of November 29, travel restrictions are in place for travelers who were physically present in the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States: South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe. Read our full announcement here.

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

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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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.

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. 

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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

Town Halls and Webinars

ISSS End-of-Semester Q&A (Spring 2021)May 14, 2021

This webinar provides an overview of things to keep in mind at the end of the Spring 2021 semester and into the summer.

ISSS Webinar on Travel and Spring 2021 PlanningDecember 8, 2020

This webinar provides an overview of things to keep in mind while preparing for international travel to or from the United States and reminders for the Spring 2021 semester. The session was recorded on December 8, 2020; some of the information may have changed by the time you view this recording.

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.

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!