Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for Continuing International Students
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Last updated December 7, 2021.
Students are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccination for the Fall 2021 semester. Exceptions will only be provided for medical or religious reasons. Students should upload their required vaccine records to their Student Health Service portal as soon as possible. For more information on the vaccination requirement, where to get vaccinated, and exemptions, see Penn's Coronavirus response website ("Vaccinations").
For up-to-date information on which vaccines will be accepted, please see Penn's Coronavirus Student FAQ page.
As the situation surrounding COVID-19 infection rates continues to evolve worldwide, so will U.S. travel bans and restrictions. Please consult the following resources for the most up-to-date information:
Please consult the below pages for the most up-to-date information, as testing and quarantine requirements change frequently.
- Penn Cares Testing Program (for information about testing criteria, frequency, exemption conditions, compliance, and more)
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Vaccination and Testing Requirements for International Travelers
Please consult these resources for the most up-to-date information. ISSS does not provide guidance on COVID-19 screening or quarantine requirements, housing, or COVID-19 restrictions in countries outside of the United States.
For information on University operations, guidance and resources (testing information, quarantine requirements, housing, COVID-19 statistics, etc):
- Penn Coronavirus response website
- Information about vaccinations
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- Penn Residential Services
For information on global quarantine requirements, entry/exit restrictions, medical screening requirements, etc:
The ISSS office is currently open from 10:00-12:30PM and from 1:30PM-5:00PM. We are closed between 12:30-1:30PM. ISSS is continuing to offer virtual advising appointments. See our Return to Campus page for more information about how to connect with ISSS virtually.
If a vaccine series is started that is not available in the US, Penn encourages you to finish that vaccine series before traveling to the US. COVID-19 continues to spread globally resulting in serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Vaccination is the best way to prevent spread of virus and new variants.
It is expected that guidelines for those receiving international vaccines will continue to evolve. Please submit proof of vaccination to the Student Health portal.
Ensure you have your original immigration documents (passport, visa and I-20/ DS-2019 ) and that they are valid. You may leave the U.S. without a recently signed I-20/DS-2019, but you will need a valid travel signature to return to the country. (Travel signatures are valid for one year)
Please note that due to ongoing travel restrictions, public health guidance, and immigration policy changes, we urge you to exercise caution when traveling internationally at this time. Students who leave the United States may face challenges when attempting re-entry.
Please complete the travel signature request e-form in iPenn. Once an ISSS staff 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. Per SEVP guidance, once printed and signed, you can use this I-20 the same as you would a physical copy. Relevant information regarding the electronic issuance of I-20s is excerpted here.
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.
Generally speaking, you are not required to notify ISSS before leaving the country. However, given the uncertainty of travel restrictions, public health guidance, and immigration policy changes, international travel is strongly discouraged at this time. Please make sure to keep your contact information updated in Penn InTouch.
It is important to stay up-to-date on the list of countries whose citizens may face difficulties entering the United States; these restrictions are constantly changing as the situation develops. Please see the CDC's webpage on travelers prohibited from entry into the United States for the most current guidance.
Before making any travel plans, you should confirm that neither your destination nor any countries through which you will travel to reach your destination have put in place restrictions that could affect your itinerary. In addition, check with your airline to ensure you have the right status to make a layover in other countries. Please see the website of the U.S. Department of State for up-to-date information about global travel restrictions.
Please see U.S. Department of State's page on country-specific COVID travel restrictions and testing/quarantine requirements. Before you make any travel plans, it is your responsibility to confirm that neither your destination nor any transit countries have put in place restrictions that could affect your itinerary.
In March 2020, the US Department of State suspended all routine visa services at all US Embassies and consulates. A "phased resumption" of these services began in July 2020. Resumption of visa services will take place on a case-by-case basis and depend on local circumstances and public health guidance. 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 that these are not commonly granted.
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.
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.
You must be in the US at the time of your OPT application. If you are completing your degree program this fall, you must return by December 15, 2021.
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.
There are a number of things you should consider before traveling while your OPT status is pending. Additionally, due to ongoing travel restrictions, public health guidance, and immigration policy changes, we urge you to exercise caution when considering international travel. Please see the website of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more detailed guidance.
It is unclear how the current situation will continue to impact USCIS processing times. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, processing times averaged 3-5 months. If you intend to apply for OPT, please do so as soon as possible in anticipation of any additional delays. Processing times can be checked on the USCIS website.
The Penn Police Department will continue to patrol campus and the surrounding area to ensure the safety of students. Please call 215-573-3333 (or 511 from a campus phone) to report an emergency. See here for additional resources, including Walking Escort services and PennRides on Request. Please check the City of Philadelphia’s website regularly for updates on the city’s plans to control the spread of COVID-19.
Please consult the Sprintax website for more information about eligibility for the stimulus check and what you should do if you think you have received it in error.
In addition to checking the ISSS website and emails from ISSS, the following resources may be of use:
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Newsroom: For news and information about the Student and Exchange Visitor Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): International Travel
- U.S. Department of State: COVID-19 Country Specific Requirements
- Whitehouse.gov: For information on proclamations and orders by the President of the United States
- NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources portal
- For academic concerns, please consult your School or your academic advisor.
- For computer or other technical problems, please consult Student IT Support: https://www.isc.upenn.edu/student-remote-it-support.
- If you are in need of technology required for remote learning, consult Student Intervention Services at email@example.com.
- For any needs related to Penn’s order to leave campus housing, contact Student Intervention Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For general questions, please see https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/students-families.