Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for Admissions Representatives

Below is a list of admissions-related questions that may emerge in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Please note that the answers to these questions are subject to change given the volatile situation and the evolving guidance from the University and the US Government.

Page last updated 3/30.

Will ISSS continue to operate and process I-20s/DS-2019s for new incoming students?

In accordance with the University’s guidance about remote work, ISSS will be providing all services remotely for the remainder of the semester. No in-person services will be available during this time. We are currently putting in place procedures to remotely process I-20s/DS-2019s. For updates regarding our operations, please consult our website (global.upenn.edu/isss). 

Should we continue to upload admitted students to iPenn?

Yes, if your program still plans to resume normal in-person operations for the Fall semester.  Please use the standard program start date of September 1, 2020 for your upload file. Due to the uncertainty of in-person operations for the Summer I and II terms, please reach out to Lily Zhang (lizhang1@upenn.edu) before uploading. 

What if the Fall semester later changes to online instruction for my program or Penn as a whole?

Please contact ISSS about any changes to your program. If students were already issued I-20s or DS-2019s, we can arrange to defer their start date.

Initial students should not plan to come to the US until in-person instruction has resumed.

What if my summer program start date has been changed to start in the Fall? 

The admissions representative should re-upload the list in iPenn. We may have to amend I-20s already issued on a case-by-case basis.

What is the current processing time?

Under normal circumstances, documents are processed within 3 weeks. However, as we adjust to a remote work environment, this will likely increase by at least 2-3 additional weeks.

How will students get documents from ISSS?

Generally speaking, students will request a physical document (I-20/DS-2019) to be shipped to their designated address. ISSS is currently putting in place procedures to remotely print and ship documents to students. Communications to students will include information regarding the processing delay.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has informed its stakeholders about the possibility of accepting electronic signatures on the I-20 form due to impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).  However, we are waiting for confirmation from other government agencies.

What if my department normally picks up documents directly from ISSS?

Once we have finalized the procedures mentioned above, you will be contacted by one of our Student Specialists (Chao Hung-Chung or Aaron Debruin) to determine the best process for your office.

Should students start their I-20/DS-2019 application now?

​​​​​​Yes, we still encourage students to begin the process at their earliest opportunity, but they should expect delays.

What if a student is transferring from another US institution?

F-1 students may transfer their SEVIS record from another US institution if they will begin at Penn within 5 months from the end date of their current program.  Consulting w/ISSS regarding timing of a transfer may be necessary.

J-1 students should consult with ISSS about transfer options.

Will students encounter delays or difficulties getting a visa?

At this time, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended visa services globally and currently, there is very limited visa appointment availability. This will hopefully change as services resume but the overall impact is still uncertain.  Please encourage students to check with their local embassy/consulate (https://www.usembassy.gov) for updates about its operating procedures.

Will students encounter difficulties getting to the US?

It is important students 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.  Please see this page for a comprehensive list of travel restrictions around the world.

Before making any travel plans, students must confirm that neither their destination nor any transit countries have put in place restrictions that could affect their itineraries. In addition, students are expected to check with their airlines to ensure that they have the right status to make a layover in other countries.