Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for Incoming International Students

Please consult the below questions for the latest COVID-19-related guidance for incoming international students. We will update this page as new information becomes available. For general new international student information, please see this page

Last updated 5/26/2020.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ISSS I-20/DS-2019 processing times?

ISSS continues to operate remotely and process immigration documents (I-20s/DS-2019s) for incoming students. However, the transition to and limitations of remote work have increased processing times to about 6 weeks. You can check the status of your application in iPenn. Once your application is processed, you will receive a confirmation email with your SEVIS ID, which you can use to make an interview appointment at your local consulate. The document will be shipped to you after you have submitted the shipping e-form online.

When should I apply for my I-20 or DS-2019?

As ISSS has temporarily transition to remote work in accordance with University policy, we encourage you to begin the process at your earliest opportunity. Due to the large volume of applications and inquiries at this time, we are unable to offer expedited processing.

Will I encounter delays or difficulties getting a visa appointment?

At this time, the U.S. Department of State has temporarily suspended visa services globally, there is very limited visa appointment availability. This will hopefully change as services resume but the overall impact is still uncertain. Please continue to check with your local embassy/consulate ( for updates about its operating procedures.

Will I encounter difficulties getting to the US?

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.  Please also see this page for a comprehensive list of travel restrictions around the world.

Before making any travel plans, you should confirm that neither their destination nor any transit countries 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

What is the latest date I can arrive to start my program if I am delayed by visa issues and/or continuing travel restrictions?

Please consult with your academic school to determine the latest date you may arrive on campus to begin your program.

What if I cannot arrive in time to start my program?

ISSS will defer your form I-20 or DS-2019 start date to the following Spring or Fall semester as determined by your academic program and will reissue a new form I-20 or DS-2019.

What if I decide to defer my program start and I have already applied for an I-20 or DS-2019?

If you decide to defer your program start, you must confirm the deferral with your admitting school before notifying ISSS of your deferral.

Please note that if you are deferring until a later semester, your admitting school will need to reupload your admissions record to our iPenn system and you will need to apply for a new I-20 and provide updated financial documents for the deferred program start date.

Will I have the option to take courses online from outside the US if I cannot arrive in time?

This might be possible but will be dependent on the policies of your academic school.  Your I-20 or DS-2019 start date will still be deferred to the semester start date you will be able to arrive and start classes in person. ISSS will arrange to issue a new I-20 or DS-2019 accordingly.

What if my program or Penn delays the start date of in-person classes?

ISSS will need to defer your start date to the next semester your program will resume in person courses and reissue a new form I-20 or DS-2019.

If I am transferring my SEVIS record, may I travel abroad in between programs?  What if I do or do not have a valid visa?

If you still have a valid F-1 visa, you may continue to use that visa with your new I-20 from Penn to return to the US.  (J-1 students, please consult with ISSS to discuss further.) However, you still need to consider changing travel restrictions and your personal situation before deciding if travel is the best option. If you do not have a valid visa, you should consider not leaving the US, as the new visa process may prevent you from returning in time to start your program.

What if I am currently in another immigration status and wish to apply for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 and not travel to get a new visa to return?

We highly advise consulting an immigration attorney to review this option.  Please see for more information.