Important Travel Requirements and Reminders from ISSS

December 10, 2021
By International Student & Scholar Services

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve globally, the emergence of new variants of the virus, increased viral spread, and visa delays continue to pose a risk to international travel. We understand that many members of the Penn community already have international travel plans for the holiday break, and that returning home and reconnecting with loved ones is critical for your well-being. Given the situation, we urge you to remain alert of any possible travel restrictions to your destination country, to any countries through which you may travel to reach your destination, and to the United States.

Update on COVID-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements:

  • Restrictions: 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, and Zimbabwe. Please note that the travel restrictions will also apply to anyone transiting through one of these countries. This list is subject to change and additional countries could be added at any time.
  • Exceptions: At this time, no exceptions have been confirmed for F-1 or J-1 students or scholars traveling from or through the eight countries listed above. The National Interest Exceptions (NIEs) that were previously in effect for students and scholars entering the U.S. have not been confirmed to apply to those traveling from or through these countries. Please refer to the following NAFSA resource page for COVID-related travel updates: For additional information on recent travel updates, please see our website:
  • Testing requirements: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have introduced new testing requirements for inbound air travelers to the U.S. Per the CDC, 'All air passengers 2 years or older with a flight departing to the US from a foreign country at or after 12:01am EST (5:01am GMT) on December 6, 2021, are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.' Please see the CDC website for the full guidance on testing and vaccine documentation:

If you plan to travel, please consider the following:

  • Do you have all documents required for reentry into the U.S.? See all required documents under your immigration status as well as CDC requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations and testing at
  • Will your visa be valid upon reentry? If your visa has expired and you will need to apply for a new visa to return to the U.S., we strongly advise caution and recommend that you secure an appointment prior to your travel to mitigate delays. However, it still is possible your scheduled appointment will be canceled if the consulate is closed or has limited staffing due to COVID or other unforeseen circumstances.
  • Are you required to show proof of a negative COVID test upon boarding the flight from the U.S. to your destination country? If so, please consult your airline to find out what type of test you will need or what documentation you will be required to show, as this may differ from what is provided by Penn.
  • For all F-1 and J-1 students and scholars: Do you have a valid travel signature from ISSS on your I-20 (page 2) or DS-2019? You can request a travel signature by submitting the travel signature request form in iPenn. If you are an F-1 student, ISSS will email the signed document to you. J-1 students and scholars can obtain signed DS-2019s by completing the shipping request e-form or by arranging a pickup at our office.
    • Penn is planning for an in-person spring semester. There are no plans to provide virtual instruction and students who are unable to arrive on time for in-person coursework will be asked to take a Leave of Absence. Plan your return to campus accordingly and give yourself ample time to get back taking into consideration new COVID testing rules and possible travel delays.  If you experience delays in returning to campus following your international travel, please be sure to notify your ISSS advisor and your academic department/program as soon as possible.

If you are an undergraduate student living on campus and are unable to travel, you may apply to remain on campus during the winter break, please complete the Winter Break Form available in MyHomeAtPenn (

If you have any questions or concerns after reading the provided information, please contact your ISSS Advisor by email (see iPenn for your advisor’s name and contact information).