Coronavirus Update for International Students on Travel and July 31st University Announcement

August 4, 2020
By Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives; Beth A. Winkelstein, Deputy Provost

The below is a message from Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Zeke Emanuel and Deputy Provost Beth Winkelstein sent to all Penn international students on August 3, 2020.

This has been an unprecedented few months for the entire world. Our international students are an integral and valuable part of the Penn community. We look forward to welcoming you to Philadelphia and the campus. Penn and Penn Global greatly appreciate your patience, resilience and flexibility as we develop plans to bring students to Penn’s campus under these rapidly evolving circumstances. 

We are writing with follow up information on the University message that went out on July 31, 2020 to provide additional information to international students to help you plan for your arrival on campus.  

  1. Preparing to Travel 

As you prepare to travel to the United States, please make sure to have the necessary documents to enter at the border. These include: 

  • A valid I-20/DS-2019 
  • A passport (valid for at least six months from the date of your intended return) 
  • A valid F-1/J-1 visa

And for Fall 2020, if you are an initial (new) student starting a program, we are also recommending that you obtain

  • A travel support letter from your academic department, program or home school. A sample letter can be found here. New undergraduates should contact their academic advisor to request this letter. New graduate and professional students should contact their program director or department chair to request this letter. Please be sure to check Penn-in-Touch for contact information for your academic advisor. 
  1. Quarantining and Testing for International Students 

All Penn students will be tested for COVID-19 as they arrive on campus. There will be no cost for the test. US-based students will be expected to test before they depart from home. International students will be tested twice - upon arrival and again 5-7 days later. If possible, international students are encouraged, but not required, to test before departing for the United States, if only to allow for the opportunity to isolate at home should the test be positive. More information on Penn’s testing plan for students living on and off campus can be found at

In addition, the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers entering the United States from abroad complete a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival. International students (and US students arriving from the states designated by the State of Pennsylvania for quarantine) will be expected to complete the 14-day quarantine. The quarantine period may commence upon arrival in the United States, so long as it does not take place in one of the “hotspot” states as designated by the State of Pennsylvania. If you are living on campus, you may complete your quarantine period in the campus housing assigned to you; Penn will be assisting students with access to food and other services during this time. If you have questions about the quarantine requirement, please email

  1. Hybrid and In-Person Instruction for New International Students 

In-person instruction for initial (new) international undergraduate and graduate/professional students will vary by academic program. More details will be provided in future communications. 

We know that this has been an extraordinarily challenging time for all Penn students, and is especially so for our international students. As President Gutmann has declared you and all international students “are treasured members of our community who contribute to the diversity, vibrancy and intellectual excellence of Penn in countless important ways.” We will do everything we can to support your academic and personal success even with the constraints imposed by this global pandemic. 

Please be in touch with your assigned advisor in ISSS if you have questions about immigration and travel and with your academic advisor or program director if you have questions about your academic program this fall.