COVID-19 Updates

Immigration Overview

It is important to have a clear understanding of your immigration documents before reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below.

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I-20 (F-1 Students)

Your Form I-20 is your certificate of eligibility for F-1 student visa status. It should remain accurate and valid during your academic Program of Study and post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) . You should always travel with your most recently issued I-20 with a valid travel signature. You must sign and date the I-20 with blue pen.

Form I-20 Image with end date, issue date highlighted.

The I-20 “form issue reason” explained (in the top box of the form).

Initial Attendance I-20
A new I-20 SEVIS ID number issued to a student entering the U.S. as a new admit, re-entry admit, or a student travel to correct their status.

Transfer Pending I-20
The current I-20 SEVIS ID number issued to a student who currently has a Form I-20 from another SEVP-certified school in the U.S. The student must meet the Transfer-in eligibility requirements.

Change of Status Pending I-20
A new I-20 SEVIS ID number issued to a student currently in the U.S. under a different visa status to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change to a new visa status while remaining in the U.S.

Continued Attendance I-20
The current I-20 SEVIS ID number issued to a student continues to maintain F-1 status. A new continued attendance I-20 is issued to the student any time there is an update to the Personal Information, Program of Study, Financial Information, Employment Authorization, or Authorized Reduced Course Load sections of the Form I-20.

DS-2019 (J-1 Students)

Your DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for J-1 student visa status. It should remain accurate and valid during your academic Program of Study and post-completion Academic Training. You should always travel with your most recently issued DS-2019 with a valid travel signature. You must sign and date the DS-2019 with blue pen.

F/J Student Visa

Your F-1 or J-1 student visa must be valid at the time you enter the U.S. The visa can expire while you are inside of the U.S. as long as you continue to maintain your F-1 or J-1 student visa status.

You cannot renew your visa inside of the U.S.

Visa Example with end date and entries

SEVIS

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a government database where your I-20/DS-2019 and related information is updated. F-1 Designated School Officials (DSOs) and J-1 Alternate Responsible Officers (AROs) at ISS have access to update SEVIS.

Understanding your SEVIS status
Active Status

F-1/J-1 student who

Initial Status

F-1/J-1 student who has not done the following for the semester matching the I-20/DS-2019 program start date

New admits, re-entry admits, SEVIS transfer students, and students who have applied for a correction of status or change of status will begin in initial status.

Canceled Status

An initial status student who has no record of following within 30-60 days of the I-20/DS-2019 program start date.

  • U.S. entry
  • ISS check-in and orientation completion
  • Full-time enrollment
Completed Status

A student who has completed their

  • Program of study
  • Post-completion employment authorization
  • Grace period
Terminated Status

F-1 student is not following the rules to maintain lawful status. Students who willfully pause full-time enrollment and take a leave of absence are also in terminated status.

Deactivated Status

F-1 who has

  • Changed the program of study education level at UW-Madison; or
  • Transferred the SEVIS record to another SEVP-certified school

Designated School Official (DSO) for F-1 students

DSOs are authorized employees of UW-Madison to access a student’s F-1 SEVIS record. ISS staff are DSOs. We do not have assigned DSOs for students at this time. You can find the name of the DSO who issued your I-20 on page 1.

Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) for J-1 students

AROs are authorized employees of UW-Madison to access a student’s J-1 SEVIS record. ISS staff are AROs. We do not have assigned AROs for students at this time. You can find the name of the ARO who issued your DS-2019 on page 1.

ISS Services

ISS staff is available to serve you virtually from our individual alternate office spaces.  Check here for campus operation updates.

Summer Service Schedule: May 1 – September 3

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Virtual Drop-in Advising

Summer Service Schedule: May 1 – September 3

Mondays & Wednesdays 2:30-4:30 p.m.

Tuesdays & Thursdays 8:30-10:30 a.m.

See our Drop-in Advising page for schedule updates and tips to prepare for advising.

Immigration Advising by Appointment

Summer Service Schedule: May 1 – September 3

Advising appointments are not available for students to schedule during the summer. Please see our virtual drop-in advising hours.

Immigration Document Updates

All immigration updates can be submitted through your Terra Dotta portal. We continue to process your I-20 and DS-2019 updates from our remote office locations. We strive to process your request within 15 business days (weekends and holidays are not included). Our adapted office locations have increased the time it takes for us to complete document processing.

You will receive an email through TerraDotta when the update is complete and your document has been mailed. A scanned copy of your signed document will be uploaded to your TerraDotta portal 2-3 days later.

New Students: If you experience TerraDotta login issues with your NetID and password, contact your admissions office to confirm:

  • You are in admitted or matriculated status in the Student Information System.
  • Your visa permit information is F-1 or J-1 with issuing authority “UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON”
  • Your citizenship information has 2 rows (USA=”alien”; Enter country of citizenship on passport=”citizen” or “native”)

Updates made in the Student Center and SIS take up to 48 hours to update in TerraDotta.

Email

Students should send a Terra Dotta Information Request to their assigned ISS advisor instead of sending an email! Do not send your email or Information Request to multiple ISS advisors, please! This takes a lot of staff time away from advising and I-20/DS-2019 requests.

We strive to answer your email inquiries in 3-5 business days. We are receiving a very high volume of emails and responses may be delayed.

Before you email, please check our website for your answers. You can find answers to your common questions for New Students and Current Students, including Employment Authorization. The search bar is great way to start your search. All COVID-19 related updates will be made on this page.

Include in your email to iss@studentlife.wisc.edu:

  • full legal name
  • NetID
  • Student ID number
  • A detailed question about your immigration status and information about your situation

TerraDotta

TerraDotta is your student immigration portal where you can complete immigration document update requests, schedule an appointment with ISS, read important messages from ISS, and find copies of your documents. Students login with their NetID and password.

New Students: If you experience TerraDotta login issues with your NetID and password, contact your admissions office to confirm:

  • You are in admitted or matriculated status in the Student Information System.
  • Your visa permit information is F-1 or J-1 with issuing authority “UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON”
  • Your citizenship information has 2 rows (USA=”alien”; Enter country of citizenship on passport=”citizen” or “native”)

Updates made in the Student Center and SIS take up to 48 hours to update in TerraDotta.

Virtual Engagement Series

Check our schedule on the Events Calendar for upcoming virtual engagement opportunities.

Or go to our Get Involved page for recordings of past sessions.

In-person and phone services

ISS is here to serve you virtually! We encourage all students to seek virtual services.

Summer Service Schedule: May 1 – September 3

Monday – Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 12noon & 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Fridays phone only 10:00 a.m. – 12noon & 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Our phone line is monitored by our peer advising staff. No immigration advising is provided. Our peer advisors can provide you with the resources to find what you are looking for and answer questions about how to navigate your Terra Dotta portal.

Student Peer Advisors are available for in-person document pick-up and phone services.

Enrollment and Status

Student action items:

ISS staff are monitoring federal government guidance and university decisions to provide you with guidance to maintain your F/J visa status.

UW-Madison will offer majority in-person courses for Fall 2021. We are currently working with campus leaders to plan for your successful Wisconsin Experience this fall semester, especially for our students facing travel and visa acquisition issues due to COVID-19.

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I am a continuing student in my final semester. Am I required to enroll for one in-person course? (updated 5/24/21)

No. You should enroll in the number of credits you have remaining to complete your degree program and have an approved ISS Reduced Course Load (RCL) if you have less than your full-time requirement to complete in your final semester.

COVID guidance is effective March 9 (Spring 2020) through Summer 2021.

Can I request a letter to confirm UW-Madison's hybrid instruction and my current enrollment for travel and visa interview? (updated 5/18)

Download your Fall 2021 International Student Travel & Visa Acquisition Support Letter. You can attach this to your MyUW Student Center Enrollment Verification letter.

I am a dissertator outside of the U.S. Do I need permission? (updated 11/5)

Yes. Review the Worldwide, Worldwide research course through International Academic Programs. You will also need to submit a Travel Warning Waiver Request form for International Safety and Security.

I have been admitted for Fall 2021. Can I defer my admission?

You will need to work directly with your admitting unit to discuss possible changes to your term of admission.

You will need to update your I-20 or DS-2019 program start date, contact the DSO or ARO who issued your document.

wdt_ID Degree Level Office
2 Undergraduate Student Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Recruitment
3 Graduate Student Graduate Admissions Office
4 Wisconsin School of Business Graduate Student Graduate Admissions Office
5 Law School International Student Services
6 School of Medicine and Public Health International Student Services
7 School of Pharmacy International Student Services
8 Veterinary Medicine International Student Services
9 Visiting International Student Visiting International Student Program
10 Special/Non-degree Students Visiting International Student Program
11 English as a Second Language (ESL) International Student Services
Degree Level Office

My I-20/DS-2019 end date is approaching and I can't return home. What are my options?

ICE/SEVP have not extended the grace period for F/J students. Action needs to be taken before the end of your grace period in order to legally remain in the U.S. Be sure to document your efforts to depart the U.S. and return home.

Please refer to our Program Completion Checklist for a full list of options available to you when you complete your studies.

F-1/J-1 international students who have maintained their status have a grace period at the end of their studies. This grace period allows students to remain in the U.S. F-1 students earn a 60-day grace period, and J-1 students earn a 30-day grace period. This is calculated based on the end date of your I-20/DS-2019 or when you complete all degree requirements, whichever comes sooner.

If you applied for post-completion OPT, you can legally remain in the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS, even if that is beyond your 60-day grace period.

I changed my address. Do I need to update ISS?

Yes. You have 10 days to report any change in your U.S. address or permanent address outside of the U.S. Report your addresses changes in your Student Center.

If you are continuing student in Active status, enrolled full-time, and outside the U.S. for Spring 2021, you do not have to report your U.S. address change until you return to the U.S.

Updates made in the Student Center and SIS take up to 48 hours to update in TerraDotta.

Is UW-Madison issuing initial attendance I-20s/DS-2019s to new students?

Yes, I-20/DS-2019 documents are being issued to students for a Fall 2021. Summer start dates require the department to confirm your in-person course enrollment.

Which office issues my I-20?
wdt_ID Degree Level Office
2 Undergraduate Student Office of Undergraduate Admissions & Recruitment
3 Graduate Student Graduate Admissions Office
4 Wisconsin School of Business Graduate Student Graduate Admissions Office
5 Law School International Student Services
6 School of Medicine and Public Health International Student Services
7 School of Pharmacy International Student Services
8 Veterinary Medicine International Student Services
9 Visiting International Student Visiting International Student Program
10 Special/Non-degree Students Visiting International Student Program
11 English as a Second Language (ESL) International Student Services
Degree Level Office

What are my options for changing my visa status? (added 8/7)

If you are currently in the U.S. on another visa status, such as F-2 or H4, and you need to change your visa status to F-1 or J-1, review your Change of Status options.

I am currently an F-2 dependent
  • You can study part-time. No full-time enrollment is allowed.
  • You are not eligible for on- or off-campus employment authorization.
I am currently a J-2 dependent
  • You can study part-time or full-time.
  • You must apply to USCIS for employment authorization to work on- or off- campus.
  • If you are subject to 212(e) (2-year home residency requirement), you are not eligible to change status within the U.S. You may be eligible to apply for a 212(e) waiver.
I am in another visa status
  • You must review your eligibility to study part-time or full-time and your eligibility for on- or off- campus employment.

I want to take classes in my home country or outside the U.S. Can I transfer my credits back to UW-Madison? (added 11/10)

If you desire to enroll in a credit-bearing course(s) at a college or university in your home country for transfer to your program of study at UW-Madison, you will need to apply for a waiver to the international travel policy.  This must take place prior to enrollment and travel.  For information on this action, please contact International Academic Programs (IAP) as soon as possible to discuss your circumstances and the waiver process.  IAP can answer your questions and help you navigate the waiver process.  Please direct any  non-approved programs questions to non-approved@studyabroad.wisc.edu.

Travel and (Re)Entry

Student action items:

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How can I get a travel signature while ISS is closed?

You can submit a Reprint Request in your TerraDotta portal. ISS will reprint your I-20/DS-2019, give you and any dependents a travel signature, and upload a digitally signed I-20 to your Terra Dotta portal. Do not mail your I-20/DS-2019 to ISS! 

Before you submit your Reprint Request, check your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 to see if you need a new signature.

We do not always have a Designated School Official (DSO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) available for in-person services. We urge you to submit a reprint request. You need a travel signature to re-enter the U.S., not to depart the U.S.

Where can I get a confirmation of my enrollment to help me travel to the U.S.? (updated 4/13)

You can print your Enrollment Verification from your MyUW Student Center.

Download your Fall 2021 International Student Travel & Visa Acquisition Support Letter.

Can I return to the U.S. to collect my belongings after my I-20/DS-2019 program end date? (added 12/14)

You should look at entering the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visitor visa or ESTA visa waiver program.

If your I-20/DS-2019 program end date is in the future and you have outstanding academic requirements to complete, you may enter with your I-20/DS-2019, valid F-1/J-1 visa, and other required travel documents.

If your I-20/DS-2019 program end date has passed and/or you do not have outstanding academic requirements to complete, you are not eligible to enter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student with your current I-20 or DS-2019.

Are U.S. consulates open? (updated 4/13)

Some U.S. consulates have announced that they will resume processing visa applications. Each consulate will post its own reopening schedule online. Check with your local U.S. consulate on the application process and timeline.

Student visas may be considered essential at your local U.S. consulate. Your Form I-20 or DS-2019 is your UW-Madison support to apply for a visa for classes to start on September 8, 2021. We recommend that you carry proof of in-person enrollment or requirement to be on campus if you have an Initial status record.

Are there still travel restrictions? (updated 5/3)

National Interest Exemption (NIE) announced for F-1 students who are physically present in one of the following countries 14 days before travel to the U.S.: Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, Schengen area (Europe), United Kingdom, and South Africa.

Travel restriction for travelers from India, effective May 4, 2021. Travelers from India are included in the NIE.

Review Global travel advisories regularly and check with your airline about any restrictions. We do not recommend that you travel to a third country to quarantine because of how quickly restrictions change.

Can I travel outside of the U.S. and come back for Summer or Fall 2021? (updated 4/13)

We encourage you to make the decision that is best for your health, safety, and well-being, and that of our global community. Before you plan your travel, consider

Continuing students with an Active SEVIS record can maintain lawful F-1 status while enrolled full-time outside the U.S.

If I am outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months, do I need to apply for a new visa? (updated 4/13)

If you meet the following conditions, then you will not need to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa

  • You remained enrolled full-time for Spring 2021
  • Your I-20/DS-2019 is valid for Fall 2021
  • Your current F-1/J-1 visa is valid at the time you plan to enter the U.S.
  • You have not received written notice that your F-1/J-1 visa has been revoked (typically for legal trouble during your time in the U.S.)

The 5-month rule applies when a student has not been maintaining F-1/J-1 status for 5 or more months.

You can contact the U.S. consulate nearest you if you have questions about your visa validity.

I need COVID test results/medical clearance to return to my home country. How can I get a medical clearance letter?

For essential travel, University Health Services, located at 333 E Campus Mall, can provide you with COVID testing and/or medical clearance if this is required by the airline or country immigration/customs at your final destination.  Contact uhs.wisc.edu/make-an-appointment or call 608-265-5600 for further evaluation.

Does the April 22, 2020 Executive Order impact my eligibility to enter the U.S.?

The Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak does not currently apply to F and J non-immigrants. There is no indication that F-1/J-1 student employment authorization or eligibility for authorization is impacted.

You can read the campus message here.

I can't find a flight home. Can you help?

We recommend that you contact your country’s embassy in the U.S. They are tracking travel options and may be able to assist with options to return home.

If you are at risk of staying beyond your grace period, contact ISS so that we can make a remark on your SEVIS record that you attempted to depart on time. Be sure to document your efforts to depart the U.S. and return home (example: flight tickets/itineraries). 

Flight itineraries are rapidly changing or being canceled as global travel and flight restrictions shift. It is important to have flexibility and have a back-up plan in case your flight is canceled.

What transportation options are available to Chicago, Milwaukee, and other airports?

UW-Madison Transportation Services compiled the following resources with some of the scheduling disruptions of several intercity transit routes by Van Galder, Lamers, Badger Bus and Mega Bus.

Greyhound Buses

Tickets available from UW-Madison Campus (200 N. Lake St) to Chicago, IL. The Cumberland Farms stop (5800 N Cumberland Ave.) will get them the closest to the airport. You may need to take an Uber or shuttle into the terminals from this point.

Flights

There are currently several flights a day from Madison to O’Hare

Car Rental

Both Enterprise and Budget provide one-way car rental from Madison to O’Hare. The cost ranges from $20-$60 depending on the vehicle. There are several locations in Madison and pickup service is available.

Amtrak

Service from Columbus, WI is still operating. The train runs on a limited schedule to Glenview, IL. Local taxi service would be needed to get to the station and to complete the trip to O’Hare Airport.

Car Service

Chicago Limousine (limo66.com) operates car service between Madison and O’Hare. This service would need to be scheduled in advance. There are other car services available as well. There are no relationships between these companies and the University. Costs depends on vehicle type, but the basic rate is $240.

Uber/Lyft

Both services will provide service to O’Hare Airport. Trip may require a connection with another vehicle. Costs are in the $200 range.

Ridesharing Sites

There are several ridesharing sites on the internet. Given the current COVID-19 concerns, it is not recommended that these sites be used to obtain a ride.

If you have additional questions about transportation to O’Hare airport please call Campus & Visitor Relations at 608-263-2400.

Can the university expedite my visa application when U.S. consulates begin to reopen?

It is not possible for UW-Madison to intervene in regular visa application processes. U.S. Department of State has indicated that F-1 and J-1 nonimmigrant student visa applications will be prioritized (along with medical professionals).

Can UW-Madison help me with a visa interview waiver? (updated 4/13)

There is no visa interview voucher or waiver that a school can issue to a student. UW-Madison is actively advocating for visa interview flexibilities for new students. Students with a current F-1 visa that expired within the past 48 months may be eligible to apply for a new F-1 visa without an interview requirement.

Your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for your F-1 or J-1 student visa to attend UW-Madison. This is one of many forms and information the U.S. consular officer reviews to determine your eligibility for your F-1 or J-1 student visa. It is the decision of the consulate to review your application materials and require or waive your visa interview.

For new or re-entry students in Initial status, ISS recommends that you carry proof of in-person enrollment for Fall 2021.

Do I have to quarantine when I arrive to campus?

It is recommended that you follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance if you are traveling to campus from inside or outside the U.S.

While UW–Madison does have quarantine and isolation spaces available for undergraduates who live in residence halls, neither campus nor Public Health Madison & Dane County can provide quarantine or isolation spaces for off-campus residents.

Students who live off campus should make plans for where and how to isolate or quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19. We recommend starting with guidance from PHMDC, which can be found here: https://www.publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus/what-to-do-if-you-are-sick-or-possibly-exposed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers information for people living in close quarters and recommendations for cleaning shared spaces.

For graduate students living in University Apartments and who already have a lease, campus can work with residents if they need space.

Where can I find the wait time for visa appointments? (added 8/7)

Each U.S. consulate will update wait times, hours, and required application materials on its website.

Can I apply for a new visa (or renew my visa) in a third country? (added 8/7)

Maybe. Learn about options to apply, renew, or replace your immigration documents, including Third Country National applications. It is also important to review global travel advisories.

Financial Resources

The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) is the central office for emergency funding relief for all UW-Madison students, including international students.

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What emergency funding resources are available for Fall 2020?

The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) is the central office for emergency funding relief for all UW-Madison students, including international students.

OSFA staff will assess your situation and connect you with eligible financial resources.

There are also additional community resources available to many students to help meet your basic needs.

Am I eligible to receive the stimulus check?

There is a lot of confusion about the stimulus check. Review our tax resources page for additional information about taxes.

ISS and UW-Madison cannot legally provide you with tax advice or assistance. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the best resource for accurate information.

The U.S. Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) eligibility (See Question 11)

  • You are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident alien in 2020 for tax purposes
  • You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return
  • You have a Social Security Number (SSN) that is valid for employment
  • Your adjusted gross income qualifies

Individuals who are not eligible:

  • You are a non-resident alien for tax purposes 
  • You filed Form 1040-NR, 1040-NR EZ to file your 2018 taxes

Some students may have received a payment in error. This might be due to incorrectly filed tax returns for 2019 or earlier. If you believe you received the stimulus payment or check in error, you should not spend the money. You should review the IRS website for instructions to return the money, specifically Question 41.

How do I know my residency for tax purposes?

Review your Glacier Tax Prep account and contact Glacier with any questions.

I didn't file my 2020 taxes. Can I still file? (updated 4/13)

The deadline to file without penalty for 2020 has passed.

If you have not filed taxes for 2020 or earlier, and you were in the U.S. during that time, you should file past tax returns as soon as possible.

Review our tax resources page for additional information about taxes.

ISS and UW-Madison cannot legally provide you with tax advice or assistance. 

I departed the U.S. Am I still required to file my 2020 taxes?

If you were physically present in the U.S. during the calendar year 2020, you will need to file with the IRS.

Review our tax resources page for additional information about taxes.

ISS and UW-Madison cannot legally provide you with tax advice or assistance. 

Employment Authorization

ISS staff are monitoring federal government guidance to provide you with guidance to maintain your F/J visa status. We are only able to advise on F/J employment authorization.

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How do I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) during COVID? (updated 4/13)

The latest information ISS received from the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office in Madison is that a student with a job or job offer must call the SSA office to schedule an emergency appointment. Leave a voicemail for SSA to call you back to schedule an appointment. Do not mail your original documents to SSA! Additional information about the application process is on our Social Security page.

The Social Security Office is closed/I’m not able to visit the Social Security Office, how can I obtain my Social Security Number (updated 4/13)

Call the local Social Security Office to schedule an emergency appointment.

Leave a voicemail for SSA to call you back to schedule an appointment. Do not mail your original documents to SSA!

Do not mail your original documents to the local Social Security Office. 

Can international students who are unable to come to Madison get paid and receive tuition remission as graduate assistants?

Visit https://grad.wisc.edu/covid19/#international-students for additional information.

Graduate students with assistantship appointments need to make every effort to return to campus or telecommute from within the U.S. Individuals who cannot return to the campus or the U.S. due to immigration issues may be permitted to telecommute internationally under certain circumstances. Individual graduate students need to work closely with their admitting graduate program and that program’s Human Resources office.

International telecommuting is prohibited from countries deemed to pose the highest risk associated with export control: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and the Republic of Sudan.

This guidance applies to international graduate students with research (RA), teaching (TA), and project (PA) assistantships as well as fellowships.

Can international students begin/maintain their 'on campus' employment remotely from outside the U.S.? (added 5/9)

This is a complicated question that needs to be discussed with Human Resources, especially concerning I-9 verification, tax implications and international telework. Departments should contact their workforce relations HR representative.
From an F-1/J-1 student immigration status standpoint-
1. New or re-entry student with an “initial attendance” I-20/DS-2019
  • There is no immigration status established because the student remains outside the U.S.
    • The I-20/DS-2019 program start date will change from 9/2/2020 to the start date when face-to-face instruction for full-time enrollment is expected to resume (campus decision)
    • No I-94 arrival record. This document establishes status in the U.S.
    • Student may not have a SSN. Without establishing F-1/J-1 status, they will be ineligible to apply as an F-1/J-1 student.
  • The student is not subject US student visa regulations, such as on-campus employment restrictions.
2. New or re-entry students with a “transfer pending” I-20 remaining in the U.S.; and
3. Students who continue enrollment with an “active” SEVIS record and “continued attendance” I-20
  • Students may maintain their F-1 immigration status and are encouraged to do so. They may be in the U.S. or outside the U.S.
  • Advised to follow rules of US student visa regulations, such as on-campus employment restrictions.
  • A student may be without the documents listed in section 1 (for new hires).

If I am taking remote courses, can I work more than 20 hours per week?

There is no regulatory change or additional federal guidance to relax the rule for on-campus employment.

On-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week or less during the fall and spring semesters. You may work more than 20 hours per week during authorized vacation periods (summer break, winter break, and spring break).

Can I work off-campus?

You must have proper employment authorization to engage in any off-campus employment, internship, co-op, or other practical training opportunity.

Is OPT processing or authorization suspended? (updated 8/31)

OPT applications continue to be processed by USCIS. If you have a valid EAD card, you are authorized to continue using the EAD card for employment authorization.

Due to delays in issuing EAD cards, employers can now accept your USCIS I-797A approval notice for I-9 verification so you can begin working before you have your EAD card. https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus

Can I apply for OPT outside of the U.S.?

It is not recommended for two reasons.

  1. When you sign your Form I-765, Part 3, there is a note that you must file Form I-765 while in the United States. You are subject to the written penalties if you knowingly falsify or conceal information.
  2. Your I-94 is a required document to submit with your OPT application. You do not have an I-94 if you are outside of the U.S.

I am currently on OPT and I am nearing my 90 days of unemployment. Is there an extension? (edited 8/7)

There is currently no federal guidance relaxing the 90 days of unemployment. We recommend that you review the same options as after your OPT and take action before you reach 90 days of unemployment.

You can report employment, including volunteer positions, under 20 hours per week as full-time enrollment.

https://www.ice.gov/coronavirus

Can I travel with a valid EAD card on post-completion OPT?

The same travel advice and requirements still apply.

Please be aware of all travel restrictions and advisories and inform your employer or be aware of your company’s policy for traveling during this crisis.

I am currently outside the U.S. and I cannot return to continue my OPT employment. What can I do?

First, ask your employer if you can work remotely online and maintain your employment. If this is possible, you will continue to maintain your OPT.

If remote work is not possible, you can end your OPT early. Take action on your immigration record by reviewing your options after OPT or requesting ISS to complete your I-20 record.

Is USCIS still processing OPT and other employment authorization applications?

According to the website, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still processing applications. In-person services are temporarily suspended. Applying for OPT is not an in-person service.

You can review current processing times and check your case status online.

I may be furloughed. Will this impact my OPT/ STEM extension?

A furlough is a leave of absence. The F-1 regulations state:

“A student may not engage in practical training for less than 20 hours per week, excluding time off taken consistent with leave-related policies applicable to the employer’s similarly situated U.S. workers in the area of employment.”

This implies that if your company is furloughing employees due to COVID-19, you should be able to maintain status and would not necessarily be accruing unemployment.

Can my employer and I electronically sign Form I-983 Training Plan for my OPT STEM Extension application?

Form I-983 requires ink signatures from the student and employer, per the Form I-983 itself. There has been no additional guidance allowing for electronic signatures on the Form I-983.

Do I have to update my employer information if I am working remotely from home instead of physically at my office location? (added 8/31)

No. You do not need to submit an employer information update to ISS. If you are on OPT STEM Extension, you do not have to submit an updated Form I-983 Training Plan.

Can I work less than 20 hours on OPT and maintain my F-1 status? (added 8/31)

Yes. Any employment, including volunteer, under 20 hours per week will count toward your full-time employment requirement for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. You must report your employment and address updates to ISS within 10 days of any change.

Health, Wellness, and Safety

Our campus and greater Madison community are still here for you during this time. There are many free ways to stay involved and stay healthy. All campus updates relating to COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and campus health protocols can be found on the COVID-19 Response page.

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Mental Health Resources

We understand that this global pandemic leaves us with many uncertainties. Our colleagues at University Health Services have shared a few tools that you may use as you navigate this challenge.

How can I stay active and promote wellness?

RecWell has several resources to keep us all active and involved!

Does my Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) extend through my grace period?

For international students that were enrolled for the spring/summer semester, SHIP coverage ends on August 14, 2020.  That is the default.

SHIP members can also request a pro-rated refund of their SHIP premium from the end date of their visa.  In that case, SHIP is refunded from the 15th of the month following the visa end date.  For example, for a visa ending on May 8, SHIP coverage would run through May 14, and three months of premium (May 15 to August 14) would be refunded.  Additional information is available on page 23 of the Plan Document.

Do I have to tell UW I am vaccinated?

No. However, we encourage the entire campus community to upload their vaccination record. All records are confidential. Sharing this info helps us make the best decisions to keep our community safe.

Am I required to have a COVID-19 vaccine to live, work or study at UW-Madison? (updated 5/18/21)

UW-Madison public health and vaccine recommendations are included on the COVID-19 Response page.

At this time, vaccinations are not required. All members of our community who are able to are strongly encouraged to get a vaccine. Students can schedule appointments at go.wisc.edu/myuhs. Students can also seek vaccine appointments off campus using VaccineFinder.org.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently requires a negative COVID-19 test result for all passengers traveling to the U.S., including fully vaccinated passengers. Travelers should self-monitor upon arrival and test again for COVID-19 in 3-5 days from arrival.

I was vaccinated outside the U.S. Will UHS accept proof of vaccination received outside the U.S.? (updated 5/18/21)

University Health Services (UHS) has provided instructions to upload proof of your vaccination to your MyUHS account. UHS will accept vaccines recognized for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Vaccines not currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA or WHO can still be uploaded and reviewed by UHS staff.

Do not send ISS your vaccine information. Only upload your information to you MyUHS.

I am partially vaccinated, how do I continue or restart the vaccination process when I arrive?

UHS will recognize vaccines maintained on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency use listing. If that vaccine is not on the WHO list by the time you arrive in the U.S., you will be able to get an FDA-approved vaccine. Similarly, if there are recommendations for boosters or additional prevention measures with your initial vaccine, we will try to facilitate with FDA-approved vaccines.

Review the documents below for information on how to continue/restart vaccinations based on whether you have been partially vaccinated with a FDA or WHO approved vaccine or non-WHO approved vaccine.

I am an international student traveling to Madison from outside the United States – do I need to test for COVID-19 before leaving? (updated 7/27/21)

Per the CDC International Travel guidelines, all passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight bound for the United States. After your test, you should reduce interactions with others until you travel to reduce risk of transmission after your test but prior to travel.

If you have children under the age of 5, you should contact your pediatrician to see if they should also be tested for COVID-19.

Housing & Basic Needs

University Housing, Dining Services, and University Apartments remain operational for students who remain with us on campus. Off campus housing and local resources are also available.

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Will there be on-campus housing for Fall 2021?

Yes. You can review the Housing website for application and safe move-in resources.

I do not have a place to live in Madison. Can you help?

For off-campus housing Campus Area Housing (CAH) can assist. CAH maintains an online listing of available privately-owned housing units located near campus. The office can also connect you with a variety of off-campus housing-related resources. Please visit the website for a full list of current vacancies. If you have questions or would like assistance with your search, please email campusareahousing@uwmad.wisc.edu or call 608-263-2452. Please see this document for Housing for immediate move-in.

Are there food options available in Madison?

The Open Seat (On Campus Food Pantry)

The Open Seat works hard to come up with a plan for providing boxes of food to be picked up at various locations on campus. Updates can be found on their website

The Keep Food Pantry (On Campus) 

The Keep is in the basement of Luther Memorial Church. They are closed for this week due to spring break, but plan to be open starting next week. They are available on Thursdays from 3:30 pm – 6:30 pm. Bring along your student ID.

Catholic Multicultural Center Food Pantry 

Grab and go meals available daily – Monday – Friday 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Saturday – Sunday 11:00 am – 12:00 pm. CMC food pantry is available in their parking lot on Tuesday 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm and Thursday 10:30 am – 12:00 pm.

Grace Food Pantry – Grace Episcopal Church 

Located near the Capitol. Food will be given outside of the building. Distribution is scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 1:00 pm – 3:00pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm. Bring a form of ID for all members in the family. They may decide to cancel this program, so please call ahead or check the website.

The River Food Pantry – COVID-19 Emergency Food Fund 

Prepared boxes of groceries will be available for pick up curbside. Curbside pick-up distribution hours will be Monday–Thursday from 10:00am–5:00pm and Friday from 2:00 pm – 7:00pm.

Fritz Food Pantry – Goodman Community Center 

Will be distributing pre-packaged bags of food in the Ironworks driveway circle in a drive-thru or walk-up style. Hours are Tuesday 9:30 am – 12:00 pm, Wednesday 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and Thursday 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm.

Lussier Community Education Center 

LCE asks for individuals to stay in their vehicles or outside and they will deliver bags of food to you. There are no limits on pantry visits during this time. Distribution is available Wednesdays 7pm – 8pm and Saturdays 12pm – 1pm.

Issues We Are Tracking

There is a lot that remains unknown about the future. ISS is aware of the stress all of this uncertainty may cause and how this impacts your ability to make plans for the future. We will continue to update this page as we receive additional guidance from federal government agencies and campus.

STUDENT ACTION ITEM: Review the ISS Fall 2021 flowcharts for F-1 students.

    1. F-1 students with Initial Attendance or Transfer-pending I-20 with a program start date of September 2021
    2. F-1 students continuing enrollment with an I-20 program start date before September 2021 or change of education level I-20 for Fall 2021

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Will there be a temporary relaxation for online/remote enrollment for Fall 2021 (updated 4/30)

The Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced continued flexibilities for the 2021-2022 academic year. The flexibilities depend on your SEVIS status. ISS will email specific action steps to you depending on your SEVIS status. We will also update flowcharts to help follow your options.

When U.S. consulates reopen and resume processing student visas (updated 11/18)

Any updates and announcements about visa processing and continuation of consular office services will be posted on each consular post website and broader messages may appear on the U.S. Department of State page. We have found a helpful resource that consolidates the information. ISS does not review or endorse the information provided.

ISS is monitoring the situation and advising students on a case-by-case basis.

When travel restrictions to and from the U.S. be eased?

Global travel advisories are quickly updated as the situation evolves around the world. It is difficult to predict when we might see looser travel restrictions. U.S. travel restriction updates are expected on the U.S. Department of State website.

Extension of grace periods, employment authorization, and I-20 end date without academic necessity

ISS has not received regulatory guidance to allow for looser restrictions on these frequently requested needs

  • Extended grace period – you are still expected to depart the U.S. or take action on your immigration record before your grace period ends.
  • Extend I-20 without academic necessity – you need to follow the same eligibility requirements to extend your program of study as an F-1 student.
    • J-1 students: Department of State automatically extended DS-2019 end dates for 60 days for students still in the U.S. Only documents with an original program end date between 4/1/2020-5/31/2020 are eligible for the extension.
  • Extend post-completion OPT authorization – you are still expected to follow the traditional options available when your post-completion OPT is ending. There has been no guidance to allow for more unemployment days.

Will I-20/DS-2019 copies be accepted for visa processing and entry to the U.S. (Updated 5/19/2020)

Yes. Department of State and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have verbally confirmed that digitally signed or scanned copies of signed I-20s will be accepted for the purpose of visa processing and entry to the U.S. Electronic signatures on DS-2019s is not allowed and the original document is required.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance states that I-20s issued electronically do not have to be updated or replaced with a hard-copy until there is an I-20 update that requires a reprint of the document when COVID guidance has expired.

ISS will issue electronically signed I-20s for future I-20 updates. Electronically issued I-20s will be uploaded to the student’s Terra Dotta portal.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provided guidance to allow Designated School Officials (DSOs) to digitally sign or scan signed copies of I-20s. ISS will upload electronically signed copies of I-20s to a student’s TerraDotta portal. This action will trigger an email to the student. ISS will not email scanned copies to the student. ISS can mail the original document, if requested.

Are you sure we will be in-person for fall semester?

The university is planning to resume in-person instruction in the fall. For more information on the coming semester, view the webpage on What to expect this fall.