COVID-19 Updates

Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 10:52 a.m. Central Standard Time

We continue to monitor the impact of global, national, and university  COVID-19 updates on F-1 and J-1 international students. The health, wellness, and safety of our students, staff, and community are our highest priority.

Immigration Document 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. 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.

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Immigration Advising by Appointment

Advising staff are available for 20-minute phone appointments Monday – Friday. Schedule appointments at least one day in advance through your Terra Dotta portal.

How to make an appointment with an advisor. Include your phone number when scheduling your appointment. 

Immigration Document Updates

All immigration updates can be submitted through your TerraDotta 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. 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.

OPT and STEM Students: Your login credentials may not be valid for TerraDotta at this time. You can update your employment and address changes here.

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

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. 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.

OPT and STEM Students: Your login credentials may not be valid for TerraDotta at this time. You can update your employment and address changes here.

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.

The following are recordings of Virtual Engagement sessions from Spring 2020:

ISS COVID-19 Updates (4/1/2020)

Program Completion Options (4/8/2020)

ISS Virtual Graduation Celebration (5/9/2020)

In-person and phone services

All in-person services and live phone* hours are suspended until further notice. ISS will follow university procedures to reopen our in-person services when it is safe for our students, staff, and community.

*Phone advising is available. Students can make an appointment in TerraDotta.

Enrollment and Status

ISS staff are monitoring federal government guidance and university decisions to provide you with guidance to maintain your F/J visa status. Review the campus COVID-19 page for university decision updates and resources.

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How does Spring 2020 online instruction impact my status?

Students who meet the following conditions are able to complete the semester online without any impact on F-1 or J-1 student status.

  • Enrolled full-time when the semester began, including an approved ISS reduced course load (RCL)
  • Were in “active” SEVIS status

How does Summer 2020 online instruction impact my status?

Students who meet the following conditions are able to complete the semester online without any impact on F-1 or J-1 student status.

  • Currently in “active” SEVIS status with a valid I-20/DS-2019
  • SEVIS transfer student beginning a program of study in summer
  • SEVIS Change of education level student beginning a program of study in summer

New admits, re-entry admits, transfer students who departed the U.S., and students who have applied for a correction of status or change of status by travel are not eligible to enter the U.S. with an I-20/DS-2019 Summer 2020 program start date. Students should work with the DSO/ARO who issued their I-20/DS-2019 to defer the program start date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students may take courses online from outside of the U.S.

Summer is typically an earned vacation period for international students. Summer enrollment is required for F-1 and J-1 students when summer is the

  • First semester matching the I-20/DS-2019 program start date. Full-time enrollment is required.
  • Last semester matching the I-20/DS-2019 program end date
  • F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for practical training experience, including internship, co-op, or employment.

I am a new or reentry student for Summer 2020. How does Summer 2020 online instruction impact my status?

New admits, re-entry admits, transfer students who departed the U.S., and students who have applied for a correction of status or change of status by travel are not eligible to enter the U.S. with an I-20/DS-2019 Summer 2020 program start date. Students should work with the DSO/ARO who issued their I-20/DS-2019 to defer the program start date on the I-20/DS-2019.

Students may take courses online from outside of the U.S. to begin their program of study. The establishment of F-1/J-1 student status happens at the time of entry to the U.S.

The I-20/DS-2019 program start date should be deferred to the next available semester for which face-to-face instruction is expected to resume.

What if Fall 2020 instruction is face-to-face/hybrid and I can't return to campus?

If you cannot return to the U.S. for in-person courses you can explore the following options:

  • Work with your academic or faculty advisor to select online courses that you can complete outside of the U.S.
  • Take a leave of absence for the semester and remain outside of the U.S.

If Fall 2020 instruction is online, will that impact my status?

We expect the temporary COVID-19 federal guidance to continue.

“SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR
214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19 and only for schools that comply with the requirement to notify SEVP of any procedural changes within 10 business days.”

Students who meet the following conditions would be able to complete the semester online without any impact on F-1 or J-1 student status.

  • Currently in “active” SEVIS status with a valid I-20/DS-2019
  • SEVIS transfer student who does not depart the U.S. before beginning a program of study in fall
  • SEVIS Change of education level student beginning a program of study in fall

You are expected to enroll full-time and the limits to online courses will be waived in this situation. This only applies for campus-wide decisions to move Fall 2020 to online instruction.

New admits, re-entry admits, and students who have applied for a correction of status or change of status by travel are not eligible to enter the U.S. with an I-20/DS-2019 Fall 2020 program start date. Students should work with the DSO/ARO who issued their I-20/DS-2019 to defer the program start date on the I-20/DS-2019. Students may take courses online from outside of the U.S.

If Fall 2020 instruction is hybrid (a mix of online and in-person courses), will that impact my status? (added 5/19/2020)

We expect the temporary COVID-19 federal guidance to continue.

“SEVP will allow F and M students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study in excess of the limits stated in 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR
214.2(m)(9)(v), even if they have left the United States and are taking the online classes elsewhere. This temporary provision is only in effect due to COVID-19 and only for schools that comply with the requirement to notify SEVP of any procedural changes within 10 business days.”

You are expected to enroll full-time and the limits to online courses will be waived in this situation. This only applies for campus-wide decisions to move Fall 2020 to hybrid instruction.

I am a new or reentry student for Fall 2020. If Fall 2020 instruction is online, will it impact my status?

New admits, re-entry admits, transfer students who departed the U.S., and students who have applied for a correction of status or change of status by travel are not eligible to enter the U.S. with an I-20/DS-2019 Fall 2020 program start date. Students should work with the DSO/ARO who issued their I-20/DS-2019 to defer the program start date on the I-20/DS-2019.

Students may take courses online from outside of the U.S. to begin their program of study. The establishment of F-1/J-1 student status happens at the time of entry to the U.S.

The I-20/DS-2019 program start date should be deferred to the next available semester for which face-to-face instruction is expected to resume.

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

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.

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

Does the disruptive grading policy (SD/UD) for Spring 2020 impact my status?

Your full-time enrollment is about the number of credits you are enrolled in, not the grade you earn in the course. Electing for a UD grade will not negatively impact your immigration status. Any questions specific to the disruptive grading option can be directed to Instructional Continuity or your academic advisor.

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 2020 or later start date.

Initial attendance documents cannot be issued for Summer 2020 because instruction is online. Summer 2020 I-20/DS-2019 program start dates can only be issued to students who transfer their SEVIS record to UW-Madison or a student currently on a UW-Madison I-20 who will change their education level.

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

Travel and (Re)Entry

Frequently review global travel advisories before travel within and outside of the U.S.

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Does the April 22 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.

Can I travel outside of the U.S. and come back for Fall 2020?

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

ISS cannot predict what will happen for Fall 2020. If you cannot return to campus for face-to-face instruction, we cannot guarantee the protection of your F-1/J-1 status. We continue to monitor federal government updates and guidance in relation to campus decisions.

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 mail the new document to you. 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.

OPT and STEM Students: Your login credentials may not be valid for TerraDotta at this time. You can update your employment and address changes 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.

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.

If I am outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months, do I need to apply for a new visa?

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 2020
  • You intend to enroll full-time for Fall 2020
  • Your I-20/DS-2019 is valid for Fall 2020
  • 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.

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

UW-Madison Transportation Services compiled the following resources after the temporary discontinuation 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 UW-Madison help me with a visa interview waiver?

There is no visa interview voucher or waiver that a school can issue to a student. 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.

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.

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 Spring, Summer, and 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 2019 taxes. Can I still file?

Yes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020. Wisconsin Department of Revenue has also extended the state tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020.

If you have not filed taxes for 2018 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. 

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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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).

Is OPT processing or authorization suspended? (added 5/8)

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.

ISS is monitoring the recent request to President Trump to suspend “issuance of guest worker visas”, including OPT, H-1B and other visa statuses that allow for employment authorization.

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?

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.

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 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.

If classes are online, 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). Summer break hours can begin as early as May 10, 2020.

I am a new or reentry student for Fall 2020. If Fall 2020 instruction is online, does it count toward my 1 year of full-time enrollment for employment authorization eligibility?

At this time, no. You will need to establish your F-1 status by entering the U.S. and completing 1 academic year (fall/spring semesters) of full-time enrollment.

Review additional employment authorization information and resources.

 

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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I live on campus. Can I stay for the summer?

University Housing has an exemption process for you to apply to remain on campus for the summer. Summer enrollment is not required. All questions should be directed to University Housing.

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

For off-campus housing Campus Area Housing (CAH) is here to 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 is currently closed during spring break, but are working 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.

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Fall 2020 mode of instruction

Chancellor Blank announced on May 18 that campus will reopen for Fall 2020. Course mode of instruction is still being finalized. ISS is working with campus decision makers and federal relations to advocate for international student needs and concerns.

Additional updates and announcements about Fall 2020 instruction and campus operations will be posted on the campus COVID-19 page.

When U.S. consulates reopen and resume processing student visas

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.

Students who are unable to secure their F-1/J-1 visa before the program start date on the I-20/DS-2019 will need to contact their admissions officer to discuss options to

  • Begin the program online and defer the I-20/DS-2019 program start date to Spring 2021 or later.
  • Change the term of admission to Spring 2021 or later and defer the I-20/DS-2019 program start date to match the new term of admission.

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)

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.

ISS highly recommends that you make every effort to have your original I-20/DS-2019 when you appear for a visa interview or attempt entry to the U.S.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) provided guidance to allow Designated School Officials (DSOs) and Alternate Responsible Officers (AROs) to digitally sign or scan signed copies of I-20s and DS-2019s. ISS will upload scanned signed copies of I-20s and DS-2019s 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 is also mailing the original document after scanning.

Respect Statement

COVID-19 is not specific to an ethnicity or race—disease does not discriminate. Racist behaviors or stereotyping are not tolerated at UW–Madison. If you experience harassment or discrimination, students are encouraged to file a bias incident report. Employees may file a complaint with the Office of Compliance.

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