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International Students and Scholars

Updated 7/27/2020

In addition to the questions listed below, find answers to common questions from new and current international students on OISS website.

1. I need to apply for a U.S. visa to enter or return to the U.S. Am I able to get a visa at this time?

In March, all U.S. Consulates suspended routine visa services until further notice. Since then, consulates have been resuming routine visa services on a rolling basis based on local conditions. This means that some international students will still be able to apply for and receive a visa stamp while others will not. You can still apply for your immigration documents from OISS (I-20 or DS 2019) so that you will be ready to submit an application as soon as the consulates reopen for visa services. Please be in touch with the U.S. Consulate where you will make your visa application for additional information and updates on visa services resuming.   (Updated 7/27/20)

2. Since Northwestern’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services is working remotely, how can I obtain an I-20 or DS-2019?

All new students or students who requested an Extension, Change of Level, Curricular Practical Training, Reduced Course Load, or a travel signature can: 

  1. request a shipment through eShipGlobal
  2. wait to pick up the I-20/DS-2019 form when Northwestern’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) reopens, or 
  3. request that their OISS advisor email an electronic version of the form (for I-20 only). 

Please note that only F-1 I-20s can be sent via email at this time. Recent guidance temporarily allows OISS to email you a hand-signed and scanned or electronically signed copy of your I-20 form.  J-1 DS 2019s are not able to be emailed at this time. 

OISS still recommends that you submit your I-20 with Optional Practical Training (OPT) recommendation with an original handwritten signature for any OPT application. (Updated 7/27/20) 

3. What if I am currently abroad and cannot return to the United States as planned due to travel restrictions that apply to foreign nationals?

We understand this situation is very stressful and are advising all Northwestern students currently abroad to reassess their travel plans as conditions and restrictions continue to change, taking this set of considerations from Northwestern's Office of Global Safety and Security into account. We also encourage you to reach out directly to your advisor in Northwestern's Office of International Student and Scholar Services to discuss your individual situation. We are committed to working with you to determine the best course of action for your unique situation. (Updated 5/29/20)

4. Will international students continue to have access to health services and coverage?

See the Health Concerns and Student Housing sections for information about health coverage for COVID-19 and accessing physical and mental health services. (Updated 5/4/20)

5. I am a student at Northwestern who left the U.S. in the spring or summer, but I am now worried that I will have trouble getting back to the U.S. if I am unable to return within five months. Is this true?

When you return to the United States—if it follows a five month absence or longer—U.S. Customs and Border Protection may question why you were out of the U.S. for so long. Northwestern's Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) is aware of this possibility and will reach out to students with additional information and guidance on any steps they may need to take. In the interim, your SEVIS record will remain active even if you are not in the U.S. and are conducting your coursework remotely as long as you remain enrolled in a full course load of classes.   (Updated 7/27/20)

6. I have been the target of bias or a hate-related incident during the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. What should I do?

You are encouraged to submit any bias or hate-related incidents that you observe through the University’s Hate and Bias Report Form. (Added 4/20/20)

7. If I witness or hear acts of discrimination or sexual misconduct, whom do I contact?

Please contact the Office of Equity for assistance. (Added 4/20/20)

Please continue to consult Northwestern University's COVID-19 updates website for the most up-to-date Northwestern information. For questions or concerns about your individual situation, please reach out directly to your advisor from the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS). If you are unsure who to contact, you can find a list of OISS advisors under the "Contact Your Advisor" section of this OISS webpage. You can also contact our COVID-19 resource center at or +1-847-467-4111.