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International Students and Scholars

Updated 5/29/2020

1. How will Northwestern University’s decision to move to remote learning for the spring term affect my immigration status?

We know that many of you are concerned about how Northwestern’s move to remote learning may impact your immigration status. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has issued new Federal guidance that allows schools to make exceptions to the in-person course requirements and full-time enrollment requirements for international students due to the COVID-19 situation. If you have a currently valid F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record, your immigration status will not be impacted by Northwestern’s decision to move to remote teaching and learning for the foreseeable future. This applies whether you remain within the U.S. or go overseas to conduct your remote coursework. (Updated 4/17/20)

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

The U.S. government has announced restrictions for foreign nationals returning from the United Kingdom and Republic of Irelandother European countries, China and Brazil. 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)

3. What should I do if I am abroad and asked to self-isolate?

Self-isolation is critical to preventing the spread of illness. Please refer to Northwestern's self-isolation policy and guidance on how to self-isolate here.

4. I am living in on-campus housing. Should I remain in housing, or should I go home?

If you were not in a position to leave during the extended break or start of the spring quarter (April 4 through the first three weeks of remote coursework, April 26), services are available for you.  For additional information, please consult this set of Student Housing FAQs.

5. Where can I store my belongings if I move out of my campus housing?

Consult Student Housing Information FAQs for detailed information on how to proceed, including specifics on international shipping availability. (Updated 4/20/20)

6. What if I decide to take a leave of absence for the spring quarter?

If you decide to withdraw from courses for the spring quarter, you will want to first consult with your academic advisor. Once you have made the final decision to withdraw, you will need to submit a Notice of Withdrawal or Leave of Absence Form to your OISS advisor. If you are not enrolled in classes for the spring, your SEVIS record will not be active and you should have departed the U.S. during spring break. When you are ready to return, please contact your academic advisor and OISS advisor for instructions on the return process.

7. 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)

8. I left the U.S., 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 classes. (Updated 4/20/20)

9. My permanent home is not in the United States and I’m making arrangements to return there. Where can I find information about restrictions to inbound travel due to COVID-19?

This is a rapidly changing issue, and it’s always wise to check with your airline in advance of and up to the moment you intend to fly, but there are also few organizations trying to track and publicize this information, such as the following:

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

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 an I-20 shipment through eShipGlobal,
  2. wait to pick up the I-20 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.
Please note that this applies to F-1 I-20s only. Recent guidance from U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement temporarily allows OISS to email you a hand-signed and scanned or electronically signed copy of your I-20 form. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will now allow J-1 DS 2019s to be emailed at this time.

OISS will also print your I-20 should it become necessary and still recommends that you submit your I-20 with Optional Practical Training (OPT) recommendation with an original handwritten signature for any OPT application. (Added 4/3/20)

11. 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?

All U.S. Consulates have suspended routine visa services until further notice. This means that you are not currently able to apply for a U.S. visa stamp. 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 4/20/20)

12. 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)

13. 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 this set of FAQs for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 related issues, and Northwestern University's COVID-19 updates website. 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 "Contact Your Advisor" on this webpage. You can also contact our COVID-19 resource center at or +1-847-467-4111.