UW Graduate School

COVID-19 Admissions FAQs

Updated November 19, 2020

Information for Graduate Students| UW Classes & Instruction | Application Deadlines | English Proficiency Requirement: TOEFL | English Proficiency Requirement: Duolingo | Enrollment Updates | Deferrals

International F-1 / J-1 Information

International Offices | Next Steps | Summer 2020 | Autumn 2020| Continuing F-1 & J-1 Students | Employment Authorization (OPT, CPT, AT) | Change of Status | Employing International Students

Information for Graduate Students

We know you have many concerns related to COVID-19. The University of Washington offers a central hub for COVID-19 facts and resources. The UW Graduate School additionally has a hub for graduate student-specific concerns. Please contact to your department if you have questions specific to your program of study.

UW Classes & Instruction

Autumn Quarter 2020: 90% Online, On-Campus Offerings Available

September 30, 2020 – December 11, 2020

On August 6, UW President Cauce and Provost Richards sent a message to incoming students about Autumn Quarter instruction: In light of current and expected coronavirus case counts in Washington, more than 90% of class sections on the Seattle campus will be held online. Only classes that cannot be taught remotely will be held in person, with appropriate safety measures and physical distancing in place.

Graduate students should review course offerings and discuss academic plans and concerns with program advisors. Students can use MyPlan to identify in-person courses. F-1 and J-1 students who intend to enter and study inside the U.S. should review additional guidance.

Winter Quarter 2021: Mostly Remote

January 4, 2021 – March 19, 2021

On October 14, UW President Cauce and Provost Richards sent a message to students about Winter Quarter instruction: “we expect winter quarter to be similar to autumn quarter on all three campuses in terms of the number of courses taught remotely. Those courses held in person will generally be hands-on courses, such as clinical instruction, certain labs, and arts- and performance-based courses — always with appropriate safety measures and physical distancing in place. All undergraduate, and most graduate, students continue to have the option to continue their academic progress through fully remote instruction.”

Graduate students should review course offerings and discuss academic plans and concerns with program advisors.

Application Deadlines

What is the Graduate School’s guidance regarding application deadlines?

We recognize not all programs have the flexibility to extend application deadlines, but we encourage programs to do so if possible. If deadlines are extended, the unit profile in MyGrad and websites should be updated.

Applicants should contact programs with questions regarding possible extensions.

What is the Graduate School's guidance on reopening applications for U.S. students vs International Students?

Graduate School admission requirements and application procedures are the same for all applicants regardless of citizenship and visa status. We welcome applications from all in accordance with UW Policy.

However, programs with reopened applications need to consider timelines for new
International Students
outside the US regarding visas. It is not feasible for a student to be able to receive a visa to enter the US for Autumn 2020 if they receive an offer in August.

Below are some general considerations, and GEMS Designated School Officials are happy to provide any specific guidance as necessary.

Autumn 2020 Timeline Considerations:

  • International students who are already in the US and will not need an F1 visa are eligible to apply (H1B/H4; L1/L2; E1/E2; TN, etc.). This includes DACA or undocumented students (who are sorted into “international” category).
  • International students who are already in the US on an F1 visa are eligible to apply (transfer F-1 students; or current UW students).
  • International students who do not currently have an F1 visa and would need one to enroll in the program are not eligible to apply (due to the late deadline of this reopened application, there will not be sufficient time for visa processing).

English Proficiency Requirement: TOEFL

Will the Graduate School waive the English language proficiency requirement for admission?

The Graduate School has made no decision to waive the English Language proficiency requirement for admission. Applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English language proficiency in one of the five ways outlined in Memo 8: Graduate School English Language Proficiency Requirements.

Will the Graduate School accept remote testing scores such as TOEFL at Home on English language tests?

The Graduate School is accepting the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, available everywhere that TOEFL iBT is normally available with the exception of Mainland China and Iran. The Special Home Edition is identical in content and scoring to the regular TOEFL iBT taken in a testing center.

Will the Graduate School accept the TOEFL ITP Plus for China test?

Yes. The Graduate School is temporarily accepting the TOEFL ITP Plus for China, available to applicants who are not able to take the TOEFL iBT Special Home edition. Applicants must register for the TOEFL ITP Level 1 Test (Intermediate to Advanced).

Some programs may not accept TOEFL ITP scores. Please check with graduate programs to confirm their requirements: find a program.

How do I list the TOEFL ITP scores in my application?

Currently, the Graduate School application does not allow applicants to self-report TOEFL ITP scores. Applicants using TOEFL ITP should indicate they will meet Memo 8 requirements with “official TOEFL scores” (TOEFL/IELTS). Applicants should then report their official scores to UW by using the Vericant Portal (instructions provided below).

The self-reported TOEFL score section is an optional section of the application, not a required section. Applicants without test scores should leave this section blank.

What is the required TOEFL ITP score to be eligible for admissions?

Applicants must have a minimum TOEFL ITP test score of 627 (CEFR C1) for admissions. Graduate programs may require a higher score, but may not petition a score below 627.

Some programs may not accept TOEFL ITP scores. Please check with graduate programs to confirm their requirements: find a program.

Will I be required to take additional English tests / courses if admitted with the TOEFL ITP test?

Yes. The TOEFL ITP Test cannot be used for AEP course placement. Students admitted with the TOEFL ITP Test will be required to take all sections of the UW AEP Placement Exam.

The UW AEP Placement Exam is offered online. Students can register at the AEP Placement Exam site.

Students who will receive a Teaching Assistantship should discuss options such as taking English 105 or passing an appeal interview with their program, in accordance with Memo 15.

I am an applicant. How do I submit my TOEFL ITP Plus for China scores to the UW Graduate School?

According to ETS (the test provider), “Students will receive their TOEFL ITP scores and the video of their Vericant speaking interview in their Vericant account 4 business days after completion of both… Students can select the set of test scores and the interview version they want to send to each university.”

Applicants should select “University of Washington (Graduate School)” as the recipient of their TOEFL ITP scores.

I am an applicant. How do I confirm my TOEFL ITP Plus for China scores have been received by the UW Graduate School?

Because TOEFL ITP is a new test, we don’t yet have our application coded to show TOEFL ITP updates in the application. However, if you need confirmation: a week after you have submitted your application by paying the application fee, you may e-mail your program with your UW Application ID number, and ask to verify that they have received your ITP + SCORE results.

I am a program advisor. How will my applicant's TOEFL ITP Plus for China scores update in the submitted application?

After the applicant selects “University of Washington (Graduate School)” as a recipient of their TOEFL ITP scores, GEMS will be able to log into the Vericant portal and access test results. GEMS will update the English Language Proficiency Requirement field of the applicant detail page with “ITP + Score” (example: ITP 630.)

GEMS anticipates updating scores from the Vericant portal on a weekly basis. As a program advisor, if you require more rapid confirmation, please contact GEMS directly.

NOTE: we cannot make updates to UNSUBMITTED applications. Applicants in pending status can be updated with the score after the student submits the application by paying the application fee.

English Proficiency Requirement: Duolingo

Will the Graduate School accept the Duolingo English Test?

Yes, the Graduate School is also temporarily accepting the Duolingo English Test to assist international students with remote testing options.

Currently, the graduate school application does not allow applicants to self-report Duolingo scores. The English proficiency question of the graduate school application has been updated to instruct applicants to indicate they will meet Memo 8 requirements with “official test scores” (TOEFL/IELTS). Applicants should then report their official scores to UW by logging into their Duolingo account (instructions provided below).

As always, the self-reported TOEFL score section is an optional section of the application, not a required section. Applicants without test scores should leave this section blank.

What is the required Duolingo English test score to be eligible for admissions?

Applicants must have a minimum Duolingo English Test score of 105 for admission. Graduate programs may require a higher score, but may not petition a score below 105. Some programs may not accept Duolingo scores; please check with programs to confirm their requirements.

Will I be required to take additional English tests / courses if admitted with the Duolingo English Test?

Students who earn 120 and above have satisfied the English Language Proficiency requirement.

Students admitted with a score between 105 and 120 will be required to take all sections of the AEP Placement Exam or register for English 102, 103, and 104. The UW AEP Placement Exam is offered online. Students can register at the AEP Placement Exam site.

Students who will receive a Teaching Assistantship should discuss options such as taking English 105 or passing an appeal interview with their program, in accordance with Memo 15.

I am an applicant. How do I submit my Duolingo scores to the UW Graduate School?

You will send results to the University of Washington Graduate Admissions (Bothell, Seattle, Tacoma).

I am an applicant. How do I confirm my Duolingo scores have been received by the UW Graduate School?

Because Duolingo is a new test for the UW, we don’t yet have our application coded to show Duolingo updates. However, if you need confirmation: a week after you have submitted your application by paying the application fee, you may e-mail your program with your UW Application ID number, and ask to verify that they see your “DUO + SCORE number” results.

I am a program advisor. How will my applicant’s Duolingo scores update in the submitted application?

When the student sends the scores to the University of Washington Graduate Admissions, an e-mail notification is generated to GEMS. GEMS retrieves the scores, then updates the English Language Proficiency Requirement field of the applicant detail page with “DUO + Score” (Example: DUO 105).

Duolingo scores will be added to the application about a week after they are sent to the Graduate School. As a program advisor, if you require more rapid confirmation, please contact GEMS directly.

NOTE: we cannot make updates to UNSUBMITTED applications. Applications in pending status will be updated with the score after the student submits the application by paying the application fee.

Enrollment Updates

Can the Enrollment Confirmation Deposit (ECD) be waived?

The University of Washington has made no decision to waive the ECD. Departments are encouraged to extend their deadlines for applicants to pay the ECD. Read more about the ECD process in our advisor manual.

Can GEMS issue a Form I-20 to a student who has not paid the ECD?

GEMS will continue to issue Form I-20s only to those students who have confirmed their enrollment by paying the ECD and who have uploaded an I-20 Request Form to their Application for Graduate Study.

How do students register for English language courses?

Students who are required to take English language courses through UW and need help registering should email aep@uw.edu. Additional information about the AEP requirement is on our admitted students page.

What if a student cannot mail an official transcript for degree verification due to COVID-19 delays?

GEMS is now accepting certified electronic transcripts in addition to mailed transcripts. This information is provided in the admitted student’s pre-registration portal of the application.

What do students do if their previous school cannot send official transcripts until offices open again?

GEMS has extended deadlines for receipt of official transcripts for degree verification. Students who are unable to send either certified electronic transcripts or official mailed transcripts should complete the Transcript Verification Waiver Request form.

I will meet English (AEP) requirements with a U.S. transcript. What happens if the official transcript is delayed for degree verification due to COVID-19 office closures?

We are working on verifying English proficiency for admitted students who indicated they would meet English with a “U.S. Degree,” and we will update English requirements based on the unofficial transcripts uploaded into your application. It is our goal to have this requirement verified before your registration date (new students have Registration Period II priority). After your registration window has opened, if you still have an English registration requirement that should have been removed per Memo 8, please contact us at uwgrad@uw.edu. You will still need to send in the official transcripts for your degree verification.

I will meet English (AEP) requirements with an international transcript. What happens if the official transcript is delayed for degree verification due to COVID-19 office closures?

Most international students require I-20s for F-1 visas. When GEMS DSOs are processing I-20 requests for F-1 students, they also check and update AEP Requirements on the basis of uploaded transcripts with conferred degrees, English Medium of Instruction letters, and UW Intensive English Language Program letters.

Some students such as US citizens or legal residents with international transcripts will have their English proficiency requirements updated later during the degree verification of the official transcripts process.

If your registration date is open (new students have Registration Period II priority), and you still have a English registration requirement, feel free to schedule an appointment with a GEMS advisor. (Please note that you are still required to send in official transcripts for the degree verification.)

I will meet English (AEP) requirements with a Medium of Instruction letter. How do I submit my letter?

After you have submitted your application, you can upload the letter. Return your graduate school application. You will upload the letter in the Medium of Instruction Document for Undergraduate Institution section.

If you do not see the Medium of Instruction section, e-mail GEMS and we will correct your application. 

Deferrals

May I request that my offer of admissions be moved to a later quarter?

Please contact your program if you need a deferral. Graduate School policy allows deferrals with the approval of the admitting program, as stated in the Admissions FAQ.

I am a program advisor. How do I request a deferral for my applicant?

Please see the GEMS Graduate Advisor Guide.

Will GEMS consider a second deferral of admission?

GEMS will consider moving an application to a future quarter/year a second time within a two-year period for students impacted by COVID-19. A deferral of admission petition requires an offer of admission.

International Students

International students may have many additional concerns related to COVID-19 and visas. We are here to help you at several different offices:

UW Seattle and GIX Bellevue students: Graduate Enrollment Management Services (GEMS) assists new UW students, and continuing UW students who have submitted a new graduate application.

UW Seattle and GIX Bellevue students: International Student Services assists currently registered students with active SEVIS records with maintaining status, processing immigration benefits, and running workshops.

UW Tacoma Students: International Students and Scholar Services (ISSS)

UW Bothell Students: Center for International Education (CIE)

Next Steps

I have received an offer from a UW Seattle Graduate Program. Where can I learn about my next steps as an F-1 or J-1 student?

Please review our Admitted International Graduate Students overview.

For COVID-19 specific information, continue to review this page, COVID-19 Admissions FAQs.

Where can I read UW Guidance on the latest US Government messages for F-1 Students?

Please visit International Student Services COVID-19 information page.

Where can I learn about UW course offerings, and if courses are remote or online?

Summer 2020

Because of the current suspensions on travel and U.S. Visa Services, and US government guidance, GEMS is not issuing Summer 2020 initial I-20s for new students who are outside the U.S. However, students are welcome to start their online study this Summer 2020 while outside the U.S.

New Students Outside the U.S. (Initial F-1 or J-1 Students)

Q: I am a Summer starting student. Since instruction is online only, can I begin study online as an international student outside the United States?
A: Yes. International Students have always been allowed to study remotely from outside the U.S. 

Q: I will start online study in Summer, but I would like to enter the U.S. as soon as possible. Since Autumn 2020 is planned to have in-person study, can I get an I-20 for Autumn 2020?
A: Yes. GEMS has been contacting Summer 2020 students to update (defer) initial Summer I-20s to September 30, 2020 (Autumn 2020), or another later quarter such as Winter 2021. 
Read more about planning your entry date on our admitted international students page.

Q: I already paid an I-901 fee for my Summer 2020 I-20. Do I pay again for my deferred Autumn 2020 I-20?
A: No. You keep the same SEVIS ID number and don’t need to pay again.

Q: I do not want to start study online in Summer 2020. May I defer both my study and my I-20 program start date to Summer 2021?
A: Please see the Deferrals section. You must contact your program advisor.

Autumn 2020: Initial or New Students who were not previously enrolled in March

This section is for incoming, new F-1 or J-1 students who were not previously enrolled in March who will be entering the U.S. with an initial I-20 record.  This may include students with a transfer pending I-20 who are now outside the U.S.
To determine if this section applies to you and thus you must register for an in-person course, please carefully review International Student Services’ Planning for Autumn Quarter 2020
I am an incoming new international student. May I receive an I-20?

A: Yes. You are required to register for an in-person course. Because the UW’s Autumn Quarter includes in-person classes, GEMS continues to issue I-20s for new, incoming Autumn 2020 students. I-20s are being sent electronically, as currently allowed by the US government. Form I-20 requests are prioritized by quarter and then by submission date.

How do I request my I-20 or DS-2019?

Q: How do I request my Autumn I-20 for my F-1 visa application?
A: You will have access to the form in your graduate application. Review our I-20 instructions.

Q: How do I request my Autumn DS-2019 for my J-1 visa application?

A: If you have been invited to participate in an educational and cultural exchange, please review our DS-2019 instructions.

I will start studying online from outside the U.S. this Autumn 2020, but I will enter the U.S. on my student visa for Winter 2021. What are my steps?

1. As soon as possible, but BEFORE September 30: notify your program of your plans and copy GEMS on the e-mail, uwgrad@uw.edu

2. Check your UW e-mail address for your updated I-20. If you have already received an Autumn I-20 (September 30, 2020 program start date), GEMS will update your I-20 to Winter Quarter (January 4, 2021 start date). The updated I-20 will be sent to your UW e-mail address via secured UW Google Drive. 
You will have the same SEVIS ID number and if you have already paid the I-901 fee, you do not need to pay again. 

3. If you have not yet requested your UW I-20, upload your I-20 request into your application. Please write “for WINTER 2021” on your I-20 request form next to “Section: 1 Applicant Information.”  

4. Complete requirements in your Graduate Application‘s “Pre-Registration page.” 

5. Request a waiver of the International Student Health Plan for Autumn 2020 quarter (“iSHIP” is not required for students who are not in the U.S.). 

6. Register for Autumn 2020 courses. 

I plan to enter the U.S. on my student visa for Autumn 2020. What are my steps?

1. Request your UW I-20 in your graduate application. Review instructions here.

2. Review I-20 instructions. Plan to schedule your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. 
3. Complete requirements in your Graduate Application‘s “Pre-Registration page.” 

4.  Register for Autumn 2020 courses. Include at least one in-person course, discussing options with your graduate program advisor. 

5. (Optional): Request a letter from the UW ISS that confirms classes are offered in-person. See Support Letter Request form

6. Review International Student Services’ Planning for Autumn Quarter 2020.

I would like to defer my study and start my program in Autumn 2021 instead. What are my steps?

1. Request a deferral from your program. If your program approves, you can start your study on September 29, 2021. You would not need to submit a new application or pay a new application fee. Your 2020 enrollment confirmation deposit would be applied to 2021. 
2. Confirm your deferral: after the approval process is completed, you will see your new 2021 application in your graduate application. If you do not see your 2021 application by September 30, 2020, ask your program. 

3. If you have already uploaded an I-20 request form for Autumn 2020, you do not need to upload a new request.* The updated Autumn 2021 I-20 will be issued to you after October 1, 2020. 

4. Note: when GEMS (the Graduate School) processes the deferral, GEMS will also defer your Autumn 2020 I-20 to Autumn 2021. The same SEVIS ID number will be kept, so you don’t have to pay a new SEVIS I-901 fee (if you already paid).

5. *If you did not upload an I-20 request form with your original Autumn 2020 application, you should upload your I-20 request in your new Autumn 2021 application (we recommend uploading your request no later than February or March 2021, for students planning to enter the U.S. in September 2021). 

If travel is restricted from my country, or I cannot get a visa in time to enter the U.S. for Autumn 2020, what are my options?

As soon as you learn you will not be able to enter the U.S. by September 30, contact (GEMS) and your program. We will discuss your Deferral options.

Continuing F-1 & J-1 Students – International Students who were previously enrolled in March

This section is for international students previously enrolled at UW for Spring Quarter, and students who will receive a UW transfer pending I-20 and who were enrolled at another US institution in March. “Continuing” students in this category may or may not be required to register for an in-person course depending on physical location. To confirm if you are recommended to register for an in-person course, please carefully review International Student Services’ Planning for Autumn Quarter 2020.

Continuing F-1 & J-1 Students

Q: I am a current UW undergraduate student. How do I get a new I-20 for my Master’s or PhD program?
A: Please see our Change of Level instructions (Current UW Student Admitted into a UW Graduate Program).

Q: I am a student at another U.S. school. How do I get my UW I-20?
A: Please see our Transfer instructions.

Q: I am a continuing student, but I will register for an on-campus class. How do I get a letter from the UW confirming my on-campus class?

A: Register for Autumn 2020 courses. Include at least one in-person course, discussing options with your graduate program advisor.
Then request a letter from the UW ISS that confirms classes are offered in-person. See Support Letter Request form.

Q: My first F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in my passport is expiring. Do I have to return home to get a new visa from a US embassy? I am worried about COVID-19 travel restrictions.
A: No, you do not need to return home. The visa only has to be unexpired when you are entering the United States. UW ISS Visa Information:

“The F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport is permission to apply to enter the United States in that visa category. Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa stamp in the passport to enter the U.S.
It is okay to remain in the U.S. after your F-1 or J-1 visa expires as long as your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 are valid, and you are a continuing full-time student. The visa expiration date is separate from your length of authorized stay in the U.S.
If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel internationally you must apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa in order to return to the U.S.”

Q: I am currently planning travel outside the U.S. during my summer vacation. Should I cancel my trip?
A: We encourage you to be very cautious about non-essential travel. Please review ISS guidance, and also monitor the U.S. Department of State travel advisories.

Employment Authorization (OPT, CPT, AT)

GEMS works with incoming newly admitted Seattle and Bellevue campus students for enrollment and to issue Initial I-20s (or DS-2019s).

The International Student Services (ISS) works with registered Seattle and Bellevue students on F-1 and J-1 with ACTIVE SEVIS records, who have arrived in the U.S. and completed their mandatory check-in instructions. ISS assists students in applying for F-1 and J-1 employment authorization.

Review ISS webpages carefully for information, regulations, eligibility requirements:

ISS COVID-19 CPT Questions

Q: If I start my program studying online from outside the U.S. due to COVID-19, does that quarter count toward the “one academic year” for CPT eligibility?

A: Please review the ISS Curricular Practical Training page for more information.

ISS CPT Information

ISS COVID-19 OPT Questions

Q: If I start my program studying online from outside the U.S. due to COVID-19, does that quarter count toward the “one academic year” for OPT eligibility?

A: Under current immigration regulations, a student must complete one academic year (three quarters) of full-time study in the U.S. to be eligible for OPT. Please review Optional Practical Training for more information.

Q: I am a department advisor. We have an international student who is receiving an Academic Student Employee (ASE) position starting this Summer 2020, but the student will not be able to enter the U.S. until Autumn 2020 due to COVID-19. Can we pay the student this Summer while they work in their home country?

A: The student will not have an active SEVIS record as an F-1 student until they have arrived in the U.S. and completed the check-in process. The ISS cannot provide advice on employees who are not active F-1 or J-1 students.
We encourage departments to check with the UW ISC office on this unique situation: if ISC or the employment requires an individual to have a valid visa status in the U.S. and be registered in the SEVIS immigration system, new students would not qualify until they arrive on campus.

ISS OPT Information

Change of Status to F-1 Student

If you are admitted to the UW, and you are currently living in the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa other than F-1 or J-1 Student, you may or may not need to change your status, depending on your current visa’s regulations, potential employment authorization at the UW, and your long-term goals in the U.S.

Please review the ISS Change of Nonimmigrant Status page for regulations and eligibility requirements as you decide which visa status is best for you while you study at UW.

I want to change to F-1 visa. How do I request the UW I-20 for F-1?

  • If you indicated “F-1 expected” in your graduate application, you will have access to a UW Graduate I-20 request form , which can be used to change status within the US, or for an F-1 visa application at a US embassy or consulate. You can preview the Change of Status section on our sample I-20 request form.
  • If you did not indicate “F-1 expected” in your graduate application, you will not have access to the form in your application’s Pre-Registration page (after you accept the offer). If you have changed your plans, please contact GEMS to update your visa expected type; include your UW student number.

Does UW policy allow me to study while in non-student status (a status other than F-1 or J-1)?

The Graduate School admission requirements and application procedures are the same for all applicants regardless of citizenship and visa status. We welcome applications from all in accordance with UW Policy, including applicants who are DACA or undocumented students or internationals who have fallen out of visa status. Students at the UW study in many statuses.

Do US Laws allow me to study at UW while in a non-student status (status other than F-1 or J-1 student)?

  • It depends on your current status. Please review this Student and Exchange Visitor Program chart, Nonimmigrants: Who can study?
    QUOTE: Nonimmigrants who are attending school incidental to their primary purpose for being in the United States may attend the school of their choice either part-time or full-time (unless otherwise noted).
  • Many working-type visas such as H, L, TN allow study, as long as the primary purpose of work is still being met (check with your company’s immigration/employment attorneys).
  • However, B-1 or B-2 visa holders are specifically prohibited from enrolling in a course of study until they have acquired F-1 status.

I am on an F-2 dependent visa. What are my study options while I am waiting for my change of status to F-1?

  • Study in the States June 2015 rule change says that F-2 dependents “may now study part time in any certified program at a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), so long as the study does not amount to what regulations define as full time for an F-1 or M-1 student.”
  • Because F-2 status allows part-time study only, you cannot begin full-time classes until you are in F-1 status.
  • UW Graduate School defines full-time as registering for at least 10 quarter credits.
  • Check with your program if you will need to begin study in part-time status.
  • F-2 students also may not work on campus.

Option 1: Change of Status – Travel and Reentry (Apply at U.S. Embassy Abroad)

Review ISS’ Travel and Reentry guidance.

I will return to my home country to interview and receive the F-1 visa. When can I interview?

According to the U.S. Department of State, embassies are closed for visa appointments as of March 20, 2020.

Students needing an F-1 or J-1 visa interview are encouraged to check with their local U.S. embassy or consulate to determine when student visa interviews may be scheduled.

I received a Change of Status I-20 to change within the US. But if travel restrictions are lifted, can I go to my home country and apply for F-1 visa?

Yes. You may also leave the U.S., apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate, and reenter the U.S. with the new visa and other relevant documents. You will gain your new status when you are admitted into the U.S. The Change of Status I-20 provided by GEMS is acceptable to apply for F-1 visa at U.S. consulate.

I can't return to my home country due to travel restrictions. Can I go to Canada instead and apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?

  • It is advisable to apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. It may be possible to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than your home country. This is called a “third country national (TCN)” application.
  • Not all U.S. consulates accept TCN applications, and some allow TCN applications for limited situations; check with individual consulates before making travel plans to confirm that they allow TCN applications, such as the U.S. Embassy in Vancouver or the U.S. Embassy in Montreal.
  • The Change of Status I-20 provided by GEMS is acceptable to apply for F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate.
  • It can be risky to apply in a country other than your home country. For instance, if you apply for a new visa in Canada and encounter delays, you must remain in Canada for the length of the processing. You will not be able to reenter the U.S. until the new visa is approved.
  • If you re-enter the U.S. on your new F-1 visa, you may not enter until up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20. (For Autumn 2020, the program start date is September 30, 2020.)

Option 2: Change of Status – Stay in US, Apply to USCIS

Review ISS’ guidance on submitting your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Also consult with an immigration attorney.

When should I file to Change Status (within the U.S.), and how long will it take to process my application?

Refer to the USCIS How do I change to another nonimmigrant status? guide. Check processing times at the USCIS website.

I submitted the Change of Nonimmigrant Status application to USCIS. What happens if my application is still pending by the start of autumn quarter?

Answer 1: If your current nonimmigrant visa status allows full-time study:

  • You can begin academic study as planned in your current nonimmigrant status, although you should confirm your plans with your immigration attorney.
  • Contact UW International Services (ISS). ISS must issue you a new I-20 with a deferred program start date. The I-20 information corresponds to your electronic F-1 SEVIS record. When an F-1 SEVIS record is first created, the electronic record is in “initial” status. The SEVIS database is designed so that an electronic F-1 record will automatically terminate if the record is not “activated” or “deferred” by a certain deadline within the quarter. ISS cannot “activate” the F-1 SEVIS record until USCIS approves your F-1 status application.
  • Consequently, ISS must “defer” the F-1 SEVIS record program start date to the next available quarter in order to preserve the “initial” electronic F-1 SEVIS record and not jeopardize the pending change of status application. ISS will issue a new I-20 with the deferred program start date; you must submit the new I-20 to USCIS with a copy of your USCIS receipt notice.

Answer 2: If your current nonimmigrant status does not allow full-time study:

  • Once you find out you may not have the F1 status by autumn quarter, please contact GEMS and your program as soon as possible.
  • GEMS Designated School Officials will discuss options such as a deferral of your offer of admissions.

Can I start the program in my current nonimmigrant status and then switch to F1 later in a future quarter? If so, will the autumn quarter count toward the OPT eligibility requirement, full-time enrollment for at least one academic year?

  • If your current nonimmigrant status allows study (per SEVP regulations), yes, you may begin your program at UW. If you have access to an immigration attorney (such as at your company or spouse’s company), we strongly recommend discussing your academic plans with the attorney.
  • If you decide to change to F1 status while enrolled as a UW student, you will submit an I-20 request form to Change Status to the International Student Services (ISS).
  • OPT Eligibility Requirement: ISS assists students with employment authorization. Please carefully review their webpage for OPT requirements.
  • Students who complete one academic year (three quarters) in the United States may be eligible for OPT, even if they begin study at UW in a status other than F-1.
    Example: An H1B student begins study in Seattle during Autumn 2020 while the Change of Status to F1 application is pending. The application is approved, and the student achieves F1 status in Winter 2020. The student completes their final and third quarter of academic study in Spring 2020, which totals a year of “F-1 qualifying study.”

Employing International Students

Departments or units who are employing international graduate students who are working for the UW from abroad should reference the Graduate School Dean’s e-mail dated September 11, 2020, as well as this Graduate School resource. Departments may also contact the Office of Fellowships & Awards.

Students should please refer any questions to their hiring unit or department.