UW Graduate School

COVID-19 Admissions FAQs

Updated May 27, 2020

Information for Graduate Students| UW Classes & Instruction | Admissions Updates | Enrollment Updates | Deferrals

International F-1 / J-1 Information

International Offices | Next Steps | US Government Updates | Summer 2020 | Autumn 2020| Continuing F-1 & J-1 Students | Employment Authorization (OPT, CPT, AT)

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 feel free to reach out to your department if you have questions specific to your program of study.

UW Classes & Instruction


March 30, 2020 – June 12, 2020
President Cauce sent a message to students on March 18 announcing spring quarter courses will be held remotely. Spring quarter will begin as scheduled on March 30, with remote instruction through the end of the quarter. There will be a grace period the first week of the quarter with no written assignments due that first week. The quarter will end as scheduled on June 12, 2020. More information and answers to many questions are available at Facts and Information Regarding Spring Quarter 2020.


June 22, 2020 – August 21, 2020

The University announced on April 8 that summer quarter 2020 classes that begin on the first day of summer quarter will be offered remotely and will not be held in-person. This applies to both A and full terms. No decision has been made yet about B term which begins July 23. Summer registration begins April 13.


September 30, 2020 – December 11, 2020

“We are planning to be back this fall for in-person instruction and expect to provide specific details in mid-June to early July. We are working on many scenarios, and each week provides more public health information to inform our decisions. At this time, we anticipate an autumn quarter that includes both in-person and remote elements. For example, some larger classes could be held online with smaller sections held in-person as long as everyone in the room practices social distancing.”

Admissions Updates

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.

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.

Will the Graduate School accept the Duolingo English test?

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.

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.

The Duolingo English Test cannot be used for AEP course placement. Students admitted with the Duolingo English Test will be required to take all sections of the UW AEP Placement Exam. Students who will receive a Teaching Assistantship will also be required to take the Versant in accordance with Memo 15.

We are aware that the UW Academic Testing Center has made a decision to close through the spring quarter due to COVID-19. Current test dates on their webpage indicate test availability starting in Summer Quarter. Please contact testingcenter@uw.edu if you have questions about scheduling an exam.

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 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. We will not be placing registration holds for students whose first quarter of enrollment is Spring 2020 until July 8, and for students whose first quarter of enrollment is Summer 2020 or Autumn 2020 until October 28.

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 (see above section).

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 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 forgot to include my letter of English instruction or other English documentation in my application. I need to register but I have an English registration requirement.

You may e-mail the English medium of instruction letter (per Memo 8) to uwgrad@uw.edu. Please include your UW student number.

Official English language test scores such as TOEFL must be sent electronically via ETS to the University of Washington, #4854 – no exceptions.


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.

US Government Updates

Online study to maintain F-1 status for students already in the U.S.

While F-1 students who are already in the US are being allowed to study online and maintain F-1 status, the US government has stated “this guidance applies to students who are currently enrolled in a program of study and is not intended for new or initial students who are outside the United States.”

New (initial) F-1 students to remain in home countries for now

The US government has stated that “If Initial students have not arrived in the United States, they should remain in their home country.”

Routine U.S. Visa Services Suspended

Per the U.S. Department of State, “Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.”

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.

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

Because the UW is planning for Autumn Quarter to include “in-person instruction”, GEMS continues to issue I-20s for 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.

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

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 instructions here.

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 instructions here.

Q: What if the UW changes Autumn Quarter to be online-only instruction?
A: If Autumn Quarter is online-only, all incoming F-1 and J-1 students will be notified to discuss Deferral options with their admitting program:
>>Option 1: Student starts studying online Autumn. The I-20 is deferred to the next quarter, Winter 2021. Student will enter the US before the January 4, 2021 program start date.
>>Option 2: Student defers both admissions and I-20 to the next academic year (Autumn 2021, September 29, 2021 start date).

Q: 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?
A: 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

If you are a student with an ACTIVE SEVIS Record, such as a current UW student, or a student at another U.S. school, the U.S. government confirmed that international students can temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country, in response to COVID-19. SEVP will continue to provide updated guidance frequently during this extremely fluid public health crisis. This guidance allows U.S. Schools to keep F-1 and J-1 SEVIS records active for students studying online full-time, either in the U.S. or at home. See the U.S. ICE PDF here.

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: 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 a transfer student, and I will start my new UW program this Summer 2020. Because classes will be online, can I return to my home country to study, and keep my F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record active?
A: Yes, your SEVIS record can remain active. Review GEMS instructions to receive your UW transfer pending I-20.

Complete the check-in process with UW International Student Services Office, and receive a
transfer complete I-20
from UW (the US government is currently allowing US schools to electronically sign and send I-20s to students via e-mail).

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 Office (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

ISS COVID-19 OPT Questions

Optional Practical Training

Q: OPT eligibility requires that I have studied full-time for one academic year (three quarters) in the United States. If I am starting online study in my home country due to COVID-19 this Summer Quarter, can Summer Quarter count towards my “one academic year” for OPT eligibility?
A: New F-1 students do not start active F-1 status until they have arrived in the United States and completed the check-in process. We do not yet know if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make adjustments based on COVID-19 for new F-1 students.
ISS will make updates to their webpage when more information is learned from USCIS.

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 office 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.