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(LAST UPDATE/REVIEW: 08/11/2021)




What is the current status of U.S. visa services in my country?


In early April 2021, the U.S. State Department announced a phased resumption of routine visa services. There is a significant backlog of visa applicants waiting for an interview, which the State Department acknowledges and is working diligently to get through, keeping in mind the safety of their staff and visa applicants at consulates across the globe.

For updated visa appointment availability, you can check your local consulate’s visa wait times here.

Will ISPO issue original, hard copy I-20 or DS-2019 documents, or can I use an electronic copy?


Due to the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP is allowing issuance of the electronic I-20 for the duration of the emergency, and ISPO will issue I-20s electronically within a student’s iPortal application for download/printing. SEVP has coordinated with both the U.S. Department of State and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) regarding the policy to allow electronic I-20 issuance. Both agencies are in support of this action. J-1 students, however, are still required to have a physical, original DS-2019 document for travel and visa issuance.

ISPO will continue to issue physical, original I-20 or DS-2019s for students who are requesting employment authorization such as F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training or J-1 Academic Training as students may be required to have original documents for the Social Security Administration or employers. 

I am unable to book a visa appointment due to U.S. embassy/consulate closures in my region. What can I do?


If you are outside the U.S. you are required to have a valid, unexpired visa in order to request entry to the U.S. to start in-person or hybrid studies. If you are unable to schedule a visa appointment to arrive in time before the start of the term, you may need to plan to enroll in all remote coursework for the term.

If you are in the U.S. and your visa has expired or is expiring soon, you are eligible to remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status. Remember, the visa must be valid in order to enter/reenter the U.S., but does not need to be valid/unexpired to maintain F-1 status while in the U.S.

Can ISPO provide me with a letter of support for entry to the U.S. or for a visa appointment?


Yes, ISPO in close collaboration with the Registrar's Office has drafted a travel support letter for students with an initial attendance I-20 and continuing students with a SEVIS-Active I-20 to use if requested by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the U.S. Port of Entry or the U.S. Consulate to facilitate travel or visa renewal. If you are currently outside the U.S. and are seeking entry into the U.S., you can access, download, and print a travel support letter by logging into

Instructions for download: 

  • Go to
  • View the “Notifications” section on the home screen
  • Click to download the appropriate support letter and print. Bring the support letter to your visa appointment and/or port of entry for travel into the U.S.

I went home to apply for a new visa/renew my existing visa, but now it is under administrative processing. What can I do?


Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. However, it can take longer. The U.S. Department of State recommends that the applicant wait at least 180 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later, before making inquiries about status of administrative processing. For more information, review the U.S. State Department Administrative Processing information.

Also, notify your college or department to inform them of the probable delay. Each case is evaluated by the U.S. State Department on a case-by-case basis and have varying times to complete the administrative processing review. Please inform ISPO as soon as possible of your situation so we can best assist you with the process.

My country is experiencing delays with passport issuance. What can I do?


Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance generally requires that in order to enter the U.S., F-1 and J-1 students must have a passport that is valid at least 6 months after their planned date of entry into the U.S. If your passport will expire earlier than this, then you may experience entry delays at a U.S. port of entry. Therefore, ISPO recommends waiting to travel to the U.S. until you have an up-to-date passport in hand.

International Travel and Entry to the U.S.

We understand that you and your family may have questions and concerns about travel. The decision to travel internationally or remain in the U.S. is a personal one with health, academic, employment, financial, and visa considerations. We hope that the UCSD campus and ISPO has provided you with the information you need to make these decisions.

If you are considering travel, be sure to check the latest travel advisories at, which currently recommend avoiding nonessential travel to certain regions of the world. Also keep in mind that the situation is fluid and other countries can always add or change travel restrictions, flights may be canceled, and new re-entry restrictions or quarantines could be imposed. Please be sure to provide family and friends with your itinerary and contact information before you travel.

If you choose to travel internationally, be prepared for delays or the inability to re-enter the U.S. Make sure you have all the required documentation for travel and re-entry  into the U.S.

 Visit for documents required for reentry.


 Additional Considerations:

  • Any plans for returning the U.S. may be disrupted due to difficulty acquiring a student visa, travel/entry restrictions, or for some students, lack of available hybrid or in-person classes in your academic program.
  • For information on interstate or international travel quarantine, testing, or sequestration requirements, please visit the Return to Learn website.
  • Students with valid F-1 visas do not need to apply for a new visa before traveling to the U.S. to resume their studies.
  • Travel restrictions into the U.S. are slowly being eased, but some remain in effect for certain travelers. Check the Department of State website regularly for updates.
  • Many U.S. embassies and consulates are still closed, although some have begun a phased resumption of routine visa services on a post-by-post basis and are beginning to prioritize student visas. Continuing students who need a new visa are eligible to apply; however, issuance of the visa is at the discretion of their local U.S. embassy or consulate. Many students with confirmed visa appointments have had their interviews postponed multiple times or cancelled.
  • Traveling with all the required documents gives students the best chance to enter the U.S. without incident. You may download and print the ISPO travel support letter from the iPortal homepage.
  • For 14 days after travel, students must monitor themselves closely for symptoms of COVID-19 and strictly follow US San Diego public health guidelines. Students must take extra precautions and should consider being tested if they have engaged in higher risk activities such as travel to an area with high levels of COVID-19, attended a large social gathering, or been in crowds.
  • All students returning to in-person activities in the fall 2021 quarter will be required to receive an annual influenza vaccine and participate in required COVID-19 testing on a regular basis.
  • Students facing challenges getting to campus for fall 2021 classes due to travel difficulties should contact their academic advisor to discuss remote enrollment options.

International Travel over Summer Break


If you are planning to travel internationally during the summer break, please consider the following factors when planning your departure from or arrival to UC San Diego:

#1: Visa

Do you have a valid F-1 or J-1 Student Visa to enter the U.S.? If not, do you have a visa interview appointment scheduled in time to arrive by the start of fall 2021 term?

Many U.S. embassies and consulates have suspended routine visa services due to continued health and safety concerns. If you still intend to schedule a visa interview at an embassy/consulate with suspended or limited services, you may be eligible for an emergency appointment. Visit to learn more. You can also review the expected Visa Appointment Wait Times to assist with advanced planning.

NOTE: International Students can download a Travel Support Letter in iPortal to assist in booking an appointment for a visa interview or upon entry into the U.S. Log into iPortal and access the Travel Support Letter under the Notifications section of the homepage.

#2: Travel Restrictions

Are there travel restrictions or bans in place for travelers from your home country?

Review the Travel Advisories for your intended destination (including stopovers and final destinations). Current U.S. COVID-related and employment-related travel restrictions are still in effect for individuals from certain countries.

#3: Flight Availability

Are you able to book a flight to your final destination so you can arrive by the start of the fall 2021 term?
Check with your local airline carrier for flight availability. Some airlines may have limited flight availability or may change their schedule with little notice. The International Air Transportation Association maintains a travel page for each country and provides information on passenger requirements.

#4: Housing Availability

Do you have housing accommodations for fall 2021?
Prior to arrival to the U.S., ensure that you have finalized housing accommodations. Visit for more information regarding on-campus housing.

#5: Quarantine or Sequestration Requirements

Are you able to adhere to campus requirements or travel guidelines to self-isolate upon arrival?

At this time, students arriving to campus are not required to quarantine. However, regular symptom screening will be required, and those who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 or who test positive for COVID-19 must follow certain guidelines set forth by the campus.

Continue to monitor the Return to Learn site for the latest updates. 

 #6: UC San Diego's Operational Plan for Fall 2021

What is UC San Diego's operational plan for Fall 2021? 

In the Fall 2021 quarter, UC San Diego's current operational plan includes primarily in-person instruction, with remote and hybrid modalities of instruction available to students who are unable to enter the U.S. Continue to monitor the Return to Learn site for the latest updates.

#7: Course Enrollment Requirements

Are you registered for coursework for Fall 2021?

Are you required to enroll in a hybrid or in-person course to enter the U.S.?  

Review information on the ISPO Coronavirus Enrollment and Maintaining Status page. 

#8: Valid I-20 or DS-2019 Document

Do you have a Valid Form I-20 or DS-2019?

Continuing students who already hold an Active SEVIS record should ensure their program end date listed on their Form I-20 is accurate and reflects a program end date after their planned date of re-entry into the U.S. Apply for a I-20 Program Extension if you need more time to complete your program. 

Initial attendance students planning to enter the U.S. for the first time to pursue their program in-person in Fall 2021 must have a valid Form I-20 or DS-2019 from UC San Diego with a September 20, 2021 start date. Check your document now. If you do not have the appropriate I-20 or DS-2019, please request your document via iPortal immediately. If you need an adjusted start date on your I-20 or DS-2019, please login to iPortal immediately to submit a NEW ADMIT: I-20 or DS-2019 Amendment/Reprint Request.

#9: Delayed Arrivals to the U.S. in Fall 2021

If you face travel delays or are unable to arrive to the U.S. in Fall 2021 as planned, what should you be aware of? 

Students who plan to enter the U.S. for fall should continue to make contingency plans if they are unable to return and must remain outside of the U.S. for an extended period. Travel restrictions, campus requirements, and Form I-20/DS-2019 issuance are subject to change in response to any updated Federal, State of California, and San Diego County of Public Health recommendations.

On-Campus Employment or Research: Check-in with your hiring department on how remaining outside of the U.S. will impact on-campus employment for Fall 2021.

Where can I get more information and clarity on the latest National Interest Waiver (NIE) guidance released by the Department of State about an August 1, 2021 program start date?


On June 24the State Department updated its National Interest Exception (NIE) policy to expand certain NIE eligibilities to all countries subject to a geographic COVID-19 entry ban. This includes Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the Schengen Area of Europe.   

The notice clarifies that:  

  • New or returning F-1 students present in China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa or India are automatically considered for the National Interest Exception (NIE) at the Port of Entry into the U.S. and do not require advance approval of a NIE from an embassy or consulate prior to travel;  
  • New or returning F-1 students present in China, Brazil, Iran, South Africa or India may arrive no earlier than 30 days before the start of an academic program beginning August 1, 2021 or after, including optional practical training (OPT); and 
  • New or returning F-1 students who were present only in the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, or Ireland are not subject to the August 1 condition; however, they could still be subject to a "no earlier than 30 days before the start of their academic studies" condition (for example, if a student plans to begin or resume their studies for the Fall 2021 quarter at UC San Diego, which begins on 9/20/21, they may only enter the U.S. as early as 8/21/21).   

If you are unsure about whether you must apply for a NIE, ISPO strongly encourages you to contact your local U.S. consulate or embassy for guidance and instructions.

Options for Summer 2021 Arrival to the U.S:
In order to seek entry into the U.S. to begin courses before August 1, 2021, students subject to entry bans have the following options: 

1. Adjust Courses/Enrollment to Begin on August 2 (Summer Session II)

Students initially planning to enroll in Summer Session I coursework, research, or early start programs, can discuss options with their departments to enroll in Summer Session II in order to secure coursework to start/resume on or after August 1, 2021. Students seeking entry to the U.S. for the first time to enroll with UC San Diego will need to request to update their I-20 or DS-2019 to reflect a Summer Session II Start Date. Students will only be eligible to seek entry to the U.S. within 30 days prior to classes resuming.

2. Request an Individual NIE with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Students who can demonstrate that their travel is in the national interest of the U.S. and are qualified for a NIE may contact their nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to request an individual NIE prior to travel. Individual embassies and consulates may differ in response time and issuance

Where can I find the most current information regarding inbound travel to the United States from regions affected by COVID-19?


Due to the continuing uncertainty and rapidly-changing nature of the pandemic, we recommend regularly checking ISPO's information on the Travel Restrictions Policy Updates page and reviewing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention information for travelers. 

I need to travel to countries with travel restrictions and warnings. How can I get there?


The U.S. State Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued several travel advisories for regions affected by COVID-19. Under these advisories, all non-essential travel should be avoided. Travelers should expect long visa application and travel delays from abroad. Please refer to our Travel Restrictions Policy Updates page.

I am nearing the end of my grace period. I am trying to book a flight to my home country, but I can't. What are my options?


F-1 Students: Students nearing the end of their grace period should review options available after completion of studies  at UC San Diego. Students who do not take action to maintain their F-1 status in the US but are unable to book a departing flight are encouraged to may follow USCIS instructions for Special Situations for applying for a Change of Status (Form I-539) to B1-B2 Tourist to avoid accrual of unlawful presence. Changing status from F-1 to B1-B2 due to a special situation that prevented a planned and timely departure will be taken into consideration by USCIS while reviewing your application. Review ISPO’s Changing Visa Status page for more information.   

J-1 Students: Consult with an International Student Advisor

I need a COVID-19 test to travel and reenter my home country. Where can I get a COVID-19 test for travel clearance purposes?


If students need to show a negative COVID test to travel and reenter their home country, Student Health Services is available to conduct the test. To schedule, students should call 858-543-3300. NOTE: There is a small administrative fee for COVID testing for travel clearance purposes. 



UC San Diego housing and interstate/ international travel quarantine/ sequestration requirements


In continued support of UC San Diego students, on-campus housing communities will remain open and operational for Fall 2021. 

Students can expect to see changes, including enhanced precautionary measures, to protect their health and well-being.  If public health considerations cause the university to request students to vacate on-campus housing, students will not be charged for the unused portion of their housing and dining contracts.

A 14-day quarantine after international travel is currently not required by UC San Diego; however, self-monitoring for symptoms as well as daily screening measures are in place. Depending on where you will be living this year, see the following guidance on what to be aware of:

For information on interstate or international travel quarantine or sequestration requirements for those residing on campus: 

For information on interstate or international travel quarantine or sequestration requirements for those residing off campus: 

What will COVID-19 testing look like if I live on campus?


All students who reside on campus will be expected to participate in daily symptom screening and will be offered free SARS-CoV-2 testing as part of the move-in process. Our goal is to identify and isolate any asymptomatic individuals who could unintentionally spread the virus. Details about screening and testing will be communicated to students through email from Housing and Dining Services. For information on interstate or international travel quarantine or sequestration requirements, please visit the HDH COVID-19 FAQ site.

In the event a student living in on-campus housing tests positive at any time during the academic year, they will be moved to designated on-campus isolation housing, where basic needs will be met and food will be delivered to the unit. They will also receive care from Student Health and Well-being Services. 

If public health considerations cause the university to request students to vacate on-campus housing, students will not be charged for the unused portion of their housing and dining contracts.  Visit the Return to Learn website for more information on the testing program.

Is Summer 2021 on-campus housing available to students?

On-campus housing is available during the summer of 2021 for UC San Diego students who may need it and are eligible. Check the HDH website for more information about summer housing.