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International Scholar COVID-19 Related Updates

This page is no longer being updated as of May 25, 2023. As of May 25, 2023, all COVID-related U.S. travel restrictions have ended. Please contact ISO at if you have questions regarding travel on your UW-sponsored visa.

In light of ongoing developments at both the federal and the University of Washington levels related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UW International Scholars Operations (ISO) has made some significant changes to our processes. Be sure to read carefully and follow relevant steps outlined below in order to ensure compliance with federal regulations. Please reach out to the ISO team at with any questions.

Federal Immigration Changes in Response to COVID-19

Travel-Related Updates

  • Regarding vaccinations:
    • Effective January 22, 2022, the U.S. requires that all foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico via land ports of entry (including ferry terminals) on nonimmigrant visas (which include H-1B, J-1, E-3 and TN visas sponsored by UW) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with some limited exceptions.
    • Effective November 8, 2021, the United States requires that all foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. by air on nonimmigrant visas (which include H-1B, J-1, E-3, and TN visas sponsored by UW), be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19, with some limited exceptions. Additional guidance on this requirement is available from the White House, the Department of State and the CDC.
  • Regarding COVID-19 testing:
    • Effective January 5, 2023, airlines will require a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within two days of departure, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days, for all travelers coming to the U.S. on flights originating from China (including Hong Kong and Macau).
    • No other countries are subject to testing requirements at this time.
  • A number of U.S. consulates are accepting visa applications for emergencies only, or have long processing times due to a backlog of visa applications. See the Department of State’s Visa Appointment Wait Times page and the website of the appropriate U.S. embassy/consulate for more information.
  • The U.S. has enacted an entry ban against Chinese F-1 and J-1 students and researchers affiliated with any “entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s ‘military-civil fusion strategy’.” Chinese scholars entering or reentering the U.S. should expect and prepare for screening regarding their academic and work history.
  • Through the end of 2022, U.S. consulates may waive interviews for certain visa applicants applying for F, H-1, H-3, H-4, J, L, M, O, P, and Q visas. Visa applicants should check the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to learn more about applying for a visa without an interview.

UW International Scholars Operations Updated Procedures

Required J-1 Check-In Sessions Offered Remotely

ISO has discontinued in-person check-in sessions due to remote operations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. All check-in requirements can be met by remote orientation and validation. Exchange visitors should email to request a remote check-in and validation as soon as possible after arrival in the U.S.

Electronic Signatures on UW Visa-Related Internal Forms

In light of the move to remote operations for many of our academic units, ISO is accepting digital signatures on almost all UW internal documents; for more information, see the H-1B and J-1 checklists. Paper visa request forms still can be sent by campus mail to Box 351245 or left in the dropbox in Gerberding Hall. Both are checked daily.

Acceptance of Electronic Visa Request Packets

In recognition of restricted operations, ISO is accepting electronic packets for all visa requests. Units should reply to the conditional approval email and attach the visa request packet as one PDF, or upload it using the “Manage Files” tab on the visa request form. Note that for H-1B, TN, E-3, O-1, and permanent residence visa requests, units must still request original checks through UW Procurement Services and have them sent to ISO to be mailed to USCIS.

Direct and Expedited Shipping of Original Immigration Documents

To facilitate the distribution of visa-related documents to international scholars, ISO will send original documents (including receipt and approval notices for H-1B employees and DS-2019 forms for J-1 exchange visitors) directly to scholars if a prepaid FedEx shipping label is provided by the sponsoring department. 

Units should include the paid shipping slip with the signed visa request packet or reply to the visa request ticket with it as early as possible. For visa requests where a shipping label is not provided by the date that the document becomes available, documents will be mailed to the campus mailbox listed on the visa request, and units will be responsible for redistributing them to scholars.