(Updated: 12/13/2021)

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 acadvisa@uw.edu with any questions.

Note: This post will continue to be updated as new information becomes available, so please check back. Update dates will be included so that readers know when changes have been made.

Federal Immigration Changes in Response to COVID-19

Travel-Related Updates

  • Effective December 6, 2021, all air travelers boarding flights to the U.S., even if fully vaccinated, are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure. Unvaccinated air travelers may have additional testing or self-quarantine requirements upon arrival.
  • Effective November 8, 2021, the United States will require 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.
  • The ban on nonessential travel at land and ferry border crossings at the U.S.-Canada border and the U.S.-Mexico border has been extended through January 21, 2022. Travel for employment in the U.S. is essential travel. Additionally, on October 12, 2021, DHS announced a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine requirement at land and ferry Ports of Entry (PoEs). Beginning in early January 2022, all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs, whether for essential or nonessential reasons, must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination.
  • Effective January 26, 2021, all fully-vaccinated air travelers boarding flights to the U.S. are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 3 days. Effective November 8, 2021, unvaccinated air travelers are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last day, and may have additional testing or self-quarantine requirements upon arrival.
  • All scholars returning to the U.S. after international travel should refer to the UW COVID-19 FAQ under “What should I do to stop the spread of COVID-19 after returning home from international travel?”
  • In light of the limitations listed above and the possibility of additional restrictions being enacted, ISO currently recommends avoiding all non-essential international travel 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 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’.
  • The United States has enacted an entry ban against foreign nationals who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe within the last 14 days. National interest exceptions may be available.
  • 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 acadvisa@uw.edu 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.