University of Iowa

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions, ISSS


This web page will be updated regularly with answers to frequently asked questions about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, particularly as they relate to our community of international students and scholars.

For additional information about campus coronavirus updates, go to

By now you may have seen the message from the University of Iowa announcing that all courses will move to online instruction following an extended spring break (Iowa Now). As international students who are limited in how many online classes you can take, we wanted to reach out to all of you as soon as possible to let you know that this change will not impact your immigration status.

International Student and Scholar Services is working closely with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) which oversees SEVIS in order to ensure that these courses still count towards your full-time enrollment as F-1 and J-1 students. 

Additionally International Student and Scholar Services will remain open both during spring break and afterwards to assist you with any questions you may have. Walk-in appointments are suspended for the Spring 2020 semester, but ISSS will continue to advise students remotely. To reach an ISSS advisor, please call 319-335-0335 or e-mail

We understand that these may be especially stressful times. In addition to ISSS, remember that the University of Iowa has many resources to support you and assist in dealing with any worries and concerns that you may have. The following resources are especially useful when dealing with stress and anxiety:

As always, please feel free to contact ISSS with any questions or concerns that you may have. 

A Presidential Proclamation signed on March 11, 2020, added the Schengen area to the existing restrictions applied to China and Iran. Effective March 16, 2020, the United Kingdom and Ireland were also added. This proclamation prevents any nonimmigrant from entering the U.S. directly from an affected country.

This means that any international student who travels through China, Iran, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom would have to spend 14 days in some other country before they could enter the United States. This is true even if you only have a connecting flight in one of these countries.

If you have any questions about how this will affect your travel plans,  please call 319-335-0335 or e-mail

While you may not be planning to travel home anytime soon, we do not know when these travel restrictions will expire or if they will be modified. Because of this, we recommend that you check in with ISSS before making any new plane ticket purchases. ISSS advisors will be up to date on any restrictions and will be able to advise you whether you will be able to return to the U.S. directly or whether CDC guidelines and immigration regulations will require special arrangements.

As always, you should feel free to contact ISSS at 319-335-0335 or e-mail with any questions or concerns you may have.  And anyone in need of additional support should not hesitate to contact the resources below:

According to a recent campus update, courses will now resume on March 30, and will be conducted virtually through the rest of the spring semester.

If you want to leave the U.S. or have already left the U.S., please ensure that you have a recent signature from an ISSS advisor on the second page of your I-20 for F-1 students or the front of your DS-2019 for J-1 students. These signatures are valid for one year. If you realize that you do not have a valid signature, you can complete an eShipGlobal Mailing fee e-form in iHawk and we will mail a new I-20/Ds-2019 with a travel signature to you wherever you are in the world. You can find this e-form by logging into iHawk and clicking on Other Student Services in the menu on the left.

If your program is scheduled to end soon and you would like to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), please take some time to watch this presentation on how to apply for CPT/OPT. Please note that you must be present in the United States to apply for OPT.

If your program is scheduled to end soon and you do not believe that you will be able to finish this semester for any reason, please apply for a Program Extension. You can complete the program extension request from anywhere online. If you are outside the U.S., please also submit the eShipGlobal mailing fee described above in order to receive your new I-20.

If your program is scheduled to end soon and you do not wish to return to or remain in the U.S., then you do not need to take any further action. 
For any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact ISSS. We will continue to operate and to answer all of your F and J immigration questions, but we will not see students in-person during walk-in hours. Unfortunately, this means that some things, like getting a new I-20 for OPT, CPT, and for Program Extensions will take a little bit longer since we will not be able to give them to you in person. Instead, we will mail your new immigration document to you. If you want your immigration document mailed within the state of Iowa, we will use regular U.S. Postal Service unless you request otherwise. For everyone else, you will need to complete an eShipGlobal mailing fee as described above and we will send your document via courier. You will still be able to call and speak to an ISSS advisor during regular business hours at 319-335-0335 and you can still e-mail us at   
I hope that this e-mail answers some of the questions that many of you have. The University is constantly evaluating the situation and we in ISSS will update you as soon as we find out about any potential changes. And ISSS will continue to advise and consult with students – whether through e-mail or other means – no matter what else happens in the world. Of course we understand that this is a stressful time – especially for those of you deciding whether to travel internationally and wondering when you will be able to return. Please know that we are here to help in any way that we can. And if you need additional support, please do not hesitate to contact the sources below : 

Finally, no matter where you are in the world, if you are taking steps to self-isolate and slow the spread of Covid-19, thank you for taking appropriate steps to self-isolate in order to protect your health and the health of those around you. We understand that self-isolation may be stressful, particularly those who have pre-existing mental health concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has helpful resources for managing anxiety related to Covid-19. Recommendations include: 

  • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of Covid-19. 
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals; exercise regularly; get plenty of sleep; and avoid alcohol and drugs. 
  • Make time to unwind and take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. 
  • Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. 
  • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking. 

If you develop a fever or cough, please contact your local health care provider or call the University of Iowa 24/7 Nurseline at 1-800-777-8442. The university will continue to provide updates regularly on and is committed to facilitating the completion of your academic work for this term. Please take care of yourself during this difficult time. 
Michael Bortscheller 
Associate Director, International Student and Scholar Services 
International Programs 
1111 University Capitol Centre | Iowa City, IA 52242 
319-335-0335 | 

Please visit this web page for details about moving out of your residence hall.

We realize that we have some students that are housing insecure or are unable to return home due to travel bans. You are able to sign up for housing within the Spring 2020 Moveout Form. Once University Housing & Dining has reviewed your request, you will hear from their office with further instructions.  

Please contact University Housing & Dining at 319-335-3000 or if you have questions.