COVID-19 Response

This page is frequently updated, so check for new information. Scroll down for additional resources. 

 Frequently Asked Questions

OISS is committed to supporting our international community during this outbreak of COVID-19. In line with UCSB’s remote status, OISS staff will continue to be available to students via remote advising. OISS has expanded virtual  support for concerned students, including Zoom videochats.

Campus departments are closed. How do I submit requests and inquiries if I can’t go to them in person? 

  • The UCSB campus community is currently on remote status. The Division of Student Affairs has published a Remote Instruction resource page so that you can stay connected and find out how to continue receiving support and services. In addition, you can check out the website of each department to find out how to request services.  

I don't want to continue my studies remotely. What should I do?

  • If you do not wish to continue your studies remotely, that means that you must request a Leave of Absence from OISS and a Withdrawal from UCSB. Email OISS at with your name, PERM and request to take a Leave of Absence. An advisor will be in touch to help process your Leave of Absence request. Once your Leave of Absence request is approved, you will then submit your Spring 2020 withdrawal request to the Office of the Registrar by email. Please note that you cannot remain in the U.S. if you are not enrolled in classes. Visit the Office of the Registrar “Withdraw from the University” webpage for more information on how this will affect your enrollment as a UCSB student.

I only want to continue my studies part-time. Is this possible?

  • You may continue your studies part-time while you are in remote status. Your immigration record will be terminated due to under-enrollment, but having an inactive record does not affect your status as a UCSB student. However, you must be outside of the U.S. You can request a new I-20 or DS-2019 once you plan to return to the U.S. to resume full-time student status.

I saw the Chancellor’s announcement that all of Summer Sessions is now remote. Do I need an I-20 if I’m outside of the U.S.? 

  • If you are currently outside of the U.S., you do not need an I-20 document to study remotely at UCSB, including Summer Sessions.

  • If you’re not currently registered in Spring 2020 classes and would like to study remotely during Summer, then you must apply directly to Summer Sessions at If you are registered in Spring 2020 classes, then you can simply create a Summer quarter and register for classes on GOLD. Please direct any Summer Sessions-related questions to

  • Please remember, if you took a leave of absence during Spring 2020 or before, you must petition to be readmitted to UCSB if you wish to study in Fall 2020. You must submit a Request for Undergraduate Readmission or Reinstatement with the Office of the Registrar via email if you are an undergraduate student. If you are a graduate student, you must submit a reinstatement petition with the Graduate Division. Once you are readmitted to UCSB for Fall 2020, you may then request an I-20 from OISS if you are planning to return to the United States, although future circumstances may change.

I canceled my Spring 2020 quarter. How do I return to UCSB in the future?

  • In order to resume your studies at UCSB in a future quarter, you must submit a Request for Undergraduate Readmission or Reinstatement with the Office of the Registrar if you are an undergraduate student. Due to current circumstances, you can submit this form via email. If you are a graduate student, you must submit a reinstatement petition with the Graduate Division

  • We understand that COVID-19 is causing uncertainty at the moment, but we recommend that you continue your plans to study at UCSB in a future quarter. In addition, make sure to enroll in your full course load during the earliest possible Pass Times. We can always help you cancel future quarters in case you are not able to return to the U.S. when planned. 

I am currently on OPT but due to COVID-19 my hours have been reduced and I’m currently under 20 hours per week.  Does this mean I am no longer maintaining my OPT?

  • USCIS has stated that as long as this emergency declaration remains in place, students who are currently employed and experienced a reduction in hours below 20 hours per week are considered maintaining OPT status.  This does not apply to students who will be hired under 20 hours per week.  You must have documentation indicating your hours were reduced to below 20 hours per week.  This does not need to be reported to your SEVP portal.

What is happening for Fall 2020 quarter?

  • UCSB is still finalizing plans for Fall 2020.  OISS will send out communication to all students once those plans have been finalized and departments informed of the decision.

I saw on this link that SEVP allows scanned I-20s to be provided to students.  Doesn't that mean that OISS can email my document to me?

Yes, SEVP has worked with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of State to allow universities to email I-20’s for all uses.  If you hold a J-1 visa and a DS-2019, please note we can only scan DS-2019 documents for Academic Training, all other uses require a physical form to be mailed to you.

Agency Key:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP officers process your arrival to the United States at any border crossing (airplane, car or boat). They are responsible for creating your I-94 record.
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP): SEVP is responsible for maintaining the database where I-20’s are created.  Your student advisors report to SEVP regarding your student status.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): For students, this is the agency that will process employment authorization applications.
  • Department of State (DOS): This agency oversees visa issuance at United States consulates and embassies around the world.

Since classes have been moved to remote instruction, should international students return to their home countries?

  • You are free to stay in the U.S. or return to your home country.

  • Do not update your local living address to your international address.  Please keep your current address listed if you are going to study outside the United States. If you are moving within the US please update your address in GOLD.

  • If you choose to return to your home country, be sure that you have a valid travel signature from OISS. Travel signatures are valid for up to one year for F-1 and J-1 degree-seeking students, and 6 months for EAP students. You will need a valid travel signature to re-enter the U.S.

Can international students take more than one class online while campus is on remote instruction?

  • Yes! The usual limit of one on-line class per quarter has been suspended. Students may enroll in on-line classes full-time through UCSB while UCSB is allowing remote instruction. Undergraduates must still be enrolled in 12 units through UCSB to maintain your Spring 2020 enrollment.

  • Students will be able to maintain their visa status under these special circumstances. 

  • Students are expected to maintain the minimum unit load and comply with other regulatory requirements associated with their visa status unless otherwise authorized.

If a class was canceled and has resulted in me being below 12 units, do I have to find another class to bring my enrollment back up to 12 units?

  • Yes, if you are enrolled in the Spring 2020 quarter, you MUST be enrolled in 12 units as an undergraduate student to maintain your immigration status.  All enrollment requirements remain the same even though remote instruction is in place.

Since classes are cancelled, will OISS advisors still be available?

  • Absolutely, though face-to-face advising has been suspended, following social distancing guidelines. OISS advisors are available to help via email, phone, or Zoom. Email OISS to request an appointment.

What if a student wants to go back to their home country?

  • OISS cannot guarantee students' ability to access online coursework in other countries.

  • If a student wants to return home and does not wish to continue classes while they are away, the student must request a Leave of Absence. Consult with an OISS advisor. 

What will happen to a student's I-20 or DS-2019 if they choose to go home?

  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 remains active. Please email OISS at or call (805) 893-2929 to schedule a consultation with an OISS Advisor if you have additional questions.

What about the 5-month rule for visas?

  • Even if you are outside the United States for more than 5 months, your visa will remain active.

  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 will remain active as long as you maintain your enrollment, even if you choose to return home. Pursuing your coursework remotely outside the U.S. is currently being permitted due to these special circumstances. 

What if I left the U.S. without getting a travel signature?

  • OISS can process a new document for you. You will need to pay to have the new document mailed to you. Please allow up to 2 months for processing. Contact OISS as soon as possible if you will need a document mailed to you.

Will students who are no longer in the U.S. be allowed to cancel UC SHIP (UC Student Health Insurance Program) and receive a refund?  

  • The regent’s mandate that students have adequate active health insurance is still in place for all students. UCSB is relaxing some of the waiver requirements for international students (i.e., repatriation, mile radius and some others). Campuses are also extending their waiver deadlines to allow students to reverse waivers for spring term.  Students will not be charged for UC SHIP if waivers are reversed in the time allowed.

Will students who stay in the U.S. but no longer live near campus be allowed to cancel UC SHIP and receive a refund? 

  • UC SHIP has a national service area via Anthem’s nationwide PPO network. Nonetheless, just as for students who are outside of the U.S., UCSB is extending waiver deadlines to allow for reversals. Any domestic insurance used to waive must still meet UC criteria (with possible exceptions for distance).

  • What does UCSB Student Health advise?

    • UCSB Student Health advises students staying in the U.S. to keep UC SHIP. UC SHIP is comprehensive coverage that provides a better value and more access to providers than what can be purchased through CoveredCA (Platinum level coverage at a Bronze/catastrophic price).  UC SHIP, as a managed PPO, provides the students that would waive with MediCal significantly better access to providers (both in time it takes to get care if you need it and in the number of providers).  Provider access will be of increased importance in the coming months. It is unclear if students can go back to their parents’ employer plans or enroll in a CoveredCA plan at this time since the normal election period has passed and a change would usually require a qualifying life event to enroll.

Recommended References for Information and Updates

Steer clear of misinformation spread by unreliable resources by using only verified and trustworthy resources. Below you can find links to reliable sources of information and updates about COVID-19.

Current International Travel Advisories & Travel Restrictions

The Office of International Students and Scholars is currently discouraging international travel in light of COVID-19, especial travel to and from high-risk countries, and travel via cruise ship. If you must travel, below are reliable travel advisories and restrictions published by various U.S. agencies. 

Resources for Those Impacted by COVID-19

If you are experiencing any impact caused by COVID-19, please contact OISS. We are here to support you.

Additional Campus Resources:

  • Student Health Service (SHS) provides comprehensive and integrated healthcare services that treat illnesses efficiently, promote physical and psychological well-being, and enable students to have a healthy and successful University experience.

Unable to Return Home due to COVID-19?

  • UCSB Food Security Taskforce: Basic Needs Resources Guides

  • Laptop Loan Program and other programs
    UCSB is offering a Chromebook loan program this spring. To check out a Chromebook, visit the FNBS (Food, Nutrition, Basic Skills) office in the UCen. Chromebooks will be loaned out on a first come, first served basis, while supplies last. More 

  • UCSB On-campus Housing

Unable to Return to the U.S. due to COVID-19?

OISS is working with campus departments to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19. We encourage you to contact OISS immediately at or (805) 893-2929 so that we may provide you with advising and support.