Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
International On Campus

COVID-19: FAQs

NEW information

July 2, 2021

 

Based on the June 30, 2021, announcement by President Kirk that WSU will return to in-person full capacity this fall, the ISSS interpretation of SEVP guidance is that it applies to schools that are continuing to stay all or mostly online. Since WSU is returning to its pre-pandemic settings, to maintain valid F and J statuses international students will need to be enrolled in face-to-face courses, and only one online course will be allowed to count toward full-time enrollment.

If you want to stay in a virtual learning environment, please contact us so we can advise you of options

WSU programs will have a robust in-person experience, which means you should plan to physically come to WSU. If you have questions, please e-mail ip.intlservices@wsu.edu. We would be glad to explain rules about in-person instruction and maintenance of a visa status. If you do not wish to come to WSU in person, please get in touch with us about WSU’s Global Campus. While some virtual options do exist, most WSU programs are in person for fall 2021 and students do need to be here and enrolled in in-person courses to maintain their visa status.

Vaccine Requirements for Students and Employees for Fall 2021

Since announcing our intentions for the fall semester and the COVID vaccine requirement, Cougar Health Services, International Programs, and others have received multiple inquiries about which vaccines will qualify for incoming students and employees who were vaccinated outside the US. After consultation with Dr. Palmer and reviewing the currently available information, we are updating our Vaccine Requirement policy to state that WSU will accept any vaccine currently approved by the WHO under their EUL/PQ process. There are currently 6 such vaccines that qualify, including the 3 vaccines widely available in the U.S. Students and employees who are unable to be fully vaccinated prior to returning to WSU will be provided assistance in locating resources.

Washington State University (WSU), as the state’s land-grant university, has an obligation to serve the public good and promote the health and safety of the communities it serves. The COVID‑19 vaccine, now widely available, has been shown to nearly eliminate the chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID‑19 infection, and is a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide.

Vaccine requirements for students

WSU system-wide will require proof of the COVID‑19 vaccination for the 2021–2022 academic year for all students engaging in activities at a WSU campus or location.

Exemptions will be allowed for medical, religious, or personal reasons. Information about how to submit proof of vaccination and the process to request an exemption will be provided in the coming months.

Students whose programs are fully online and/or for which an on‑campus/location presence does not occur are automatically exempted from this requirement.

To participate in any on‑site or in‑person courses and activities, students at all WSU locations will be expected to be vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. Some programs may designate an earlier date for proof of vaccination or an exemption based on when fall semester in‑person activities begin. All WSU Pullman students living in University-owned housing will need to provide proof of vaccination, or have an approved exemption, by Friday, August 6, 2021. For students who have been granted exemptions, the University retains discretion to modify housing assignments as it deems necessary to protect public health and safety.

Beginning Monday, November 1, 2021, students not living in University housing or with program-specific requirements will be required to have documented proof of vaccine or an approved exemption. Students who fail to meet this requirement will be prevented from registering for spring semester courses and/or face other restrictions. Students with approved exemptions may be required to participate in regular COVID‑19 testing and/or other COVID‑19 public health measures.

The University reserves the right to modify this policy at any time in accordance with changing public health guidance or directives, best practices, and/or university needs.Additional information about the requirement process will be made available this summer.

For student-related questions and all other inquiries, please email covid‑19.info@wsu.edu.

Employment

Optional Practical Training and COVID-19

If you plan on applying for OPT upon the completion of your program (graduation), please note:

  • You must have 2 semesters (fall and spring) of full-time enrollment prior to application, or have been approved for a Reduced Course Load (RCL) by our office
  • You must apply from within the U.S.

More information about OPT and employment can be found here.

Q – If I am on OPT and my position ends due to COVID-19, what are my options?

A – The options will be specific to your situation and the position at your place of employment. In some cases, you may be able to reduce your hours; to remain valid under OPT we recommend you work at least 21 hours a week. Or you may be able to meet OPT requirements by volunteering, but you MUST meet volunteer requirements. If you think volunteering is an option for you or if you have additional questions, please schedule a consultation with a International Student and Scholar Services advisor as soon as possible to evaluate your case.

Unemployment Eligibility

Q – If I am working on OPT and am laid off due to COVID-19, do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

A – Whether you qualify for unemployment will depend on the unemployment criteria for the state you are working in. Please consult with your employer’s human resources professionals regarding resources for unemployment information in your state. For more information regarding COVID-19-specific unemployment assistance, please see this Unemployment Help page provided by the U.S. government.

Housing and Dining

Housing Recommendations

To apply for WSU housing, click here.

Q – What if I am not fully vaccinated by the Aug. 6 deadline?

A – We know that some students, including international students and scholars, may not have access to a World Health Organization approved vaccine before they come to campus. If you have not had an opportunity to be vaccinated, you will still be considered compliant with the WSU vaccine policy for students living in on-campus housing if:

  • You have received the first dose of a two-dose regimen prior to the Aug. 6 deadline, and receive the second dose at the proper time (3-4 weeks after the first dose) once you arrive in Pullman.
  • You begin the vaccine series upon arriving in Pullman and moving into University housing. For students in this situation, you will need to get the vaccine within 3 business days of moving into housing.

Food assistance

WSU continues to work to make vital resources available to all our students. Currently, in addition to the grocery assistance offered students by GPSA on the Pullman campus, the following food banks and resources at our other campuses should be of help:

Pullman
Community Action Center, Community Food Bank: https://www.cacwhitman.org/foodbank/
Cougs Feeding Cougs: https://studentaffairs.wsu.edu/initiatives/cougs-feeding-cougs/

Everett
https://www.foodpantries.org/ci/wa-everett
https://everett.wsu.edu/cougar-food-pantry/

Spokane
http://www.servespokane.org/
https://2-harvest.org

Tri Cities
https://2-harvest.org/
http://bfcac.org/home-base/orgs/Golden+Age+Food+Share+Program

Vancouver
https://www.clarkcountyfoodbank.org/
https://fishvancouver.org/
https://studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/cougar-food-pantry

For emergency funding requests, including Food assistance, use this form:

https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?WashingtonStateUniv&layout_id=35

Travel and Immigration

International Travel Advisory – Summer 2021

We understand the desire of International Students to reunite with their families during this time, but if your F-1 of J-1 visa stamp is expired and you intend to return to the U.S. to resume your academic program this fall (through distance learning or in-person), we strongly recommend that you reconsider this plan and remain in the U.S. during the summer.

Students in the situation above will need a valid visa to re-enter the United States, and for that, they must apply for a visa renewal at a U.S. consulate abroad. There are increased delays and restrictions on visa issuance due to the pandemic, even for visa renewals, so we urge that if you are in this situation (holding an expired visa, but planning to travel internationally) please speak with an international student advisor or your local DSO BEFORE traveling internationally.

Q – My current H-1B status is expiring soon, and my department had already agreed to extend it. How will this affect my case?

A – H-1B extension petitions will be filed prior to the expiration of current H-1B status. With that, foreign nationals will be able to remain in the U.S. and work up to 240 days after the expiration of their current H-1B. International Student and Scholar Services will contact faculty and departments to provide a copy of the USCIS Receipt Notice, which is needed for the proper I-9 employment update. Travel* outside the U.S. while the extension petition is pending will trigger it to be considered abandoned. Please notify International Student and Scholar Services immediately if you must make an emergency trip abroad.

* The United States Department of State assigns levels of travel warnings to countries based on COVID-19 activity. A level 4 warning means “Do Not Travel.”  Stay up to date with warning levels here.

Q – Is International Student and Scholar Services tracking cases, and will they notify departments and faculty impacted?

A – The International Student and Scholar Services department has been closely monitoring H-1B cases they are currently working on and has contacted each foreign national and hiring department affected by this suspension. Although our office is physically closed, we are teleworking and doing Zoom meetings, so we are happy to answer any questions or concerns. Please contact ip.scholars@wsu.edu  or maria.desouza@wsu.edu.

Q – I am currently in the U.S. with a different immigration status, but WSU has agreed to sponsor an H-1B application on my behalf. How will this affect my case?

A – H-1B Initial petitions will be filed prior to the expiration of current immigration status in the U.S. (e.g., J-1, F-1 OPT, etc.). With that, foreign nationals will be able to remain in the U.S. until the H-1B case is adjudicated, however, they cannot work until the H-1B is finally approved. International Student and Scholar Services will contact faculty and departments to provide a copy of the USCIS Receipt Notice so they can track the status of their case online. Please refer to the Check Case Processing Times page for information about USCIS current processing time of application. Travel* outside the U.S. while the petition is pending will trigger it to be considered abandoned. Please notify International Student and Scholar Services immediately if you must make an emergency trip abroad.

It is uncertain when premium processing will be resumed at this time, but we can upgrade pending applications to premium processing as soon as it becomes available again. International Student and Scholar Services can hold on to the premium processing check at a department’s request to use in case the premium option becomes available again.

Q – I am currently outside the U.S., but have been offered a position to start at WSU in summer/fall 2021. Additionally, my WSU hiring department has agreed to sponsor an H-1B visa on my behalf. How will this affect my case?

A – H-1B Initial petitions will be filed prior to the proposed start date of the appointment. However, foreign nationals need the WSU H-1B petition to be approved before they are able to apply for an H-1B visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad, which is required prior to traveling to the U.S. Therefore, the start of appointments may be delayed depending on USCIS processing times of applications. Please refer to the Check Case Processing Times page for information about USCIS current processing time of applications. International Student and Scholar Services will contact faculty and departments to provide a copy of the USCIS Receipt Notice so they can track the status of their case online.

It is uncertain when premium processing will be resumed at this time, but we can upgrade pending applications to premium processing as soon as it becomes available again. International Student and Scholar Services can hold on to the premium processing check at a department’s request to use in case the premium option becomes available again.

Q – I am a department liaison with International Student and Scholar Services on an H-1B application. Should I hold off submitting a case, or will cases be processed as usual?

A – International Student and Scholar Services, as the majority of other offices on campus, is teleworking. Requests can continue to be submitted in the myPassport system and will be processed until further notice. Departments are encouraged to contact International Student and Scholar Services at ip.scholars@wsu.edu or maria.desouza@wsu.edu for advice about a specific individual situation and impacts of timely onboarding. This advice is also true for sponsorship of other types of employment-based visas.

Campus Resources

  • The University is re-opening in fall 2021 for in-person classes.
  • The International Student and Scholar Services office remains open and we are here to support you. Advising is available only by phone, email, and Zoom. Our open advising hours still take place from 1-3 p.m., Monday through Friday, but you will need to call (509) 335-4508 to speak with an advisor.
  • International Student and Scholar Services may set up individual advising sessions via Zoom, but advisors will schedule those meetings on an individual basis.
  • Other student support offices remain available for students to contact for questions and support.

Immigration

  • Students can elect to take summer as a vacation term and stay in the U.S. if they had previously attended spring 2021 and are continuing in fall 2021. WSU advises against international travel during summer 2021.
  • Students eligible for vacation term can take online classes. Online Campus courses available for summer 2021 can be found here: https://learn365.wsu.edu/summer-session/summer-courses/

Q – I am in F-1 status and my plan was to return to my home country. I would prefer to stay in the U.S. for now. What are my options?

A – Every student’s situation is different. Speak with an international student advisor who can review your information and offer advice. International Student and Scholar Services has open advising hours Monday to Friday 1-3 p.m. by calling 509-335-4508 or emailing ip.intlservices@wsu.edu

Q – I am in my home country but was planning to return to WSU for summer/fall classes. If I am unable to return to the U.S. due to coronavirus restrictions, what should I do?

A – Each student’s situation is different. An international student advisor can speak to you directly about your options.

  • Options may include:
    • Continue to monitor the situation until we are closer to your expected start date.
    • Leave of Absence from WSU
    • Medical Reduced Course Load (if applicable)
    • Study Abroad credits/Independent Study/online courses
  •  International Student and Scholar Services has open advising hours Monday to Friday 1-3 p.m. You can call them at +1 509-335-4508 or email at ip.intlservices@wsu.edu

Visiting Families

If your family plans to visit, please be sure they are prepared to get a negative COVID-19 test two days prior to boarding their flight to the U.S.

WSU has no discretion over who is admitted into the U.S. At this time, due to the evolving nature of COVID-19 we cannot advise on travel plans to visit.

Health and Safety

International students who are enrolled in WSU’s health insurance plan through United Healthcare will not be required to pay any fees related to the testing of COVID-19, if testing is completed under CDC guidelines. However, you may be charged customary deductible and co-pay fees if you need treatment for COVID-19.

To find information on WSU’s United Healthcare plan for international students and explanation of deductible and co-pay fees:

  • https://www.uhcsr.com/
  • Enter Washington State University for the school’s name
  • Scroll down and find Medical – International Plan on the right; click “Explore Policy”

Up-to date-announcements from United Healthcare regarding COVID-19 can be found at https://www.uhcsr.com/news-main

Local area hospitals and remote location

Q – My family is telling me it is not safe to stay in Washington state. What should I do?
A – People at the Pullman campus have access to 5 hospitals within a 45-minute drive of Pullman: in Washington, Pullman Regional Hospital in Pullman; Whitman Hospital and Medical Center in Colfax; and Tri-State Memorial Hospital in Clarkston; and in Idaho, Gritman Medical Center in Moscow; and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. We also have health resources at Cougar Health Services located on the Pullman campus. Additionally, 3 large regional hospitals serve Spokane.

Q – Will medical insurance cover testing and treatment?
A – International students at WSU have the International Student Health Insurance Plan (iSHIP) and are encouraged to contact Cougar Health Services for information before undertaking any testing. You can find more information on iSHIP at this link:

https://cougarhealth.wsu.edu/studentinsurance/international-students/.

  • If you are an international student and have a spouse or child, you have the option to sign them up for insurance using Dependent coverage. Enrollment for Dependents is open the first 2 weeks of spring and fall semesters; however, if you are newly married or your dependent has entered the U.S. in the last 30 days, you may have options for additional coverage for them. More information can be found here:

https://cougarhealth.wsu.edu/studentinsurance/international-students/#dependentEnrollment

Masks

Q – Where can I find masks? Should I be wearing a mask?

A – According to the World Health Organization, masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. The CDC now says everyone over 2 years of age who is able to remove it should wear a cloth face cover when out in public. You must also know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Safety and Security

We are aware of multiple bias behaviors exhibited toward members of our international community, as well as our Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Should you experience or witness discrimination or harassment based on race, color, or national or ethnic origin, you can report concerns to the Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation (CRCI). Some examples of conduct that can be reported to CRCI include, but are not limited to:

  • Someone repeatedly tells you to leave a class, labs, or campus because of your race and/or ethnicity or connection to a specific country.
  • Someone excludes you from group activities because of your race and/or ethnicity or country of origin.
  • Someone approaches you on campus or in our community and makes a negative and/or discriminatory statement(s) about you, your race, or your country of origin.

Even if you think an experience is “not enough” to contact the Office of Civil Rights Compliance and Investigation, we encourage you to do so. Sharing information will help you connect to university resources and will help WSU monitor our shared campus experiences. This will help us determine if additional education, actions, or safety measures are appropriate.
Please also know, if you are ever in danger, immediately call 9‑1‑1 for emergency assistance.

Academics

WSU will have a robust in-person experience for fall 2021. If you have questions or are concerned about physically getting to WSU, contact us so we can help you with other learning options.

Current students contact ip.intlservices@wsu.edu.

New students contact international@wsu.edu.

TA/RA Assistantships

Teaching/Research Assistantships for International Graduate Students Abroad:
Information and WSU Contacts

 

Due to COVID-19, most international graduate students who returned home in the spring and summer or traveled outside the U.S. have not been able to re-enter the country for fall semester and new students are challenged to get to the U.S. Many international graduate students with a teaching or research assistantship (TA/RA) appointment want to continue their appointments for fall 2020 and beyond by working remotely from their home country or country of residence. New students may wish to start their TA/RA. This creates a series of issues relating to employment and taxation law and WSU’s respective obligations in these areas.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions on this topic as well as contact information should you need additional information:

Q. What are the immigration consequences of working as a TA/RA from outside the U.S.?

A. For international graduate students in F or J visa status, employment restrictions apply only when they are physically inside the U.S. If an individual is outside the U.S., there is no need to consider their immigration status unless/until they return to the U.S.

However, their immigration documents may have been created with an assistantship in mind. If an assistantship is removed or modified, the student must get their immigration documents updated and have an updated finance letter when applying for a new visa at the local U.S. embassy or consulate. If you have questions about documentation for students’ visa application interviews, please contact the Office of International Programs (IP)-International Student and Scholar Services at intlservices@wsu.edu.

Q. What are the financial and academic considerations of this situation?

A. For many new and returning international graduate students, the TA/RA is the only way they can afford to study in the U.S. Support from the assistantship is their means of obtaining a visa and starting or continuing their studies.

For students unable to enter the U.S., the loss or delay of an assistantship could prevent them from staying enrolled for that semester. At that point, a student has three options:

      1. Work with the department on facilitating a leave of absence for that semester;
      2. Enroll below their original full-time status and pay out of pocket if the department is unable to make other arrangements; and
      3. Withdraw.

If not opting to withdraw, the student will need to have their initial immigration status start delayed a semester or have their immigration status ended and ask for new, updated immigration documents for a future semester when they can return.

We recognize that funding for an assistantship could come from a variety of sources and there may not be a way to push, defer, or extend an assistantship. In this case, students who cannot arrive at WSU on time due to pandemic-related delays will lose the assistantship. If issues related to COVID-19 continue, we could see long-term consequences for student recruitment or retention. So, as preparation for future semesters commences, departments need to consider what flexibility they have regarding assistantships and funding.

We at IP-International Student and Scholar Services are happy to discuss delays in visa issuance and help give departments more information to make better-informed decisions. Please contact ip.intlservices@wsu.edu.

Q. What does this mean for tax compliance?

A. WSU is responsible for withholding and remitting employee and employer tax within the host country when employees work outside of the U.S. Specific to international graduate students on assistantships, to maintain tax compliance Payroll Services needs to run a tax analysis to determine the university’s tax exposure including statutory obligations. If a department is interested in continuing employment or starting employment for an international graduate student overseas, WSU will hire a third party to review each student’s case and WSU’s liability. This evaluation can cost several thousand dollars per case, paid by the department. In addition, there might be ongoing costs associated with the remittance of taxes, also paid for by the department.

Tax implications for tuition waivers must also be considered. In some countries these tuition waivers are taxable, meaning a student may also have their own tax obligation for the amount of the tuition waiver. Their tax liability can be in the 30%-40% range.

Payroll has the expertise to advise on this. Prior to offering employment to individuals outside of the country, contact Payroll Services at 509-335-9575 or payroll@wsu.edu.

Q. What does this mean in terms of employee registration or verification?

A. Generally, all employees including international graduate students on assistantships are required to present original documents that establish identity and employment authorization within 3 business days of hire. For continuing students who were already employed, their I-9 should have already been completed and would be valid. For those employees who are hired and working remotely out of county, the completed I-9 is not required until they arrive in the United States. If a department is paying an international graduate student on assistantship via their pre-departure method and that student is overseas, it could be in violation of the tax code and places WSU out of compliance. If an individual employee or a department is aware that a student is overseas, but fails to inform WSU of this change, WSU is considered as a whole to be out of compliance. For guidance, contact WSU HRS at 509-335-4521or hrs@wsu.edu.

Q. What impact does employment law have on this situation?

A. Employment law varies by country and hiring an international graduate student to work outside of the U.S. may require use of an Employer of Record within the country. If so, this involves ongoing additional cost to the hiring department. If you are considering employment outside of the U.S., please contact your HRS service team to discuss specific details. Also, contact Payroll Services to initiate a tax analysis at payroll@wsu.edu.

Q. What do I need to do if an international graduate student with an assistantship defers for a term or two?

A. An international graduate student must enroll and complete the first semester of study to which they were admitted to be considered a graduate student in active status. If the first semester of study is not completed for any reason (e.g., unable to enroll or attend because of visa issues, inability to use assistantship support), the student can defer (or update) their CollegeNet application up to 2 times to be reconsidered for admission by the department as well as any financial support that the department may be able to offer. However, admission is not guaranteed. Since there is a strict limit to the number of times that a student’s application can be updated, it is important that the student and department consider carefully whether the student will be able to attend WSU in the semester for which the application has been updated.

To request an update of their application, graduate students should contact their academic department no later than 30 calendar days into the semester for which they applied. The department can relay this information to the Graduate School. For additional guidance, please contact the Graduate School at gradschool@wsu.edu.

General

WSU is committed to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and surrounding communities.

COVID -19 updates for the city of Pullman can be found here:

City of Pullman COVID-19 Info