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COVID-19 Updates for KU International Community

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Updated May 20, 2020


Due to COVID-19, the University of Kanas has moved all instruction online for the summer semester, significantly reduced on-campus presence for students, staff and faculty, and limited KU housing to only residents who need to maintain a physical presence on the Lawrence campus.

These changes mean that while units within International Affairs are opened for business, they will not be accessible to in-person visitors. Our faculty and staff have worked diligently to move English language learning classes and programs online, transition to virtual advising, bring home study abroad students from around the world, and provide guidance and support to our international students who are faced with the difficult decision to remain in the United States or depart to their country of residence.

These times are unprecedented for the world and for KU, but our commitment remains unwavering. For specific international-related COVID-19 questions, please contact the following units:

  • International Affairs for general inquiries or if you are unsure where to direct your question: 785-864-6161 or intlaffairs@ku.edu
  • Academic Accelerator Program (AAP) for students enrolled in AAP: 785-864-3389 or kuaap@ku.edu
  • Applied English Center for students enrolled in AEC classes: 785-864-4606 or aec@ku.edu
  • International Admissions for international applicants or newly admitted international students: 785-864-2616 or world@ku.edu
  • International Short Programs for visiting international students and professions enrolled in short academic programs: 785-864-6161 or isp@ku.edu
  • International Support Services for international students, visiting scholars or employees: 785-864-3617 or iss@ku.edu
  • Study Abroad & Global Engagement for all students currently abroad, recently returned or planning international travel: 785-864-3742 or studyabroad@ku.edu



Enrolling Students

Will newly admitted international students be able to attend KU this summer?

On April 2, KU announced that all summer courses, including English language courses through the Applied English Center, will be taught online. This means that students living anywhere in the world can take classes at KU as long as they have been admitted and have a reliable internet connection.

The deadline to apply to KU for the summer term has been extended to May 22.

Orientation for the summer term will be held online and more information will be provided in the weeks to come.

>> More information on international admissions

If I live outside the United States, will I need a visa to take online summer classes?

Since classes will be online this summer, international students will not be traveling to the US to attend KU. Therefore, no visa is needed to take classes online this summer. On March 20, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. embassies and consulates, making visas temporarily unavailable for international students. Students who already have been issued I-20s for the summer term will be contacted by International Support Services. Students who may have been previously granted an F-1 visa to begin studies in summer 2020 and remain outside the US currently, should not travel to the US for summer courses. 

If I am an international transfer student, will I need a visa to take online summer classes?

For international students living in the United States who will be transferring to KU this summer, you will not need a new visa since you are already in the country. You should remain in place and participate online, or you can defer to a fall start date.

>> More information on immigration status

What if I live outside the United States and am planning to study in the U.S. this fall?

Deadline Extended: The 2020 Fall application deadline for prospective undergraduate students has been extended to July 10.

For international applicants living in regions affected by COVID-19, KU will work to support you and explore options to help you meet application deadlines and requirements.

Undergraduate Applicants: If English language testing centers are closed in your region due to COVID-19 quarantines or you have difficulty accessing regional test centers in your home country, you may complete the Duolingo English Test and share your scores with KU through the Duolingo system once you receive them.

>> More information and contacts for KU’s representatives in China 

Visiting Campus: Due to COVID-19, the University of Kansas is not scheduling on-campus visits.

Here are a couple of ways you can still connect with KU International Admissions:

>> Schedule a phone or video call

>> Take a virtual tour

>> Follow us on social media


Graduate Applicants: Prospective students should reach out to their specific program of interest. Applicants will work closely with the program to which they have or intend to apply to utilize options such as Duolingo.

>>Graduate Program List and Contacts

Check the testing services websites below for the latest information on exam postponements.

Consider taking KU online courses: KU has a wide variety of courses that can be taken online. For students living in the affected regions (China, Japan, South Korea, and Europe) and who are admitted to KU, taking online courses may be an option. KU will provide updates about this potential option.

How does the suspension of routine visa services affect the enrollment process?

On March 20, the United States suspended routine visa services across all U.S. embassies and consulates world-wide. We hope this will not last long, but it does mean that enrolling international students are unable to get a student visa stamp in their passport. This is needed before coming into the United States to begin a degree program in person. Though visa issuance is paused, KU is continuing normal processing of acceptance letters, scholarship awards, I-20s and DS-2019s so that enrolling international students will have all that they need, when routine visa services return. KU is also working on complete summer and fall online enrollment options so that every new KU student can begin their degree program with KU when they want to begin, regardless of where they are in the world. 

What opportunities are available for newly admitted students who may not be able to come to KU in the fall?

Our staff at International Admissions is connecting with students living abroad through virtual tours, office hours and events. With the decision to move to online summer courses, the summer undergraduate admissions deadline has been extended to May 22. The fall application deadline has been extended to July 10.

KU has been working diligently to prepare online enrollment options for students who want to attend KU, but are unable to leave their home country due to COVID-19. KU has hundreds of high-quality online options that will allow students to begin their academic career anywhere in the world. Depending on a student’s English proficiency, online options include:

  • Full-time English study through the Applied English Center.
  • A bridging program that combines part-time English study through the Applied English Center with selected courses from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • Courses focused on KU Core requirements, allowing students proficient in English to begin their freshman year with a solid foundation.

KU has full advising plans to serve a wide range of majors across the humanities, social sciences and STEM fields. These online courses are designed specifically for delivering classes remotely, are aligned with KU Core requirements and will allow students to earn credits toward their degree.

>> More information on online enrollment options

What will international orientation look like in the fall?

International Support Services is already working to develop an online orientation for summer students and plans to hold orientation for Fall 2020 primarily online. More information will be available in mid-June.


International Students 

What do I need to consider in my decision to stay or depart the United States? 

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the University of Kansas announced March 17 that it would suspended in-person classes for the remainder of the Spring 2020. Courses will continue online during the summer term. With the announcement, the university is not requiring any international student to leave their KU residence, Lawrence, or the United States. International students are in a very unique situation and all of KU fully supports them. 

ISS is providing guidance for students who are making the decision to remain in the United States or depart to their country of residence.

>>ISS Guidance for International Students 

More information for students with financial concerns

What help is available for international students who face financial difficulties due to COVID-19?

We understand that the spread of COVID-19 has affected international students severely. The unanticipated need to remain in the United States, loss of campus employment, lack of job opportunities and decline of family income due to COVID-19 have all created significant financial difficulties. International Support Services is a key ally in assisting students who have financial concerns and can direct students to institutional support sources. Please connect with them for assistance in accessing resources.

>> Connect with ISS

Since international students don’t qualify for federal CARES Emergency Act funding, what funding sources are available to support international students?

Under federal guidelines, international, undocumented and DACA students are ineligible to receive support through the CARES Act. However, the university recognizes the need to support these students and has set up limited funding through KU’s Emergency Aid Network, which will be used to help address COVID-19 related needs of students who are ineligible for CARES Act support.

>> Emergency funds

How will my spring semester GPA affect my scholarship?

Students who are concerned about how their spring semester GPA will affect their scholarship status should speak to their scholarship advisor. While GPA requirements remain in place for scholarships, KU International Affairs wants to foster a supportive and flexible environment and believes a holistic approach is needed in these difficult times. Students who choose credit/no-credit for the spring semester courses will not have their spring courses count for or against their GPA.

What work opportunities are available to international students on F-1 Visas?

Students studying at KU on F-1 Visas are still restricted to working no more than 20 hours per week on campus while school is in session. Connect with ISS about work opportunities available while school is not in session over the summer break.

>> More information on F-1 Employment

What work opportunities are available for international students who are about to graduate.

With declining jobs due to COVID-19, employment in the United States will be a challenge for all graduates, including international students. However Optional Practical Training (OPT) is possible, even for remote work. Graduates still have 90 days to find a position for OPT. No COVID-19 related regulatory changes have been made to U.S.-based employment that would affect graduating students or employees. These changes cannot be made by an Executive Order and would require an official notice and public comment period. Such changes would most likely face legal challenges and take a long time to implement.

>> More information on OPT

Will international student fees be reduced?

KU announced that tuition and campus fees for the 2020-21 academic year would not increase.

>> More info

Will health care coverage be extended to international students?

All students are covered by the same health insurance plan negotiated by the university with United Health Care.

>> Health Care for International Students

How will KU assist graduate teaching assistants and other graduate students with positions who may not receive funding because of low undergraduate student enrollments?

This is a challenge that will need to be continually examined as our fall enrollment picture becomes clearer. This is not only an international GTA issue, but a university-wide concern of significant importance.

More information on returning to campus in the fall

Will in-person classes be held this fall?

On May 1, KU released details on a five-phase plan that calls for a gradual expansion of in-person activities on campus. Each step of the plan takes into account a deep respect for the health and safety of KU’s community. Potential scenarios could be a fully opened campus; a campus that remains closed, but offers online classes; or a hybrid with some in-person classes and the rest online. At this time, KU plans to resume on-campus operations in some capacity this fall.

>> More information on plans to reopen KU

Will international students who plan to remain in the United States be able to return to campus in the fall? 

International students who are currently enrolled at KU and have remained in the United States should have no challenges returning to the Lawrence campus in the fall if classes resume in person. International students need a visa to enter the United States, not to stay here. While the decision to remain in the U.S. is a difficult one, it provides significant security from an educational access perspective.

Will international students who returned to their home country during the spring semester be able to return in the fall?

At this point in time, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have suspended the routine issuances of visas. We do not know when visa services will resume. Students and scholars have been able to make summer appointments; however, we are unsure if those appointments will be kept. We anticipate backlogs and delays. Because of these concerns, we believe that not everyone who wants to be in Lawrence for the fall semester will be able to get here in time.

Will students be able to return to the United States if they live in or have visited China, Iran or Europe?

The United States has imposed a travel ban for foreigners from China, Iran, United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). The federally imposed entry restrictions apply to all non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents, even those with valid U.S. visas. The restrictions also apply to new students, current students, faculty and staff who may have traveled to these locations. These restrictions could be lifted at any time, so travel is precarious.

What arrangements will be made for international GTAs who may not be able to arrive on campus in the fall?

Each case will need to be considered carefully and the individual circumstances will need to be taken into account. Situations will depend greatly on country of origin, the availability of U.S. visa appointments in that locale, the graduate student’s field of study, in addition to other concerns. ISS can be a guide and offer support as departments identify suitable approaches to meet each student’s needs and personal context.

>> ISS Information

More information on online learning 

If classes remain online, can students currently enrolled at KU continue to stay in the United States?

For international students who have begun their academic programs in person, immigration regulations have been relaxed to allow for students to remain in the United States even if they are enrolled in online courses.

How can we ensure students living in different time zones are engaged and successful in online classes?

Differing time zones are an important consideration when offering online courses. KU courses will offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous approaches, which will help mitigate that impact for students who cannot be physically present in the U.S.


Study Abroad

What about domestic students studying abroad in Spring 2020?

On March 19, the U.S. Department of State elevated the travel advisory for global community to Level 4: Do Not Travel, its highest risk level. In light of this warning, KU immediately suspended all Spring 2020 study abroad programs in all locations. The suspension follows previous suspensions of programs in Europe on March 12, the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 14 and programs in Italy, South Korea and China earlier in the spring semester. 

KU Study Abroad and Global Engagement (SAGE) safely returned 198 students who had been studying abroad during the spring semester. Upon their return, each of these students received tailored programmatic and academic advising to ensure they had enrollment options and maintained eligibility for financial aid.

What about study abroad programs for Summer and Fall 2020?

The U.S. federal government has urged all citizens currently abroad to return to the U.S. immediately and the CDC and U.S. State Department have advised against all non-essential international travel. KU has made the difficult decision to cancel or postpone all KU-administered summer 2020 study abroad programs scheduled to depart the U.S. prior to June 30, 2020. 

At this time, Study Abroad has not cancelled any Fall 2020 programs. A decision on continued operation of Fall semester study abroad programs will be made in mid-May. While the Study Abroad office is physically closed, it is still here to support students and to help them as they explore study abroad program opportunities, financial aid and scholarships, and other aspects of international travel. Interested students should connect with Study Abroad to schedule phone, Skype, or Zoom appointments with Study Abroad staff or peer advisors. In mid to late May, SAGE will make the decision on whether or not July and August programs are possible. While SAGE hopes that fall programs will continue as planned, advisors are working with students to ensure they have alternative plans in case their study abroad programs are canceled.

Several outside factors will influence SAGE’s decision to resume study abroad programs, including:

  • The U.S. State Departments and Centers for Disease Control’s global threat assessment for travel. Currently, it is at the highest level, which strongly discourages any travel whatsoever.
  • Airline volatility makes travel unpredictable and emergency evacuations difficult to execute.
  • Partner universities and organizations abroad have also canceled programs or may still be deciding when they will return to in-person activities.
  • KU has restricted all university-sponsored international travel for students, faculty and staff. Study Abroad programs will not run while this travel restriction is in place.

If travel is not possible, SAGE is working on virtual internships and programs as viable alternatives.

 >> More information on summer and fall study abroad programs 


Parents of International Students

Where can I go to find information on COVID-19 in Lawrence?

Each day, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) provides updates on the number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas and each of its counties. Lawrence is in Douglas County. The KDHE, which is the state organization tasked with responding to COVID-19, also holds regular press conferences and issues state-wide health notices.

>> Kansas Department of Health and Environment

For local updates, visit Douglas County Coronavirus Response Hub. Using information from health agencies and local governments, this site provides information on the daily number of cases in Douglas County.  It also gives information about the Stay at Home Order, which went into effect on March 24. The site answers frequently asked questions. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, which is the local agency organizing response efforts in Douglas County, is also a good source of information.

>> Douglas County Coronavirus Response Hub

>> Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health 

For a broader view of what is happening in our community and state, you can read our community’s local newspapers. The Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas City Star provide daily coverage of COVID-19. All COVID-19-related stories are free to read.

>> Lawrence Journal-World

>> Kansas City Star

What should my student do if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified a fever, cough and shortness of breath as symptoms associated with COVID-19. Visit their website to learn more about these symptoms. The site also has a helpful guide to determine if seeking medical care is appropriate.

>> CDC information on COVID-19 Symptoms and Self-Checker

If your student develops a fever and symptoms of a respiratory illness, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, have them call their healthcare provider immediately. Their health care provider will provide guidance on testing. For students who use Watkins Health Services as their health care provider, they should call 785-864-9500. If your student needs to call outside of regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), they can call the Nurse Helpline at 785-864-9583, which is available 24 hours a day.

>> Watkins Health Services COVID-19 Information

Where can my student get tested for COVID-19?

The Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH Health) is conducting COVID-19 tests. But first a patient must call their primary health care provider. If a health care provider determines a test is necessary, the patient’s physician will place an order with LMH Health, then direct the patient to the hospital’s testing site, the Respiratory Evaluation Center.

>> LMH Health Information

What should my student consider when making the decision to stay in Lawrence or depart for their country of residence?

International Support Services’ (ISS) website answers many of the questions students may have when making the decision to stay or leave. KU knows the decision to stay or leave is a difficult one. The university does not require any international student to leave their KU residence, Lawrence or the United States. KU understands that international students are in a unique situation and fully supports them.

The ISS website has more information on housing considerations, immigration status and maintaining online enrollment.

For guidance, students are encouraged to connect with ISS by phone at 785-864-3617 or email at iss@ku.edu.

>> ISS website 



If I live outside the United States, will I be able to get a visa to come to KU?

On March 20, the U.S. Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide urgent and emergency services. KU has online enrollment options for students who wish to begin their KU degree programs in Summer 2020 or Fall 2020. The delay of visa issuance does not mean enrolling students will need to delay the start to their KU degree program. Services to U.S. citizens and permanent residents is not affected.

>> More information from the U.S. State Department

What travel restrictions are in place for KU?

Outbound international travel continues to be restricted. However, in accordance with State of Kansas guidelines, the university community will resume limited domestic travel for job essential activities by following appropriate personal and community safety precautions.

Most travel at this time is considered nonessential, including travel for conferences, professional development or speaking engagements, and other activities not under a person's core job function. Essential travel includes travel absolutely necessary to fulfill one's core or primary job function and/or to provide crucial support to the university, such as essential research or lab work. Any essential travel must be approved in advance.

Lawrence and Edwards Campus staff, faculty and scholars who need to travel for essential work-related purposes may take part in selected inbound and outbound travel, provided individuals follow certain guidelines.


University sponsored domestic travel may resume if it is:


Domestic travelers coming to KU from a high-risk area are required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival and before taking part in university activities or using university spaces.

International travelers arriving from areas identified as Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Level 4 by the U.S. Department of State are required to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival and before taking part in university activities or using university spaces.

Non-essential travel to KU by visitors should be strongly discouraged until travel restrictions are eased further.

Personal Travel

Individuals are encouraged to minimize nonessential travel in keeping with State of Kansas guidelines. Essential travel includes that which is necessary for urgent and necessary family, medical, and personal business-related needs. Individuals will be expected to follow KDHE travel and quarantine guidelines for travel to high-risk areas. KU strongly encourages faculty, students and staff to reconsider any upcoming personal international travel that may be planned. The reality is, there are two circumstances you need to consider while traveling: 1) you might become ill, and 2) as countries evaluate travel into and out of their regions, limitations and bans are being enacted, often with little or no warning.

If you do plan to travel internationally for personal reasons, KU asks you registered with KU ahead of time. This will enable KU to help and provide tailored support if circumstances around COVID-19 change.

Travel Registration Resources

As a matter of public health and safety, it is important that all travel by members of the university community is registered in advance

For questions related to international travel, contact KUIA in Lawrence, the Office of International Programs at KU Medical Center, or the Office of Global Operations and Security.

>> More information

What support is available for those who are abroad and unable to return to the United States

The U.S. State Department has created a new process for assisting Americans who are abroad and unable to return home because of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit (CGRCU) has designated a Repatriation Task Force to support U.S. citizens abroad and evacuation operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force is charged with the following: coordinating and providing support for private American citizens stranded overseas; managing requests from posts facing severe travel restrictions requesting transportation assistance to implement Authorized or Ordered Departure; and supporting any evacuation operations of official or private American citizens involving charter or non-commercial means.

Americans who are abroad and affected by travel restrictions due to COVID-19, are encouraged to register online so the U.S. government can account for them.



How does President Trump’s recent executive order placing additional limits on immigration to the U.S. affect KU’s international community?

The executive order suspends for 60 days, or until June 22, green card applications for individuals coming to the United States from abroad. The order does not affect:

  • KU’s ability to support, prepare and file sponsored permanent residency cases (Labor Certifications and I-140s) for employees who have institutional commitments.
  • Individuals already in the United States adjusting their immigration status to permanent resident (I-485).
  • KU’s ability to continue to prepare and file nonimmigrant applications on behalf of employees, such as H-1B petitions (I-129) for foreign workers.

In other words, the executive order does not affect students or our international scholar and employee population. KU will continue to support faculty members and their employment-based permanent residency petitions. The order doesn’t apply to anyone already in the U.S., nor does it have any impact on international employment eligibility for our KU faculty, staff or students.

Will visiting scholars be able to remain in the United States?

For visiting scholar programs that ended before May 31, the U.S. State Department automatically extended the program terms by 60 days.

>> More COVID-19 Immigration Information


Passport Office

Is the University of Kansas Passport Office opened?

The KU Passport Office will not be accepting appointment requests until at least Friday, March 27 due to the spread of COVID-19. The website will be updated when more Information is available. 

>> Passport Services


Support for the International Community

How is KUIA supporting the international community during this time?

Unfortunately, a rise in anti-Asian harassment and discrimination has been documented globally, nationally and locally. KUIA is actively and vocally showing our support for our diverse community and lack of tolerance for racism, bigotry, violence and oppression. KU is not a bubble and our entire community must actively vocalize our support for every member of our wonderful community – at KU, Lawrence, Kansas, the nation and the world. We continue to be 100 percent committed to building and maintaining a diverse community. The value of that diversity and our common humanity and interdependence has only been reinforced by this pandemic. We are in this together and the solutions will include us all.

We have several initiatives in place already, including community discussions with groups that have been the target of harassment and discrimination. The KU Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) is vigorously addressing emergency issues. KUIA and Office of Diversity & Equity affirm our support of every member of our community and our opposition of those who espouse hate or seek to blame individuals or groups for this pandemic. A virus does not discriminate based on race, nationality or politics. Our society must stand together.

How can the international community feel protected?

Our international Jayhawks should be as involved as possible in the larger university community. The international community is one and the same as the larger Jayhawk community. We are one. All services and supports serve all community members, period. The entire weight of the University of Kansas is behind our Jayhawks and that by definition includes those Jayhawks who just happen to be international.

If needed, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access remains open and ready to assist students, faculty, and staff with any concerns about harassment and discrimination. Complaints can be filed by emailing ioa@ku.edu, by calling 785-864-6414, or by filling out an online complaint form. Also, KU units have created a resource guide with additional resources and support for the Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

What plans are in place to recognize graduating international students?

KU International Affairs created a virtual ceremony to recognize international graduates. The virtual ceremony includes video remarks by KU dignitaries, announcement of student award winners and recognition of international student graduates. 

>> 2020 International Student Graduation Celebration



The emergence of COVID-19 has meant the introduction of new terminology for all of us, but particularly for members of our international community. We've created a helpful guide that explains some of this new wording, such as the difference between social distancing and self-quarantine and what is allowed and not under a Stay at Home Order. 

>> COVID-19 Definitions 


Frequently Asked Questions

Many thanks to the more than 600 people who joined us on May 1 for a Conversation Break with Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs Charles Bankart. Prior to the event, we received more than 100 questions. While we were able to cover a wide range of topics during our conversation, we weren’t able to address all of the questions and concerns submitted.

We’ve spent the past few days compiling answers to the most frequently asked questions. If you don’t find the answer to your question, please feel free to send it to intlaffairs@ku.edu.

>> FAQs

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