Menu Side Navigation Close

This page includes information for new and continuing international students about COVID-19 related travel and FAQs at Lehigh.

Travel Advisory

OISS continues to advise that international students and scholars undertake non-essential international travel with caution as travel continues to present challenges and there are still some delays and difficultues with with visa processing at U.S. consulates overseas. Any international travel comes with a risk of you being unable to return to the U.S. due primarily to the backlog of visa applications, and increased scruitiny on visa applications around the world.  

 While no current COVID-19 related restrictions are in place, COVID-19 related travel restrictions and protocols are established by the CDC as well as Lehigh's COVID-19 policy, and are subject to change at any time. It is recommended that you review the guidance prior to arranging any travel.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact us at

Current Travel Restrictions

As of May 11, 2023, most travel restrictions have been removed, including the requirement for proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry to the United States. Local travel requirements and restrictions may remain, so students and scholars who plan to travel internationally should research this for any international destinations well in advance of travel.  OISS recommends that you contact your airline prior to travel to confirm exactly what documentation may be required for entry to your destination.

For travelers requiring a new United States visa to return to the US, some U.S. Embassies and Consulates are still facing appointment backlogs.  Please review updated visa wait times to determine if this will impact you.  Any international travel will come with the risk of delay or denial of entry to the U.S.  If you have questions about your summer travel plans, please contact OISS at

The Department of State has published a final rule that increases visa fees, effective May 30, 2023.  The visa application fee for F and J visas (including dependents) will increase from $160 to $185.  The visa application fee for H visas will increase from $190 to $205.  This application fee does not include any country-specific reciproctiy fees that may be applied.  


For New International Students

Section 1

How do I apply for my visa?

You can learn about getting a student visa here. Please note that many U.S. Embassies and Consulates continue to offer limited appointments and/or may have COVID-related backlogs.  You should schedule the earliest possible visa appointment at the US Embassy/Consulate that serves you.  If you are unable to schedule an appointment prior to the start of the semester, you should follow the process to request an emergency appointment.  This is typically done through the same system you used to schedule your initial appointment and can only be requested once an initial appointment is secured. Approval of emergency appointments is solely at the discretion of the US Embassy/Consulate.

Section 2

What do I need to prepare for my arrival to Lehigh?

You should log in to iHome and complete all steps in your Pre-Arrival Checklist.  Most questions can be answered under “Getting Started Coming to Lehigh”. In the months leading up to your arrival, you will receive many emails from the various offices on campus providing information. Please make sure to read your emails thoroughly and complete all required tasks.

Section 3

Is International Student Orientation mandatory?

Yes. Please review the orientation website for up to date information. Make sure to read and follow up with all required tasks and emails. 

Section 4

When should I arrive on campus for the semester?

Students can enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the start date listed on the I-20/DS-2019.  Students should plan to arrive in time to attend the appropriate International Student Orientation.  All new students must arrive no later than the 10th day of classes, and students who are not arriving by the start of classes should notify their College and OISS.  We understand that travel may be challenging, so we encourage students to arrive earlier in case of delays.

Section 5

Do I need to tell OISS when I am arriving in the United States?

YES!  This is extremely helpful to OISS staff as we plan for your arrival.  In your New Student Checklist in iHome, enter your travel plans in the "Travel Plans" e-form as soon as you book your flights. You can also register for one of our airport pick-up shuttles with this e-form.  You can find arrival information on our website which will be useful as you are making your travel arrangements.

Section 6

I'm a transfer student. What should I do?

There are several things you will need to do before we can issue you a Lehigh I-20/DS-2019:

  • Complete the New Student checklist in iHome. Make sure to complete the I-20/DS-2019 record transfer (SEVIS) form on the checklist.
  • Contact your international student advisor at the school/University that currently holds your SEVIS record to discuss the transfer process and select the most appropriate transfer release date. Generally, your SEVIS record should be transferred after you finish your program/OPT at your current school and before the first day of International Student Orientation at Lehigh. The OISS cannot issue you an I-20/DS-2019 unless your record has been transferred. Your current school will have a specific way for you to request the transfer of your SEVIS record.  

 Your SEVIS number will stay the same and you will not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. If you have a valid F-1/J-1 visa, you can continue using it together with the Lehigh I-20/DS-2019 when traveling to the U.S. (even though the visa has your previous school’s name on it). If your visa has expired, you are allowed to stay in the U.S. with an expired visa if you are following the transfer procedures. 

Immigration and Visa Information

Section 1

When do I need to apply for a visa?

If you have a valid I-20/DS-2019 but your visa has expired, you do not need a valid visa in order to remain in the United States.  This is true even if the visa as a previous institution/school's name on it. If you are traveling internationally, you must have a valid visa in order to travel to the United States.  If your visa has expired, you should allow time in your international travel to go to a U.S. Embassy/Consulate and apply for a new visa.  Remember, each visa application is a new application, so even if you are eligible for a waiver of the visa interview, the Department of State reserves the right to ask you to schedule a visa interview.  Please plan accordingly.


Section 2

Do I need my I-20/DS-20919 in paper form to apply for my visa?

While the Student and Exchange Visitor Program allows OISS to send your I-20/DS-2019 electronically, they still require that you have a physical, printed I-20/DS-2019 for your visa appointment and at the port of entry. OISS will send your I-20/DS-2019 to you through your Lehigh email address.  Once you receive it, you must print in color all pages, sign at the bottom of P. 1 and bring the printed I-20/DS-2019 to your visa appointment. 

Section 3

What documents do I need to travel back to the U.S.?

If you already have a valid visa and you are returning to the U.S., you will need the following documents:

  • travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 from OISS that is less than 1 year old. You can request a travel signature through iHome using the “I-20/DS-2019 Change or Reprint Request” e-form found under General Services
  • valid passport
  • valid visa
  • proof of funds listed on your I-20/DS-2019 (financial aid or assistantship info if supported by Lehigh)
  • New students should carry a copy of their admission letter
  • Continuing students should bring proof of enrollment (printed copy of unofficial transcript, etc)

If you are on OPT, your travel signature should be new within 6 months of your travel to the U.S. 


Section 4

Do I need to pay the SEVIS fee again?

If you have a valid F-1/J-1 visa you do not pay the SEVIS fee again.

Your SEVIS I-901 fee is valid for the entirety of your valid F-1/J-1 status. Once the fee is paid, you must apply for and receive your visa witihin 1 year. If you paid your SEVIS fee using a different SEVIS number, fee transfers are available for students who wish to use a different school's I-20 to apply for their visa. To check the status of your SEVIS fee, print your payment confirmation, or transfer your fee, visit this page. You can also check the SEVIS I-901 fee FAQ page for more information. 

We recommend that you pay the SEVIS I-901 fee only if you are certain that your visa appointment will take place. You can pay for it up to the three days before your appointment as long as you take the payment receipt with you to your interview.  If your SEVIS fee has already been paid and you need to retrieve the receipt, you can do so on the SEVIS I-901 fee website using the "Check I-901 Status" button. If you have questions about the I-901 fee, contact

Section 5

Am I supposed to receive any documents in the mail from OISS?

No. We do not mail materials to you from our office. All documents and important information will be sent to your Lehigh email address. Please make sure to read them. If you have questions about the information you are receiving, please contact us at

Section 6

What is iHome?

iHome is the online system OISS uses to communicate with students throughout their time at Lehigh and in F-1/J-1 status. On the site, there are many e-forms that students fill out for different purposes. To find iHome, first you should go to the OISS website. Expand the red “Menu” button in the top right corner of the page and click the first option: “iHome Online Services.” If you are a new student who has not yet set up your Lehigh email, you will use the “New Student/Scholar Login” button to log in using a temporary ID.  To do this, you must use the e-mail address that you used in your application to Lehigh. Once you set up your Lehigh username and password, you will log in using your Lehigh credentials. 

Section 7

I’ve already completed the New Student Checklist for a previous semester, but I had to defer my admission. Do I need to submit any new documents to OISS?

You will be added to a new checklist for the semester you will enter Lehigh that will require you to enter updated information/documents. To receive your updated I-20/DS-2019, you will need to provide a recent bank statement that is not older than six months. The amount should cover the estimated cost of attendance for the upcoming academic year. If you are a Graduate student, we will need an updated admissions letter indicating the start of the new semester and, if applicable, updated Lehigh funding.  If you are an Undergraduate, please reach out to OISS to confirm your new semester start date. 

Section 8

Do I need to tell OISS my visa appointment date?

You only need to reach out to OISS if you are unable to obtain an appointment or if you receive administrative processing/refusal for a visa appointment. You will enter your visa information and upload a copy of your visa stamp into your checklist using the ‘Visa Stamp’ e-form once you have your visa.  It is not necessary for you to inform OISS about your appointment. 


Section 9

If I have a B-1/B-2 or Visa Waiver (ESTA) and enter the U.S., can I start my program at Lehigh and change to F-1/J-1?

No. You cannot begin a degree program if you enter the U.S. using your B-1/B-2 or Visa Waiver.  Generally, changes of status from B-1/B-2 are either 1) not approved or 2) take many months ot be approved.  To start your program, you must leave the U.S. and reenter with a valid F-1/J-1 visa before the start date of the program.

Section 10

The name of my major on my I-20/DS-2019 does not match my Lehigh name of the major that I am enrolled in. Is that a problem?

The major listed on your I-20/DS-2019 will not always have the exact same name as your official Lehigh major. The U.S. government created a list of all majors and assigned a code to each major (it is called a CIP code) but universities can use different names for their programs. When Lehigh University created your program, it assigned a CIP code to it that most closely matches its curriculum. For example, Lehigh University assigned 14.1001 as the CIP code for Energy and Systems Engineering; however, in SEVIS this code corresponds to Electrical Engineering. Therefore, your I-20 will have “Electrical Engineering” listed as your major. This should not cause any issues with your visa application. If you believe that your major is listed incorrectly on your I-20/DS-2019, please contact OISS.

If you are a current Lehigh student and have recently changed your major, the major listed on your I-20 may reflect the previous major.  OISS is notifed of major changes via Banner at certain points in the semester. If we review this infomration and determine that we need to update your SEVIS record and your I-20, we will do so and send you an updated I-20.  If you changed your major more than one semester ago and did not receive an updated I-20, please contact OISS.

Section 11

Do I have to file U.S. taxes?

YES! All international students and scholars in the U.S. have to file taxes, even if you have not worked or earned money while here. In the U.S., only certain people trained in taxes can help you file. OISS staff are not trained in taxes and therefore cannot answer specific questions about your tax filing. However, every year OISS hosts IRS VITA-certified tax clinics on campus to help students file. For more information, please visit OISS’s tax resource page.

Other Health Information

Section 1

I am a new student. What if I cannot meet all of the immunization requirements prior to coming to campus?

We understand that all required vaccinations may not be available in your home country. If you are unable to receive ALL required vaccinations, please message the Health and Wellness Center  (HWC) through the Patient Portal (you will log in using your Lehigh credentials) to notify the staff of which vaccinations you will require upon your arrival to campus (do not send them an email).  Please note that there will be a cost for most of these vaccinations.  They are likely to be covered by your health insurance, but you will need to submit a claim to be reimbursed.  If you have questions about this, please ask the HWC through your Patient Portal account.

Section 2

How can I enroll in Lehigh’s health insurance? Can I waive it?

All international students will be automatically enrolled in Lehigh’s Student Health Insurance plan.  After you enroll in first semester classes and receive your bill for tuition and fees, you will receive instructions from the Bursar’s Office for how to complete your health insurance enrollment.  It is essential that you follow these instructions to complete your enrollment.  Failure to do so will result in you having difficulty receiving medical care using your health insurance, and a hold will be placed on your student account.  Questions about health insurance enrollment should be directed to the Bursar’s Office.

If you believe that you qualify for a waiver, you must request a health insurance waiver from OISS. Please review the information on our website and submit the required request form no later than 30 days before the start of the semester.  OISS will work with the Bursar's Office if you are approved, no further action will be required. You can learn more about health insurance enrollment here.