Arriving in the US During the Covid-19 Pandemic FAQs

While Covid-19 remains a threat, international students and scholars traveling to the US face a number of unique logistical challenges.

Below are selected questions that have been asked by international students and scholar preparing to enter the US. Please read through these questions to better understand the process of traveling to the US, entering at the boarder, and arriving on campus. If you have a question that isn't answered below, please email us at [email protected].

1. Will I be denied entry to the US if I have a valid visa, passport and updated DS-2019?

Be sure to follow the guidance from your home country regarding travel to the US. In addition, review the ISSO website closely prior to departing your country to ensure that the US government has not issued COVID-19 travel related restrictions. Based on the most recent guidance from both your home country and the US government, you may or may not be able to enter the US.

2. I am in a country that is barred from traveling to the US. Is there any way I can still enter?

Direct travel to United States has been suspended for travelers from certain countries. For travelers coming from one of these countries (or flying through one of these countries), you will need a valid visa stamp in your passport and a "boarding letter" granting you permission to enter the US before you depart.

The US Departments of State and Homeland Security have the power to grant visas and allow entry into the United States based on several exceptions, including US national interest. If you wish to try to obtain a visa and/or "boarding letter" exempting you from the bar on entering the US, you will need review your local US consulate’s website for information on how to contact them for emergency visa issuance.

Before starting this process, you should have a letter from your UCSF supervisor/PI describing how your visit will contribute to the US national interest. If your research is related the current COVID-19 crisis, this should be emphasized and described in the letter. Finally, if you have a medical degree, that should also be mentioned in the letter, even if you will only be conducting research at UCSF. The embassy will provide further instructions on if you are eligible for a waiver from the bar on entering the US.

If you cannot obtain an "boarding letter" and you would still like to travel to the US to begin your research program or employment at UCSF then the only other option is to spend 14 days in a country that is not barred from entering the US. The ISSO cannot recommend a specific country, guarantee that the country you go to will not itself end up being subject to a bar on entry, or guarantee that regular flights from that country to the US exist. If you pursue this option, you will need to research each aspect of your travel plans to minimize risks and reduce uncertainty. Remember, you cannot transit through a country that is barred from entering the US unless you have a boarding letter.

3. Will I be quarantined when I depart from a COVID-free country that is not barred from traveling to the US?

​As of today's date, yes, you will need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the US. Even if US Customs does not say that you must quarantine, you must follow the guidance of UCSF's Occupational Health Services (OHS), the unit that owns the campus wide policy on quarantining when arriving from abroad. You can contact OHS for more specific questions at [email protected].

4. I will stay home for 14 days when I arrive at UCSF. May I take a BART from SFO airport to UCSF?

You'll have to check in with BART regarding their COVID-19 policies. Please know that currently, individuals are required to wear a mask - whether it is a cloth mask or a surgical mask - when in public settings, so at the very least, you can anticipate that on BART. In addition, to protect yourself, we recommend traveling with hand sanitizer and/or gloves if you will be riding public transportation (although not a current requirement).

5. Will I bring evidence of COVID-free when I arrive in the US?

If you have been tested, yes, please bring translated evidence to present to OHS if asked. If you have not been tested, as of today, OHS will require you to be tested. You can ask additional testing questions to the OHS unit at [email protected].