International Graduate Students

UPDATE: International Student and Scholar Services has learned that, effective December 23, 2020, China will no longer accept the PCR and IgM tests administered by the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. If you have a flight to China which leaves on or after December 23, you should make alternate arrangements. We understand that this is a sudden and inconvenient change of plans for many, but we wanted to alert students as soon as possible. For more information, please visit the Chinese Embassy (the English-language notice is here).

Here is a list of frequently asked questions for international students and scholars.

Message from the Dean

A message to international students from Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs, Russell Ganim.

"We’re glad to be able to bring you happy news! Today, the US government announced that it is withdrawing the guidance issued last week and that schools can continue operating under the same rules that it used last spring. This welcome news means that continuing students will be allowed to study fully online both inside and outside the United States without jeopardizing their F-1 immigration status. This also means that no one will be required to leave the US after Thanksgiving or at any time during the semester if classes move to being completely online. Students must simply be registered for a full-time number of credits (9 s.h. for graduate students and 12 s.h. for undergraduates) or submit a part-time authorization request to be enrolled below full-time. We are pleased the recent guidance by ICE has been rescinded and will continue to advocate on our students’ behalf."

2020-21 International student academic and employment guidance

The Graduate College and International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) held a webinar on July 17 that provided information regarding employment, fellowship, and academic issues for international graduate students. Please view the presentation.

UPDATE 10/14/20:  No new or continuing students residing outside the US can hold teaching or research assistantships, including graduate assistantships, fellowships, or hourly appointments. A possible exception is if the funding source for a position specifies the work can be performed outside the US (e.g., a grant or fellowship specifying work is to occur in an overseas location). Students residing outside the US may be eligible to receive scholarship money, if available, that can be directly applied to their tuition bill in MAUI. Please contact Associate Dean Shelly Campo for information on the approval process for exceptions (

UPDATE 2/19/21: The ban on new or continuing students residing outside the US holding teaching or research assistantships, graduate college fellowships, or hourly employments is in effect until at least August 1, 2021.

Communicating with prospective graduate students

Expanded Testing Options for International Students

The Graduate College has approved the use of Duolingo as a temporary testing option for international student admits.


The DuoLingo English Test (DET) is available worldwide with no exceptions. Test takers need only need a valid ID. UI Graduate Admissions will use an official minimum requirement of 105 for admission and ALL students admitted on DET scores will be required to take the on-campus English Proficiency Exam when they arrive. The DET costs $49 and students can submit their scores to an unlimited number of schools for free.

Please see the DET for Institutions for additional information.   


At this time the ETS Special Home Edition for TOEFL and GRE is available worldwide EXCEPT China and Iran. To use this option, students must meet the equipment requirements to take the at home version of GRE and TOEFL, which is only available for Windows OS. ETS Special Home Edition for TOEFL and GRE does NOT support iOS. Equipment requirements are available on the ETS website.

Communicating with current graduate students

Academic and Administrative Affairs

The Graduate College Academic Affairs Office (AAO) is available to assist you regarding any disruption to planned academic activities related to COVID.  Please review the FAQs below and email us with any questions or concerns.

Academic Probation 

In the Graduate College, a student will remain on academic probation until they have completed nine semester hours of graded graduate work or raised their GPA to the minimum requirement for their degree objective, whichever comes first. The minimum GPA requirements are: 2.75 for non-doctoral students, e.g., master's, and 3.0 for doctoral students. If, after completing an additional nine semester hours of graded graduate work at the University of Iowa, beginning after the semester the student was first placed on probation, the cumulative grade-point average remains below the minimum, a student will not be permitted to reregister and will be sent a formal notice of dismissal.

Note that "an additional" nine graded semester hours are progressively counted beginning in the session immediately following the first probation action until earned. If the GPA is raised to the required level before completing nine additional graded semester hours, the student will be restored to good standing.

Further, Graduate College regulations prohibit a student on probation from take the general comprehensive or final examinations leading to any degree or certificate, nor may he or she receive any graduate degree or certificate. Information about the Graduate College's probation and dismissal policies may be found in the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations.

Holding Your Thesis or Dissertation Defense

Q: How should I hold my defense during fall 2021?

A: Defense committees, including students, may plan to participate remotely as long as the coronavirus pandemic conditions persist.  Since the University has reopened, defenses may also be held on campus as long as University guidelines for COVID precautions are followed. Hybrid defenses are also acceptable, i.e., a blend of members, including the student, participating on-campus and remotely.

Q: Are there best practices available to help students and committees as they plan for a remote defense?

A: Yes! There are many strategies which can be employed to ensure a smooth, virtual, defense. The Graduate College has prepared a recommendations guide to help with planning and conducting a remote defense.

Q: What about the Graduate College requirement to hold a public defense?

A: The requirement to hold public defenses is suspended for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic; however, many programs are using Zoom to replicate the public part of the defense. Holding a virtual public defense can allow for audience members to join who might have otherwise participated in-person, e.g., friends, family, colleagues. While this is certainly not required, it is an available option and encouraged, if both student and committee agree. 

Additionally, if for any reason either a faculty member or a student feels unsafe or prefers to participate in a defense remotely, even after campus returns to F2F instruction in fall 2021, the Graduate College will permit this option for any member of a final exam/defense.

Q: What if my committee members can’t attend my defense remotely?

A: If committee members or the student cannot participate remotely, the defense must be rescheduled or another faculty member should be identified to participate as a committee member. There will not be an adjustment to the quantity of committee members required for a defense. Masters students must still have at least 3 members on committees, and 5 for doctoral committees.

Q: What if I have to reschedule my defense?

A: The Graduate College will work with students whose defense must be rescheduled.  We are available to discuss options with students whose defense cannot be rescheduled easily.  For more information, please contact

Thesis and Dissertation Requirements

Q: My thesis defense must be rescheduled due to coronavirus precautions, and now I can’t make the thesis deposit deadline. Does that mean I can’t graduate?

A: The Graduate College is committed to working with students affected by coronavirus disruptions.  For more information, please contact and include COVID-19 in the subject line.

Q: I have an in-person meeting scheduled for a thesis support appointment with Dr. Erin Kaufman. Will we still meet?

A: Because non-essential personnel have been directed to work remotely until further notice, we will reschedule your in-person meeting to a Zoom or phone meeting. We will reach out to you directly. You may also choose to work with our thesis office electronically, either via email or OneDrive.

Q: How will the coronavirus precautions currently in place affect my thesis submission?

A: Unless you are an MFA student planning to submit your thesis in hard copy form (see below), the thesis submission process will not change. You will submit your thesis electronically via ProQuest and work with the Graduate College to make any needed formatting corrections. The Graduate College will approve your thesis, and your committee members will then review and sign off on your thesis electronically. Please see our website for information on electronic committee verification.

Q: What if members of my committee get sick and can’t sign off on my thesis?

A: Should a committee member be ill; the Graduate College will work closely with a designated member of your thesis committee – typically your thesis supervisor – to determine the best course forward.  If necessary, and only with permission, the Graduate College can approve your thesis on a committee member’s behalf.

MFA Requirements

Q: I am an MFA student planning to submit my thesis in hard copy form. How should I do that now that campus is effectively closed?

A: The Graduate College is currently working with affected MFA departments, e.g., Writer's Workshop, Literary Translation, directly to coordinate a deposit alternative. The Graduate College will notify you directly when a deposit time and place instructions become available for your program.

Q: If I submit my thesis in hard copy form, how do I receive signatures on my Report of Thesis Approval (required for hard copy deposits)?

A: Each member must email their vote to the student's Thesis Supervisor. The Thesis Supervisor will then aggregate and email these responses to the Graduate College OR sign the physical Report of Thesis Approval form on behalf of the other members, then scan and email that form to the Graduate College.

Holding Your Comprehensive Exam

Q: My comp exam is scheduled in fall 2021. What should I do?

A: Comp committees, including students, may plan to participate remotely as long as the coronavirus pandemic conditions persist.  Because the form and structure of comprehensive exams are highly variable across departments and programs, not all comp exams will lend themselves to remote participation; since the University has reopened, comp exams may also be held on campus as long as University guidelines for COVID precautions are followed. Hybrid arrangements are also acceptable, i.e., a blend of members, including the student, participating on-campus and remotely.

Non-Degree Advising Appointments

Because non-essential personnel have been directed to work remotely until further notice, we can meet with you by phone or via Zoom. Please contact your advisor directly ( for more information.  

Adding & Dropping Courses

Students should prioritize using the online system to drop courses. 

The Graduate College is monitoring the needs of our graduates and adapting our policies. We are committed to helping students despite campus disruption. For more information or if you have a specific question, please contact us at Please include COVID-19 in the subject line.