The International Students and Scholar Services office, which helps international students with immigration assistance, will close operations early this semester to relocate to a new building for next semester.
According to its website, ISSS's office at 3701 Chestnut St. will be temporarily closed after Dec. 15 for renovation and relocation. The office will be relocating to the third floor of 3440 Market St. next semester while the renovations are underway at the Chestnut Street location.
Students say ISSS sent them emails in advance, notifying them of the move and reminding them to finish any immigration or employment forms early, though some say it has been difficult to get their forms in on time.
“To travel in and out of the United States, I need to get my I-20 form signed each year by ISSS,” said Engineering freshman Maher Abdel Samad, an international student from Lebanon. “With the early closing, you can’t do that late, so they sent out a few emails to remind everyone to finish their business early.”
The last day for international students to request travel signatures is Dec. 15, since the ISSS office will only be open for drop-offs and pick-ups, but not advising after this Friday.
During the break, students may reach out to Penn Global and ISSS via the Department of Public Safety in the case of an emergency. Starting on Jan. 2 of next year, ISSS staff will be reachable without interruption, even on days when the University is closed.
Engineering and College freshman William Deo, who is an international student from Canada, said the timing is particularly difficult to manage.
“I think that it’s unfortunate that [ISSS] has to close right before the break,” Deo said. “For a lot of international students, this is their first time going home since arriving here in August.
"Many countries have different requirements for proof of enrollment at a university," he added.
With an early closure, some international students have found themselves rushing to get travel documents settled to be able to go back home for winter break.
"I have some friends who have had to scramble over the past few days to get requests in and have received slow processing given an overload at ISSS,” Deo said.
As the goal of ISSS is to “to provide immigration assistance as well as a sense of community for the international population at Penn,” the staff is available for advising sessions to settle issues concerning travel, immigration, taxes, social security, and other U.S. documents for international students. Each international student is also assigned a designated advisor.
Director of ISSS Rodolfo Altamirano wrote on the office's website that part of the overarching mission is to “advocate for international education as a campus-wide and a national priority.”
The renovation is anticipated to be completed before late spring.
“The renovation is aimed at creating a welcoming, dynamic atmosphere for students, scholars and University staff who visit and work in the space,” Executive Director for Penn Global Amy Gadsden wrote in an email.
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