Fall 2020 USDHS Guidance on International Students – July 29, 2020

Fall 2020 USDHS Guidance on International Students – July 29, 2020

(posted as an ISO Update, and emailed to all MIT international students, on July 29, 2020)

As noted in previous communications, MIT was awaiting additional governmental guidance on new international students seeking to enter the U.S. to take fully or mostly online courses.  On Friday afternoon, July 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) issued new guidance on this topic.  The guidance indicates that that New F-1 Students who are currently outside the U.S. will not be able to enter the U.S. to pursue fully online programs.  However, the guidance lacks clarity on many of the important issues for which we have been seeking additional information, including the minimum number of hybrid subjects in which a New F-1 Student must be enrolled in order to enter and study in the U.S. in Fall 2020. 

Based on our current interpretation of this new guidance and the regulations that apply to international students, we wanted to provide the following update regarding international students in Fall 2020:

  • Continuing Students (F-1 and J-1) may enroll in fully online/remote coursework, either inside or outside the U.S.
  • New International Students (including Transfer students) currently outside the U.S., seeking to enter the U.S. for Fall 2020:
    • F-1 students: they may not enter the U.S. to pursue fully online programs. The new guidance does not provide clarity on hybrid programs. If a student’s program meets the normal requirements for F-1 status (see below), they should be able to enter and study in the U.S. If the student’s program is hybrid but does not meet the normal F-1 requirements, students are advised not to travel to the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester. We continue to evaluate the July 24 guidance and will provide an updated communication if we receive additional clarity on this topic.
    • Under the normal rules for F-1 students, only 1 subject/12 credits of online learning can count towards full-time status requirements.
      • For example, students in programs requiring a minimum of 36 credits for full-time status must be enrolled in at least 24 units/credits in subjects in their degree program that have some in-person elements (examples include in-person recitations, discussion groups, and TA-led meetings, etc.). Students in programs that require 24 credits plus a RA/TA for full-time status must be enrolled in either: (a) 12 credits of in-person/hybrid coursework plus a RA/TA that also has in-person/on-campus elements; or (b) 24 credits of in-person/hybrid courses with a remote/online RA/TA.
      • These in-person elements cannot be offered only to international students; at a minimum, they should be offered to any students (including domestic students) who have a need to complete the course element in-person.
    • J-1 students: they may not take fully-online coursework. Based on current guidance, they are permitted to pursue hybrid programs per MIT’s J-1 program.
    • Latest Arrival Date to Campus for Fall 2020: New International Students eligible to enter the U.S. for in-person/hybrid coursework in Fall 2020 must arrive to MIT no later than Monday, November 9, 2020, and must be able to complete their in-person elements before the end of in-person instruction on November 20, 2020. Departments/programs could inform students if they will establish an earlier deadline for arrival. Students unable to arrive by November 9, 2020 will require an updated visa document from the MIT ISO to instead arrive for the start of the Spring 2021 semester.
  • New International Students may pursue full-time remote/online coursework from outside the U.S.

We understand that some departments/programs will not be providing coursework with in-person elements for Fall 2020.  In this case, New International Students will not be able to enter the U.S. to pursue their program of study in Fall 2020.  Therefore, the MIT ISO will work with students to issue an updated Form I-20 (F-1 visa holders) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa holders) with a Spring 2021 semester arrival date (January 29, 2021).

As a reminder, New International Students may pursue Fall 2020 coursework full-time remote/online from outside the U.S. 

New Undergraduate Students (and Undergraduate Transfers), whose academic programs will be fully online in Fall 2020, will not be able to enter the United States to pursue study on-campus.

We continue to monitor developments and will provide updated guidance as soon as possible. 

We know it has been very challenging to plan for the start of your academic program given the travel restrictions and changes in immigration guidance over the past couple of months.  Please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor if you have any questions or if you would like to be connected with other Institute resources.

Thank you for your understanding and patience during these challenging times.