ISO Travel Guidance – Fall/Winter Break 2021-2022

ISO Travel Guidance – Fall/Winter Break 2021-2022

After publication of the ISO Travel Guidance below, a Presidential Proclamation was issued that imposes travel restrictions to the U.S. from 8 countries of Southern Africa, effective November 29, 2021. Please review a summary and link to this announcement here.

On November 19, the ISO published a e-newsletter focusing on Travel Guidance for international students who will be traveling during the FAll holidays and Winter Break 2021-2022.

Please view the full Travel Guidance newsletter here.

A text version of the travel guidance is provided below:

November 19, 2021

Important Travel Reminders

We know that many students are making travel plans for the holiday season and winter break, and we understand the confusion that has been created by past travel restrictions and the recent Presidential Proclamation creating a vaccine and testing requirement.  The ISO has a number of resources posted on our website, and so we wanted to highlight a few key reminders for review before you finalize your travel plans.

Travel signatures on Form I-20/Form DS-2019
Please check your Form I-20 on Page 2 (F visa holders) or Form DS-2019 (J visa holders) on Page 1 to be sure you have a travel validation signature signed within 12 months of your planned date of return to the U.S.  If you do not yet have a travel validation signature, or it will be older than 12 months, you can request in iMIT a new Form I-20/DS-2019 with travel signature.  Instructions are available on the ISO “Visas and Travel” webpage

Presidential Proclamation Establishing Vaccine/Testing Requirement for Entry to U.S.

Effective November 8, 2021, all non-U.S. Citizens/Permanent Residents must show proof of full vaccination and have a negative COVID test before being allowed to board a flight to enter the U.S.  USDHS has also posted a vaccine requirement for entry at land/ferry ports of entry between the U.S.-Canada-Mexico. 
Please be sure to read the ISO summary of both announcements, and the links to additional government resource guidance, available here:

*Presidential Proclamation Lifts Travel Bans and Establishes Vaccine/Testing Requirements For Air Travel to U.S.

*USDHS Announces Fully Vaccinated Travelers Permitted to Enter U.S. at Land and Ferry Border Crossings

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The Presidential Proclamation does NOT provide a religious exemption, or exemption for all medical reasons, for entry to the U.S.  Therefore, international students currently on-campus and not vaccinated, with either a religious or medical exemption, are advised to meet with their ISO Advisor before planning travel abroad.  Under these terms, travel may not be recommended at this time.

For questions about accepted vaccines, please see the following list provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/proof-of-vaccination.html#covid-vaccines

Eligibility for Entry To the U.S. From Countries with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability

In the Presidential Proclamation, there is an attestation process available for individuals who are citizens of countries where there is a designated limited COVID-19 vaccine availability.  This attestation requires the individual to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of entry to the U.S.  HOWEVER, the list of eligible countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability is VERY limited.  This attestation is not available for anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated, and not available to anyone that is vaccinated by a vaccine not recognized by the CDC or the World Health Organization (WHO).     

To view a copy of the list of countries with Limited COVID-19 Vaccine Availability is posted here by the CDC:  https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/order-safe-travel/technical-instructions.html#anchor_1635183102468

For students who are currently at MIT with a religious or medical exemption, we recommend you review these resources above and contact your ISO Advisor with any questions. 

Applying for a New Entry Visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

If your current entry visa has expired, and you are traveling outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new entry visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate while abroad in order to return to the U.S.
We advise that students should request an updated Form I-20/Form DS-2019 in iMIT to have for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

It is very important to review the guidance from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate (https://usembassy.gov) on how to schedule a visa interview appointment and required documentation for the visa interview.  Please note many U.S. Embassy/Consulates are still not back to full staffing or operations, so there may be delays in scheduling interviews or the processing of the visa.  Students should take this timing into consideration before traveling, and consult with their academic program to have a plan in place in case they are not able to return to the U.S. as planned. 
If you have any questions, please contact your ISO Advisor

Traveling To a Country That is Not Your Home Country

Please note that immigration and travel rules to many countries around the world have changed and continue to change throughout the pandemic.  If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, please check the Consulate General website for that country to confirm any required visas needed to enter the country, any necessary vaccine or testing documentation, and related travel guidance.  Please note some countries do not allow for visitors to apply for an entry visa upon arrival to the country. 

What Can I Do to Confirm the Travel Requirements for Return to the U.S.?

The ISO continues to monitor any updates provided by the federal government, and will be sure to notify students via email and the ISO website of any changes.  However, given the many changes already in place, we recommend that students also take the following steps prior to travel:

  • Review the ISO “Visas and Travel” webpage

  • Review the CDC guidance “Non-U.S. citizen, Non-U.S. immigrants: Air Travel to the United States
    Print out a copy of the CDC guidance to carry with you when traveling.
  • Contact your Airline
    Be sure to contact your airline to verify procedures they will have to verify eligibility to board your flight.  Print out a cop of the airline’s guidance from their website to have to present at the airport in case there is any confusion.

  • Print out the USDHS Guidance regarding Electronic Signatures on Form I-20
    USDHS/SEVP recently announced the continued acceptance by USDHS and the U.S. Department of State of schools using electronic signatures on Form I-20.   Students may not sign a Form I-20 electronically, but should download, print, and sign their new Form I-20 issued by their college/university to carry when traveling.  Students are advised to print out a copy of the USDHS guidance, dated October 12, 2021, here
     
  • Review MIT Travel Policy
    Please be sure to consult the updated MIT Travel Policy available on MIT Now (https://now.mit.edu/policies/mit-travel-policy/), especially if you will be traveling outside of the New England states (Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). The policy discusses registering MIT-related travel and personal travel, as well as requirements for return to campus after travel abroad.


ISO Virtual Forums – Travel Guidance

The ISO will host a few Virtual Forums to provide an overview on the travel guidance, and be available for general questions from attendees.  The Forums will be held on the following dates, and a recording/presentation slides will be made available following the sessions:

Tuesday, November 23 – 12:00pm-1:00pm
Thursday, December 2 – 12:00pm-1:00pm
Thursday, December 9 – 7:00pm-8:00pm
Zoom Link:  https://mit.zoom.us/j/97845971836

MIT Remote Appointment Guidance For Spring 2022

The Office of the Vice Chancellor announced that MIT guidance on in-person learning and remote appointments for Fall 2021 will continue for the Spring 2022 semester.  Students are expected to be physically on-campus in Spring 2022 for in-person learning and conduct their U.S.-based appointments (including research and teaching assistantships from inside the U.S.

As in Fall 2021, there will be limited exceptions process for those who encounter “absolute barriers” preventing their return to the U.S. for the Spring 2022 semester due to the pandemic (e.g. visa delays, travel restrictions).  Guidance on eligibility and how to request consideration for a remote appointment for Spring 2022 is provided in the announcement.

Students who will be traveling are also reminded about the MIT vaccination requirements as well as new U.S. federal government requirements on vaccination and testing in order to enter the U.S. from abroad, which is also referenced in the announcement.

To view the full announcement, click here.  

Students who have questions about how the new U.S. federal government vaccine/testing requirements for entry to the U.S. should review the resources above and then reach out to their ISO Advisor for any additional clarification.