ISO Updates-Spring 2020

May 3, 2020

 

May 3, 2020

ISO Updates – Spring 2020
http://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020
http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/imm_updates.shtml

TOPICS
1.  ISO Forum: F-1 OPT/STEM OPT Extension – recording available

**

1.  ISO Virtual Forum: F-1 OPT/STEM OPT Extension – recording available
On Thursday, April 30, the ISO, in collaboration with the MIT Career Advising and Professional Development (CAPD) Office hosted a Virtual Forum on issues related to F-1 Optional Practical Training and F-1  Optional Practical Training Extensions.

Special thanks to guest speaker Tianna Ransom, Career Development Specialist in CAPD, and to Dana Riechman, International Student Programming Administrator/Advisor in the ISO, for coordinating the Forum.

A recording of the Forum, which includes the presentation slidedeck, is now available here.
Presentation slidedeck only is available here.

ISO recommends that students consult with the following resources regarding International Student employment authorization:

F-1 and J-1 Employment Information:  http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/employment.shtml

F-1 Practical Training:  http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/emp_f1.shtml

ISO F-1 (OPT-CPT) Employment Information Session (session now provided via online slides):  https://iso.mit.edu/sites/default/files/documents/F_Employment_Session_Spring2020.pdf

J-1 Academic Training:  http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/emp_j1.shtml

If you have any questions regarding employment after reviewing the above information, please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor.

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April 23, 2020
ISO Updates - Spring 2020

https://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020

Executive Order Suspending Immigrant Visa Entry to the U.S.

Dear International Students and Scholars,

We are writing to provide you with information on a new Executive Order (the Proclamation) signed by President Trump yesterday.  We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please know that we understand that this is an uncertain and challenging time, and that our offices are here to support you in any way that we can. The Proclamation narrowly restricts certain persons who are outside the U.S. and have immigrant visas (permanent visas issued by US Consulates after 4/23/2020 from entering the United States. The restrictions do NOT apply to Nonimmigrant visas, including B, F, J, H, E, TN or O visas.

Proclamation Details
On April 22, 2020, the White House released the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Effective Date:  April 23, 2020 at 11:59pm Eastern Daylight Time

Duration:  60 days from the Effective Date – until June 22, 2020.  The Proclamation can be extended.   

Scope:  The Proclamation suspends entry to the U.S. for 60 days of foreign nationals with an immigrant visa issued by U.S. Consulates after 4/23/2020, and who are:

  • Outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;
  • Do not have an immigrant visa (issued by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and
  • Do not have an official travel document, other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of the Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S., and seek entry or admission in Immigrant status.

The Proclamation does NOT currently apply to Nonimmigrant visa statuses, including:  F student, J Exchange Visitor, H-1B, TN, O, E-3 temporary professional workers, and other Nonimmigrant status.

This Proclamation does NOT apply to individuals already inside the U.S.

The Proclamation also does NOT apply to the following:

  • U.S. Citizens;
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents (Green Card holders);
  • Any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;
  • Any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;
  • Any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;
  • Any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
  • Any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;
  • Any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;
  • Any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or
  • Any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

MIT continues to work closely to support our students, scholars, and all members of the MIT community during this difficult time. We understand the concerns and uncertainty that these changes in U.S. immigration policy create as you pursue your work, research or academic program at MIT.

As additional information becomes available, we will post updates on the MIT Major Immigration Updates & Alerts, International Students Office (ISO), and International Scholars Office (ISchO) News web pages.

The MIT Administration, faculty, and staff are here to support you, and we encourage you to reach out to us if we can be of any assistance.

Sincerely,

Penny Rosser
Director, MIT International Scholars Office
http://web.mit.edu/scholars/

David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director, MIT International Students Office
http://iso.mit.edu

 

April 21, 2020
ISO Updates – Spring 2020

https://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020

TOPICS
1.  President Trump Tweets of Possible Executive Order to Suspend Immigration to the U.S.

**

1.  President Trump Tweets of Possible Executive Order to Suspend Immigration to the U.S.

Last night (Monday, April 20), President Trump tweeted that he will be "signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States" in response to COVID-19.  

Since this tweet, there has been no release of information as to what this may or may not entail.  Once any Executive Order or new official policies are released, we will be sure to keep the MIT community updated.

To view a copy of President Trump's tweet, click here

Please also follow any updates to immigration policies or actions by government agencies on the MIT “Major Immigration Updates and Alerts” webpage

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March 24, 2020
ISO Updates – Spring 2020

http://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020

TOPICS
1.  USDHS/ICE Guidance: In Response to COVID-19, F status 5-month Temporary Absence Rule Will Not Apply
2.  BEWARE OF SCAMS

**

1.  USDHS/ICE Guidance: In Response to COVID-19, F status 5-month Temporary Absence Rule Will Not Apply

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE), which oversees the F visa regulations, posted on March 23, 2020 an updated “Frequently Asked Questions” to its website.  In this new guidance, USICE states that due to COVID-19 “the 5-month temporary absence provision … will not apply for students who remain in Active status.”

As all MIT students remain enrolled as full-time students while completing their Spring 2020 semester subjects online, whether inside the U.S. or abroad, MIT students are considered to be maintaining their Active F-1 visa status throughout the Spring semester.

As a result, F-1 students who leave or have left the U.S., continue and complete their Spring 2020 semester online, and return to the U.S. in Fall 2020 to continue their program of studies, will be considered to be maintaining status even if they will return to the U.S. more than 5 months from their date of departure from the U.S.  Students would, therefore, be considered maintaining their eligibility for F-1 Curricular Practical Training and F-1 Optional Practical Training during this period outside the U.S.

To read a full copy of the USICE FAQ on this topic, please see Question #1 on the FAQ:
https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdf

REMINDER:  Students who are completing their program of study in Spring or Summer 2020 terms, and wish to apply for F-1 post-completion Optional Practical Training, must still be physically inside the U.S. to submit, and for USCIS to receive, the OPT application.  There have been no changes to date on regulations or timing of OPT applications.

The ISO knows this has been a major concern for all F-1 students, and we are pleased with the USICE’s support of international students during this unique time.

If any questions arise, please contact your ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact.

2.  BEWARE OF SCAMS

The ISO has received new reports of some common scam phonecalls that are targeting international students (though some of these calls have also been received by ISO Staff).  We have also seen media reports of scammers using concerns about Coronavirus to try and convince that purchases or funds should be provided over the phone or online.

One student informed the ISO that one scammer indicated they were the ISO, and specifically the ISO Director, David Elwell, and requested funds be provided directly.  The ISO will not call you and ask for funds, and any fees for Administrative Fees for OPT/STEM OPT are paid through links through iMIT only.   

We wanted to send out this alert and reminder to be very careful when you receive phonecalls, emails, or letters from organizations/individuals that you were not expecting to receive that ask you to provide financial or personal information.  They may be Scams.

Further guidance on how to address potential scams is available here.
Please visit the ISO Website for more information and resources:  http://iso.mit.edu/

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March 21, 2020
ISO Updates-Spring 2020
http://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020

TOPICS
1.  U.S. Federal Tax Filing Deadline Changed to July 15, 2020
2.  Updating Address Information If Moving in the U.S. or Abroad
 

1.  U.S. FEDERAL TAX FILING DEADLINE CHANGED TO JULY 15, 2020
To follow up on our posting yesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that they are officially changing the income tax filing deadline for 2019 income tax returns from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020.

As announced on March 20, individuals who owe tax as part of the income tax filing process this year can defer payment of those additional taxes until July 15, 2020 without interest or penalties.

We apologize for any confusion as the Department of Treasury did not post an official announcement of the filing deadline change to July 15, 2020 until today, even though there has been a lot of mention in the media. 

International students and scholars now have until July 15, 2020 to file their federal income tax returns.  Students who are abroad can complete and print their income tax return forms, sign them, and then mail them to the IRS from abroad to the appropriate U.S. filing address by July 15, 2020.  Students/scholars filing State income tax returns will want to check each State’s tax website to confirm filing deadlines (though most States will adjust to be in line with Federal income tax filings).   

A copy of the announcement can be read here.

A reminder of MIT Tax Resources for International Students and Scholars:

2.  UPDATING ADDRESS INFORMATION IF MOVING IN THE U.S. OR ABROAD
International students in F-1 or J-1 status are required to continually update SEVIS about any address changes within 10 days of any move.  The following guidance will assist the ISO in assisting you in reporting address updates to SEVIS.

(a) If a students is returning to home country or abroad during the Spring term, but planning to return to the U.S. in the Summer or Fall, we ask students to update in WebSIS their “Temporary” address to reflect their address abroad.  You do not need to change their “SEVIS US Address” if will spend the Spring term abroad and plan to return.

(b)  If a student plans to remain in the U.S. in Spring or Summer, but are moving to another address in Massachusetts or elsewhere in the U.S. – then the student needs to update their “SEVIS US Address” (in addition to the "Temporary" addresses) in WebSIS so the ISO can report the new U.S. Address to SEVIS.

If any questions arise, please contact your ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact.

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March 20, 2020
ISO Updates – Spring 2020

http://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020

TOPICS

1.  U.S. State Department Suspends Routine Visa Services in Most Countries

2.  USDHS Announces Restriction on “Non-Essential” Travel Between Canada-U.S.-Mexico

3.  USCIS Temporarily Suspends In-Person Services at Field Offices; No Change to USCIS Service Centers and Mail Lockbox Centers. 

4.  U.S Tax Payment Deadline Changed to July 15, 2020; Tax Return Filing Deadline Still April 15, 2020

**

1.  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SUSPENDS ROUTINE VISA SERVICES IN MOST COUNTRIES
The U.S. Department of State has announced that, effective March 18, 2020, it is suspending routine visa services “in most countries”.  The official announcement is available on the State Department website:
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/suspension-of-routine-visa-services.html

Individuals are advised to check the website of the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where they would be applying for any visa service to determine its current operating status (http://usembassy.gov). 

There is no timeframe provided for how long suspension of services would apply, but it is apparent that the suspension of services in many countries correlates to restrictions on public activity to combat COVID-19.

Students and Scholars who have traveled abroad and plan on applying for a new visa should consult the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website for details and update

Students and Scholars who have been considering travel abroad, and would need to obtain a new visa from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in order to re-enter the U.S., should reconsider travel until further notice.

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact the MIT International Scholars Office or the MIT International Students Office.  We will continue to provide any updates on the “Major Immigration Updates” webpage.

2.  USDHS ANNOUCES RESTRICTION ON “NON-ESSENTIAL” TRAVEL BETWEEN CANADA-U.S.-MEXICO
On March 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued joint statements with the Governments of Canada and Mexico that “Non-Essential” travel between the countries will be temporarily restricted in measures to combat COVID-19.  The restriction will go into effect on March 21, 2020 and will be in place for at least the next 30 days.

“Non-Essential” is defined in the notice as including “travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature”.  While this does not reference entering the U.S. as a student, scholar, or worker, it will be important to evaluate travel plans if there is an urgency to return to the U.S. in the event the restrictions are enhanced and include students/scholars.

The joint U.S.-Canada announcement can be read here.
The joint U.S.-Mexico announcement can be read here.

3.  USCIS TEMPORARILY SUSPENDS IN-PERSON SERVICES AT FIELD OFFICES; NO CHANGE TO USCIS SERVICE CENTERS AND MAIL LOCKBOX CENTERS
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the temporary closure of in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers (ASCs) to combat the spread of COVID-19.  The temporary service suspension is from March 18-April 1, 2020.

This suspension does NOT currently apply to USCIS Service Centers or USCIS Mail Lockbox Centers, where F-1 OPT, J-2 Work Permit, and other applications filed by mail are processed.  Students/Scholars should continue filing their applications as appropriate.

The MIT ISchO and MIT ISO will be sure to provide an update if USCIS announces any further change in services.

4.  U.S. TAX PAYMENT DEADLINE CHANGED TO JULY 15, 2020; TAX RETURN FILING DEADLINE STILL APRIL 15, 2020
The U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that individuals who owe tax as part of the income tax filing process this year can defer payment of those additional taxes until July 15, 2020 without interest or penalties.

This announcement does NOT change the income tax return filing deadline for 2019 income tax returns of April 15, 2020.

International students and scholars should still file their income tax returns by April 15, 2020.  Students who are abroad can complete and print their income tax return forms, sign them, and then mail them to the IRS from abroad to the appropriate U.S. filing address by April 15, 2020 (and mail any State income tax returns, to the appropriate State agency by that date as well).

A copy of the announcement can be read here.

A reminder of MIT Tax Resources for International Students and Scholars:

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March 19, 2020
ISO Update-Spring 2020

March 19, 2020

The ISO will be OPEN today, Thursday, March 19, from 10:00am-3:00pm for document pickup/dropoff only.

As of Friday, March 20, the ISO will operate virtually (no staff physically in the office) until further notice in line with MIT's COVID-19 response.

ISO Advisors are available by email, phone, or by scheduling a WebEx appointment (request appointment by email to the Advisor).  Contact information for ISO Advisors is available at http://iso.mit.edu/about/student-advisor.shtml

ISO continues to process requests for visa documents and letters via iMIT, but will need to distribute any documents by mail.  Any questions about a pending request, please contact your ISO Advisor.

To keep updated:

ISO Updates-Spring 2020:
http://iso.mit.edu/news/iso-updates-spring-2020
(for continuous news and updates from the ISO)

Major Immigration Updates and Alerts:
http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/imm_updates.shtml

MIT Response to COVID-19:
http://mit.edu/covid19/

ISO can also be contacted by phone (617-253-3795) or via email (iso-help@mit.edu).

Please note that the ISO receives a large volume of emails.  We try to respond within 3 business days, though response times may vary. 

Thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,
David

***
David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director
International Students Office
http://iso.mit.edu
 

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March 13, 2020
ISO Update-Spring 2020

 

TOPICS

(1)  ISO Office Hours – March 16-20, 2020
(2)  5-Month Out of Country Rule (F-1 Visa Holders) – CLARIFICATION
(3)  Leaving Campus, Remaining in U.S. – Update your Address in WebSIS
(4)  Applying for Post-Completion OPT – Should I leave the U.S. without a job offer letter?
(5)  Can I Apply for F-1 OPT from Abroad? 

***

(1)  ISO OFFICE HOURS:  March 16-20, 2020

The ISO is currently planning to be open regular office hours, Monday, March 16 – Friday, March 20, 9:00am-4:00pm, for drop-off and pick-up of documents only.  No in-person appointments will be scheduled, though students can speak with their ISO Advisor by email, phone, or by scheduling a WebEx appointment.

There will be no ISO events, including Employment Information Sessions, offered for the foreseeable future.  The F-1 Employment Information Session presentation slides are available by link on the ISO “Employment” webpage.

ISO will continue to process visa document and letter requests submitted through iMIT.  Students will receive an email once their document is generated and can be picked up at the ISO or mailed directly to the student.

Please note that circumstances could cause changes in hours, so please check the ISO website for confirmation of hours and services available.
 

(2)  5-MONTH OUT OF COUNTRY RULE (F-1 VISA HOLDERS) CLARIFICATION

As indicated in the March 11, 2020 posting to ISO Updates-Spring 2020, students who maintain their full-time enrollment during Spring 2020, including the online instruction period, can be considered to be maintaining their F-1 or J-1 status even while outside the U.S. temporarily.

In the F-1 visa regulations, in place in current form since the early 2000’s, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) has defined a temporary absence as a continual period of 5-months outside the U.S.  The implementation and practice of the rule have come with contradictory guidance from USDHS at times, but it is important that the ISO continues to advise that this rule exists.  USDHS is being asked if, given the COVID-19 response actions by colleges/universities, the 5-month rule will be observed.  It is unclear if there will be any change in policy or practice, but we will update students if any new information is provided.

Please note this 5-month rule does NOT apply to J-1 student visa categories. 

While the 5-month rule will only become an issue for students if entry to the U.S. is restricted into August 2020, we know there are a number of questions.  We hope the following guidance is helpful:

If I depart the U.S. and then return to the U.S. within 5 months, is there any impact on my F-1 visa status?
No.  Students will have maintained their F-1 status since they will be enrolled full-time and pursuing studies during the Spring 2020 semester.  Eligibility for F-1 Curricular Practical Training and F-1 Optional Practical Training are also maintained.

If I depart the U.S. on March 17, I would need to return to the U.S. by August 16 to be within the 5-month timeframe.  Fall classes will not have started yet, and MIT housing may not be available yet.  What are my options?
While we do not know what travel restrictions will be in place over the remainder of the spring or summer to re-enter the U.S., if a student would be eligible to re-enter the U.S. prior to August 16, in this example, they would be encouraged to do so.  More information will be provided by MIT and ISO regarding Fall 2020 housing move-in dates once that information becomes available, but students may need to make other arrangements if returning in August but before MIT housing opens for the Fall term.  We will be following developments throughout the Spring and Summer and will keep students updated if additional options become available.

What if I’m not able to return to the U.S. until after I have been outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months?
The main impact of the 5-month rule for continuing students is eligibility for F-1 Curricular Practical Training and F-1 Optional Practical Training.  A “break” in status, such as an absence of more than 5 months from the U.S., would require a student to complete a new period of F-1 status and full-time enrollment for one full academic year (combination of a Fall and Spring semester) to become newly eligible for CPT and OPT.

*For students who would not be seeking CPT or OPT, or will not complete their programs of study until the Spring 2021 semester, they would not face an impact of the 5-month rule. 

*For students who would be completing their program of study before the Spring 2021 term, they would not be eligible for a period of pre- or post-completion OPT.

*For students who would be completing their program of study before the Spring 2021 term, but have a degree program mandated (required of all students to complete the degree) internship in the Fall 2020 term, they would be eligible for CPT but would not be eligible for pre- or post-completion OPT. 

If possible, if I enter the U.S. between now and the start of the Fall term, does that “stop the clock” on the 5-month absence?
Yes.  The 5-month rule references an uninterrupted period of absence from the U.S.  If travel policies will allow entry to the U.S. in F-1 status during the late Spring or Summer for a short period of time, and the student then departs the U.S., the “clock” for absence from the U.S. will start from the beginning.

Students who already face travel restrictions to the U.S., such as the COVID-19/CDC Level 3 restrictions or the Travel Ban, may want to re-consider travel plans outside the U.S. or not leaving the U.S. until it is less than 5 months from the beginning of classes for the Fall 2020 term. 

Please note that we cannot predict what future travel restrictions may be imposed (including additional countries that may be designated) or how long they will be in effect.

If I am outside of the U.S. for more than 5 months, do I have to apply for a new F-1 visa from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate (even though my current visa will be valid beyond my planned return to the U.S.)?
No.  The U.S. Department of State has confirmed that if the F-1 visa is valid, and you are returning to the U.S. to continue/resume studies, or begin a new program of study at the same or different school, in F-1 status, then students do NOT need to apply for a new F-1 visa.  Students do need to have a valid Form I-20 for the school they will be attending after entry to the U.S., and should carry any previous Forms I-20 issued to them (for the current or previous schools and degree programs).  Just as with any other entry to the U.S., students in F-1 status would need to prove admission to or enrollment at their school and provide documentation of financial support showing how study costs will be covered as listed on the Form I-20. 

(3)  Leaving Campus, Remaining in the U.S. -- UPDATE YOUR ADDRESS IN WEBSIS
If you will be moving off-campus, but remaining in the U.S., please be sure to update your addresses in WebSIS – especially your SEVIS U.S. Address – so that your SEVIS record can be updated accordingly.  USDHS requires any address updates to SEVIS to occur within 10 days of any change. 
 

(4)  Applying for Post-Completion OPT – Should I leave the U.S. without a job offer letter?
(I’m completing my degree in Spring (May 29, 2020), want to have employment/training after degree, but I do not have a job offer yet.  Should I leave the U.S.?)
First, F-1 students completing their degree at the end of Spring 2020 are advised to request their OPT I-20 to include in their Post-Completion OPT application to USCIS as soon as possible.  Please consult the ISO website on OPT application procedures.  We will also be adding the ISO Employment Information Session presentation slides to the ISO website (links available on the employment pages) for those who have not yet attended a session.

While the ideal situation for students will be to remain in the U.S. until post-completion OPT is approved and job offer is in hand, we understand this may not be feasible for students who do need to depart the U.S.  As long as students have confirmation of receipt of their OPT application, they would be able to re-enter the U.S. before their program completion date (example May 29, 2020) without having received the OPT Approval/EAD card and job offer letter yet.  If students must re-enter the U.S. after program completion date, the EAD card and job offer letter would be necessary.  You should be able to receive both documents while abroad.  You will need to arrange for the EAD card to be sent to you abroad (have your OPT application correspondence sent to a friend/relative’s address in the U.S.), and your employer could provide your job offer letter to you electronically and you can print a copy to present upon entry to the U.S.

We understand Undergraduate students are being asked to depart campus in response to the developing public health situation and state of emergency in Massachusetts.  If a student must depart the U.S., having your employer provide you will a job offer letter in order to return will be needed.  In light of the current circumstances, USDHS is being asked to not to require a job offer letter to return to the U.S. after program completion date and instead only require the EAD card as proof of OPT approval.  Until we receive any updates from USDHS, we operate with the expectation that a job offer letter will be required. 

J-1 Students must have a job offer to apply for J-1 Academic Training, but the authorization comes from ISO.  If a J-1 student does not have a job offer letter, which is required to obtain Academic Training authorization, the student would need to be physically inside the U.S. before their program completion date to be eligible (May 29, 2020 in this example).  Eligibility details and application instructions on the ISO website on J-1 Academic Training.

(5)  Can I Apply For F-1 OPT From Abroad?
(If I have left the U.S. already and have not applied for F-1 OPT, can I apply for OPT from abroad?
Students must be physically present in the U.S. when their OPT application is received by USCIS. It is not possible to apply from abroad. 

*  *  *  *  *

March 11, 2020
ISO Update-Spring 2020

Re:  ISO Resources related to MIT Spring 2020 Semester/COVID-19

Dear International Students,

We all read President Reif’s letter yesterday, March 10, announcing the transition of course instruction from on-campus to online, with both the understanding of the health concerns to our community and also the unexpected change in plans for our Spring 2020 semester.   This is indeed a unique situation, one that I have not experienced in my 28 years working in higher education.  But I am confident that we will all be able to take the necessary steps to protect our health and the health of the entire MIT community, and successfully complete the Spring semester

Additional guidance has been provided today – “Time Sensitive Information About Moving and Resources” – from Chancellor Cindy Barnhart, Vice President and Dean of Student Life Suzy Nelson, and Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz – that will be extremely important to read.

I know there are a lot of questions about how these changes will impact an international student’s visa status and other concerns.  I hope the following information is helpful to address some additional questions that have been raised to the International Students Office, and more updates will be provided as they become available.

IMPACT ON VISA STATUS

During the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, MIT students who are enrolled full-time (even while finishing their subjects through online instruction) will be considered to be maintaining their F-1 or J-1 student visa status, whether they are physically inside the U.S. or outside the U.S.

The only potential impact will be for students who remain outside the U.S. for more than 5 months.  Students who would be returning to the U.S. within 5 months would be considered to have continually maintained their visa status.

This maintenance of status allows students to maintain eligibility for the benefits of their visa status, including on-campus employment, the ability to apply for off-campus employment authorizations (F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training, and J-1 Academic Training), and continuing their studies beyond the Spring 2020 semester.

ON-CAMPUS HOUSING

Graduate Students living in MIT residences will be allowed to remain on-campus.  Graduate Students who can work remotely and can arrange to reside away from campus, including back in home country, are strongly encouraged to do so.

Undergraduate Students living in MIT residences are required to leave by 12:00noon on Tuesday, March 17 (and first-years, sophomores, and juniors should plan to not return to campus until Fall semester).

Undergraduate Students who are unable to return to their home country, or to an off-campus location, may request permission to remain in MIT residences under limited circumstances, including:

  • International students who will have difficulty returning to their home country if it has been hard-hit by Covid-19.
  • Students who do not have a home to go to, or for whom going home would be unsafe given the circumstances of their home country or home life.
  • International students who have concerns they would not be allowed to return to MIT due to visa issues (including students from countries subject to the Travel Ban). 

The Division of Student Life and Office of the Vice Chancellor have sent out an email with the subject line ““Time sensitive information about moving & resources”, advising Undergraduate Students who want to request permission to remain in MIT residences to complete the “Undergraduate Form to Request Permission to Remain on Campus” by 12:00noon on Friday March 13, 2020

Any student who is permitted to stay in MIT residences is advised they may be required to relocate to another residence on campus.

WILL ADDITIONAL TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS BE IMPLEMENTED BY THE U.S.?

It is unclear at this time if or when additional travel restrictions on entry to the U.S. or entry to other countries, will be implemented.  The ISO will continue to provide updates as we receive them, but students can also consult U.S. Embassy/Consulate websites for details on any visa or travel restrictions to the U.S. posted by the U.S. Department of State. 

ISO SERVICE UPDATES

The ISO will continue to provide services to students, throughout the Spring 2020 semester and beyond, even in the event that the physical office has to be closed.  ISO Staff will continue to be available to students remotely.

We want to confirm a number of functional updates:

  • We encourage students to review the extensive information on immigration/visa, travel, student support, and other topics available on the ISO website (http://iso.mit.edu).
  • ISO will remain open for drop off/pick up of visa documents or letters (or they can be requested to be mailed to students). 
  • In-Person appointments may be limited, but ISO Advisors will continue to be available by email or by phone.  Each student may contact their ISO Advisor Point-of-Contact -- Undergraduates have one advisor and Graduate Students and Visiting Students are assigned an ISO Advisor based on your academic program.  Please see the ISO Advisor listing here
  • ISO continues to process any new visa document requests, including for F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training, J-1 Academic Training, Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 Extensions, letters, etc. requested through iMIT (students will receive an email once the new document is ready for pickup or mailing).
  • ISO will provide Employment Workshop presentation slides (F-1 Practical Training; J-1 Academic Training) links on iMIT and on the ISO website; and will be formulating a virtual presentation format in the coming weeks.  Details on Employment Authorization options are available on the ISO website here
  • ISO will issue information updates on the ISO website, ISO Broadcast emails and ISO E-Newsletter throughout the Spring 2020 term.

A continuous update will be posted on an ongoing “Recent News” item, titled “ISO Updates-Spring 2020”, so please check back often.

APPLYING FOR F-1 OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING PRIOR TO TRAVEL

F-1 students, applying for Pre-Completion OPT for a summer internship/experience, or Post-Completion OPT, must file their application for OPT, and the application must be received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while physically present in the U.S. 

If students are planning to leave the U.S. for the remainder of the Spring 2020 term, but desire OPT authorization for work starting in the summer, students will need to be sure their OPT application is received, and proof of receipt from USCIS is received (email/text message from USCIS providing official application receipt number), BEFORE leaving the U.S. 

Details on how to request the required new Form I-20 to include in the OPT application, and procedures for submitting an OPT application to USCIS, is available on the ISO website (http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/emp_f1_opt.shtml).

OPT application processing times have averaged 90-100 days, but there is no guarantee on processing time.  Recent experience is that USCIS can take longer to process these applications.

NOTE:  Students applying for Post-Completion OPT may depart the U.S. after receiving from USCIS proof of receipt of their OPT application.  However, students MUST be back inside the U.S. prior to their program completion date, as listed on Form I-20, otherwise they will need to remain outside the U.S. until OPT is approved, their friend/family member can mail their OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card to them abroad, and the student has a job offer letter for their OPT period to present with the EAD upon entry to the U.S.
 
IMPORTANT:  If a student enters the U.S. in a different visa status (such as a tourist visa) while waiting for OPT to be approved, or after OPT is approved, the student is ending their F-1 student status and forfeiting the remainder of their OPT period. 

Please contact your ISO Advisor if you have questions about travel while an OPT application is pending at USCIS.

APPLYING FOR A NEW VISA AT U.S. EMBASSY/CONSULATE ABROAD

If your current F-1 or J-1 visa, issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, will be expired before a planned return to the U.S. from abroad, students will need to plan to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate while abroad. 

NOTE:  An F-1 or J-1 visa, issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, may expire while in the U.S., and a student is considered maintaining status as long as they have a valid passport, valid Form I-20/DS-2019, I-94 record, and is enrolled full-time at MIT or is authorized after completion of degree for Post-Completion employment.  A student would only need to apply for a new visa if the student will be traveling outside the U.S. and need to return to the U.S. to continue their F-1 or J-1 status.

Details on travel and applying for a visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad are available on the ISO website [Obtaining a Visa and Entering U.S. Borders].

Details on the visa application procedures are also available on the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website.

NOT COMPLETING PROGRAM OF STUDY BY CURRENT PROGRAM END DATE

If a student will not complete their program of study by the program end date listed on their Form I-20 (F-1 visa holders) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa holders), should request an I-20 or DS-2019 Extension in iMIT.  An extension request will require a letter from your Undergraduate or Graduate Administrator confirming your new expected program completion date, the reason why additional time is completed degree beyond normal timeframe, and documentation of how the student will be funded (tuition, fees, health insurance, living expenses) for the additional period of stay.
Form I-20 or DS-2019 Extensions can be completed while a student is outside the U.S.
Details on how to request a Form I-20 Extension or Form DS-2019 Extension are available in iMIT under “F-1 Student Services” or “J-1 Student Services”.

WHERE CAN I ACCESS UPDATES FROM THE ISO THROUGHOUT THE SPRING 2020 SEMESTER?

The ISO will continue to update our website, on our main page and the “ISO Updates-Spring 2020” page.
Any immigration or visa updates will be included in the ISO “Major Immigration Updates and Alerts” page.

We know this is a unique time.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to the ISO if you have any questions or we can be of any assistance.  Additional MIT resources are also available, including Student Support Services, and GradSupport, and can be of assistance. There are also other MIT staff who can help: your advisor, residential life staff (if you live on campus), the Chaplains in the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life, and counselors in Student Mental Health and Counseling Services. A full list of emergency assistance contact information is also available on the MIT Student Resources website or on the MIT Mobile App under “Student Support.”

Sincerely,
David Elwell

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David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director
International Students Office
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Building E18-Room 219 (E18-219)
Cambridge, MA  02139
Phone:  (617) 253-3795
Fax:  (617) 258-5483
Email:  elwell@mit.edu
http://iso.mit.edu

ISO Office Hours:  Monday through Friday, 9:00am-4:00pm Eastern Time; Closed Wednesdays from 10:00am-11:30am Eastern Time.