ISO Updates

ISO Updates

ISO Update: May 1, 2021

Contents
(1) Executive Order Imposing COVID-19 Travel Restrictions to U.S. adds India
(2) U.S. State Department Announces Limits to Visa Services in India
(3) USDOS Provides Updated Guidance on National Interest Exemptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and India
(4) USICE/SEVP Issues Enrollment Guidance for Academic Year 2021-2022

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(1) Executive Order Imposing COVID-19 Travel Restrictions to U.S. adds India

On April 30, 2021, President Biden signed a Presidential Proclamation/Executive Order adding India to the list of countries subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions for entry to the U.S. within 14 days of being physically present in India.

This Executive Order restricts/suspends entry to the U.S. for “noncitizens of the United States who were physically present within the Republic of India during the 14‑day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.”

This Executive Order is effective at 12:01am Eastern U.S. Time on May 4, 2021.   This order does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on May 4, 2021.

The April 30, 2021 Executive Order will continue these restrictions until otherwise ended by a subsequent order.

A full copy of the Proclamation is available here

India joins China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and the Schengen area of Europe (including the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland) under the current COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The U.S. Department of State announced late in the evening on April 30, 2021 that India will be added to the National Interest Exemption (NIE) to these travel restrictions for student visa (F,M) and certain J exchange visitor categories.  Please see the announcement below.  

The ISO and ISchO will be sure to update the community as we receive further updates via email and on the Major Immigration Alerts & Updates webpage.  Please contact your ISO Advisor or ISchO Advisor if you have any questions.

(2) U.S. State Department Announces Limits to Visa Services in India

On April 27, 2021 the U.S. Department of State announced that, as a result of the COVID-19 situation in India, all in-person and interview-waiver visa appointments are cancelled at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, and the Consulates in Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata until May 15, 2021. The U.S. Consulate in Mumbai is only providing emergency services to U.S. citizens and approved emergency visa services.

Due to limited appointment availability and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, consular posts are not currently able to reschedule any canceled appointments or respond to inquiries about future cancellations or appointment availability. Please see the full announcement here.

The situation in India is evolving. ISO will continue to monitor developments and post updates to the ISO Updates and the Major Immigration Updates page. 

(3)  USDOS Provides Updated Guidance on National Interest Exemptions for Certain Travelers from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and India

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of State announced that certain individuals (including those in F and M student visa status and certain J exchange visitor categories) traveling to the U.S. from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland may be eligible for a “National Interest Exemption” (NIE) to the current 14-day travel restrictions from those countries under various Presidential Proclamations related to COVID-19.  However, eligible students and exchange visitors traveling from China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa may only qualify for a NIE as of August 1, 2021 or later.  From the guidance provided, eligible travelers from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland continue to be eligible for the NIE based on the July 16, 2020 guidance for those countries.

On April 30, 2021, USDOS announced that F/M visa students and certain J exchange visitor categories from India have been added to the National Interest Exemption eligibility list with China, Iran, Brazil, and South Africa effective August 1, 2021. 

The USDOS announcement also states that students with valid F-1 and M-1 visas intending to begin or continue an academic program commencing August 1, 2021 or later do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 or M-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 or M-1 visa will automatically be considered for an NIE to travel.  This guidance would also apply to students on F-1 post-completion Optional Practical Training or STEM OPT Extension.

While no additional documentation is officially required for F-1/F-2 visa holders to present upon entry to the U.S. showing this exemption we strongly recommend that they print out a copy of the official announcement from the U.S. State Department, available here (April 26, 2021 announcement) and here (April 8, 2021 announcement).
MIT recommends travelers contact their airline prior to their travel date to be sure they will have no difficulty boarding their flight to the U.S. (and in case any changes in policy are posted). 

J-1/J-2 visa holders should contact their local U.S. Embassy/Consulate to make a NIE request, and receive approval, prior to travel to the U.S.

Reminder:  Students beginning their in-person study at MIT in Fall 2021 (with Form I-20 for “Initial Attendance” or Form DS-2019 for “Begin New Program”) will not be able to enter the U.S. until August 8, 2021 at the earliest (no earlier than 30 days prior to the Fall 2021 semester start date of September 7, 2021).

Students are reminded they must still carry all documentation verifying their student visa status eligibility when entering the U.S., including:  valid passport, valid Form I-20, valid entry visa (F or J) from U.S. Embassy/Consulate in passport, proof of admission to or enrollment at MIT and proof of financial support.  Students on F-1 Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension must also carry their EAD card and proof of employment; Students on J-1 Academic Training will need to carry documentation of their AT approval and proof of employment.  Further details on student travel to the U.S. is available on the ISO “Visas and Travel” webpage.  

Additional resources on NIEs and COVID-19 related travel restrictions are available on the NAFSA: Association of International Educators website here.

The ISO and ISchO will be sure to notify students/scholars via email and on the ISO Updates page and the ISchO News page with any updates or clarifications issued by the U.S. Department of State on the travel restrictions.

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor.

(4) USICE/SEVP Issues Enrollment Guidance for Academic Year 2021-2022

On April 26, 2021, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that their   international student enrollment guidance will remain the same for the 2021-2022 academic year.  As stated in the announcement, the guidance over the past year (issued in March 2020) will remain in effect for the 2021-2022 academic year.  

A link to MIT guidance for the Spring 2021 semester, that will continue for the 2021-2022 academic year, is posted here

As USICE/SEVP provides any additional information, we will be sure to post to ISO Updates and the Major Immigration Alerts & Updates webpage.

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ISO Update: April 14, 2021

USCIS Announces I-765 Applications for F-1 OPT, STEM OPT Can Be Filed Online; Awaiting Clarifications on Photo Procedures

On April 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that F-1 students applying for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT), using Form I-765, can be filed online.  Applications can also continue to be filed by mail.  

The option of filing online is only available to F-1 students filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization for F-1 Pre- or Post-Completion OPT, or F-1 STEM OPT.  Online I-765 filing is not available for J-2 work permission applications.  

However, for the reasons described below, until confirmations about application photos are received from USCIS, the MIT ISO is advising that student continue to file PAPER applications by MAIL to USCIS. 

Colleges/universities have reached out to USCIS for clarification on how the required photos, needed for OPT and STEM OPT applications, will be received.  Currently, individuals who file other application types with USCIS online, where the applications require biometrics (photos and/or fingerprints), are notified to schedule an in-person appointment with USCIS Application Support Centers to have photos and fingerprints completed.  Due to COVID-19, many of these support centers are not currently open, have limited appointment hours, or have significant backlogs that could delay Form I-765 processing times. 

The ISO will provide updates as soon as received from USCIS.

To read the full USCIS announcement, click here.     

Information for F-1 visa holders on Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM OPT) is available on the ISO “Employment” webpage.

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ISO Update: April 2, 2021

Contents

  1.  Stand with MIT’s AAPI Community – Candlelight Vigil – Saturday, April 3
  2.  IRS Warns University Students & Staff of “IRS impersonation” Email Scam
  3.  Update on Remote International Appointments
  4.  Reminder:  F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule
  5.  Federal and Massachusetts Income Tax Return Filing Deadline Extended to May 17, 2021

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(1) Stand with MIT’s AAPI Community – Candlelight Vigil – Saturday, April 3

3,795 candles will be laid out at Kresge Oval to recognize the 3,795 (and counting) reported anti-AAPI hate incidents in the last year alone. Members of the MIT community (students, faculty, affiliates) with COVIDPass eligibility are invited to come between 7-9 PM to reflect and show their solidarity.

Join and register here for your time slot between 7-9 PM to ensure social distancing and COVID-safe capacity limits. Masks must be worn and social distancing will be enforced. Please note that COVIDPass eligibility and campus access will be checked. *For those that cannot come in person, RSVP to our FB event for our livestream info and virtual interaction with other participants.*

Can you help volunteer? Sign up here to help with set-up and take-down of candles.  

We appreciate your support virtually or in-person this Saturday. #StopAsianHate #StandwithAAPIs

(2) IRS Warns University Students & Staff of “IRS impersonation” Email Scam

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a warning of an ongoing IRS-impersonation scam that appears to primarily target educational institutions, including students and staff who have “.edu” email addresses.

The IRS’ phishing@irs.gov has received complaints about the impersonation scam in recent weeks from people with email addresses ending in “.edu.” The phishing emails appear to target university and college students from both public and private, profit and non-profit institutions.

Taxpayers who believe they have a pending refund can easily check on its status at “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov. 

The suspect emails display the IRS logo and use various subject lines such as “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” It asks people to click a link and submit a form to claim their refund.

The phishing website requests taxpayers provide their:

  • Social Security Number
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Prior Year Annual Gross Income (AGI)
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Current Address
  • City
  • State/U.S. Territory
  • ZIP Code/Postal Code
  • Electronic Filing PIN

People who receive this scam email should not click on the link in the email, but they can report it to the IRS. For security reasons, save the email using “save as” and then send that attachment to phishing@irs.gov or forward the email as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and IRS Criminal Investigation have been notified.

Taxpayers who believe they may have provided identity thieves with this information should consider immediately obtaining an Identity Protection PIN. This is a voluntary opt-in program. An IP PIN is a six-digit number that helps prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns in the victim’s name. 

Taxpayers who attempt to e-file their tax return and find it rejected because a return with their SSN already has been filed should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, to report themselves as a possible identity theft victim. See Identity Theft Central to learn about the signs of identity theft and actions to take. 

(3) Update on Remote International Appointments

An update on guidance concerning Remote International Appointments for Summer and Fall 2021 has been posted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor. 

A specific draft of an email to Newly-Admitted International Graduate Students, as well as the full series of guidance to academic departments/programs, and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, can be viewed on the OVC website.  

(4) Reminder: F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule

The ISO has been receiving additional inquiries regarding the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule.  MIT has reviewed USDHS guidance and FAQ, and had additional inquiries to USDHS on this topic, and from this advice that the suspension of the rule only applies to students who were enrolled and physically present in the U.S. prior to March 9, 2020, left the U.S. before August 31, 2020 (the start of the Fall 2020 term), and have not be able to re-enter the U.S. 

F-1 Students who were physically present in the U.S. during the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semester, and then depart the U.S., are subject to the 5-month Temporary Absence Rule from the new date of their departure from the U.S. 

F-1 alumni on approved Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT Extension are also subject to the 5-month Temporary Absence Rule from their last date of departure from the U.S.

We advise that students please read the guidance available on the ISO Knowledge Base article concerning the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule.

[NOTE:  J-1 visa holders (student category) are NOT subject to this 5-month temporary absence rule].

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your ISO Advisor

(5) Federal and Massachusetts Income Tax Return Filing Deadline Extended to May 17, 2021

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the Federal income tax filing deadline for 2020 calendar year returns has been extended to May 17, 2021. 
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue, in response to the IRS announcement, has published that it also has extended the Massachusetts State income tax filing deadline for 2020 returns to May 17, 2021. 
Please note that each State may adjust (or not) its own State income tax filing deadline.  If you will be filing an income tax return in a State other than Massachusetts you will want to check that State’s department of taxation or revenue to confirm that State deadline. 

MIT provides a number of resources to support international students completing their required income tax returns.  Links to the available resources are available on the ISO Taxes webpage (https://iso.mit.edu/maintaining-status/taxes/).

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ISO Update: March 16, 2021

Contents

  1. ISO Info Session/Q&A: International Student Employment Resources – March 18, 2021
  2. MIT Tax Workshops – Recordings/Slidedecks Now Available
  3. Beware of Scams
  4. Subscribe to the ISO Newsletter

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(1) ISO Info Session/Q&A: International Student Employment Resources – March 18, 2021

The ISO will be hosting a Information Session/Q&A on International Student Employment Resources on Thursday, March 18, 2021, from 11:00am-12:00noon.  This session will address questions about obtaining work permission for off-campus internships, experiences, and post-degree employment opportunities (including F-1 CPT, OPT, STEM OPT, and J-1 Academic Training). 

Questions can be submitted in advance online:  https://tinyurl.com/efvd7s76

Students are encouraged to review the employment information resources on the ISO “Employment” webpages in advance of the session (this session will not review step-by-step application procedures, which are available on the ISO website). 

This session will be recorded, and links to the recording and slidedeck will be posted as soon as possible after the event. 

Zoom link information has been sent to all MIT international students via email.

For additional information on ISO sponsored programming, see the ISO Events page. 

(2) MIT Tax Workshops – Recordings/Slidedecks Now Available

On March 2, 2021, MIT hosted Tax Workshops for MIT students and scholars regarding the filing of the 2020 calendar year income tax returns.
The Workshop recordings and slidedecks are now posted on the MIT VPF “How To Get Tax Help” webpage.

Additional tax information for international students and scholars, including Glacier Tax Prep software available to MIT international students, is available on the VPF website or linked from the ISO “Taxes” webpage.  

(3) Beware of Scams

Especially around tax time, but also throughout the year, students are reminded to use caution when receiving phonecalls or emails from individuals claiming they are government agencies, tax authorities, banks, or other officials requesting personal information from you.  Phone and email scams are very common, and some do try and target international students. 

(4) Subscribe to the ISO Newsletter

If you receive a call from someone asking for personal information or payment of any kind, especially if they indicate they are a government official or law enforcement, you may ask the individual their name, agency, and phone number and advise them you will contact them after speaking with your MIT International Students Office.  If the caller is from the actual agency, they will support you contacting the MIT ISO first before speaking with the.  If they refuse, then they are likely a scammer and you should hang up the phone (or do not respond at all to their email) and notify the ISO.
For additional information on protecting yourself from scams, please view the ISO “Scams and Fraud” webpageSubscribe to the ISO Newsletter

Separate from the ISO Broadcasts, which provide urgent updates/reminders to MIT international students, which you are reading now, the ISO does publish a weekly electronic newsletter with news and event announcements that are of benefit to the MIT international community.

To sign up to receive the ISO Newsletter, or to view an archive of past ISO Newsletters, please view the ISO Newsletters page

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ISO Update: March 1, 2021

Contents

(1) Reminder: MIT Tax Workshops – Tuesday, March 2
(2) USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT

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(1) REMINDER:  MIT TAX WORKSHOPS – TUESDAY, MARCH 2The MIT Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF), International Scholars Office (ISchO), Student Financial Services (SFS), Office of Graduate Education (OGE), and the International Students Office (ISO) are sponsoring new Tax Workshops for MIT students and scholars for tax year 2020 on Tuesday, March 2, 2021:

*7:00pm-8:00pm:  Nonresident (for tax purposes) International Students (generally, international students in the U.S. 5 years or less)

*8:00pm-9:00pm:  All Other Students including, but not limited to, U.S. Citizens, U.S. Permanent Residents, and Residents (for tax purposes) students and scholars.

Zoom details for the Tax Workshops is available here.   
The Tax Workshops will be recorded and posted to the VPF website. 

(2) USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT

On February 26, 2021, USCIS issued a news release “USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain Applicants Filing Form I-765 for OPT, providing some support for international students who filed Form I-765 applications (F-1 Optional Practical Training, F-1 STEM OPT Extension) to USCIS lockbox centers that have faced receipt notice delays.

These flexibilities only apply to applications received by USCIS between October 1, 2020 through May 1, 2021.

14-month OPT Period Flexibilities
Normally, post-completion OPT authorization would need to be completed within 14 months of a student’s date of completion of their degree program. Due to the processing delays, USCIS has indicated that students will receive the full period of OPT requested (up to 12 months) from the date USCIS approves the post-completion OPT application.

Refiling Applications Following Rejection
USCIS advised that due to the lockbox delays, applicants who timely filed the Form I-765 for F-1 OPT, whose applications were rejected and returned by USCIS, and those students were unable to timely refile the application within required timeframes, may be able to refile the application with USCIS if certain conditions are met. The original applications (that were rejected) must have been timely filed (delivered to USCIS) between October 1, 2020 through May 1, 2021.

Please read the full USCIS news release here.

NOTE: USCIS has not released any guidance changing the requirement that students must be physically inside the U.S. when USCIS receives the F-1 OPT or F-1 STEM OPT Extension application. Students should plan to be physically inside the U.S. when filing their OPT/STEM OPT applications and should remain in the U.S. until they receive a receipt notification (text/email or paper notice) from USCIS.

If you have any questions, please contact your ISO Advisor.

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ISO Tax Update: March 1, 2021

March 1, 2021

Dear MIT International Students,

Our Federal tax filing resources are now available at no cost to all MIT international students through a generous donation by the Kailath International Student Fund.  For MIT tax resources for international students, please visit the Vice President for Finance Office “Tax Guidance for Nonresident Aliens” page (https://vpf.mit.edu/tax-guidance-for-nonresident-aliens), or via links on the MIT ISO tax page (http://iso.mit.edu/students/taxes.shtml).

Remember that ALL F-1, F-2, J-1 and J-2 holders (including dependents) MUST file U.S. income tax return forms whether or not they received U.S.-based income in 2020.  All
income tax return forms are due by April 15th every tax season.

If you are unfamiliar with the U.S. Tax system, and have questions, please utilize the Help and FAQ portion of the Glacier Tax Prep portal site.
Please check that you have received all of your tax forms (some possible forms include Form W-2, Form 1042-S, Form 1099) before filing a federal income tax return.  MIT fellowship, scholarship, and grant recipients, and those who already claimed a tax treaty benefit, should receive the Form 1042-S this week from MIT.  If you need replacement forms, or are unsure if you should receive a form from MIT, please contact MIT Payroll (payroll@mit.edu) for more information.  Please note that students who received no US-source income from MIT in 2020 may not receive any forms from MIT.
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GLACIER Tax Prep (“GTP”) software is an Internet-based tax return preparation system that will help F or J visa holders prepare their 2020 U.S. Federal income tax return forms if they are filing as a Nonresident for tax purposes.  After going through GLACIER Tax Prep, the program will prepare the appropriate tax forms for you to print out and will include an instruction sheet that will tell you where to send the forms.  This software can be used by your F-2 or J-2 dependents as well. 

Tip: For GTP, please note that the Designated School Official for MIT is the ISO Advisor who signs your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. 

State Income Tax Return filing – Please note that GLACIER Tax Prep does not assist you with any State income tax form filing.  However, students will have a link in GTP to an option to pay a separate fee directly to Sprintax**, another tax preparation website, for Sprintax’s self-prep option to prepare your STATE income tax returns. [EC1]  Please note: students can also go directly to a State’s tax/department of revenue website and use the information on your Federal forms to fill out State income tax return forms manually at no cost.

** As of today, March 1, 2021 Sprintax has not made available the Massachusetts income tax return capabilities.  We recommend that you file your Federal income tax return now using GTP, and then we will let you know when the Sprintax (using this software will incur a fee) software is ready for the Massachusetts State Income Tax Return.

GLACIER Tax Prep can be found at the following URL:   https://iso.mit.edu/maintaining-status/taxes/mit-glacier-tax-prep/?hilite=%27Glacier%27%2C%27tax%27%2C%27prep%27

Students must log in with their Kerberos ID and Password using Touchstone to access GLACIER Tax Prep.If you need help using Touchstone, please call the MIT Computing Help Desk at 3-1101 or consult the IS&T website (https://ist.mit.edu/touchstone).
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Tax Workshops for International and US Students
The Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF) is sponsoring new Tax Workshops for MIT students and scholars for tax year 2020 on Tuesday, March 2, 2021:
7:00pm-8:00pm:  Nonresident (for tax purposes) International Students (generally, international students in the U.S. 5 years or less)
8:00pm-9:00pm:  All Other Students including, but not limited to, U.S. Citizens, U.S. Permanent Residents, and Residents (for tax purposes) students and scholars.
Zoom details for the Tax Workshops is available here.  

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Helpful Tax Resource Links:
To access resource information, including links to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, as well as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, please visit the MIT VPF “Tax Guidance for Nonresident Aliens” page: https://vpf.mit.edu/tax-guidance-for-nonresident-aliens

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Unfortunately, the ISO advisors are not trained to give tax advice.  We hope that all your questions will be answered by use of these resources.  Remember, the majority of international students will need to file income tax return forms by April 15, 2021.  ALL F-1, F-2, J-1, and J-2 visa holders are required to file Federal income tax return forms regardless of income.  

**Special Note: If you were not physically present in the United States at any time during the 2020 calendar year, you are not required to file tax forms for this tax season (by April 15, 2021).

Best, 
The International Students Office

ISO Update: February 10, 2021

Work Visas & Permanent Resident Options Presentation – Slides and Recording Available
The MIT International Students Office (ISO) and International Scholars Office (ISchO) hosted a presentation on February 5, 2021 by Boston-based immigration law firm Iandoli Desai & Cronin, P.C. entitled “Work Visas & Permanent Residence Options (Transition to Biden Administration)“.
A copy of the presentation slides and the video/audio recording are now posted on the ISO website here.
(Login with MIT email/Kerberos credentials)

* * *

ISO Update: February 8, 2021

Spring 2021 Registration Guidance for International First-Year Students

Dear Students,

I am writing in response to inquiries we have received about in-person course requirements for first-year international students on F-1 and J-1 visas. Below, you will see that we have confirmed MIT’s current guidance is in line with federal rules. Students can make a determination about their spring coursework after considering the risks associated with not following MIT’s registration advice. I encourage you to learn more by reading this message in its entirety.

**
As you are likely aware, the regulations and guidance on this issue come from the federal government–in particular, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department.

You may also recall that, last summer, MIT and Harvard successfully led the charge against a federal policy that would have had the effect of banning continuing F-1 students from remaining in the country if their classes were fully online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are grateful that our lawsuit prevailed and that international students have been able to pursue their education and their degrees through a mix of hybrid and in-person classes during the pandemic. Unfortunately, however, the lawsuit did not change the longstanding in-person course requirements for new international students.

Following the lawsuit, we issued internal MIT guidance based on the federal rules, in a manner that we believe upholds students’ short- and long-term best interests.

When issuing our guidance, we considered all relevant federal government rules, as well as the COVID-19 related federal guidance and FAQs. We had numerous conversations with our peer institutions, U.S. immigration experts, and individuals within DHS. While DHS’s and the State Department’s guidance are clear that first-year students are not able to pursue fully remote coursework from inside the U.S., there continues to be conflicting guidance on the minimum amount of in-person coursework required for new students.

Please remember that our ultimate goal when issuing immigration guidance is to ensure that international students can successfully enter, study, and potentially pursue training in their field of study in the U.S., both now and after they leave MIT. To that end, we believe that our guidance puts our students in the strongest possible position to fulfill their immediate U.S. immigration needs and their future U.S. immigration plans. And we are grateful that so many DLCs and first-year learning communities developed a comprehensive menu of hybrid course options to make it easier for students to meet this federal requirement.

After receiving questions from some students and faculty, we recently analyzed our guidance again and assessed our position for the upcoming spring semester. Despite the lack of clarity on this topic, we continue to believe that our Fall 2020 guidance is most in line with the federal requirements. Please know that we continue to work with higher education associations to advocate for clearer and more flexible federal rules. But in the meantime, we do not believe that we should change our guidance for the Spring 2021 term. 

Ultimately, individual students can make a decision that best meets their individual needs and circumstances. Please know that if students do not follow our registration advice, they may encounter future issues related to their immigration status or applications that are reviewed and decided by the federal government (such as F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT, H-1B, etc.; as well as visa applications at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad). If you are a first-year international student who is considering registering for fewer than 24-units of subjects with in-person components, we strongly advise that you consider these risks.

ISO Advisors are the best resource to turn to for student immigration questions. Therefore, I encourage all first-year undergraduate and graduate international students to reach out to their ISO Advisor during Registration Week if they have questions about their individual immigration matters.

Sincerely,
Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor

NOTE: To view the original MIT guidance concerning the Fall 2020 USDHS Guidance on International Students posted on July 29, 2020, please visit here.

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ISO Update: January 26, 2021

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDERS UPDATING TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS IMPACTING ENTRY TO THE U.S. FROM CERTAIN COUNTRIES

The Biden Administration in its first week has issued multiple Executive Orders related to visa and travel restrictions to the U.S.

In Brief:

  • January 25, 2021 – Executive Order Extending Travel Restriction to U.S. from Iran, China, Brazil, Europe/Schengen Countries (including United Kingdom and Ireland) – effective on persons on a flight direct to the U.S. that departed on or after 12:01am eastern standard time on January 26, 2021
    • The order adds South Africa to the 14-day entry restriction to the U.S – – effective on persons on a flight direct to the U.S. that departed on or after 12:01am eastern standard time on January 30, 2021
    • While not addressed in the Order, the U.S. Department of State has communicated that, per their October 1, 2020 guidance,  students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 visas automatically qualify for a national interest exception to this travel restriction. Students/Scholars from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 visa should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate to request an exception (as has been guidance since July 2020).  Please review the details below and a summary of the National Interest Exemption for travel from Schengen/United Kingdom/Ireland available on the MIT Immigration Alerts & Updates page.  Students/Scholars are still advised to contact their airlines to confirm procedures for boarding flights to the U.S.

Full Details:

Executive Order Extending Travel Restriction to U.S. from Iran, China, Brazil, Europe/Schengen Countries (including United Kingdom and Ireland); adding South Africa

On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order to maintain the COVID travel restrictions for entry to the U.S. within 14 days of being physically present in Brazil and most countries of Europe (Schengen countries, including the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland). The order also confirms that the COVID travel restrictions continue for those who have been physically present in Iran or China within 14 days of travel to the U.S.  

The order also adds South Africa to the 14-day entry restriction to the U.S.

NOTE:  While the Order does not specifically reference the U.S. Department of State notice on National Interest Exemption procedures for F-1 and J-1 visa holders to the Schengen/United Kingdom/Ireland travel restriction to the U.S., the U.S. Department of State has responded to inquiries from professional associations that these exemption procedures remain in place.  F-1 visa holders remain exempt; J-1 student/scholar visa holders must continue to obtain a written exemption from the local U.S Embassy/Consulate before each trip to the U.S.  All Students/Scholars are also advised to carry a printed version of the Schengen/UK/Ireland exemption information from the U.S. Department of State website availablehere.

MIT recommends that travelers also contact their airline to verify any restrictions on boarding flights to the U.S. 

These travel restrictions (except for South Africa) have been in place since Summer 2020.   The Trump Administration announced on January 19, 2021 that the restrictions on Brazil and Schengen countries (including the UK and Ireland) would expire on January 26, 2021. The Biden Administration then announced that it planned to extend the COVID-related travel restrictions once in office given current COVID conditions in the U.S. and in the designated countries.

The January 25, 2021 Executive Order will continue these restrictions until otherwise ended by a subsequent order.

A copy of the full Executive Order is available here

Biden Administration Revokes Trump Administration “Travel Bans”

On January 20, 2021 President Biden issued a Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States. This Proclamation revokes the following Executive Orders issued by the Trump Administration, also known as the “Travel Bans”:

*Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017:  clarifications on countries identified in Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017 that places visa/travel restrictions on Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, also referred to as the “Muslim Ban”, and new limitations on refugees to the U.S.

*Proclamation 9645 of September 24, 2017: addition of countries to the previous travel restriction, including Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, and Yemen; additional restrictions on Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

*Proclamation 9723 of April 10, 2018:  removed the Chad from the travel restriction list.

*Proclamation 9983 of January 31, 2020:  immigrant and certain other non-immigrant visa limitations of additional countries due to incomplete sharing of security data resulted in the following countries facing travel restrictions, including Burma/Union of Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania.

The January 20, 2021 Proclamation from the Biden Administration directs the U.S. Department of State to resume visa processing for individuals affected by the bans and to develop plans to reconsider immigrant visa denials issued under the bans.  All visa applications continue to be subject to security check reviews, including “administrative processing”, and do not guarantee visa issuance as all applications are considered individually on their merits under U.S. policies.  

The full text of the January 20, 2021 Proclamation can be found here.

The U.S. Department of State has also posted updates concerning relevant executive orders and proclamations on its website, here.

CDC Requires Negative COVID-19 Test for International Travelers Entering U.S.
Please be reminded that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted, effective January 26, 2021, that the U.S. will require a negative COVID-19 test for international travelers entering the U.S.  A summary and links to this CDC order is available here

* * *

ISO Update: January 22, 2021

Contents

  1. REMINDER:  U.S. requires negative COVID-19 Tests for international travelers entering the U.S.
  2. Biden Administration Executive Orders Related to Immigration
  3. USCIS Issues Update on Processing Delays of Receipt Notices
  4. U.S.-Canada-Mexico “Non-Essential” Travel Restrictions Extended to 02/21/2021
  5. Reports of I-94 Errors on Entry to the U.S.
  6. Spring 2021 Online Check-In Required of ALL MIT International Students (not including alumni)

    ***

(1) REMINDER:  U.S. requires negative COVID-19 Tests for international travelers entering the U.S.
Under a new federal Order that will take effect January 26, 2021, air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country will be subject to new COVID-19 testing requirements. 
Passengers will be required to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding their flight.
For more information on this testing requirement, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Please see this summary and additional links on the ISO website.

(2) Biden Administration Executive Orders Related to Immigration
Since the inauguration of President Biden on January 20, 2021, a number of Executive Orders have been issued, and additional are expected in the near future, related to immigration matters.  MIT is currently reviewing the Executive Orders, and seeking additional clarifications on their potential impact, and will post information including links to helpful summaries and resources soon.

(3) USCIS Issues Update on Processing Delays of Receipt Notices
Since the USCIS announcement on January 8, 2021 regarding receipt notification processing delays at the USCIS Lockbox locations in Texas and Phoenix, USCIS and the CIS Ombudsman’s Office has provided additional updates to confirm the following:

  • Some applications are experiencing delays of up to 8 weeks to receive a receipt notification.
  • A new filing address for USCIS (in Chicago) for F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Extension applications filed as of January 8 has been created  (filing instructions available on the USCIS I-765 webpage
  • Additional resources provided to Texas and Phoenix Lockboxes to work through backlogs, including forwarding some applications to other USCIS offices
  • USCIS also indicated “(USCIS) do not anticipate any receipting delays that would result in a payment that is past its validity date.”
  • USCIS has indicated that no duplicate application should be filed if a student has delivery confirmation by the U.S. Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. of the application to USCIS.

If a student has questions about filing a new application due to delays in receiving receipt notifications, they should consult with their ISO Advisor.
Note that if a student files a new application for OPT/STEM OPT Extension given the receipt delays on the initial application, the previous Form I-20 and OPT/STEM OPT Extension recommendation would need to be cancelled and a new recommendation and Form I-20 issued to be included in a new application. 
For Post-Completion OPT applicants, a new application would have to be filed within 60 days of the program end date for that application to be accepted.  If it has been more than 60 days since program completion, filing a new application is not possible and should wait for receipt on the current pending application.
For STEM OPT Extension applicants wanting to file a new application, USCIS would need to receive the new application prior to the OPT end date as listed on the current EAD card.  Any new application filed would have processing time based on the new date USCIS receives the application (not the original date the first application was received).  If the end date of the original OPT EAD card has past, then the student must await receipt for the STEM OPT Extension application already pending.  Please note that as long as a STEM OPT Extension application is received at USCIS prior to the expiration of the original OPT EAD card, a student is eligible to continue working for its STEM OPT employer for up to 180 days while the STEM OPT Extension application is pending. 

Recent receipt notifications have reflected the actual date that USCIS received the application by mail from applicants (reflecting the actual delivery date of the application to USCIS received 6-8 weeks earlier).  The processing of the application will be based on that actual “received date” that the application was delivered by the mail carrier to USCIS.  We have actually seen quick turnarounds for approval, where the EAD card has been received soon after the receipt notification has been received from USCIS.   

USCIS and the CIS Ombudsman’s Office has provided additional guidance for steps applicants can take if they have not received any receipt email/text or notice from USCIS after the application has been pending at least 60 days.  The ISO has outlined this updated guidance on the ISO Knowledge Base on steps to reach out to USCIS. 

The ISO and MIT, as well as a number of professional associations, continue outreach to USCIS and CIS Ombudsman’s Office regarding the need for resolution to these backlogs and impact on MIT international students.  We will continue to post any updates we receive from USCIS on this important issue. 

(4) U.S.-Canada-Mexico “Non-Essential” Travel Restrictions Extended to 02/21/2021
On January 22, 2021, USCBP has posted to its Twitter account that the Non-Essential travel restriction between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico has been extended to February 21, 2021. There has not yet been any official posting by U.S. Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Customs and Border Protection webpages yet, but recent updates of the extension of the restriction has been posted on Twitter only. 
The travel restriction does NOT apply to entry to the U.S. for study or employment, but does prevent entry to the U.S., or entry to Canada or Mexico from the U.S., for tourism purposes.   
This travel restriction has been in place since March 21, 2020.
Please see full posting on the ISO website, here

(5) Reports of I-94 Errors on Entry to the U.S.
For all students returning to the U.S., we want to remind you that after arrival, please update iMIT to report your entry and upload a copy of your new Form I-94 record (under the “Immigration Documents” menu).  To download a copy of your I-94 record AFTER your re-entry to the U.S., please go to the follow CBP website: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search

We have been receiving reports from across the country, including from some MIT students and scholars, and from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), that some F and J visa holders are not receiving I-94 records with “Duration of Status” (D/S) notifications, but rather with a status end date (02/01/1900 — where 1900 is not a typo).  

For this reason, we advise all students returning to the U.S. to check the information on the I-94 before uploading to iMIT.

CBP has advised that if F or J visa holders whose I-94 record has this error to go in-person to CBP at Logan International Airport (Terminal E) in Boston, or email the completed CBP I-94 correction request form to CBP in order to get the I-94 record corrected.  

If any questions arise, please contact your ISO Advisor.
We will be sure to update the community if any additional information is provided by USCBP.

(6) Spring 2021 Online Check-In Required of ALL MIT International Students (not including alumni)

Similar to the process for Fall 2020, in order to best track the study plans for MIT international students for the Spring 2021 Semester, the ISO has a set of eforms in iMIT for students to report if they will be studying inside or outside the U.S., as well as to confirm planned return date to the U.S. if abroad, for the Spring 2021 semester.

We are asking ALL MIT International Students (New AND Continuing), once you make a decision on Spring 2021, to complete the new Online Check-In Procedure. 

The Online Check-In process should be completed in iMIT as follows: 

  • Login to iMIT (http://imit.mit.edu): Select “Upon Arrival” menu, then Select “Spring 2021 Online Check-In”
  • ALL Students: Complete section “1. Student Status” and section “2. Student Category” (New/Transfer or Continuing Student) now, even before arrival to the U.S.
  • New/Transfer Students (arriving to the U.S. to begin in-person study in Spring 2021):  Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” only AFTER your arrival in the U.S.
  • Continuing Students (pursued in-person coursework in the U.S. at MIT in Fall 2020 or earlier): Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” either AFTER your arrival in the U.S., OR from abroad if you will NOT be entering U.S. for Spring 2021

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact the ISO (iso-help@mit.edu). Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to the Fall semester with you.

NOTE:  If your plans for Spring 2021 change after submitting the Online Check-In, PLEASE return to iMIT and CANCEL the previous submission and resubmit the new eform to confirm your plans.

***

ISO Update: January 10, 2021

Contents

  1. USCIS Issues Update on Processing Delays of Receipt Notices
  2. New Filing Address for New I-765 Applications
  1. USCIS Issues Update on Processing Delays of Receipt Notices

On January 8, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an updated notice confirming processing delays issuing receipt notifications by the USCIS Lockbox locations in Texas and Phoenix.  USCIS indicated that applications already filed at the USCIS Lockboxes will have receipt notices processed by those locations, and additional resources are being provided to process the receipt of application as quickly as possible.  USCIS also indicated “(USCIS) do not anticipate any receipting delays that would result in a payment that is past its validity date.”

No duplicate application should be filed if a student has delivery confirmation by the U.S. Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. of the application to USCIS. 

Recent receipt notifications have reflected the actual date that USCIS received the application by mail from applicants (reflecting the actual delivery date of the application to USCIS received 4-6 weeks earlier).  The processing of the application will be based on that actual “received date” that the application was delivered by the mail carrier to USCIS. 

USCIS and the CIS Ombudsman’s Office has provided guidance for steps applicants can take if they have not received any receipt email/text or notice from USCIS after the application has been pending at least 30 days.  The ISO has outlined this guidance on the ISO Knowledge Base on steps to reach out to USCIS. 

2. New Filing Address for Form I-765 Employment Authorization Applications

As part of USCIS’ announcement of January 8, 2021 referenced above, USCIS indicates that to help with processing of I-765 employment authorization applications that any new applications (for F-1 OPT, STEM OPT) should be mailed to a new filing location in Chicago (at least for the near future). 

Students filing a new employment authorization application to USCIS should confirm the current form version, fee amount, and proper filing/mailing address at the time of filing that is available on the instructions for the Form I-765 and the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765 on the USCIS website for applications filed by “foreign students” (F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT, and J-2 work permit application types). 

The USCIS Lockboxes in Texas and in Phoenix continue to process I-765 applications already received.  No duplicate application should be filed if a student has delivery confirmation by the U.S. Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. of the application mailed to/received by USCIS. 

If students have any questions about their F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT Extension, or J-2 work permission applications to be filed at USCIS, please consult the ISO “Employment” webpage and, if necessary, contact your ISO Advisor

***

ISO Update: December, 24, 2020

Contents

  1. Updated Review of the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule
  2. ISO Virtual Forum – December 21 – Presentation Slides/Recording Available
  3. Travel Questions – Consult ISO “Visas and Travel” Webpage
  4. ISO Closed for Holiday Break – December 24, 2020 through January 3, 2021

(1)  Updated Review of Suspension of F-1 Five Month Temporary Absence Rule
Following the unofficial announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) last week that USDHS Guidance for the Fall 2020 semester has been extended through the Spring 2021 semester, MIT reached out to USDHS to obtain any updated clarification concerning the suspension of the F-1 Five Month Temporary Absence Rule. 

[NOTE: J-1 visa holders are NOT subject to any 5-month Temporary Absence Rule.]

We, like many of our peers, believe now that the USDHS Guidance, and its reported extension, also suspends the 5-month Temporary Absence Rule for the Fall 2020 and the Spring 2021 semesters for certain students. However, no official written guidance has been provided by USDHS/SEVP, and therefore exceeding the five months outside the U.S. carries some risks, which we set out below.

Our updated guidance for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, based on the current available information, is:  

  1. Students who (1) were enrolled full-time in F-1 status on March 9, 2020; (2) were physically in the U.S. as of that date; (3) subsequently left the U.S. during the Spring or Summer 2020 terms; and (4) have continually maintained full-time enrollment and MIT student status remotely from abroad:
    • MIT considers you to have maintained your F-1 status during your time abroad;
    • MIT will authorize F-1 Curricular Practical Training and recommend F-1 Optional Practical Training for you (as long as all other CPT and OPT criteria are met) after return to the U.S.
    • You may return to the U.S. after a stay outside the U.S. for longer than 5 months (even after January 30, 2021); however, you may wish to eliminate the risks, and ensure uninterrupted eligibility for F-1 CPT or OPT, by returning within 5 months from the start of the Fall 2020 semester (no later than January 30, 2021). See specific risks outlined below.
  1. New students who (1) arrived in the U.S. to begin their program of study at MIT and F-1 status AFTER March 9, 2020 (with “New”, “Initial Attendance”, “Transfer Pending” as reason of Form I-20 issuance), and (2) who were enrolled full-time in-person at MIT in the Fall 2020 semester, and (3) subsequently left the U.S., are subject to the 5-month Temporary Absence Rule. 
    • These students may choose to pursue Spring 2021 semester coursework full-time remotely from abroad, but unless USDHS issues new guidance you would not be maintaining F-1 status from abroad and would result in a break in eligibility for F-1 off-campus employment benefits.
  2. Students on authorized periods of post-degree-completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT) are subject to the 5-month Temporary Absence Rule from the date of departure from the U.S. (and should return to the U.S. within 5 months of date of departure from the U.S. to maintain status and OPT/STEM OPT employment authorization). 

Students who completed their degree program at MIT after March 9, 2020 and applied for OPT based on that degree, with the approval of OPT occurring while abroad, should return to the U.S. within 5 months of the start date of the OPT approval as listed on the Employment Authorization (EAD) card.  Students will need to show evidence of maintaining employment with a U.S.-based employer on OPT during that period abroad.

[NOTE:  Students on OPT or STEM OPT have separate limits on periods of unemployment (90 days of unemployment during the 12-month OPT period, plus an additional 60 days of unemployment time during 24-month STEM OPT period with any unused from the original 90 days during initial OPT) that may require return to the U.S. earlier than the 5-month period.] 

If a student is subject to the 5-month rule, and is unable to return to the U.S. within the 5-month period, it does not mean that the student cannot continue remote study from abroad.  It does mean there would be a potential break/interruption in their F-1 student visa status which can impact timing of eligibility for off-campus employment authorization (F-1 Curricular Practical Training or F-1 Optional Practical Training). 

The specific risks of remaining abroad beyond the normal 5-month period include the following:

  • USCIS may question eligibility for F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), and may not process OPT applications, without written USDHS guidance confirming policy updates.
  • It remains unclear if the suspension of the 5-month temporary absence rule also applies to students who arrived to the U.S. from abroad to begin study at MIT in F-1 status AFTER March 9, 2020, and subsequently left the U.S., and the impact of their lack of consecutive semester in-person enrollment on eligibility for F-1 off-campus employment authorization. 

We will provide updates to the MIT Community as they become available.  If you are not able to travel within the 5 month period that applies to you, we will do our best to support you with your future travel plans and impact on your F-1 status.

A full description of the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule, including this update, is available in the ISO Knowledge Base.If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your ISO Advisor

2. ISO Virtual Forum – December 21 – Presentation Slides/Recording Available

The MIT ISO hosted a Virtual Forum on Monday, December 21, 2020 to provide updates on USDHS Guidance, visa processing at U.S. Embassies/Consulates, travel questions, and additional issues impacting international students.  In addition to prepared remarks, the ISO addressed questions submitted by students in advance of the Forum. A copy of the presentation slides and recording are available here (click on link, then click on “Log in with Touchstone”).

3. Travel Questions – Consult ISO “Visas and Travel” Webpage

If you have any travel related questions, or require a new travel validation signature on your Form I-20/Form DS-2019, please consult the ISO “Visas and Travel” section of the ISO website.

4. ISO Closed for Holiday Break – December 24, 2020 through January 3, 2021

The ISO, and most MIT offices, will be closed for the holidays between December 24, 2020 through January 3, 2021.  The ISO will resume operations on Monday, January 4, 2021 at 9:00am.

Helpful information is available on the ISO website: (http://iso.mit.edu)

For students with urgent issues at U.S. ports-of-entry, please contact the ISO Emergency Phone Number (617-258-5480).  

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

Thank you and we wish you a Happy Holidays!

ISO Update: December 11, 2020

Contents

  1. USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020 Continues for Spring 2021
  2. F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule
  3. ISO Spring 2021 MIT Hybrid Instruction Confirmation – Travel/Visa Letters
  4. MIT Guidance on Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S. (Spring 2021)
  5. U.S.-Canada-Mexico “Non-Essential” Travel Restrictions Extended to 12/21/2020
  6. USCIS Lockbox Backlog in Issuing Receipt Notices
  7. Court Rulings Halt Implementation of Recent H-1B/DOL/Prevailng Wage Interim Final Rules
  8. Spring 2021 Online Check-In For ALL MIT International Students
  9. ISO Holiday Office Hours: December 24 – January 3

1. USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020 Continues for Spring 2021

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has not posted any official communication, a statement by a spokesperson for the USDHS Student and Exchange Visitor Program in an interview with a reporter indicates that the Fall 2020 enrollment guidance will continue for Spring 2021.  This statement has been verified by a higher education professional association and the MIT ISO has verified in outreach to USDHS.

The USDHS Guidance that has been verified is the following:

*Students enrolled at MIT and physically in the U.S. ON OR BEFORE March 9, 2020 may pursue unlimited fully online/remote subjects inside the U.S. in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

*Students arriving to the U.S. from abroad to begin F-1 status for their MIT program AFTER March 9, 2020 must be enrolled in, and attend, at least 24 units of coursework with in-person components in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.  These are the same regulations that applied prior to COVID-19.

*Students who completed a program of study in F-1 study at another institution in Spring or Summer 2020, transferred their SEVIS Record/Form I-20 to MIT, and did NOT leave the U.S. between the end of the previous program and start of the MIT program in Fall 2020, are considered eligible to pursue unlimited fully online/remote subjects in the U.S. in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

With regards to the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule, in our outreach with USDHS we have been unable to receive any clarification if the Five-Month Rule suspension is considered suspended for the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021, only that it was considered suspended for Spring 2020 and Summer 2020.  MIT, higher education professional associations, and colleges/universities across the country have been pushing USDHS to provide clarification on the 5-month rule as this issue has a significant impact on all of our international students inside and outside the U.S. 

We will update the MIT community if we are able to receive any official clarification or updates from USDHS.

Please see additional information about the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule below and on the ISO website

2. F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule

(This does NOT apply to J-1 visa holders.)

The F-1 5-Month Temporary Absence Rule has been in regulation for decades, and indicates that absence from the U.S. for more that 5 months constitutes a break in F-1 student visa status.  The primary implications of a break in status, other than requiring new visa documentation to return to the U.S., is on a student’s eligibility for off-campus employment authorization.  

As the ISO shared this Fall, USDHS Guidance clearly suspended the 5-Month Temporary Absence Rule for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 terms, but despite all of our outreach to USDHS (and conflicting information from USDHS), there has been no clarification that the suspension would be extended through the Fall 2020 semester.  Outreach this week to USDHS, in light of media reports, has not provided confirmation that the suspension of the rule applied to Fall 2020 or would apply to Spring 2021. 

In order to protect students, integrating the standard 5-Month Rule requirement prior to COVID-19, and the suspension of the 5-Month Temporary Absence Rule in Spring and Summer 2020, we continue provide the following advice to students:

*Students who left the U.S. during the Spring 2020 or Summer 2020 terms (prior to August 31, 2020), should return to the U.S. within 5 months of the start date of the Fall 2020 semester (5 months from August 31, 2020, which would require return by January 30, 2021). 

*Students who have left the U.S. any time AFTER August 31, 2020 should return to the U.S. within 5 months of the actual date of departure from the U.S.

*Alumni on a period of authorized F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or F-1 STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT) should re-enter the U.S. within 5 months of the actual date of departure from the U.S.  (even if departed the U.S. prior to August 31, 2020, as USDHS guidance did not confirm that the suspension of the rule applied to students on OPT/STEM OPT). 

What if a student is unable to return to the U.S. within the 5-month period?

If a student is unable to return to the U.S. within the 5-month period, it does not mean that the student cannot continue remote study from abroad, or return to the U.S. to continue their studies after January 30, 2021.

Being outside the U.S. more than 5 months would be a break/interruption in their F-1 student visa status, and therefore students would require a new SEVIS Record/Form I-20 from the MIT ISO, and pay a new SEVIS I-901 Fee, to return to the U.S.  The break in status also impacts a student’s eligibility for off-campus employment authorization (F-1 Curricular Practical Training or F-1 Optional Practical Training) after return to the U.S. – students would need to be in F-1 status in the U.S. and enrolled full-time for at least “one full academic year” before regaining eligibility for F-1 CPT or F-1 OPT. 

Please read the full summary of the F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule.
If you have any questions, please contact your ISO Advisor directly. 

3. ISO Spring 2021 Visa/Travel Letters – MIT Hybrid Instruction Confirmation

The ISO, similar to what was provided for Fall 2020, is making available a “Spring 2021 ISO Visa/Entry Letter” for students to download and print to carry when applying for a visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate and when traveling to the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester.  This letter confirms that MIT is offering hybrid instruction for the Spring 2021 semester.  Please note that a notation on a student’s Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 is NOT required to verify hybrid instruction in Spring 2021. 

There are two versions of the letter, one for New Students arriving to the U.S. to begin their F-1 status, and a second version for students who have been in the U.S. and enrolled during or before the Fall 2020 semester. The letter can be downloaded on the ISO website (click here, then scroll down and click on “Log in with Shibboleth” for DUO authentication).

Students are also advised to read the travel guidance available on the “Visas and Travel” section of the ISO website.

4. MIT Guidance on Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S. (Spring 2021)

On December 7, 2020, the MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor emailed and posted a “December 2020 Update” and FAQ for Guidance on Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester.  Please view the full “December 2020 Update” and FAQ online here.

5. U.S.-Canada-Mexico “Non-Essential” Travel Restrictions Extended to 12/21/2020

On November 20, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) announced via Twitter that Non-Essential travel restriction between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico has been extended. The posting is not as definitive as past notices, referring to “land border ports of entry”, but it indicates the restriction “remains in effect”. While expiration date is indicated, we assume that the restriction is extended for an additional 30-day period consistent with previous extensions (to December 21, 2020).

To clarify, Canadian and Mexican national students (and alumni on OPT/STEM OPT) CAN enter the U.S. from Canada and Mexico as study and employment are considered “essential”. 
However, students who are not nationals of Canada and Mexico could not travel from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico for tourist purposes as that is considered “non-essential” activity.

It is indeed possible that the travel restriction will be extended beyond December 21, 2020, as the restriction has been in place since April 20, 2020.  We will be sure to post additional updates once available.

To view the full posting on the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Travel Restriction, click here.

6. USCIS Lockbox Backlog in Issuing Receipt Notices

The CIS Ombudsmans’ Office released a statement that the USCIS Lockbox, that receives benefit applications including F-1 OPT and STEM OPT, is experiencing delays in issuing receipt notices for applications received.  While normally paper receipt notices are received in about 2-3 weeks, reports are that the notices are currently taking 4-6 weeks. 
If a receipt notice is not received after 6 weeks from delivery to the USCIS Lockbox, individuals may email the Lockbox Support Team at lockboxsupport@uscis.dhs.gov

Additional guidance on delays in receiving receipt notices, approval notices, or EAD cards from USCIS is posted in the ISO website Knowledge Base.

7. Court Rulings Halt Implementation of Recent H-1B/DOL/Prevailing Wage Interim Final Rules

As a result of a court ruling on December 1, 2020, the two rules affecting the H-1B and E-3 visa programs, and PERM Labor Certifications that were described in our Update of October 21, 2020, are no longer in effect.  Alumni with employers planning to file H-1B petitions on their behalf should be in contact with their employers regarding the impact of this ruling.

Please see a summary and links to the court decision here

8. Spring 2021 Online Check-In for ALL MIT International Students

Similar to the process for Fall 2020, in order to best track the study plans for MIT international students for the Spring 2021 Semester, the ISO has a set of eforms in iMIT for students to report if they will be studying inside or outside the U.S., as well as to confirm planned return date to the U.S. if abroad, for the Spring 2021 semester.

We are asking ALL MIT International Students (New AND Continuing), once you make a decision on Spring 2021, to complete the new Online Check-In Procedure. 

The Online Check-In process should be completed in iMIT as follows: 

  • Login to iMIT (http://imit.mit.edu): Select “Upon Arrival” menu, then Select “Spring 2021 Online Check-In”
  • ALL Students: Complete section “1. Student Status” and section “2. Student Category” (New/Transfer or Continuing Student) now, even before arrival to the U.S.
  • New/Transfer Students (arriving to the U.S. to begin in-person study in Spring 2021):  Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” only AFTER your arrival in the U.S.
  • Continuing Students (pursued in-person coursework in the U.S. at MIT in Fall 2020 or earlier): Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” either AFTER your arrival in the U.S., OR from abroad if you will NOT be entering U.S. for Spring 2021

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact the ISO (iso-help@mit.edu). Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to the Fall semester with you.

NOTE:  If your plans for Spring 2021 change after submitting the Online Check-In, PLEASE return to iMIT and CANCEL the previous submission and resubmit the new eform to confirm your plans.

9. ISO Holiday Office Hours: December 24 – January 3

The ISO, and most MIT offices, will be closed for the holidays from December 24, 2020 through January 3, 2021.  The ISO will re-open on January 4, 2021 (the ISO continues to operate remotely during the Winter Break, IAP, and Spring terms — the physical office is not open for in-person meetings).  Essential services will remain open at MIT.

ISO Staff will be monitoring the ISO-Help@mit.edu office email, and the ISO emergency phone number remains active for emergencies.

* * * * *

ISO Update: November 9, 2020

Contents

  1. Travel Guidance
  2. No USDHS Update on F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule
  3. Waiting for USDHS Guidance on International Student Enrollment for Spring 2021
  4. MIT Spring Academic Calendar Change – Impact on New Student Visa Documents
  5. Massachusetts Announces New COVID-19 Response Policies – Effective November 6, 2020
  6. ISchO/ISO Open Forum on USDHS Proposed Rule – Presentation Slides/Recording Available

1. Travel Guidance

ISO is receiving a lot of questions about travel issues and potential risks to travel over the winter break and returning to the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester.  We know students are very eager to travel to visit family members given that COVID-19 conditions may have prevented travel for many for some time.

Given the unpredictability of COVID-19, visa processing timelines at U.S. Embassies/Consulates, as well as the potential for further travel restrictions, the ISO cannot recommend travel. If students must travel due to a family emergency or other conditions, students should be aware of the risks.  Most importantly, students should plan accordingly with their academic advisors and department administrators to have a backup plan in case you are delayed in being able to return to the U.S. for the Spring 2021 semester.

Please be sure to consult the “Visas and Travel” section of the ISO website, and specifically the “Entering the U.S.” section for guidance on documents needed to travel/re-enter the U.S.

It is also very important that students who are traveling to check with your airline(s) to confirm any special testing or other documentation requirements needed in order to board the plane(s), as well as to confirm any special entry requirements to the country or countries you plan to visit.

Please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor if, after reviewing the ISO website resources, you have any questions.

2. No USDHS Updates on F-1 Five-Month Temporary Absence Rule

USDHS suspended the F-1 Five Month Temporary Absence Rule in April 2020 due to COVID-19.  This rule does NOT apply to J-1 visa holders.

The suspension notification only specifically indicated it was through the Summer 2020.   There has not been further clarification or guidance from USDHS to confirm if the suspension of the 5-month temporary absence rule has been extended through the Fall 2020 semester.

Given that there is no confirmation from USDHS, we are advising F-1 students of the following:

  • Students who left the U.S. during the Spring or Summer 2020 should return to the U.S. within 5 months of the start date of the Fall 2020 semester (5 months from August 31, 2020 is January 30, 2021).
  • Students who leave the U.S. during the Fall 2020 semester should return to the U.S. within 5 months of the date of departure from the U.S.
  • Alumni on a period of authorized F-1 OPT or STEM OPT Extension should re-enter the U.S. within 5 months of the date of departure from the U.S.

ISO will be sure to notify the community if we receive any updates from USDHS concerning the F-1 Five Month Temporary Absence Rule. 

3. Waiting for USDHS Guidance on International Student Enrollment for Spring 2021

We have not received any new USDHS Guidance for the Spring 2021 semester, and we have been informed that we likely will NOT receive anything until after the election.

Therefore, the ISO is advising that it is likely the USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020 will continue (though no guarantees) for the Spring 2021 semester.  Therefore, the following is the reminder of the current USDHS Guidance.

First, the regulations that apply to New International Students are the same regulations that existed prior to COVID-19.  USDHS only provided an accommodation for any continuing student enrolled and physically present inside the U.S. pursuing a degree program on or before March 9, 2020.  

For new international students entering the U.S. to begin their visa status, federal regulations limit the number of fully remote subjects (only 1 each semester) that an international student can take that count towards minimum full-time enrollment.  The MIT subject/unit equivalent under the regulations is 1 subject = 12 units. 

NOTE: When defining a “New” student, in includes new student arrivals from abroad (including transfer students) who arrived to the U.S. in Fall 2020, and those arriving in Spring 2021, even if they pursued fully online coursework remotely from abroad in Fall 2020). 

Since so many MIT students take more than the minimum number of units in a given semester, the easiest way to communicate the requirement is as follows (which is consistent with what we have communicated since the summer):

  • International students arriving to the U.S. to start at MIT after March 9, 2020 must be enrolled in, and attending, at least 24 units (out of the minimum 36 units for full-time enrollment) that have in-person components.   
  • New Students who arrived in the U.S. for Fall 2020, or will arrive in Spring 2021 (even if pursuing online coursework in Fall 2020) will need to be enrolled in at least 24 units (out of the minimum 36 units for full-time enrollment) that have in-person components. 
  • Students who arrived in the U.S. for Fall 2020, and had to be enrolled in at least 24 units of coursework with in-person components, will also need to be enrolled in at least 24 units that have in-person components for the Spring 2021 semester.   
  • For graduate programs that have maximum enrollment cap policy in the first year for students with a full RA/TA/Fellowship with Service of less than 36 units, then the following enrollment requirements apply:
    • For example, if the graduate program caps student enrollment at 24 units total for students with a full RA/TA/Fellowship award:
      • If the RA/TA/Fellowship with Service has required in-person components each week (e.g. hands-on lab activity, required in-person research group meetings, etc.), then the student could be registered as follows:
        • RA/TA/Fellowship with Service, PLUS
        • 12 units of coursework with required in-person components, PLUS 
        • 12 units of coursework that could be fully online or have in-person components
      • If the RA/TA/Fellowship with Service does NOT have required in-person components each week (e.g. hands-on lab activity, required in-person research group meetings, etc.), then the student could be registered as follows:
        • RA/TA/Fellowship with Service, PLUS
        • 24 units of coursework with required in-person components

We hope this information is helpful.  Please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor if any questions arise.

4. MIT Spring Academic Calendar Change – Impact on New Student Visa Documents

MIT has announced an update in the Spring 2021 Academic Calendar, where the start date for the Spring 2021 semester will be delay approximately 2 weeks, and the first two weeks of the semester will have coursework pursued online only. 

The changes in the academic calendar include the following:

  • Spring 2021 arrival date (end of Registration period/RegDay):  February 12, 2021 (change from January 29)
  • First day of Spring 2021 classes:  February 16 (change from February 1)
  • First day of Spring 2021 in-person classes:  March 1, 2021
  • Spring 2021 Commencement/Graduation Day:  June 4, 2021 (change from May 28)

Given these changes, new visa documents (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) issued to New Students arriving for the Spring 2021 semester will be updated in SEVIS and will be forwarded to impacted students (either electronically or by mail) in the next two weeks.  Students do not need to make any special requests for a new document with the updated dates, the ISO will process these documents automatically.

New Students can use their current Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (with the January 29, 2021 arrival date) to schedule and attend visa interview appointments until the new visa document is received. However, New Students may not enter the U.S. any earlier than 30 days prior to the Spring 2021 semester arrival date (no earlier than January 13, 2021).

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact your ISO Advisor

5. Massachusetts Announces New COVID-19 Response Policies – Effective November 6, 2020

The Governor of Massachusetts has issued several new Executive Orders and Advisories to its COVID-19 response.  These new policies are effective on November 6, 2020 at 12:01am.  The announcement includes new requirements for face coverings, a Stay-At-Home Advisory, limits on in-person social gatherings, and limits on outdoor gatherings. 

To see a posting on MIT Now about the Governor’s announcement, click here.

6. ISchO/ISO Open Forum on USDHS Proposed Rule – Presentation Slides/Recording Available

On Thursday, October 22, 2020, from 12:00pm-1:00pm, the MIT International Students Office (ISO) and the MIT International Scholars Office (ISchO) hosted a one-hour Open Forum to summarize and answer questions about a recently published DHS Proposed Rule. The Rule proposes to change the period of admission to the US for F and J students and scholars from “Durations of Status (D/S)” to a fixed period. Please see more details in MIT’s updated summary about the Proposed Rule, also linked on the Major Immigration Updates webpage.

A copy of the audio/video of the Open Forum, as well as a copy of the Presentation Slides only (PDF) is available here
Note: You will be required to enter your MIT email address and Kerberos password to access the Open Forum resources, or click on “Log In with Touchstone”.

* * * * *

ISO Update: October 20, 2020

ISO and ISchO to host an Open Forum at 12:00 pm on October 22, 2020 – Proposed Rule impacting F and J period of admission to the US

Dear MIT International Students:

On Thursday, October 22, 2020, from 12:00pm-1:00pm, the MIT International Students Office (ISO) and the MIT International Scholars Office (ISchO) will host a one-hour Open Forum to summarize and answer questions about a recently published DHS Proposed Rule. The Rule proposes to change the period of admission to the US for F and J students and scholars from “Durations of Status (D/S)” to a fixed period. Please see more details in MIT’s updated summary about the Proposed Rule, also linked on the Major Immigration Updates webpage.

Attached is a poster with details about the Open Forum and a link for submitting questions in advance. The Zoom invitation for the Open Forum is below. 

Note: You will be required to enter your MIT email address and Kerberos password to join this Zoom event.

Please feel free to share this email with other faculty and staff in your departments/programs who may be interested in this topic.

This email is already being sent to all active international students and scholars in F and J status. 

We hope you will join us.

* * * * *

ISO Update: September 30, 2020

USCIS Temporarily Prohibited from increasing fees on October 2, 2020

On September 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a temporary injunction and stay on implementation of the 2020 USCIS final fee rule.  The ruling temporarily prevents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from charging new fee rates or requiring some new application form versions that were supposed to go into effect on October 2, 2020.   
A copy of the court’s order is available here.  

Therefore, individuals filing new applications with USCIS will continue to file using the current/“old” fees and the most current form versions available on the USCIS website.  

A link to the USCIS Final Fee Rule, published on July 31, 2020, that has been temporarily halted, is available here.

For MIT international students, links to the USCIS forms are available on the ISO website related to the appropriate application, including F-1 Optional Practical Training, F-1 STEM OPT Extension, and J-2 work permission.  Please see the following links on the MIT International Students Office website.  

Please contact your ISO Advisor if any questions arise.

The ISO will update the community if there are any changes in the implementation of the USCIS fee rule via ISO-Broadcast and on the Major Immigration Alerts and Updates webpage.

* * * * *

ISO Update: August 23, 2020

New Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) available and effective August 25, 2020

As a reminder, a new version of the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (version 08/25/2020), used for applications for F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), F-1 STEM OPT Extension, and J-2 work permit applications, will become effective on August 25, 2020

The current Form I-765 (ver. 12/26/2019) can be used only if postmarked August 24 or EARLIER.

If you are mailing your application ON or AFTER 08/25/2020, then you need to use the new version (ver. 08/25/2020).

USCIS will return applications, without receipting them, if sent with the wrong version of the Form I-765.

Links to the I-765 form versions are available on the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov/i-765). The 08/25/2020 version will be listed on the “Preview” link until after 08/25/2020, so please be sure to double-check the version you are filing before mailing your application. 

For information on employment authorization applications, please consult the ISO website “Employment” pages.

* * * * *

ISO Update: August 9, 2020

Contents
(1) Fall ISO Online Check-In Required of ALL MIT International Students
(2) Reporting “Visa Interview Scheduled” and “Visa Approved” in iMIT
(3) ISO New International Graduate Student Immigration Orientation Sessions
(4) ISO Virtual Forum Presentations

***

(1) Fall ISO Online Check-In Required of ALL MIT International Students

In order to best track the study plans for MIT international students for the Fall 2020 Semester, the ISO has created a new series of eforms to confirm if students will be studying inside or outside the U.S., as well as to confirm entry to the U.S., for the Fall 2020 semester.

We are asking ALL MIT International Students (New AND Continuing) to complete the new Online Check-In Procedure. 

The new Online Check-In is a 2-Step Process to be completed in iMIT as follows: 

  • Login to iMIT (http://imit.mit.edu); Select “Upon Arrival” menu, then Select “Fall 2020 Check-In”
  • All Students: Complete section “1. Student Status” and section “2. Student Category” (New/Transfer or Continuing Student) now, even before arrival to the U.S.
  • New/Transfer Students:  Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” only AFTER your arrival in the U.S.
  • Continuing Students: Complete section “3. Online Check-In Forms” either AFTER your arrival in the U.S., OR from abroad if you will NOT be entering U.S. for Fall 2020

If any questions arise, please feel free to contact the ISO (iso-help@mit.edu). Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to the Fall semester with you.

(2) Reporting “Visa Interview Scheduled” and “Visa Approved” in iMIT

The ISO has created new eforms in iMIT for New and Continuing Students who are applying for visas at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad to inform us of when you have secured your visa interview and when you have received back your passport with approved F-1/J-1 visa from the Embassy/Consulate.  Please assist us by completing the eforms that can be accessed as follows:

  • login to iMIT
  • Click on left-hand menu “Admission”
  • Select on the “Visa Interview & Approval” button and complete the appropriate eforms:
    • “Visa Interview Scheduled”
    • “Visa Approved/Received” – when you receive your passport with visa back from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

If your visa interview appointment is rescheduled, please be sure to update/add your new visa interview appointment information so we have the most up-to-date information.

Students who have received their visa from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate are expected to arrive to MIT in time for the start of the Fall 2020 semester (Registration Day is August 31, 2020).  If there are delays in visa issuance that will not allow a student to arrive by September 20, students are advised to contact their academic department and ISO Advisor to coordinate a delayed arrival to the U.S.   

(3) ISO New International Graduate Student Immigration Orientation Sessions

All New International Graduate Students should complete the following steps below to sign up for a required ISO Immigration Orientation Session that will be presented online for the Fall 2020 semester.  The orientation session can be completed even before arrival to the U.S.

New students in the SCM, SDM, IDM, MSMS, eMBA, and Sloan MBA graduate programs will have program-specific ISO orientation (if not listed in the Events in iMIT, the scheduled date will be communicated to students by your graduate program).  

Please use the instructions below to sign up for your program-specific ISO Immigration Orientation Session on iMIT:

  1. Login to imit.mit.edu and click “Full Client Services for Students”
  2. Enter your MIT Kerberos/email information to log in
  3. After logging into your iMIT account, you will appear on the “Services Home Page”
  4. View the “Events” menu on right side of the page and scroll to view available scheduled events and select the appropriate ISO Orientation session for your visa type and program:
    *SCM, SDM, IDM, MSMS, eMBA, Sloan MBA graduate students will have program-specific ISO orientation sessions
    *All other graduate students should select “Fall 2020 F-1/J-1 Graduate Immigration Orientation Session (for MIT degree students)”, and choose from one of the available sessions on August 13th, 20th, 24th, 31st, 2020.

(4) ISO Virtual Forum Presentations

Copies of the presentation slides from the ISO Virtual Forums are available below.  Click on the link, scroll down and click “Log on with Shibboleth”, and follow instructions for Duo authentication.  Recordings for the sessions will also be updated soon.  

  • August 11, 2020: ISO Virtual Forum: Fall 2020 Guidance / Q&A – Continuing Students (PDF slides)
  • August 6, 2020: ISO Virtual Forum: Fall 2020 Guidance / Q&A – New Students (PDF slides)
  • July 24, 2020:  ISO Virtual Forum: Fall 2020 DHS Guidance – New Students (PDF slides)
  • July 22, 2020:  ISO Virtual Forum: Fall 2020 DHS Guidance – Continuing Students (PDF slides)
  • June 26, 2020: ISO Virtual Forum: Visas and Travel (PDF slides)

* * * * *

ISO Update: July 29, 2020

(1) Fall 2020 USDHS Guidance on International Students – Update
(2) ISO Virtual Forums for New and Continuing Students – Presentation Slides Posted
(3) New Students – Updated Fall 2020 Semester Start Date Form I-20/DS-2019 Issued
(4) Visa Processing at U.S. Embassies/Consulates – Update
* *

(1) Fall 2020 USDHS Guidance on International Students – Update

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, 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. 

(2) ISO Virtual Forums for New and Continuing Students – Presentation Slides Posted

We greatly appreciated the opportunity to connect with our international students regarding regulatory guidance from USDHS for the Fall 2020 semester during our two ISO Virtual Forums last week on July 22 and July 24. The posting of the Forums comes after receiving new USDHS Guidance about the Fall in the afternoon of July 24, and a review to be sure there were not significant changes to the information we shared in the ISO Virtual Forums.

Please find the slidedecks for both ISO Virtual Forums posted on the ISO website here (videos/recordings will be posted soon):

One important change from the information provided in the ISO Virtual Forums, which has been updated in the slides posted above, but will not be in the recording, is the deadline for visa purposes to arrive to campus for the Fall 2020 semester – which will be Monday, November 9 instead of Monday, November 16. 

If students are unable to arrive in the U.S. by November 9, 2020, then the ISO will work with students to provide updated visa documents to travel to the U.S. to start at MIT in the Spring 2021 semester.  

(3) New Students – Updated Fall 2020 Semester Start Date Form I-20/DS-2019 Issued

With MIT’s Fall 2020 academic calendar changing to start one week earlier, the ISO has updated New Student “Initial Attendance” visa documents (Form I-20 for F-1 visa holders, Form DS-2019 for J-1 visa holders) to reflect the new Fall term start date of August 31, 2020 (instead of September 8, 2020). 

ISO has emailed to all New Students with “Initial Attendance” Forms I-20 with instructions to retrieve their new Form I-20 in iMIT. 
New Students with Forms DS-2019 will be contacted soon by email from the ISO with an updated Form DS-2019.

For New Students with Forms I-20 issued for “Transfer Pending” or “Change Degree Level”, it is not possible to issue an updated document until after arrival to the U.S.  This is fine as students can use the current paper Form I-20 they have with the September 8 start date.

For students who will have both the new electronic copy plus the original paper Form I-20 issued with the September 8 start date, we recommend that you carry ALL Forms I-20 issued to you when applying for your visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate and entering the U.S. port-of-entry. 

We also recommend all students download/print a copy of the ISO support letter (versions for both New and Continuing Students) that verifies the new Fall 2020 semester start date.  The letter can be downloaded on the ISO website (click here, then scroll down and click on “Log in with Shibboleth” for DUO authentication).

If you will not be coming to MIT to pursue in-person coursework in Fall 2020, please contact your ISO Advisor and we will coordinate issuing updated I-20 with Spring 2021 arrival date.

(4) Visa Processing at U.S. Embassies/Consulates – Update

The U.S. Department of State announced on July 15 a “phased resumption of visa services” at U.S. Embassies/Consulates worldwide.  This announcement provided that not all embassies/consulates will re-open at the same time, but rather will be open based on staffing, resources, and local COVID-19 conditions allow.  We are hearing from a number of students that they have had their visa interviews and visas are being issued at some consular posts.

To get an update on the status and procedures to schedule visa interview appointments, students should check their U.S. Consulate website for details (http://usembassy.gov). 

Please note that the U.S. Embassy/Consulate will post instructions on their website about requesting an expedited appointment, if you have a visa interview scheduled for after the start of the Fall 2020 semester.  Expedited appointments will not be considered until the consulate resumes visa services and are at the discretion of the consular post based on staffing and resources available to meet such need. 

If students are not able to arrival at MIT for in-person/hybrid coursework by the start of the Fall 2020 semester, students may begin their program online from abroad until they can obtain their visa and travel to the U.S. (though must arrive to MIT by November 9, 2020 for the Fall 2020 semester). 

Consulates No Longer Requiring Visa Document with “Not Fully Online Coursework” Notation

The ISO had received reports that during some visa interviews at U.S. Embassies/Consulates were requesting an updated Form I-20 with a notation/remark indicating the student’s program of student in Fall 2020 would “not be fully remote.”

Please be advised that this was part of the July 6 USDHS Guidance that has been rescinded and no longer required.  We have received an update that the guidance to the Embassies and Consulates (the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual) has been corrected and that students should not receive such a request.

If you receive any request for a new Form I-20 with notation about hybrid/online coursework during your visa interview, please contact your ISO Advisor.

We also recommend all students download/print a copy of the ISO support letter (versions for both New and Continuing Students) that verifies the new Fall 2020 semester start date.  This can be presented during your visa interview and for entry to the U.S.  The letter can be downloaded on the ISO website (click here, then scroll down and click on “Log in with Shibboleth” for DUO authentication).

* * * *

ISO Update: July 18, 2020

(1) USDHS Rescinds July 6 Guidance; Review Of March 2020 Guidance Impact on Fall 2020
(2) Letter for Embassies/Consulates for Students Applying for Visas and Entering U.S. — Fall 2020 
**

(1) USDHS Rescinds July 6 Guidance; Review Of March 2020 Guidance Impact on Fall 2020

On July 14, 2020, following a legal challenge by MIT and Harvard, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) rescinded its July 6 directive and July 7 FAQ on F-1 students and online learning. 

As a result of this decision USDHS’s March 2020 guidance and Spring term FAQs will continue to apply.  Based on the Spring guidance, here are the initial takeaways for F-1 students for the Fall 2020 term:

  • continuing MIT students in “ACTIVE” SEVIS status may remain in or enter the U.S. and pursue in-person, hybrid, or fully online coursework; 
  • continuing MIT students in “ACTIVE” SEVIS status may continue their studies from abroad while maintaining SEVIS status;
  • transfer students, currently inside the U.S. in F-1 status who will begin their program of study at MIT in the Fall 2020 term—including those moving from high school or another university degree program to MIT—can remain in the U.S. and pursue in-person, hybrid, or fully online coursework;

  • students inside the U.S. with pending Change of Status applications with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may remain in the U.S. and pursue studies while their application is pending if allowed under the terms of the transition from the current visa status (students with a Change of Status application pending should be in contact with their ISO Advisor); and
  • newly enrolled students may pursue full-time coursework online/remotely from abroad. 

We are still evaluating whether newly enrolled students with “Initial Attendance” or “Transfer Pending” Forms I-20, who are currently outside the U.S., will be permitted to enter the U.S. if their programs are fully or mostly online.  We will update our guidance on this issue as soon as possible.  

The guidance does NOT require issuance of a new Form I-20 to verify enrollment status for Fall 2020; though MIT is reviewing whether a new Form I-20 must be issued to New Students to reflect the change in the Fall 2020 semester arrival date (changed from September 8, 2020 to August 31, 2020).

USDHS’s guidance on these topics continues to evolve and there are still some questions for which colleges/universities are seeking further clarification. We understand that USDHS/Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) may provide new information, in which case, we will update the community once we receive and are able to review it.   

Please note that given visa processing delays, travel restrictions, and students’ individual circumstances and needs, there may be other factors restricting students’ ability and/or desire to enter the U.S. for Fall 2020. 

We know this has been an anxious time for the MIT international student community. We want to be sure we provide you with as clear an understanding as possible of visa/immigration matters so that you can make an informed decision about the fall.

We look forward to being back in touch soon with updates on Fall 2020 guidance and scheduling of a virtual forum with ISO Staff in the near term.

(2) Letter for Embassies/Consulates for Students Applying for Visas and Entering U.S. — Fall 2020 

While no longer required by USDHS guidance, we have received reports that some U.S. Embassies/Consulates have requested new Forms I-20 with notations to verify enrollment status for the Fall 2020 semester. To assist students, the ISO is providing a letter for students to download and print to carry when applying for a visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate and when traveling to the U.S.  The letter can be downloaded on the ISO website (click here, then scroll down and click on “Log in with Shibboleth” for DUO authentication).

****

ISO Update: July 17, 2020

U.S. Travel Restriction from Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland Lifted for Certain Visa Types

On July 16, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs officially announced that individuals traveling to the U.S. from the Schengen area, United Kingdom, and Ireland in certain visa statuses may enter the U.S. with a “National Interest Exception” to the Presidential Proclamations that created the 14-day travel restrictions from these countries.

Student visa holders do qualify:

“Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.” 

Note: As indicated above, J-1 visa holders do need to contact your local U.S. Embassy/Consulate to make the exception request. F-1 visa holders do not need to contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

While no additional documentation is officially required to present upon entry to the U.S. showing thus exception, we strongly recommend that you print out a copy of the official announcement from the State Department, available here.

Students are reminded they must still carry all documentation verifying their student visa status:  valid passport, valid Form I-20, valid entry visa (F-1 or J-1) from U.S. Consulate in passport, proof of financial support.

Given that Summer session at MIT is virtually remote, we advise that students plan to arrive no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date for the Fall term (enter no earlier than August 1, 2020).  If students need to return earlier for required on-campus research, they should obtain a letter from their academic program that confirms the student must return early for in-person required research.

****

ISO Update: July 13, 2020

TOPICS

(1)  REMINDER:  2019 Income Tax Returns Due July 15, 2020
(2)  U.S. Department of State Twitter Indicates Embassies/Consulates Begin Phased Reopening July 15, 2020
(3)  USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020 – Current Updates – Awaiting Court Decision

***

(1)  REMINDER:  2019 Income Tax Returns Due July 15, 2020
As a reminder, for those international students who were physically present in the U.S. during 2019, the deadline for filing your 2019 Federal and (if applicable) Massachusetts State income tax returns is Wednesday, July 15.
For details and links to guidance on completing your U.S. income tax return, please click on the ISO Tax Information webpage (http://iso.mit.edu/students/taxes.shtml)

(2)  U.S. Department of State Twitter Indicates Embassies/Consulates Begin Phased Reopening July 15, 2020
While we do not see an official posting on the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) webpage, the official Twitter page for the USDOS Bureau of Consular Affairs posted this morning (9:57am, Monday, July 13, 2020) the following:

“US embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions. We are unable to provide details for each location. Please monitor the embassy or consulate website for updates.”

Students and Scholars can check for updates status of services, and visa interview appointment scheduling procedures, on your individual U.S. Embassy/Consulate website (http://usembassy.gov).

(3)  USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020 – Current Updates – Awaiting Court Decision
We are all anxious about the recent USDHS guidance, and, as I indicated on Friday, we had hoped to be able to provide you with some answers to your questions today.  However, we are continuing to monitor developments, including a decision in the lawsuit MIT and Harvard filed, which we expect on Wednesday, July 15.  Once we have more information we will share it as soon as possible.  At this stage, however, there are too many uncertainties to provide helpful guidance.

* * * * *

ISO Update: July 11, 2020

TOPICS

(1)  MIT Reviewing USDHS Guidance/FAQ for Fall 2020

***

(1)  MIT Reviewing USDHS Guidance/FAQ for Fall 2020

As a follow up to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) Guidance on COVID-19 and procedures impacting international students for Fall 2020, issued on July 6, USDHS on July 7 issued a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Guidance.

The issuance of the FAQ has added to a number of existing questions related to visa status, course instruction, travel issues, and new Form I-20 issuance for international students for the Fall 2020 semester.

As referenced in President Reif’s email on July 8 in support of our international community, MIT joined Harvard in filing a lawsuit to prevent USDHS and ICE from enforcing the new guidance and declaring it unlawful.

While court actions move forward, the ISO and other MIT offices have been reviewing both the initial guidance and the FAQ to be prepared to assist students should the USDHS guidance implementation be required.  We plan to provide on Monday, July 13 some initial responses to common questions we have received to assist the MIT community.

We will email all MIT international students and the community once our own Frequently Asked Questions document is posted on the ISO Updates and the “Major Immigration Alerts and Updates” webpages.

Thank you for your understanding and we look forward to speaking with you soon.

* * * * *

ISO Update: July 6, 2020

TOPICS

(1)  Reviewing USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020

***

(1)  Reviewing USDHS Guidance for Fall 2020

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has today issued its guidance on procedures that will apply to international students for the Fall 2020 semester in response to COVID-19.  We understand that USDHS plans to release an additional “Frequently Asked Questions”, but it is uncertain when this will be published.
MIT is currently reviewing this initial release and will provide a summary to the community soon regarding its potential impact for the Fall. 

* * * * *

ISO Update: June 26, 2020

ISO Virtual Forum: Visas and Travel
Friday, June 26 – 11:00am-12:00noon EDT
A brief presentation for MIT international students regarding current updates on visa processing and travel/entry restrictions to the U.S. The presentation will address pre-submitted questions. Additional questions may be addressed if time allows.
*Virtual Forum Presentation Slides (PDF)
A recording of the Virtual Forum will be posted soon.

* * * * *

ISO Update: June 23, 2020

TOPICS

(1)  Presidential Proclamation Temporarily Suspending Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants in H, L, and J Status

***

(1)  Presidential Proclamation Temporarily Suspending Entry of Certain Nonimmigrants in H, L, and J Status

On June 22, 2020, President Trump issued a Proclamation titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak. The Proclamation will take effect on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

The Proclamation suspends entry to the U.S. by foreign nationals in certain J-1 categories and H-1B, H-2B and L-1 workers until December 31, 2020. The Proclamation also extends to December 31, 2020, the suspension of certain new immigrant visas, as originally published on April 22, 2020, in Proclamation 10014.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • The Proclamation does NOT apply to individuals already in the United States and does NOT prohibit change to H-1B status or extension of H-1B status.
     
  • The Proclamation does NOT apply to individuals who already have a valid H-1B visa stamp.
     
  • The Proclamation DOES suspend entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals in H-1B status (and any accompanying family members) if they are outside the US AND do nothave valid H-1B entry visas issued by a U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

MIT H-1B employees currently outside the U.S. are urged to contact the International Scholars Office ischo@mit.edu to speak with an advisor.  Also, MIT H-1B employees planning to travel outside the US should consult their International Scholars Office advisor before making travel reservations.

  • The Proclamation does NOT restrict the filing, adjudication, or approval of H-1B  petitions filed with USCIS, or the issuance of J-1 exchange visitor documents. It does NOT prohibit change of status to or extension of status in these categories.
     
  • The Proclamation does NOT contain provisions impacting the F-1 student visa, Optional Practical Training, or STEM Extensions of Optional Practical Training.
     
  • MIT International students and scholars in the following J-1 Exchange Visitor categories (and accompanying J-2 family members) are NOT affected by the Proclamation, and their entry to the U.S. is NOT suspended (see Box 4 on Form DS-2019):
    Student
    Research Scholar
    Professor
    Short-term Scholar
    Specialist
     
  • The order does NOT apply to other nonimmigrant visa categories such as TN, E-3, or O-1 visas.

View the full Proclamation here.

View a summary of the Proclamation, issued by NAFSA: Association of International Educators here.

Further details and clarification are expected and will be posted on the MIT Major Immigration Updates page as well as the International Scholars Office and the International Student Office 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

* * * * *

ISO Update: June 14, 2020

http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/imm_updates.shtml

Dear Students:

There is speculation that the White House may soon announce an executive action temporarily restricting entry to the US by certain nonimmigrant visa holders, possibly including H-1B workers and certain categories of J-1 exchange visitors. No details have been released by the government, but MIT is closely monitoring all sources of information and will inform the community as soon as reliable information becomes available.

Some students and scholars have asked if they should avoid travel outside the US if they are already here, or if they should travel to the US sooner, if possible, if they are currently abroad.  At this point, we can offer only speculative advice based on rumors about potential executive action.

However, out of an abundance of caution, we would encourage those currently here to avoid international travel if possible.  For those abroad, we understand that there are numerous travel restrictions that might limit your ability to return now. For current students or scholars who are not subject to those restrictions and are able to return, we encourage you to do so.  As always, if you have imminent plans to travel, please contact your ISO Advisor

We continue to monitor developments on further U.S. immigration matters, including additional guidance on the Presidential Proclamation impacting certain Chinese Nationals in F or J status (originally issued on May 29, 2020) as well as ​potential action concerning F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT).  As soon as any official information is released, we will provide updates on the MIT Major Immigration Updates & AlertsInternational Students Office (ISO), and International Scholars Office (ISchO) News web pages.

Sincerely,
David


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

* * * * *

ISO Update: June 8, 2020

http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/imm_updates.shtml

TOPICS

(1)  Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S.

***

(1)  Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S.

Letter from the MIT Office of the Vice Chancellor

Dear students,

As you may have heard from your departments, the UROP Office, or your peers, MIT recently issued guidelines for student appointments for work or research conducted outside the U.S. After speaking with student leaders earlier this week, I realized that many of you have questions about the motivations for, and implementation of, the guidelines. I am writing today to offer some clarity.

Given the campus access restrictions and other factors related to Covid-19, we anticipated that students with paid appointments would soon be working or conducting research from foreign countries. At the request of School Deans and other community members, we decided that MIT needed a framework for enabling these appointments in keeping with the following key objectives:

  • Promoting MIT’s research enterprise and academic mission;
  • Supporting the financial needs and personal objectives of MIT students;
  • Protecting confidential, sensitive, and controlled research data; and
  • Abiding by various legal, foreign country compliance, and regulatory requirements.

We have updated our FAQs to provide more context and clarity, and I encourage anyone with questions to read them here.

There are a few key points in the FAQs that student leaders asked me to underscore in this message:

  • We understand that many students have many different types of reasons for leaving the U.S. during this difficult time. And we want to permit as many appointments as possible to proceed from abroad if the work can be accomplished remotely. The review group will approach every appointment with the goal of approving it. And when obstacles arise, they will work with the relevant DLC/programs to see if the appointment can proceed with modifications. In short, we will take a problem-solving approach and will not be denying remote international appointments unless they pose significant risks or obstacles to a student or the Institute.
  • The review process for remote international appointments will be conducted as quickly as possible, generally within seven business days of receiving the request.  
  • We understand that, in some cases, students may need to travel for emergencies. We will work to ensure that emergency travel does not disrupt a student’s appointment or academic progress.

There is one other point that I believe is important to stress here: international travel at this moment comes with some unique complexities and  risks. If you are an international student who is considering departing the U.S. this summer or fall, I strongly urge you to consult with your advisor in the International Students Office. They can help you weigh the pros and cons, and arrive at a solution that is in your best interest.

If you have any questions about the remote appointment process, please contact your department administrator who will work with the appointment review team to help answer any questions you may have.

Sincerely,
Ian A. Waitz
Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education

* * * * *

ISO Update: May 31, 2020

http://iso.mit.edu/immigration/imm_updates.shtml

TOPICS

(1)  Presidential Proclamation Impacting Certain Chinese Students and Scholars – Letter to MIT International Students

***

(1)  Presidential Proclamation Impacting Certain Chinese Students and Scholars – Letter to MIT International Students

Dear International Students:
On Friday, May 29, 2020, President Trump signed a Presidential Proclamation that may affect certain nationals from the People’s Republic of China seeking entry in F or J visa status to pursue graduate study or research at MIT.  It is not yet clear precisely who will be affected, but MIT is closely monitoring this situation and will post updates to the community as they become available. The proclamation could be extended to some from China currently in the United States with F or J visas.

The proclamation, which will be effective June 1, 2020, suspends entry if an individual is connected to an entity that “implements or supports” the government of China’s “military-civil fusion strategy.”  An individual is considered to have a connection to such an entity if he or she has been funded by, employed by, studied or researched at, or on behalf of the entity.   Under the proclamation, the Secretary of State will determine which entities are covered, and we will provide more information once the government has identified the entities.

Currently, the proclamation does NOT apply to individuals inside the U.S. pursuing study or research in F or J status; However, the proclamation states that the Secretary of State will review and determine if current visa holders subject to the proclamation conditions should have their visas revoked.

The proclamation does NOT apply to a student seeking to pursue undergraduate study.

The proclamation does NOT apply to U.S. Citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (Green Card holders), the spouse of a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident, and other special categories as listed in the proclamation.

To read the full text of the Proclamation, click here.

MIT is working closely with peer institutions, higher education associations, and other partners on this issue.  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.  We will provide more clarity as definitive information is issued by the relevant government agencies.

We will continue to post updates on the MIT Major Immigration Updates & AlertsInternational Students Office (ISO), and International Scholars Office (ISchO) News web pages.

Sincerely,
David


***
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.

* * * * *

ISO Update: May 3, 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 slide deck, is now available here. *In order to access this recording, please logon to your MIT Zoom account at mit.zoom.us.
Presentation slide deck 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:  https://iso.mit.edu/employment/

ISO F-1 (OPT-CPT) Employment Information Session (session now provided via online slides):  https://iso.mit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/F_Employment_Session_July-2020.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.

* * * * *

ISO Update: April 23, 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 11:59 pm 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 & AlertsInternational 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

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Update: April 21, 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

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Update: March 24, 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 phone calls, 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/

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Updates: March 21, 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.

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Updates: March 20, 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 ANNOUNCES 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:

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Update: March 19, 2020

The ISO will be OPEN today, Thursday, March 19, from 10:00 am-3:00 pm 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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ISO Update: March 13, 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. 

*  *  *  *  *

ISO Update: March 11, 2020

TOPICS

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

***

(1)  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 12:00 noon 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


***
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.