ISO EMERGENCY CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: 617-258-5480If a student encounters any issue(s) at a U.S. Port-of-Entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), where additional information is requested, please contact the ISO Emergency Phone Number [+1-617-258-5480]. This number is NOT to be used to report a successful entry into the U.S., only if a student encounters an issue(s) at a U.S. Port-of-Entry (POE).
- F-1/J-1 Students Entering The U.S. For The First-Time
- Current F-1 Students Entering The U.S.
- Current & Continuing J-1 Students Entering The U.S.
- Continuing F-1 Students Entering The U.S. During OPT/STEM OPT
- Request Travel Signatures In iMIT
- ISO Processing Times
- U.S. Port-of-Entry Inspection & Questions
- Obtaining I-94 Arrival/Entry Record
- Travel From Canada, Mexico, & Adjacent Islands
- Traveling With Electronic Devices/Data
- Additional Guidance
F-1/J-1 Students Entering The U.S. For The First-Time
For all New/Incoming, Transfer-In, or Return from Leave of Absence international students
When an F-1 or J-1 New/Incoming, Transfer-In, or a Return from Leave Absence international student is entering the U.S. with their MIT ‘Certificate of Eligibility Form’ (i.e., Form I-20 or Form DS-2019), they must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials at a U.S. Port-of-Entry (POE). Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘F and J Students Entering the U.S. for the First-Time’ webpage thoroughly before traveling to the U.S.
Current F-1 Students Entering the U.S.
For all F-1 currently enrolled/not graduated students
All MIT currently enrolled (i.e., Not Graduated) F-1 students entering the U.S. must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials. Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘Current F-1 Students Entering the U.S.’ webpage thoroughly before entering the U.S.
Current & Continuing J-1 Students Entering The U.S.
For all current MIT-sponsored J-1 currently enrolled/not graduated students
All MIT-sponsored and currently enrolled (i.e., Not Graduated) J-1 students must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials. Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘Current & Continuing J-1 Students Entering the U.S.’ webpage thoroughly before entering the U.S.
For all continuing MIT-sponsored J-1 students on Post-Degree Academic Training
All MIT-sponsored and currently enrolled (i.e., Not Graduated) J-1 students in an authorized period of Post-Degree Academic Training (i.e., Post-AT) must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials. Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘Current & Continuing J-1 Students Entering the U.S.’ webpage thoroughly before entering the U.S.
Continuing F-1 Students Entering The U.S. During OPT/STEM OPT
For all F-1 currently in a period of Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension
F-1 students in an authorized period of Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials. Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘F-1 Students Traveling During F1-OPT/STEM OPT’ webpage thoroughly before entering the U.S.
Request Travel Signatures In iMIT
ATTENTION: When requesting a Travel Signature for Form I-20(s) or Form DS-2019(s), it is NOT possible to request a travel signature in-person at the ISO (i.e. drop off/pick up). Students will need to request their new document(s) via iMIT.
Students should their most recently issued “Certificate of Eligibility Form” (i.e., Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) to see if they have a valid travel signature. A valid travel signature is only required for current and continuing students.
Steps to Request a Travel Signature
(1) Login to iMIT.
(2) Click on the left-hand menu ‘(F-1/J-1) Student Services’.
(3) Click on and complete the e-Form ‘Request Replacement of Form I-20/DS-2019’ and select request reason “Travel Signature”. Students will need to upload updated financial support documentation as part of the e-Form request (see below).
(4) Be sure to click “Submit” on the e-Form after completing all the required fields and uploading all the required documentation to the e-Form.
Current Student Financial Support Documentation
Current/continuing F-1 students and J-1students will need to upload updated financial support documentation as part of the e-Form request for the current/upcoming academic year. All financial support documentation must have been issued within the past 6 months and show up to 12 months of financial support from the date of new document request – OR – until the program end date, whichever is earlier, as covered by the Form I-20/Form DS-2019.
Graduated/Alumni Student Financial Support Documentation
Graduated/Alumni students (i.e., F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT/STEM OPT Extension and J-1 students on Post-Completion Academic Training) will need to upload updated financial support documentation as part of their e-Form request. Up to 12 months of financial support is required – OR – until the end date of their employment authorization period.
- All financial support documentation must have been issued within the past 6 months and show at least $ 48,000 USD (e.g., $ 4,000 USD per month x 12 months) to cover living expenses during the student’s Post-Degree Employment period. Students with dependent(s), they must add an additional $ 1,000 USD per month for the first dependent, plus $ 500 USD for each additional dependent thereafter.
- Examples of acceptable financial support documentation during a student’s Post-Degree Employment period may include:
- Recent employer letter with current salary information.
- Official position offer letter with salary information, confirming employment.
- Personal bank statement.
- Financial sponsor’s bank statement along with a letter of support from a sponsor(s).
- A combination of the above-mentioned documents.
- NOTE: Students in a period of F-1 STEM OPT Extension and J-1 Academic Training MUST include financial support documentation from their training employer, as paid employment is required for these authorization types.
- Examples of acceptable financial support documentation during a student’s Post-Degree Employment period may include:
ISO Processing Times
The goal of the MIT International Students Office (ISO) is to process immigration documents/materials as quickly as we can, but typically within 10 business days (not including holidays or weekends) from the date that a student submits a correct and complete request to the ISO, via iMIT. Once the ISO processes any new immigration document(s), an electronic version of the document(s) will be scanned/emailed to the student. Students are required to download, print, and then hand-sign (“wet sign”) and date the document(s) which can then be used for travel and applying for new entry visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate (if needed).
Electronic Signature/Document Guidance
Students and Dependents in F Status: As of October 12, 2021, Form(s) I-20 can be sent to students electronically, per the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidance.
Students and Dependents in J Status: As of April 27, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) released guidance that allows the ISO to email electronic copies of Form(s) DS-2019 to students.
Therefore, based on the current government guidance, all Form(s) I-20 and Form(s) DS-2019 will no longer be mailed and/or available for in-person pick-up at the ISO. Instead, the ISO will be emailing all Form(s) I-20 and Form(s) DS-2019 directly to the student.
– New/Current Students: The ISO will email all document(s) to the student’s @mit.edu email address ONLY.
– Graduated/Alumni Students: The ISO will email all document(s) to the student’s personal email address Officially listed in SEVIS (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail, etc.).
NOTE: U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Department of State has stated that students are NOT allowed to sign their immigration documents digitally/electronically. Students are required to review their document(s), print the document(s), and then sign and date the document by hand (“wet sign”). Students should always carry any previously issued immigration documents with them when traveling; as verification of past immigration history of their time in the U.S., if requested.
U.S. Port-of-Entry Inspection & Questions
- Students must be sure to carry all immigration documents on their person, not in their checked baggage.
- Students may have their fingerprints scanned and a digital photograph taken upon entry into the U.S.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may inspect a student’s phone, tablet, computer, or any/all of their electronic devices. This includes asking for passwords to review social media accounts. More information is available in the USCBP Directive on Border Searches of Electronic Devices.
- Inspections may occur at CBP Primary or Secondary Inspection Offices in the airport/Port-of-Entry; being sent to Secondary Inspection DOES NOT mean there are any problems with a student’s entry. CBP has access to review a student’s SEVIS record in Secondary Inspection and not at Primary Inspection.
- Inspection of personal items in luggage or pockets, or other searches, are common.
- Immigration Officials may photocopy documents or record interviews for further review by CBP or other agencies.
Know Your Rights: What to Do if You are Detained at a Port of Entry is a resource provided by the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
Obtaining the I-94 Entry/Arrival Record
All MIT F and J visa students and any dependents are required to check their I-94 Entry/Arrival Record upon every entry into the U.S. Information on how to obtain an I-94 Entry/Arrival Record can be found of the ISO ‘Obtaining the Form I-94’ webpage.
Travel From Canada, Mexico, & Adjacent Islands
All MIT students in F and J status, and any dependents, traveling from Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands for a “short visit” (i.e., less than 30 days) must carry and present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials. Therefore, they must review the ISO ‘Returning from Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands’ webpage thoroughly before entering the U.S.
Traveling With Electronic Devices/Data
During travel, either during entry or departure from the U.S., a CBP Officer may ask to review electronic devices that the student is carrying. Please see recommendations below about travel with personal devices or with MIT equipment.
Before traveling, and while carrying MIT research data or equipment, it is very important for a student to read the below resources:
- Guidance regarding international travel with MIT data and materials
- Office of the Vice President for Research Guidance on International Travel
- Preparing & Protecting Electronic Devices For Travel
- Travel & Technology Landing Page – MIT IS&T
- MIT Information Protection – Securing information
U.S. Customs Officials are authorized to search or retain electronic devices, including digital cameras, cell phones, media players, and disk drives, as well as the items listed above, even without probable cause, to look for violation of export control regulations as well as other laws and regulations.
To Prepare For This Possibility
- Students should not carry data that they do not want others to see (e.g., medical records, data files from their research, financial information, photos, etc.).
- Students should not carry the only copies of data that they cannot afford to lose.
- The student should have a “Plan B” if there is data that they will need when they reach their destination.
- Students should consider taking minimal device(s), equipped with only ordinary, recognizable software and minimal data so any search can be fast, and the consequence of a loss could be less disruptive.
- If Students do travel with MIT data or equipment, they must follow appropriate guidelines and security protections for their data and their electronic devices. Students must also obtain the proper authorization from their principal investigator.
- There have been recent reports that CBP Officials are questioning international travelers at U.S. airports about research data on electronic devices and/or research materials in carry-on or checked luggage. Please see the above link regarding information on “Travel with MIT data and materials” for guidance on obtaining evidence of travel authorization to help reduce the chance of a prolonged delay when traveling internationally.
Disclaimer: The information on this webpage is for MIT students only. For additional questions, students should email their ISO Advisor directly.