SUBMIT QUESTIONS 1 DAY IN ADVANCE OF VIRTUAL FORUM. Use this form to ask questions that you would want answered during the ISO Open Forum on Monday, December 21 at 8pm EST. Before submitting a question, please look through already asked questions to make sure you do not repeat a question.
Questions Undergrad/Grad student
What should a sample question look like? undergrad
Can we request a renewal of our SEVIS letter online? -The one that must be valid and signed every 6 months.Grad
for J1 students who entered the US in the fall for the first time, what is the minimum requirement in credits of hybrid classes for the spring semester ? I know that for F1 students is 24 but what about for J1 who are already in the US since the fall. thanks !
For those on H1b status who filed a change in status petition to begin attending MIT this fall but expect to transition to F-1 status this spring (either because consulates open or petition through USCIS is successful), does this mean we still will not be able to obtain CPT/OPT this summer, because we would not have had F1 status for a year? In other words, I'm asking whether the "enrolled for a year before one could start CPT/OPT" requirement is strictly interpreted as F1 status or simply the fact we have been attending school as fulltime students?Grad
I am a first year international grad student (from Canada) who couldn't enter the US in August because of no in-person classes, but now plan to enter in January. Are there any documents that were provided in January that I need to renew? (Other than the I-20, which is provided online.)Grad
If I'm on F-1 and left on March, abd I come to the US before January 30th for a short while, and go back to my home countery, will that restart the 5 months rule count? so If I do it again on April for instance, I can enter the US for the next fall around end of August without getting a new SEVIS?Undergrad
I'll be entering US this December on an F-1 visa after I left in March. I've had continued status. How can I best prepare for entry (what documents to bring), provided I won't have in-person classes next semestergrad
There are currently delays in receiving the receipt notice for people who applied for OPT and Stem OPT. I am currently on OPT. What would happen if I didn't receive the receipt notice before the end of my OPT? For reference I know the application was delivered via fedex 1 month ago and I have less than 1 month left on my OPT. Grad after graduation
Why is the latest ISO updates on 5-month rule different from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) document and other universities' guidance? Links here:
Grad, second
additional questions based on the previous question.

According to the history of USDHS Guidance, USDHS Guidance for spring and summer uses exactly the same words as the Guidance for fall on the 5-month rule. What makes MIT ISO believe “USDHS Guidance clearly suspended the 5-Month Temporary Absence Rule for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 terms” but not for the fall 2020? Since the written rule from USDHS haven't changed since March, why is it necessary for ISO to ask for confirmation/clarification from DHS, which we have been failed to get since summer, and take a very conservative approach (1/30 deadline)? Or is MIT implying that USDHS can use the same word to represent two different meanings?

The Guidance on March is mentioned on the ISO website:
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.”

Based on the words above, ISO provided the following guidance for spring and summer:
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.
Currently I pre-registered 24 points in-person course. What if I failed to be chosen for the course? Besides, I have no idea whether the course is too difficult for me. If I decided to drop the course in the middle of the term, am I still eligible to stay in the US?Grad
What are the health check procedures getting off the plane at Logan Aiport for a domestic flight/an international flight?
Will the current OPT receipt notice delays further delay the whole application process. I have a job offer but cannot confirm a potential start date nor sign it. I haven't heard anything from the USCIS for a month. When will I be able to leave the country? Will I be able to re-enter the counrey once I have an EAD card, valid VISA and I-20?Grad
With new restrictions coming up. What are MITs plans to care for the mental health of international students?
How long will it take to resume in-person full-time student status, create a new SEVIS record and a new Form I-20 for “Initial Attendance”?grad
What is the criteria to meet so that an international student can intern without CPT/OPT?grad
I learned in the previous ISO sessions that entering US in the middle of the semester may increase the risk of entry denial. What is the latest recommended date to enter US for the spring term (please do not consider 5-month rule and the remote appointment for this question)?grad, second this
COVID19 and policial reasons increase the risk of entry denial at the border. How well did grad students enter US for the fall term? How many of them got rejected at the port of entry? For what reasons? What are their nationalities? What is ISO's anticipation of the spring term about the difficulty at the port of entry?grad
A course listed as in-person in the catalog may only have 1 or 2 in-person opportunities over the semester. Can these courses count towards the 24-unit in-person requirement? If not, how can we tell which courses have sufficient in-person components?Undergrad
Could you clarify when you are planning to issue F1 transfer I-20 forms? I have heard of a 60-day rule that applies in which you can't issue a "data-fix" on I-20s until 60 days prior the semester start date. Considering we are already past 60-days prior our semester start date, does that mean you're already allowed to start issuing? Undergrad
Is it possible for continuing students to enter the US before Jan 13? I spent the fall semester in the US, went home for Christmas, and am planning to come back Jan 7.undergrad
I'm applying for OPT this year. Is 4 months still the maximum processing time I should plan for, or are there delays pushing this timeline longer?Grad
Can students on F1 post completion OPT enter the US directly from Europe (Schengen area) in January? (Without having to spend 14 days in a different country) If so, is there any additional documentation required beyond the regular OPT documentation (I20 signed within 6 months, EAD card and Employment verification letter)Grad post graduation
If possible, I would really appreciate going through the key things for OPT again. I'm really afraid to miss some big things.Grad
When will we get our transfer I-20? How should we plan our traveling if we are not sure whether we can get an I-20/ Visa ontime? Would we be allowed to arrive late and what is the latest time?Undergrad 24
If I wear a covid protective suit during travel, will I get denied at port of entry because of the way I dressed?Grad
Do international students get vaccinated in the US? What about other VISA holders? Or do they have to return to their home country to get the vaccine?Grad
How do we handle exchange graduate students? Wie usually have a few exchange students from european countries, is MIT continuing such efforts during covid times?
Many universities have a different interpretation of the 5-month rule suspension as mentioned in a previous question. So many students may stay outside US over 5 months. Can ISO explain its anticipation on what will happen to those students? grad
I have recently acquired my J-1 Visa but my department will be fully remote for the spring. Can I still enter the U.S being an incoming student? Does the MIT letter provided by ISO work as a confirmation to present at the port of entry?Grad
if ISO cannot get confirmation/clarification about the 5-month rule from USDHS by 1/30, can ISO legally decide to terminate students' SEVIS status on its own? Also, is it legal for the situation to happen: some universities decide not to terminate their students' SEVIS status following their own interpretation of the guidance, but MIT terminates our SEVIS status?Grad
What is the recommendation for Students waiting for a receipt notice from USCIS? When is it possible to leave the US?Grad
Regarding the 24-unit in person requirement for students arriving in America after March 2020: I am probably missing something but I have read though the SEVP March 2020 guidance for fall and the later updates stating that the guidance will remain for Spring 2021, as well as the NAFSA Guidence for F1 schools and their Resource Grid. I can't see anywhere any mention of 24-units or March 2020 cutoff for 100% online learning, in fact I see that they specifically mention F1 students can count online classes towards a full course of study beyond the limits of 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G)​. I know students at other schools who have not mentioned any sort of in-person requirement. MIT ISO website states they have verified the requirements in outreach to USDHS - this seems in contradiction to other information out thereGrad - Sloan
According to the MIT organizational chart, the ISO reports to the Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education. To me, this means that the VC makes the final decisions that balances different restrictions, DHS regulations, institutional risk and responsibility, and student wellbeing. Are there areas pertaining to international students' wellbeing and presence that the ISO makes decisions about, that can override the VC's authority? What check and balances, or oversight does the VC's office have over how the ISO chooses to interpret DHS regulations in relation to MIT student wellbeing?Grad, second this
I arrive Sunday January 3 to Boston at night. What should I do arriving? I have a room on-campus residential.Grad
Does ISO believe it is legal for USDHS to force all universities in the upcoming weeks/months to resume the 5-month clock from the fall term and terminate students' SEVIS? given that USDHS has not clearly modified their guidance and given confirmation to resume the 5-month clock in the fall term (if they did that, then there wouldn't be many universities having a different interpretation from us) and the fall term is already passed!! How can such unclearity and untransparency happen legally? If not, then why does ISO suggest us to return by 1/30?grad
I have some confusion about the 24-unit in-person requirement for new students. Here is my understanding so far:

There is a long-standing guidance 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(H) ( stating that at most one online class can count towards the full course of study requirement. Since a full course of study is 36 units, this would explain the 24-unit restriction. However, SEVP seems to have loosened the rules for Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 will have the same rules as Fall 2020 ( In particular, the Fall 2020 FAQ ( seems to say that new students just can't take a 100 percent online courseload (i.e. they just need to take one in-person class). This is the requirement they repeat throughout the FAQ for new students, and it also seems to be the guidance that some other universities are providing to their new international students.

I'd really appreciate it if you could help clear up this confusion.
Given that there is a new COVID variant in the UK, flights from UK have been landing in the US, and no covid test result is required from any of these passengers by the federal government, I think it's extremely unsafe for international students to travel to the U.S. before 1/30. In fact, none of the flights, either international or domestic, require any passenger to travel with a negative COVID testing result. Due to the scarcity of flights, many of us will have to book trips that involve 1 stop in another state in the U.S. and this domestic flight could be very dangerous. Additionally, many of us are from countries that are still on travel ban so we will need to find flights to a third country and stay there for 14 days before entering the U.S, giving us even less time to arrange the whole trip. I hope you understand the difficulties we have to go through and the high risks to return to the U.S at the moment. We would all really appreciate it if the ISO can confirm before the holidays whether the 5-month rule is exempted for fall 2020 or not and post that information on official channels. Thank you. Sincerely,

Hope to add one more thing to this. Timing is very important to us. Some of us may be able to get 2 shots of vaccine if we are allowed to enter US in Feb. or March. But if we are suggested to enter US by 1/30, we have no way to get vaccination before we make such dangerous trip. Timing is even more important to those who need to stay in a third country for 14 days. For example, if we get confirmation at 1/21 that 5-month rule is exempted for fall 2020, those students will have been in the third country already. They might be able to get vaccinated if ISO got confirmation earlier. So ISO's decision greatly affect the well-being of us. We would really appreciate if ISO can use any possible ways to get confirmation from either the current office or next office of USDHS.
Grad, second this
If a student who is currently abroad and is not intending to return to the States before graduating next semester (Spring 2021) AND has no plans to utilise their OPT/ work in the US after graduating on their F1, what are the implications for violating the 5month absence and having a break in their F1 status?

Based on ISO's FAQs: "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" . Therefore, if a student doesn't want to return to the US between now and graduating, nor wants off-campus employment, this five-month rule...shouldn't matter?
Is on-campus housing secured? Calling students back to campus while not ensuring that on-campus housing remains open (as last march) seems irresponsible
I'm currently in Brazil and plan to return to the US by Jan 30 by spending two weeks in either Argentina or Mexico to bypass the 14-day rule. Should there be any preference between one of these options (i.e. is one of them going to be easier to enter the US from later on)? The CDC is very clear about the rules for Brazil (must not have been in the country 14 days prior to entry to US), but there is no information about either of these other options.
Who do we contact to ask for new I-20s to be issued?Grad
What are the restrictions for me as a grad student if I intend to take a leave of absence for the Spring 2021 semester? In particular, do I have to leave the US, and if yes, by when? And how would it affect my F1 visa status?Grad
Given the new uk strain of covid, should I be worried (as a current uk resident) that the exemption for f-1 visa holders from the presidential proclamation will be withdrawn? Other countries are completely suspending any flights incoming from the UK.
Can we renew expired F1 visas while on OPT?Undergrad
As someone who left the US this March, graduated this May, and planning to start my Master's in Spring, would I need a new SEVIS number? Will I need to be in the US for 1 year to get OPT/CPT work authorization? Will I be required to be in Boston and take 2 24-unit classes?Grad - new
I am currently waiting for my F1 visa to be issued. What would be the implications if I remain in my home country for the fall semester, after I get my visa?Grad-new
I'm currently on F-1 OPT. Is there any concern if I plan to travel back to my country in February and return in March. How many cases of students on F-1 OPT who got rejected at the port of entry are there and what are the reasons?Grad
Will there be a training for OPT STEM extension? Any guides or instructions for apply STEM extension?Grad
What covid-related restrictions are currently in place for continuing F-1 students travelling to the U.S. (e.g. nationality, testing, recent visits to certain countries, etc.)?Grad
I've tried to ask MIT Medical for
Are there any specific instructions for printing the i-20? Example: Colored, paper-size, paper-quality, etc.?Grad
Does 7-day quarantine upon-arrival still apply if you're returning to MIT 7 days later than your arrival into USA?Grad
I continued my Fall semester from abroad and planning to come back to US for the spring semester. Does the five months rule apply to me? If no, will I have any trouble processing cpt/opt if I arrive US around Feb 15th? undergrad (Continuing student)