Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Questions and Answers: COVID-19 Related Guidance from the ISchO

International Scholars

Campus in Springtime

Is ISchO processing new visa requests?

Until further notice, ISchO will only process new visa requests for faculty and instructional staff. All other requests should be held by DLCs and not submitted until the bar on processing is lifted. Requests already received by ISchO, but not yet processed, will be held.

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Can visitors and postdocs who already possess visa documents, but have not yet arrived at MIT, proceed with their plans to come?

DLCs should contact those scholars and postpone their start dates indefinitely until further notice and inform ISchO of the result. See the ISchO Continuity and Visa Processing Plan for additional information. DLC HR administrators may email Bay Hrach individually to request lists of these “pending” exchange visitors

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How far into the future should a visiting scholar or postdoc invitation be postponed?

ISchO is unable to advise DLCs how far into the future invitations to MIT and visa requests should be postponed, given the uncertainty of the evolving public health situation. All parties should take care not to set unrealistic expectations.

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Can international scholars work remotely while on MIT-sponsored visas?

Please read Human Resources guidance regarding pay policies and remote work for all MIT employees

J-1 exchange visitors are expected to work at the location indicated on their documents and in the SEVIS government tracking system. ISchO will permit MIT-sponsored exchange visitors to work temporarily from their local US residences* as long as they maintain their current MIT appointments and continue to pursue their original program objectives. Please inform the ISchO if any changes in appointment terms are being contemplated (title, salary, department, percentage of effort, end date) before making any changes, to ensure they are consistent with program requirements and MIT visa sponsorship policies. Note: MIT-sponsored J-1 exchange visitors are not permitted to engage in any non-MIT activity unless such activity has been reviewed and authorized by ISchO in advance.

H-1B, E-3, TN, and O-1 scholars: In the applications to U.S. Department of Labor and/or USCIS for these workers, MIT specified the intended work location (MIT campus, a specific government laboratory in another city, etc.). These MIT employees may work temporarily from their local U.S. residences* because they are being directed to do so by their employer, as long as they continue to work in the same capacity, (title, salary, duties, percentage of effort) and are working within normal commuting distance of the original, intended work location. If an international employee plans to relocate to a site elsewhere in the U.S., please contact ISchO as soon as possible.

* International scholars must inform the ISchO of a change in residential address with 10 days of the move.

Questions about working from locations outside the U.S.  while being paid by MIT should first be directed to the International People Placement Team at MIT, before informing ISchO of a potential overseas working arrangement.

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I am an international scholar. Can I travel outside the U.S.? If I choose to travel, what should I do?

The ISchO cannot tell scholars whether or not they should travel. We strongly recommend that anyone wanting to travel at this time make decisions based on accurate information and take every precaution. They should consult the U.S. Department of State advisories about the safety of travel to destinations abroad. For guidance about whether travel is permitted by their home governments into their home countries, scholars should consult the guidance/websites of their home government agencies (such as their home country equivalent of the Department of Homeland Security). Information may also be available from the embassies of their home countries here in the U.S.

The Department of State just announced it has suspended visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad until further notice. In future, when visa services resume, international scholars should consult the Department of State U.S. Embassies website.

If, knowing this, international scholars plan to leave the U.S., they should tell their faculty supervisors and their program/department/laboratory/center headquarters. They should also contact ISchO before leaving to make sure their documents are in order. Remember that registration of international travel by MIT community members should be entered at

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How will ISchO handle my record/status while I am away?

As visa sponsor, the International Scholars Office will keep in close touch with the DLCs about who is away, and their plans going forward. The dates of current J-1 programs and H-1, O-1, E-3, and TN employment-based petitions will remain in effect, as long as scholars are maintaining their MIT appointments:

  • until further notice; or
  • until the immigration status and appointment end date is reached and is not extended by the DLC; or
  • ISchO is notified that the international scholar’s appointment is terminated.

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What if my MIT appointment changes? Will that affect my immigration status?

Changes in terms of appointment can impact immigration status. Some changes may render a position no longer eligible for ongoing visa sponsorship. Other changes, if approved, may require the amendment of immigration documents. Proposed changes should be discussed with an ISchO advisor before any action is taken.

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Many MIT administrators and international scholars are working remotely. How can we exchange documents and fee checks with the International Scholars Office?

Working remotely while also needing to both gather and distribute visa documents, application support materials, and fee checks will inevitably impact our operations. ISchO’s goal is to provide the best possible services under the circumstances. Scholars who need documents from ISchO for travel or other purposes should email

As much as possible, DLC HR administrators should use interdepartmental, postal mail, FedEx and scanning for the delivery of large sets of documents, petition support materials and fee checks. J-1 extension requests should be submitted electronically with “J-1 extension [DLC name]” indicated.

As always, the best chance of ensuring smooth continuity of appointments and employment for current scholars is when ISchO is informed of needed visa extensions and changes of immigration status with as much advance notice as possible.

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What would happen if U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stops processing petitions temporarily due to the Covid-19 situation?

So far the only closures USCIS has announced are local field offices and application support centers. In-person interviews and citizenship oath services have been suspended. To date, no notice has been posted regarding the USCIS processing centers that process MIT’s worker visas and permanent residence applications. When received, ISchO will post updates to our Announcements page.

We do not yet know how ISchO would address possible unprecedented situations, such as if there were an interruption in the services at the national USCIS service centers, or if scholars could not repatriate to their home countries when their MIT appointments and/or exchange visitor programs end due to prohibitions on travel into those countries. Guidance from the US Department of State, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the MIT administration would determine ISchO’s course of action.

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Related Resources

ISchO Continuity and Visa Processing Plan
ISchO Announcements
MIT Human Resources policies regarding pay policies and remote work
MIT Covid-19 Response website
MIT International People Placement Team
U.S. Embassies Abroad
Foreign Embassies in the U.S.

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Last Updated: March 2020

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