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ISchO News

 

July 5, 2017

International Community Coffee Hour

Hosted by the MIT Postdoctoral Association and the International Students Office

Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Time: 3:00 - 5:00 PM
Location: E19-202

Download flyer 

Meet other international students and postdocs through ice-breaker activities. Ask your questions about MIT and American culture. Hear from different representatives from other offices/departments and learn about MIT resources. Enjoy coffee and snacks.

June 26, 2017

Newcomer's Almanac: A Newsletter for Newcomers to the United States

The Newcomer's Almanac is a publication of the Interchange Institute and is brought to you each month compliments of the International Scholars Office. You must have an MIT certificate to access the newsletter.

July/August edition - topics include: "What, Exactly Is a Witch Hunt?"; the Fourth of July; and Staying Cool.

June edition - topics include Going "Home," Memorial Day, Father's Day, and Gift-Giving at Times of Change.

May edition - topics include Taxes in the News, Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and Menu Vocabulary for Meat or Fish.

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ISchO communications about the Travel Ban (March 6, 2017 Executive Order)

June 30, 2017

Department of State Announcement about the Executive Order and Supreme Court ruling - posted 6/29/2017

Department of Homeland Security's "Frequently Asked Questions" about the Executive Order and Supreme Court ruling - posted 6/29/2017

 

June 29, 2017

June 26 Supreme Court Ruling about the Travel Ban

On June 26, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision with two rulings:

1. It will hear the Trump Administration’s appeal of two court orders blocking enforcement of the March 6 Executive Order suspending entry to the U.S. of nationals from six countries (Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen) in fall 2017.

2. It will allow the Administration to enforce the EO’s 90-day ban on nationals from these countries from entering the U.S. However, the Court narrowed the scope of the ban to apply to only those who do not have a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S.”

Guidance issued by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicate that the 90-day ban will be implemented on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at 8:00pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

The MIT Office of General Counsel will release a summary for the MIT community soon. When it is available, it will be posted here.

What the Supreme Court Decision Means

As of Thursday, June 29, and for a period of 90 days, only foreign nationals of the six countries who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the U.S. can seek entry into the U.S. All other nationals from those countries will be subject to the travel ban.

Nationals from the six designated countries can seek entry into the U.S. if they have a close family relationship with a “U.S. person” such as a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, or if they have a formal, documented relationship with an U.S. entity (such as MIT) and such relationship was formed in the ordinary course.

  • The Supreme Court makes clear that students admitted to a U.S. university, workers who have accepted offers of employment from a U.S. employer or a lecturer invited to address an American audience have such “relationships” with U.S. entities.
     
  • Current and future international scholars coming or returning to MIT to conduct research, teach and/or observe, are given invitations and/or offers of appointment or employment and appropriate immigration documents. We are hopeful that U.S. government agencies will recognize these as proof of a bona fide relationship with a U.S. entity. See the list of documents at the bottom of this message.

The Executive Order and Supreme Court Decision do not:

  • Revoke currently valid U.S. entry visas
  • Affect the immigration status of people already in the U.S.

The Executive Order and Supreme Court Decision do not apply to:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Permanent residents of the U.S. (“green card” holders)
  • Any dual national/dual citizen who travels on a passport issued by a country other than one of the six listed above
  • Any foreign national from one of the six countries who has been lawfully admitted or paroled into the U.S., such as those with Advanced Parole documents (I-131)

Additional Reminders for Visa Applicants

Scholars from the six countries who have questions about planned travel should consult with an advisor in the ISchO.

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) is closely monitoring developments and will keep you informed of any changes or updates as soon as they become available. Updates will be posted here.

List of Documents

Below is a general description of “official documents” needed by MIT international scholars for entry to the U.S. and which should serve as proof of a bona fide “relationship” with MIT. International Scholars should always read our travel advisory (link above) and consult with the ISchO before traveling or applying for a visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate to determine if additional documentation will be required in their individual cases. Family members should carry their corresponding derivative status documents (J-2, H-4, TD, O-3, F-2, etc.). Regarding family members from the six countries seeking entry in B-2 tourist status, please see the note at the end of this announcement.

  • J-1 Scholars: Signed Form DS-2019; cover memo from the ISchO (for new J-1 scholars); invitation, offer or confirmation of appointment letter from your MIT Department, Lab or Center; passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of planned entry/return to the U.S. containing a valid J-1 entry visa stamp.

  • H-1B or O-1: Form I-797 Approval Notice; invitation, offer or confirmation of employment letter from your Department, Lab, or Center; recent pay statements from MIT (if applicable); passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of planned entry/return to the U.S. containing a valid H-1B or O-1 entry visa.

  • TN (Canada and Mexico): MIT offer or employment letter; diploma; recent pay statements from MIT (if applicable) passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of planned entry/return to the U.S.; valid TN entry visa (Mexican citizens only).

  • F-1 OPT/STEM OPT: Please consult with your F-1 sponsoring institution for advice on what documents you may need in addition to Form I-20 bearing the OPT authorization, EAD work authorization card and letter of employment.
     
  • B-1/B-2: It is unclear, based on the guidance released Thursday, June 29 whether B visas will be granted during the 90 day ban period. Please continue to monitor the ISchO web page for updates and clarification in the coming days. We also recommend consulting the U.S. Consulate website for further information and guidance.

Individuals whose visas are sponsored by other employers or by the Fulbright Commission should consult their visa sponsors for advice on travel and immigration documents.

 

June 12, 2017

On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a ruling that upholds the injunction from a lower court (State of Hawaii v. Trump) preventing implementation of the entry ban on individuals entering the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as all refugees.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the lower court’s injunction that prohibited the Federal government from conducting a review of U.S. visa application procedures and security check policies at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The Court affirmed that the Federal government does have such authority to conduct such reviews.

This means that, as of now, the entry ban is not being enforced. Foreign nationals from the six countries listed above are still eligible to apply for visas at U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad and enter the U.S. as long as they are otherwise admissible.

A copy of the Court's opinion is available here.

The Trump Administration has filed a request to the U.S. Supreme Court to lift the injunction in this case, and in a similar case filed in Maryland, regarding the Executive Order of March 6, 2017. Reversing the injunctions would revive the travel bans. We will be sure to provide updates once we hear if the Supreme Court decides to hear this case.

In the meantime, we continue to encourage scholars from the six designated countries to consult with the International Scholars Office before making plans to travel outside the U.S.

 

March 17, 2017

Two federal courts have issued orders blocking enforcement of the travel ban in the second Executive Order on immigration issued by President Trump on March 6, 2017. The court orders apply nationwide and prohibit the Trump Administration from acting on the portions of the March 6 Executive Order that would have barred entry into the US of nationals of six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – for 90 days. Because these court rulings will be subject to additional court review, members of the MIT community from those six countries are encouraged to consult with the International Students Office or International Scholars Office before traveling outside the US.

 

March 7, 2017

On Monday, March 6, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order suspending entry to the US of nationals of six countries (Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for a period of 90 days. Iraq is not included in the list of countries to which the suspension applies.

The new Executive Order replaces and revokes the January 27 Executive Order. Below is a summary of key points:

The new Executive Order does not:

  • Revoke currently valid US entry visas.
  • Affect the immigration status of people already in the US.

The new Executive Order does not apply to:

  • Any dual national/dual citizen who travels on a passport issued by a country other than the six listed in the Order.
  • Individuals who have already been granted lawful permanent residence in the US.
  • Citizens of the US.
  • Any foreign national from one of these six countries who has been lawfully admitted or paroled into the US.

The new Order does apply to nationals of these countries who:

  • Are outside the US.
  • Did not have valid visas on January 27, 2017 (the date of the first Order)
  • Do not have a valid visa as of March 6, 2017

The Executive Order allows for waivers on a case-by-case basis if the denial of entry would cause an individual undue hardship, and their entry would not pose a threat to national security and would be in the national interest. The administration has not yet detailed a process for seeking a waiver, but the International Scholars Office will be monitoring the situation for developments.

The International Scholars Office advises scholars at MIT from these six countries to refrain from traveling, if possible, for the next 90 days. Scholars concerned about future travel plans should consult an advisor in the International Scholars Office.

To read the full Executive Order, please follow this link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states.

To read the accompanying Department of Homeland Security “Fact Sheet,” follow link to https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/03/06/fact-sheet-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states.

The memorandum for the US Secretary of State can be seen here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/memorandum-secretary-state-attorney-general-secretary-homeland-security.

The International Scholars Office remains committed to assisting those within the MIT community affected by this Executive Order. Anyone with questions or concerns should feel free to contact the International Scholars Office at (617) 253-2851 or by email at ischo@mit.edu.

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ISchO communications about the January 27, 2017 Executive Order

February 17, 2017

Message from the International Scholars Office about potential Executive Orders on visa issues

Dear International Scholars,

As you may have heard, it is likely that new Executive Orders will be released impacting foreign nationals, although we do not know how they will affect individuals from the originally mentioned seven countries and/or whether they will include other countries. It is possible that such Orders could be released soon, perhaps as early as next week. Unfortunately, we cannot predict this with any certainty. Please rest assured we will update you as soon as more information becomes available. You may also monitor our web page at http://web.mit.edu/scholars/news/index.html.

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) shares your concerns about the implementation of new Executive Orders. As always, we encourage you to contact the ISchO if you plan to travel, have concerns about renewing your visa, have questions about your future work or visa plans, or other issues. Our walk-in hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, or you may e-mail ischo@mit.edu or call 617-253-2851 to schedule an appointment with an advisor or to ask questions.

 

February 10, 2017

Update for International Scholars on Nonimmigrant Visas (J-1, H-1, F-1 OPT, F-1 STEM OPT, O-1, B-1, etc.)

On Thursday, February 9, 2017 a federal appeals court declined to reinstate parts of President Trump’s Executive Order from January 27, which imposed a ban on travel and visa issuance for nationals of seven countries. A Temporary Restraining Order remains in place pending further review by the courts.

What does this mean if you are from one of the seven countries affected by the original Executive Order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen)? It means that for the moment:

  • Citizens of the 7 countries listed above, with valid documents and US entry visas, should continue to be admitted to the US.
  • US Consulates should continue to schedule appointments and accept visa applications from these 7 countries.

However, this could change at any time.

If you are from one of these 7 countries, the International Scholars Office advises you to think very carefully about your need to travel outside the United States. If you must travel for urgent reasons, you should consult a qualified immigration attorney before traveling. At this time, it is advised not to travel if a new US entry visa would be needed in order to return.

All visa applicants must be interviewed by US consular officials. As always, when applying for visas at US consulates abroad, citizens of these seven countries will still be subject to mandatory security clearances, which can take several months or longer.

Dual Nationals

An individual holding a passport from another country (not on the list of 7 countries), who presents that passport with a valid US visa stamp, is still eligible for admission to the US (regardless of the country of birth).

“Travelers are being treated according to the travel document they present.” https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states 

Update for US Permanent Residents 

White House counsel has issued guidance stating that an individual holding a passport from one of the 7 countries listed above who has been granted US Permanent Residence (green card) is still eligible for admission to the US.

“Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States traveling on a valid I-551 will be allowed to board U.S. bound aircraft and will be assessed for exceptions at arrival ports of entry, as appropriate. The entry of these individuals, subject to national security checks, is in the national interest. Therefore, we expect swift entry for these individuals.” https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

 

February 7, 2017

Update for International Scholars

I. Court Hearing Today
II. Travel and Visas
III. USCIS Processing of Applications

I. COURT HEARING TODAY

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments today (Tuesday, February 7) at 6pm Eastern time (3pm Pacific time) to decide if a temporary restraining order blocking parts of President Trump’s Executive Order will be extended. Under the Executive Order, admission of nationals from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) to the United States was suspended.

The hearing will be live-streamed, and made available on the Ninth Circuit''s website at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov. Access the stream at the bottom of the page under the subheading "Live Streaming Oral Arguments," or from the "Cases of Interest Page" nearer the top through the following link: www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/.... Because the hearing will be conducted telephonically, the stream is audio only (no video).

II. TRAVEL AND VISAS

If the court decides that certain parts of the Executive Order should continue to be blocked:

  • Citizens of the 7 countries listed above, with valid documents and US entry visas, should continue to be admitted to the US
  • US Consulates should continue to schedule appointments and accept visa applications from these individuals. (Note: Department of State has not confirmed that applications will be processed, only that they will be accepted.)

If the court declines to continue blocking these parts of the President’s Executive Order, travel and visa applications will once again be halted.

If you are from one of these 7 countries, the International Scholars Office advises you to think very carefully about your need to travel outside the United States. If you must travel for urgent reasons, you should consult a qualified immigration attorney before traveling.

US Permanent Residents
If you hold a passport from one of the 7 countries listed above and you have US Permanent Residence (green card), you are still eligible for admission to the US.

“Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States traveling on a valid I-551 will be allowed to board U.S. bound aircraft and will be assessed for exceptions at arrival ports of entry, as appropriate. The entry of these individuals, subject to national security checks, is in the national interest. Therefore, we expect swift entry for these individuals.” https://www.dhs.gov/news/2017/01/29/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states 

Dual Nationals
If you hold a passport from another country (not on the list of 7 countries), and you present that passport with a valid US visa stamp, you are still be eligible for admission to the US (regardless of your country of birth).

“Travelers are being treated according to the travel document they present.” https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states

III. USCIS APPLICATION PROCESSING

As of this moment, US Citizenship and Immigration Services has confirmed it will continue to accept and process applications/petitions including:

  • F-1 OPT applications
  • F-1 OPT STEM extension applications
  • H-1B petitions
  • J-2 applications for work permission (EAD)
  • Changes of status
  • Extensions of status

As of the writing of this alert, USCIS has indicated that despite the Executive Order signed by the President on January 27, 2017, it will continue processing applications and petitions regardless of the country of origin of the beneficiary. https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-implementation-jan-27-executive-order

Note: Forms DS-2019 for J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 family members are processed by the J-1 program sponsor, not by USCIS.

 

February 3, 2017

On this date, MIT joined seven other Massachusetts universities and filed an amicus brief with the federal court in Boston. The brief supported a lawsuit asking the court to order the US government to stop enforcing the President’s January 27 Executive Order.

“In the submission, MIT and the other universities sought to educate the court about the vital role that international faculty, scholars, and students play in our communities, as well as the importance of their contributions to the nation and the world.” From MIT News. See the full article at http://news.mit.edu/2017/two-mit-undergraduates-return-us-middle-east-0203.

 

February 2, 2017

Suspension/Cancellation of Visa Appointments, Revocation of Visas, and Suspension of Adjudications

Dear International Scholars,

This is to confirm that the US Department of State has issued guidance to consulates worldwide directing them to cancel visa appointments and suspend visa issuance to nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen until further notice.

This means new scholars who were born in or who are citizens of these seven countries will be unable to get their initial visas to enter the US and current scholars traveling home or to conferences will not be able to renew their US entry visa stamps until further notice. Department of State is also cancelling green card interviews and suspending the issuance of immigrant visas at consular posts.

In addition, the US Department of State issued an order revoking all currently valid non-immigrant and immigrant visas issued to nationals of these countries.

You may read the announcements on the Department of State website at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/news.html and at http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000159-f6bd-d173-a959-ffff671a0001.

Links to articles describing the situation in more detail can be found at http://www.wbur.org/news/2017/02/01/visas-revoked-state-department and https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-01-29/these-are-new-instructions-state-department-rushed-embassies-worldwide.

If you are currently in the US and are from one of the countries listed above, we continue to recommend that you DO NOT travel outside the country at this time. If you absolutely must travel, please be aware that you risk not being able to return as planned.

If you are outside of the US and have not yet contacted the ISchO, please e-mail us as soon as possible (ischo@mit.edu).

You may also be aware that in addition to visa issuance and entry into the US, the recent Executive Order refers in places to the “adjudication of other immigration benefits.” It is our understanding that in addition to suspending visa processing and entry into the US for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, USCIS may also halt adjudication of applications/petitions (including F-1 OPT, other applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, and permanent residence applications) for citizens of these countries. However, at this time, it appears that USCIS is still accepting applications/petitions – just not making a final decision.

We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

Sincerely,

Penny Rosser
Director
International Scholars Office

 

January 30, 2017

Follow-up message about Executive Order Affecting Visas and Travel

Dear International Scholars;

This is a follow-up to the message that our office sent yesterday regarding the Executive Order that President Trump signed on Friday, January 27, which includes a 90-day ban on entry to the U.S. for individuals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

As you may already be aware, several lawsuits have been filed challenging the Executive Order, including one in federal district court in Massachusetts. Early Sunday morning the Massachusetts court issued a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting the detention or removal of individuals from these seven countries who, absent the Executive Order, would be legally authorized to enter the U.S. For now the order will remain in effect for seven days from issuance. A copy of the court’s Order is attached (http://web.mit.edu/scholars/pdfs/CourtOrder1.29.17.pdf).

Although the court’s Order directs Customs and Border Protection to notify airlines of the Order and the fact that individuals on flights to Logan Airport will not be detained or returned based solely on the Executive Order, it is unclear how immigration officials will apply the Order in practice. As a result, the ISchO continues to advise scholars NOT to travel outside the U.S. unless it is absolutely necessary.

If you must travel, please be sure to return to the U.S. via Logan Airport within the next 6 days. If you or a family member are currently outside the U.S., we also recommend that you make your travel arrangements as soon as possible to enter the U.S. via Logan Airport within the next 6 days and notify the International Scholars Office Director, Penny Rosser, if you have not already done so (ischo@mit.edu).

We will continue to provide updates on any developments as soon as possible. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at 617-253-2851, ischo@mit.edu, or visit us at: 50 Ames Street, Room E18-209.

Sincerely,

International Scholars Office

 

January 28, 2017

URGENT - Follow-up about Executive Order Affecting Visas and Travel

Dear International Scholars:

We are following up on the recent e-mails we sent to you on Wednesday and Friday about the Executive Orders affecting visas and travel. As you may already know, the President’s Executive Order, which includes a 90-day ban on entry to the US for individuals who are citizens, nationals, or were born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, was signed yesterday and went into effect immediately.

The official Executive Order has not yet appeared on the White House website. When it does, you will be able to view it at https://www.whitehouse.gov/. We will provide you with other resources as they become available.

Given the information currently available about the impact of the Executive Order, if you are a citizen, national, or were born in any of these countries and you are INSIDE the US, it is advisable to NOT travel outside the US until official guidance on the interpretation of the Executive Order is received from US government agencies.

if you or any of your immediate family members are citizens, nationals, or born in any of these countries and are currently OUTSIDE of the US, please contact Penny Rosser, Director of the International Scholars Office (pennysun@mit.edu), and Vivian Ruiz, Assistant Director (ruizvn@mit.edu), right away to confirm this, and so we can address your questions and concerns.

Likewise, if you or your immediate family members are in need of urgent assistance for any reason, please contact Director Penny Rosser at pennysun@mit.edu, so that she can reply with her cell phone number and speak with you directly.

We want to reassure you that we are deeply concerned by these recent developments and their impact on members of our MIT community. The International Scholars Office will work closely with the MIT administration to support our international scholars and all those affected in the MIT community. We care deeply about our entire community and the diversity that embodies MIT, and we will continue to reflect these values. We will continue communicate with you further as additional information becomes available.

Again, please do not hesitate to contact us. You are always welcome to come to our office in E18-209. Our office hours are 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Monday – Friday.

Yours sincerely,

Penny Rosser
Director
MIT International Scholars Office

Vivian Ruiz
Assistant Director
MIT International Scholars Office

 

January 27, 2017

IMPORTANT Announcement about Possible Executive Orders Affecting Visas and Travel

To our International Scholars,

Given media reports about possible Executive Orders under consideration pertaining to potential visa application and travel restrictions for individuals from certain countries, the International Scholars Office (ISchO) and International Students Office (ISO) feel it is important to reach out to the community. (Please note that, as of this writing, the White House has taken NO official action on these matters.)

In light of continued review of current and prospective actions that could be taken by Presidential action, individuals with citizenship, nationality, or birth in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen currently in the United States (U.S.) should consider postponing any travel outside of the U.S. until official Executive Orders and further government agency guidance on potential visa/immigration changes has been issued. Individuals from these countries who are currently outside of the U.S. should evaluate timing for re-entry to the U.S. at the earliest possible time in consideration of potential bars to entry that could be implemented by Executive Order at any time.

While we do not know if official action will be taken and, if so, what that action will entail, we feel it is important to consider all appropriate precautions.

Again, please note that there has been NO official release of any Executive Order or Presidential Action on these areas yet. The ISchO, the ISO and MIT’s Washington, D.C. Office are actively monitoring the White House’s release of information and will provide any updates as soon as we receive them.

We know that this period of uncertainty can be challenging. We encourage you to reach out for support to ISchO and ISO staff any time. A list of services offered to MIT students and other members of the MIT community can be found at https://resources.mit.edu/resources/personal-support-and-wellness/all . Postdoctoral Associates and other MIT employees may also contact MyLife Services (http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/mitmylifeservices).

Sincerely,

Penny Rosser
Director
MIT International Scholars Office

David C. Elwell
Associate Dean and Director
MIT International Students Office

 

January 25, 2017

Message from the International Scholars Office about potential Executive Orders on visa issues

Dear International Scholars,

As you may know, there have been a number of media reports in recent days regarding prospective visa restrictions that may be enacted by Executive Order this week by President Trump. It is expected that these actions will be announced within the next few days.

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) shares the concern and anxiety you may be feeling about how visa procedures and policies in the US may change under the new Presidential administration, and will notify you promptly if/when such changes are announced.

In the meantime, we would like to remind you that we continue to monitor potential visa and immigration changes, and advocate on these issues as they affect the international scholar community. The international higher education community, immigration attorneys, the national academies, MIT and peer universities, and other stakeholders have the interests of international students and scholars in mind as well as our own. High-profile stakeholders will continue to engage in advocacy to ensure the most highly trained, highly educated students and scholars from around the world are able to continue enriching our campuses, pursuing their academic goals, contributing significantly to the US economy, and training the next generation of US students.

As always, we encourage you to contact the ISchO if you plan to travel, have concerns about renewing your visa, have questions about your future work or visa plans, or other issues. Our walk-in hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, or you may e-mail ischo@mit.edu or call 617-253-2851 to schedule an appointment with an advisor.

Sincerely,

Penny Rosser
Director, International Scholars Office

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Information and Resources for Scholars Affected by the Executive Order

ISchO Travel Advisory

web.mit.edu/scholars/intlscholars/travel/advisory.html

NAFSA: Association of International Educators

Executive Order Travel Ban: NAFSA Resources - Resources are being added as the situation develops and currently include:

  • FAQ on Immigration Benefits and the Executive Order
  • Travel Advisory for Nationals of Certain Countries Pursuant to Executive Order

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

Download AILA's flyers: "Know Your Rights" if ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Visits a Home, Employer, or Pubic Space

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

The ACLU has a web page with tips about what your rights are if you are stopped by the police or questioned about your immigration status.

MIT MyLife Services

A free and confidential counseling and work-life resource benefit available to provide support, guidance, and resources to all faculty, staff, postdocs and family members. MyLife Services can help you and your family members with:

  • Phone and in-person counseling for stress and emotional concerns
  • A 30-minute legal consultation with an attorney, by phone, who is familiar with immigration law
  • Massachusetts and national immigration resources

MyLife Services is available 24/7. To reach MIT MyLife Services, call 844-405-LIFE (5433) any time or email info@MITMyLifeServices.com.

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July 27, 2017

Premium Processing of H-1B Petitions Restored

As you have likely heard, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed Premium Processing of H-1B petitions for cap-exempt employers such as MIT effective July 24, 2017. USCIS announcement

International scholars anticipating future employment or changes of immigration status will be pleased that this option is once again available. However, please note that Premium Processing only speeds up processing of H-1B petitions once they arrive at USCIS. It does not speed processing of the Department of Labor steps required before an H-1B petition can be filed.

International scholars anticipating H-1B employment in the future at MIT or elsewhere should remember that advance planning is key to getting an H-1B petition filed in a timely way.

June 14, 2017

Travel and Immigration Updates

Additional form may be required for visa applications

The U.S. Department of State has received approval of a new visa application supplement, (Form DS-5535) that a U.S. Consular officer, at his/her discretion, may require visa applicants to complete. The new form contains 15 supplemental questions about an applicant’s address and employment history for the past 15 years, all social media names or nicknames, travel history, names and birth dates of all siblings and children, and other questions. The stated purpose of the proposed form is to collect additional information from visa applicants who warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities. Recent anecdotal reports indicate that the form is now in use and has been required from applicants not limited to the six majority Muslim countries previously mentioned. Foreign nationals applying to “renew” U.S. visas have also been required to complete the form. More information

The permanent residence process will take longer for MIT faculty from India and China: Oversubscription of employment-based “green card” categories

This fiscal year, the number of applications for employment-based permanent residence for citizens of China and India has exceeded the annual statutory limit. This means that MIT may continue to file the initial, employment-based part of the permanent residence process for employees from these countries. However, employees and their family members cannot yet file the final and personal step in the process, known as “adjustment of status,” which leads to the issuance of the actual permanent residence/green card. At the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, 2017 more immigrant visas will become available. First preference dates are likely to become “current” again, but will likely remain backlogged for China and India in the second preference category.

H-1B premium processing suspension

As previously announced, on April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended the expeditious processing of H-1B applications, known as “premium processing,” for up to six months. MIT applications submitted in haste prior to the April 3 deadline have been approved. However, MIT has had to adjust the start dates of some incoming faculty and researchers whose offers were made too late to meet the deadline.

Based on recently received approvals in the International Scholars Office over the two months since April 3, USCIS appears to be making progress in processing applications and reducing its backlog of “standard processing” cases.

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April 28, 2017

President Trump Clarifies Position on NAFTA Free Trade Agreement

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017 President Trump clarified that he does not intend to withdraw the U.S. from the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement, but instead intends to renegotiate the terms of the agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The immigration status of MIT international scholars from Canada or Mexico in TN status is unaffected by this announcement on Wednesday. Until/unless a future agreement contains revisions to the terms of admission and employment of Canadian and Mexican citizens, their ability to work remains unchanged.

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April 24, 2017

New Executive Order - "Buy American and Hire American"

On April 18, 2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order called “Buy American and Hire American.” In the “Hire American” portion of the Order, the President directs government agencies such as the Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security and others to review laws governing the H-1B visa (worker in specialty occupation) and to take measures related to compliance, investigating fraud and protecting US workers. The rule also suggests changes may be made in the future to grant H-1B visa priority to foreign workers in the most highly skilled and paid positions.

If you are in the US in H-1B status, the Executive Order will not impact your current status.

The Order does not change current H-1B regulations, policies or practices. However, in the future it is possible that the required qualifications for H-1B eligibility may be raised. It takes time to issue laws and regulations and they must be published with an opportunity for public comment. MIT requirements for H-1B sponsorship are already high (above that required by law). The International Scholars Office will keep scholars informed if/when such regulations are anticipated to change.

This Executive Order is unrelated to the suspension of H-1B premium processing.

Full text of the Executive Order

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April 24, 2017

Update about F-1 OPT STEM Extensions

On April 19, 2017, the Washington D.C. District Court dismissed Washington Alliance of Technology Workers’ June 17, 2016 lawsuit regarding extensions of Post Completion Practical Training for foreign students who graduate from US universities in STEM fields (STEM OPT). STEM OPT is therefore preserved and remains available to graduates who qualify.

Click here for a summary.

Click here to view the court decision.

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April 6, 2017

Community Briefing on on Immigration Laws and Policies

International students and scholars are invited to a community briefing on immigration laws and policies being sponsored by the Post-Election Working Group and the Offices of the Chancellor and General Counsel.

Date: Thursday, April 13, 2017
Time: 5:00-6:30 p.m.
Location: Room 4-270

Download flyer

The briefing will present the international community with an opportunity to hear from MIT’s Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo and nationally-recognized immigration attorney Dan Berger about today’s immigration landscape. Staff of the other offices that support international students and scholars will be in attendance.

To RSVP to this invitation and to submit general questions and comments about immigration issues, click here (please note panelists will not be able to address questions pertaining to specific individual cases).

In light of the changes and uncertainty we have experienced in recent months, this session will be timely, informative and you are encouraged to attend.

March 30, 2017

Increased Vetting of Visa Applications at U.S. Consulates

Citizens of China, India, and other countries, including those listed below, coming to the U.S. to study or conduct research in certain fields, are already required to undergo security background checks before U.S. entry visas are granted. The circumstances under which consular officers are required to request more rigorous checks have now been expanded, as described below.

Enhanced Screening of Visa Applications

At the direction of President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has instructed U.S. consular posts to enhance the screening and vetting of all visa applications. This is effective immediately and may impact you and your family members when you travel outside the U.S., if you need to renew your U.S. entry visas. The vetting instructions apply to all visa applications, even business visas for visits of short duration, tourist visas, and accompanying family visas.

U.S. consular officers already have a great deal of discretion to ask questions to determine the intent of the visa applicant, protect the U.S. national interest, order security background checks, also known as Security Advisory Opinions (SAO) or “additional administrative processing,” and approve or deny applications. In his recent cable to U.S. consular posts, Secretary Tillerson instructs consular officers to request higher levels of Security Advisory Opinions when they feel it is warranted. Applicants should be prepared to answer a broader range of questions, if asked, which could include:

  • The applicant’s travel history over the last 15 years;
  • The names of any siblings/children/former spouses not recorded in the DS-160/260 or NIV/IVO case notes;
  • The applicant’s address during the last 15 years, if different from the applicant’s current address;
  • The applicant’s prior passport numbers;
  • The applicant’s prior occupation(s) and employers (plus a brief description of the position(s) held, if applicable) looking back 15 years;
  • All phone numbers used by the applicant in the last five years;
  • All email addresses and social media handles used by the applicant in the last five years.

Mandatory Enhanced Screening for Nationals of Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, and Libya

U.S. consular officers are now required to request a higher level of Security Advisory Opinion for applicants ages 16-65, holding passports from Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, and Libya. The officers must ask the additional questions listed above regarding travel, address history, etc. If consular officers determine that nationals of any of these six countries were ever present in territories controlled by ISIS, the officers must also conduct social media checks.

Increased Screening for Citizens of Iraq

Iraqi visa applicants will be questioned to determine whether they were ever present in territories controlled by ISIS. If so, the attending consular officers must request higher level Security Advisory Opinions.

Mandatory Review of Immigrant Visa Issuance (for U.S. Permanent Residence/Green card) for Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen

Consular managers are now required to conduct reviews of all immigrant visa issuances for nationals from these seven countries.

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) cannot predict the impact of these new instructions on consular services. However, it would be logical to assume that visa processing times will be longer for individuals who require higher level Security Advisory Opinions and that the overall increase in SAO requests could also increase wait times for lower level security checks and visa issuance.

Visa Interviews

We want to remind individuals applying for a new visa at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad that all applicants are required to have an in-person visa interview with the U.S. consulate (except applicants for diplomatic visas). Under a past Visa Interview Waiver Program, individuals applying at certain U.S. consulates did not need a visa interview to apply for a new visa in the same category. Now that all applicants must be interviewed, it may take longer to get a visa appointment at the consulate and visa processing may take longer. Scholars should plan well in advance in consideration of this change.

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March 24, 2017

Recent Government Agency Actions

Restrictions for Carry-On Electronic Devices on US-Bound Flights Departing from Certain Airports

On March 21, 2017, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted on its news webpage an announcement (“Q&A: Aviation Security Enhancements for Select Last point of Departure Airports with Commercial Flights to the United States”) stating that new security measures will be implemented on for passengers traveling from certain airports to the US. Under the new guidance, “all passengers flying through and from these locations (to the US) will have to place electronic devices that are larger than a cell phone/smart phone in their checked bags regardless of the passenger’s citizenship.”

DHS states that airlines have been notified that they have 96 hours from March 21 to implement these new measures (by 8:00am on March 25, 2017). These security measures, according to the DHS posting, will be in effect indefinitely and subject to review and evaluation based on intelligence resources. The DHS statement does not rule out adding additional airports to the current list of 10 airports.

These new measures will affect passengers flying to the US from one of the 10 airports listed below:

Jordan: Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman
Egypt: Cairo International Airport (CAI)
Turkey: Ataturk International Airport (IST) in Istanbul
Saudi Arabia: King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED) in Jeddah
Saudi Arabia: King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Riyadh
Kuwait: Kuwait International Airport (KWI) in Kuwait City
Morocco: Mohammed V Airport (CMN) in Casablanca
Qatar: Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha
United Arab Emirates: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)

View the full announcement/Q&A

Please note that the United Kingdom has implemented similar restrictions for carry-on electronic devices for flights to the UK from the following countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

Please be sure to check with your airlines to verify any policies and procedures regarding these new directives.

Two Federal Courts Issue Temporary Restraining Orders on Second Executive Order/Travel Ban

Two federal courts have issued orders blocking enforcement of the travel ban in the second Executive Order on immigration issued by President Trump on March 6, 2017. The court orders apply nationwide and prohibit the Trump Administration from acting on the portions of the March 6 Executive Order that would have barred entry into the U.S. of nationals of six countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – for 90 days. Because these rulings will be subject to additional court review, members of the MIT community from those six countries are encouraged to consult with the International Students Office or International Scholars Office before traveling outside the US.

To view a copy of the US District Court for the District of Hawaii Temporary Restraining Order, click here.

To view a copy of the US District Court for the District of Maryland Memorandum Opinion, click here; and to view the Order granting a preliminary injunction, click here.

Travel Reminder

Please carefully review the ISchO’s Travel Advisory before you travel.

If you have any questions about your visa documentation and/or what documents to carry with you when you travel, please contact the ISchO at ischo@mit.edu or 617-253-2851. You are also welcome to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss your situation.

Please continue to monitor this website. We will provide additional updates as they become available.

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March 9, 2017

USCIS Suspends H-1B Visa Premium Processing

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing of H-1B Specialty Worker Petitions

On Friday, March 3, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will suspend “premium processing” of H-1B applications received on or after April 3, 2017 for up to six months. The agency indicated that it is going to take this time to clear up a large backlog of “standard processing” cases that has accumulated. We do hope that the agency is able to do so expeditiously.

https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-will-temporarily-suspend-premium-processing-all-h-1b-petitions

Employers, including institutions of higher education, as well as prominent national organizations such as the American Association of Universities, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Council on Global Immigration and others are already taking action to inform members of Congress and the Secretary of Homeland Security of the difficulties this suspension will cause. It is unknown whether the suspension could be modified cancelled or postponed. If it is not, we hope that the suspension of premium processing will be briefer than originally planned and/or that standard processing will be improved in order to make the effects of the suspension as minimal as possible. April 3 is less than a month from today.

  • For those scholars and faculty whose H applications are in process with the International Scholars Office (ISchO), we will make every effort to submit applications to USCIS before April 3, provided the required US Department of Labor steps have been completed. If the departments, laboratories or centers are holding documents or requesting fee checks that need to be forwarded to ISchO, they should do so as quickly as possible.
  • If ISchO has not yet received intake forms or requests for new Hs or extensions of stay, it is unlikely we will be able to complete applications, including the Department of Labor steps, and send them to USCIS by Thursday, March 30 in order for them to be received by Monday April 3 for premium processing. In those circumstances, applications for new, change of status and extension H-1B applications will be submitted to USCIS for “standard” processing.

If USCIS completes its goal of reducing the backlog of H cases in the queue, we are hopeful that standard processing applications will no longer take as long as currently pending cases (approximately 8 months). International scholars whose immigration status will expire within the next six to eight months should schedule individual appointments with ISchO advisors to discuss their personal visa situations ischo@mit.edu.

The Director of the ISchO has met with representatives from Human Resources, the Provost’s Office and the Office of the Vice President for Research to discuss what can be done for international scholars whose ongoing employment or future employment will be impacted. That information will be passed on in a future communication to scholars.

Change of status to H-1B

Foreign nationals currently in the US in J-1, F-1, or other status for whom MIT must submit a petition for change of status to H-1B (for new MIT employment or ongoing employment) may remain in the US while the application is pending at USCIS, but will not have permission to work. If a scholar with change of status pending travels outside the US at any time before the H-1B petition is approved, he/she must await approval outside the US, the ISchO must convert the application to “consular notification,” and the scholar may return only upon approval of the petition and the granting of a new US entry visa.

Extension of H-1B status

Per regulation, scholars in H-1B status for whom MIT files a petition for extension of status may continue to work for up to 240 days beyond the end date of the current H-1B while the extension is pending. However, if a scholar leaves the US at any time before the H-1B extension application is approved, and the current H-1B expires while he/she is out of the country, the ISchO must convert the application to “consular notification,” and the scholar may return only upon approval of the petition and the granting of a new US entry visa.

Change of H-1B Employer

Per regulation, scholars in H-1B status with another employer for whom MIT timely files a petition for change of employer may remain in the US and work for MIT while MIT’s H-1B petition is pending at USCIS. However, if a scholar leaves the US while MIT’s H-1B petition is pending, and the previous H-1B expires while he/she is out of the country, the scholar may return only upon approval of MIT’s petition and the granting of a new US entry visa.

Travel

The ISchO advisors will meet individually with scholars for whom travel is unavoidable to discuss timing, informing their P.I.s of possible absence for a period of time, and other possible issues.

H-1B status for foreign nationals currently outside the US

Until USCIS begins accepting premium processing applications again, H-1B petitions for new international faculty, postdocs, research scientists and other scholars must be submitted for standard processing. ISchO will consult with representatives from the DLCs to determine if any other visa status would be possible or appropriate in the interim.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee the pleas of the employer community will convince USCIS to postpone or cancel the suspension of premium processing. However, we hope that USCIS and lawmakers will see the unacceptable consequences of the suspension on universities who need to hire faculty, hospitals who need medical professionals to begin their spring residencies, and other employers for whom spring and summer hires are critical.

We will update the campus community of ongoing developments or changes in the coming days and weeks. You may continue to monitor this website.

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November 18, 2016

The International Scholars Office has Moved!

The International Scholars Office (ISchO) has moved to a new location in E18-209 (50 Ames Street).

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50 Ames St, Room E18-209, Cambridge, MA 02142 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: ischo@mit.edu