We hope this message finds you well! ISSO would like to provide you with a few important updates and reminders as we look forward to the Fall semester. We appreciate that many of you are already outside of the US, and those of you who have remained in the US might be considering summer travel.
Travel Advisory – for students currently in the US considering international travel over the summer
Travel remains very challenging due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Any international travel at this time comes with significant risk. We recommend that you review our Current Travel Advisory for important reminders if you are considering international travel over the summer. If you must travel and your visa has expired, you should be prepared for significant delays and backlogs at US Embassies/Consulates around the world. It is important that you consider all of these factors to ensure that you can return to campus for the Fall semester.
Travel Considerations – for students studying LfA from outside of the US
Travel remains very challenging due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend that you review our Current Travel Advisory as you plan your return to campus. As you are likely aware, if your visa has expired, you may face significant delays in scheduling a visa appointment at a US Embassies/Consulates. You should look at the website of the Embassy/Consulate where you plan to apply for your visa for updated instructions regarding visa renewal. Make sure you have appropriate documentation needed to return to the US.
Fall 2021 Considerations
With President Brown’s announcement of a return to residential education, you should be making plans to be on campus this Fall. Interim COVID-related SEVP flexibility with SEVIS records ends once BU returns to normal operations. To help you understand how this might affect you as you are considering Summer travel and Fall enrollment options, ISSO is offering two Q&A Webinar sessions:
Thursday, April 22 at 6:00 PM [register here]
Monday, April 26 at 9:00 AM [register here]
ISSO’s Menu of Remote Services and FAQs
ISSO remains available to assist you with your immigration, employment and travel questions. You can visit our Menu of Remote Services to learn how to contact us. You can also contact your ISSO advisor if you have specific questions, and you can schedule an appointment with your ISSO advisor if you have more detailed questions. ISSO continues to experience a high volume of inquires, so appointments may not be available immediately and it may take your advisor a few days to respond to your e-mail inquires. We appreciate your patience. We also suggest that you review our FAQs and Travel Considerations page, as it will address many common questions we are receiving, including detailed instructions on how to request a Travel Signature.
The staff of the ISSO hope that you are safe, healthy, and are having a productive semester, and we wish you an enjoyable summer.
The Staff of the ISSO
On January 25, 2021, President Biden signed Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease extending COVID-related restrictions on travel from all countries covered under previous Proclamations (mainland China, Iran, Brazil, 26 Schengen countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom) and restricted travel from South Africa on January 30, 2021.
On March 2, 2021, the Secretary of State revised criteria for national interest exceptions (NIE) from these COVID-related travel restrictions for certain travelers seeking to provide vital support for critical infrastructure. Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 visas visa will continue to be automatically considered for an NIE to travel and do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual NIE to travel.
Other types of academics, J-1 students, and journalists who already have a valid visa in the appropriate class, or an ESTA authorization, should contact the nearest US Embassy to request individual consideration for a NIE.
All other nonimmigrant travelers who wish to visit the United States to offer vital support to critical infrastructure sectors, or for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security should contact the nearest US Embassy to request both a new visa and an individual NIE if they believe they qualify for an exception.
On July 22, 2020, the Department of State updated its website to clarify that F-1 nonimmigrants traveling from the 26 Schengen countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom would automatically qualify for a national interest exemption (NIE) from these travel restrictions. All other nonimmigrant travelers must request approval for an individual NIE from a US consular post on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, the university has updated the Policy for Individuals Returning or Arriving from Abroad that requires anyone returning from or arriving from a CDC level 2 or level 3 country. Since the CDC has elevated travel to all countries worldwide to a level 2, this policy requires anyone returning to campus from outside of the U.S. from all countries (including Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands) to self-quarantine for 14 days before reporting to campus.
Please be advised that this situation is very fluid and travel bans due to the coronavirus may change at any time. Therefore, we urge you to carefully consider any plans to leave the U.S. during the Spring semester as country travel restrictions are changing daily. If you choose to travel, please refer to our Current Travel Advisory for details regarding documents required for re-entry to the US.
All nonimmigrant travel from mainland China, Iran, Brazil and Europe has been suspended for the 14 days preceding entry to the US since the COVID pandemic spread in 2020. More countries may be added to the list without advance warning. See country specific details below.
Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease suspends entry effective 12:01am on January 30, 2021 of aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present in South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.
Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus suspends entry effective 11:59pm May 26, 2020 into the U.S. of aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.
Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus suspends entry effective 11:59pm March 16, 2020 into the U.S. of aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the United Kingdom and Ireland during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.
Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus suspends entry effective 11:59pm March 13, 2020 into the U.S. of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the following 26 Schengen Area countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The 26 Schengen area countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The United Kingdom is not included at this time.
Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus suspends entry into the U.S. effective February 2, 2020 of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus suspended entry into the U.S. effective March 2, 2020 of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present in Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.
Proclamations clarify that the coronavirus travel bans do not apply to any U.S. citizens nor alien who is:
- a lawful permanent resident of the United States
- a spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
- a parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;
- a sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;
- a child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;
- an alien traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;
- C (transit) or D (air or sea crewmember) nonimmigrants
- seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to an A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 visa;
- an alien whose entry would not pose a significant risk of introducing, transmitting, or spreading the virus, as determined by the CDC Director, or his designee;
- an alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or
- an alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.
BU President Robert Brown and NYU President Andrew Hamilton author an article in INSIDE HIGHER ED urging more support from the Biden administration in welcoming back international students to American campuses.
Travel to the US within 14 days from South Africa will be banned effective January 30, 2021 at 12:01am. South Africa is the latest country to be added to the COVID-related travel restrictions that continue to ban travel to the US from China, Brazil, Iran, 26 Schengen countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom. COVID related travel bans were reconfirmed in a Presidential Proclamation on January 25, 2021. Please refer to the ISSO news post for a list of countries, specific language of the bans as well as details regarding limited exceptions.
President Biden issued a Presidential Order on January 20, 2021 that revoked several controversial travel bans effective immediately for certain nonimmigrants from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, North Korea, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania and government representatives from Venezuela that were established during the Trump administration.
Effective January 26, 2021, all travelers entering the United States via air transportation must document proof of a negative viral COVID test within 72 hours of their departure. See the announcement and FAQs on the Centers for Disease Control website. International students and scholars returning to the US are encouraged to check with their specific airline carrier for details regarding documentary evidence requirements.
COVID-related travel restrictions that ban travel within 14 days to the US from China, Brazil, Iran, 26 Schengen countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom were restated by a January 25, 2021 Presidential Proclamation. Effective, January 30, 2021, travel will also be restricted from South Africa. Please refer to the ISSO news post for a list of countries, specific language of the bans as well as details regarding limited exceptions.
All travelers should also pay special attention to Back2BU for latest updates and information about BU’s response to COVID-19 and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts quarantine requirements for anyone traveling from out of state/country.
Be sure to read our spring 2021 Enrollment Considerations as you finalize your course registration for spring. In addition, please review the reminders below, as they contain important for new student check-in procedures, enrollment requirements and information about F-1 regulatory flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Boston University is required to confirm your enrollment to the Department of Homeland Security through the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) at the start of each semester. Please be advised that we have changed how we will gather and report your enrollment during this time.
If you are traveling to campus at any time during the spring semester and have questions about COVID testing and quarantine requirements, we encourage you to review the Back2BU website, as it contains important information about student life during COVID.
Initial Check-in ISSO
All international students traveling to the US for the first time and F-1 students returning to campus after a leave of absence will be required to complete Initial ISSO check-in remotely in the StudentLink to upload copies of your immigration documents and notify us of your arrival in the US. You should only complete Initial ISSO check-in after you have entered the US. Students beginning a new program of study should have received separate email messages with additional details about Initial ISSO check-in.
Spring 2021 Semester Verification Suspended for Continuing Students
Continued student check-in (generally referred to as Semester Verification) will not be required in Spring 2021. Rather than asking students in check in in-person at the beginning for the semester, the ISSO will be relying on your academic registration data to update your SEVIS record, since many students will not be physically returning to campus this semester. SEVP COVID Guidance will allow BU to continue keep SEVIS records active for continuing students enrolled full-time, even if they study remotely. If you have questions about how your academic registration will affect your SEVIS record, please refer to our spring 2021 Enrollment Considerations.
Update your address in the StudentLink
It is critical that you understand the different addresses on the Student Link and keep each address updated correctly. Local address is used by the university to know your location while the Foreign-Immigration and the US-immigration address are reported to the US Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS. You must keep your immigration-related addresses in the student link up to date throughout the semester.
- Local address:
- Will automatically reflect your BU housing address if you reside in BU housing
- Should reflect your most recent US address if you are in the US
- Should reflect a general placeholder address of 881 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 if you are outside the US
- Foreign-Immigration address: must reflect your address in your home country
- US-Immigration address:
- Should reflect your current US address if you are in the US. If you are living on campus, this address will automatically reflect your BU housing address.
- If you are a continuing student and you plan to study remotely from outside the US, please leave your most recent US address in this section – do not delete this address.
- If this is your first semester you are a new student and you plan to study remotely from outside the US, you should leave this address blank until you arrive in the US.
LfA Status Indicator
The LfA Status Indicator was designed for university offices to know where you are living and understand how you plan to participate in classes so they can assign you to the appropriate COVID testing schedule. It is essential that you keep your LfA Status Indicator in the StudentLink updated throughout the semester. If you are returning to Boston, it is recommended that you update your LfA Status Indicator approximately 24 hours before you arrive for the spring semester. You must update your LfA Status Indicator as your situation changes throughout the semester, regardless of whether you will study on campus or remotely. Please be advised that your LfA Status Indicator will not be used for SEVIS record keeping or immigration compliance purposes.
Remember that you must be enrolled full-time and making normal academic progress in your degree. For most students, full-time is 12 credits. Some graduate student programs may have different full-time equivalents, but you must be certified as a full-time student to maintain your immigration status. The number of remote courses that continuing students can take has been relaxed temporarily due to COVID-19 as long as you are enrolled full-time and making progress in your degree program. If it is your last semester and you need less than 12 credits to graduate, you should request a Reduced Courseload from ISSO prior to the start of the semester. If you have questions about how your academic registration will affect your SEVIS record, please refer to our spring 2021 Enrollment Considerations.
If you plan to graduate in May 2021 and plan to apply for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), please note that you must be inside of the United States prior to May 16, 2021 in order to apply for OPT. This is a requirement of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and they have not provided any flexibility to allow students to apply for OPT from outside of the United States despite the travel challenges related to COVID-19.
It is also important to note that you will have a 60-day grace period after your program completion date of May 16, 2021 during which you can:
- Apply for OPT provided you are inside the US prior to the May graduation date
- Request that ISSO transfer your SEVIS record to a new school
- Obtain a new I-20 reflecting your plans to study in a new degree level at BU
- Depart the United States.
An extension of this grace period due to COVID-19 has not been provided, so we encourage you to keep this in mind as you are planning your next steps. Please note, if you are outside of the US, you do not have a grace period and should not plan to travel into the US after your program completion (graduation) date.
Immigration regulations allow international students to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the regular semester. During spring 2021, some on-campus jobs may be approved to be performed remotely by students who are within the United States, and some will require that you be available in-person on campus. You can read more about being hired to work on-campus on the ISSO website. If you have not worked on-campus before, you will need to complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility form before you begin work. If you do not have a Social Security Number, you will need to apply for one after you secure a job. Social Security Offices are currently closed to walk-in traffic due to COVID-19, but you can review details of how you can apply for an SSN on our COVID-19 FAQs page.
ISSO acknowledges that travel has become very complicated by COVID-19. If you are considering international travel, we strongly recommend that you review our Current Travel Advisory and be aware that travel restrictions are subject to change at any time. US Embassies/Consulates closed for routine visa processing in mid-March and began a phased-in reopening in mid-July in many locations. COVID spikes during the Fall/Winter caused appointments in some locations to be canceled or delayed with little advanced notice. If your F-1 visa stamp has expired, you should expect substantial delays in applying for a new visa. If you are considering international travel, we suggest that you contact your ISSO advisor before finalizing your travel plans.
ISSO continues to work remotely, and we remain available to support you. You can visit our Menu of Remote Services to learn how to contact us. You can also contact your ISSO advisor if you have specific questions. Given an increased volume of inquiries, it may take your advisor a few days to respond so we appreciate your patience!
On March 31, 2021, Presidential Proclamation 10052 expired.
The initial Presidential Proclamation entitled Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak that banned immigrant visa processing (entry to the US for those who plan to stay permanently) beginning on April 23, 2020 has now been extended to March 31, 2021.
In addition, the Presidential Proclamation has extended the visa processing ban to certain nonimmigrant categories involving employment in the US including visa applications for their dependent family members. This expanded visa processing began on June 24, 2020 and will now expire on March 31, 2021. This means that visa processing for the following nonimmigrant categories remains suspended:
- H1B, H2B and some H-4 dependent family members
- J-1 exchange visitors in only the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and their dependent J-2 family members
- L-1 intracompany transfer employees and their L-2 dependent family members
This proclamation does not apply to individuals already in the U.S. or individuals who already hold a valid visa in one of these nonimmigrant categories. It also does not apply to J-1 exchange visitors in the Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, Professor, Specialist, Alien Physician, Student or Student Intern categories. Please see a detailed explanation of how this new ban could affect specific employees in our community.
The following are also excluded:
- any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
- any alien who is the spouse or child of a United States citizen;
- any alien seeking to enter the United States to provide temporary labor or services essential to the United States food supply chain;
- any alien whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees
The following categories are exempted from the proclamation at the discretion of a consular officer:
- Individuals and their spouses or children seeking to enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak (as determined by the Secretaries of State and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or their respective designees)
- Individuals applying for a visa to enter the U.S. pursuant to the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program
- Spouses of U.S. citizens 5. Children of U.S. citizens under the age of 21 and prospective adoptees seeking to enter on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa
- Individuals who would further important U.S. law enforcement objectives (as determined by the Secretaries of DHS and State based on the recommendation of the Attorney General (AG), or their respective designees)
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their spouses and children
- Individuals and their spouses or children eligible for Special Immigrant Visas as an Afghan or Iraqi translator/interpreter or U.S. Government Employee (SI or SQ classification)
- Individuals whose entry would be in the national interest (as determined by the Secretaries of State and DHS, or their respective designees). The definition of who might qualify for the National Interest Exception was expanded in August 2020.
- Asylum applicants
The June 22, 2020 proclamation calls on the agencies to take substantial "additional measures," such as:
Directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend any modifications as may be necessary within 30 days of June 24, 2020, and every 60 days thereafter while this proclamation is in effect.
Directing DOL and DHS to ensure compliance with the permanent labor certification (PERM) and temporary labor condition application (LCA) statutory rules that are designed to protect U.S. workers.
Directing DHS and DOS to ensure compliance with biographic and biometric data collection requirements.
Directing DHS to take appropriate and necessary steps, consistent with applicable law, to prevent certain aliens who have final orders of removal; who are inadmissible or deportable from the United States; or who have been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a criminal offense in the United States, from obtaining eligibility to work in the United States.
Directing DHS to consider promulgating regulations or take other appropriate action regarding the efficient allocation of visas pursuant to section 214(g)(3) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(3)) and ensuring that the presence in the United States of H-1B nonimmigrants does not disadvantage United States workers.
Presidential Proclamation Bans Entry to the US for Small Number of Graduate Students and Researchers from China
The Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China suspends entry to the US (effective 12pm June 1, 2020) of certain Chinese nationals seeking to enter the US with an F or J nonimmigrant visa to study or conduct research.
- This suspension means that the US Department of State may deny new visa applications from graduate students and researchers affiliated with an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'.
- Affiliation has been defined in the proclamation as an individual who currently receives funding from, is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at, or on behalf of, an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy' or, an individual who has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at, or on behalf of, an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'.
- Under the proclamation, "the term “military-civil fusion strategy” means actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities."
- A US Department of State Fact Sheet indicates that technologies that may be targeted include quantum computing, big data, semiconductors, 5G, advanced nuclear technology, aerospace technology, and artificial intelligence
Read more for details on exactly how this affects our community. The following individuals are exempt:
- undergraduate students from China
- graduate students and researchers from China who study in disciplines that are not related to ‘military-civil fusion strategy’
- graduate students and researchers from China who do not hold any affiliation with the described PRC entities
The US Department of State (DOS) has not yet explained how they will implement the new proclamation or clarified the list of PRC entities that support the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'. However, DOS routinely evaluates sources of funding and the prospective field of study or research when adjudicating visa applications and has pushed visa applicants through additional security clearances to screen out students who present concerns about the transfer of sensitive technology.
The ISSO and other University offices will continue to assess how this will impact our international student and scholar community. We will also seek clarification as to how this may impact the F and J visas of Chinese graduate students and scholars in these limited disciplines that are currently in the US as well as whether there will be any changes to procedures at US ports of entry.
We will continue to update the community. Please email your ISSO advisor with specific questions.
The following individuals are specifically exempt from the entry or visa ban:
- Students pursuing undergraduate study
- Individuals "studying or conducting research in a field involving information that would not contribute to the PRC’s military‑civil fusion strategy, as determined by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the appropriate executive departments and agencies (agencies)"
- U.S. lawful permanent residents
- Spouses of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents
- Members of the United States Armed Forces and their spouse and children
- Individuals "whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement or who would otherwise be allowed entry into the United States pursuant to United States obligations under applicable international agreements"
- Individuals "whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee"
- Individuals "whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees."
The Secretary of State will implement the proclamation as it applies to visas "pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish in the Secretary of State’s discretion." The Secretary of Homeland Security will implement the proclamation "as it applies to the entry of aliens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion."
Additional Measures of the proclamation:
- "The Secretary of State shall consider, in the Secretary’s discretion, whether nationals of the PRC currently in the United States pursuant to F or J visas and who otherwise meet the criteria described in section 1 of this proclamation should have their visas revoked pursuant to section 221(i) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(i)."
- "Within 60 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the heads of appropriate agencies, shall review nonimmigrant and immigrant programs and shall recommend to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, any other measures requiring Presidential action that would mitigate the risk posed by the PRC’s acquisition of sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property."
- "The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider issuing updated regulations and guidance, as appropriate, implementing the inadmissibility provisions in section 212(a)(3)(D) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(D)."