International Student Services
Page last updated on October 16, 2020
Please note that information on this page overrides all other information on the International Student Services (ISS) site. Berklee is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. This page lists important information specific to international students. Please check this page regularly for updates.
Identify your ISS Student Type below before you continue reading the information on this page.
COVID-19 immigration regulations temporarily relaxed restrictions around enrollment in remote classes and how students can maintain their F-1 status. As a result, ISS has defined three distinct “ISS student types” based on the semester you were admitted to Berklee, your F-1 status during the fall 2020 semester, and whether you were physically inside or outside of the U.S. during the fall semester. These student types are used exclusively within ISS for immigration purposes only.
ISS Initial Students
You were admitted to Berklee in summer 2020, fall 2020, or spring 2021. You will use your Berklee I-20 for the first time in January to enter the U.S. in F-1 status. Go to the ISS Initial Students category.
ISS Continuing Students
Most of the information on this page applies to ISS Continuing Students. Differences in regulations or procedures for ISS Continuing Students in or out of F-1 status are included within the text.
- Students currently in F-1 status: You were physically inside or outside the U.S. during the fall semester. You maintained your valid F-1 status by enrolling full-time in remote classes, or by receiving part-time or vacation semester authorization from ISS.
- Students not currently in F-1 status: You were enrolled in the fall 2020 semester, you were physically outside the U.S., but your F-1 status was terminated.
You are returning to Berklee after taking more than one semester off (leave of absence). You are physically outside the U.S. and not currently in F-1 status. Information for Returning Students is on the ISS Returning Student Information page.
ISS Continuing Students
This information does not apply to ISS Initial Students. Go to the ISS Initial Students category for specific information.
Yes, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will allow F-1 students to temporarily count online classes toward a full course of study. Continuing students can attend all-remote classes in the spring and maintain valid F-1 status while physically inside or outside the U.S. This temporary adjustment to the regulations is only in effect due to COVID-19. Read the July 15 FAQ from the Department of Homeland Security for more information.
Note that these temporary adjustments apply only to classes offered online by the college, not Berklee Online. Berklee Online is a separate organization with a different registration process, semester dates, programs, and tuition fees. Enrollment in Berklee Online classes does not count towards the full-time enrollment requirement for F-1 students. Students may enroll in Berklee Online classes under special circumstances. Read more about the online course policy for F-1 students (login required).
Yes, ISS Continuing Students currently in F-1 status outside the U.S. will maintain valid F-1 status while taking remote classes this spring.
To maintain valid F-1 status outside of the U.S., you must:
- enroll in at least 12 required credits; or
- obtain ISS authorization for part-time enrollment or a vacation semester.
No, the U.S. government has temporarily adapted this F-1 regulation, known as the five-month rule, to account for COVID-19–related changes and travel restrictions. Students attending online classes outside of the U.S. will be listed as "enrolled" in SEVIS. Your F-1 status will not be affected if you decide to leave the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester.
Students who are outside the U.S. for more than five months and not enrolled (i.e., taking a leave of absence) will lose their F-1 status.
You will receive a new I-20 from the Enrollment Team if you were admitted to Berklee in summer 2020, fall 2020, or spring 2021; and you plan to use your Berklee I-20 for the first time in January to enter the U.S. in F-1 status.
Contact the Enrollment Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel information can be found under the Travel, I-20, and F-1 Visa category.
Spring entering students who will remain physically outside the U.S. during the spring semester must enroll full-time and may enroll in all remote classes. You will not be in F-1 status until you use a Berklee I-20 to enter the U.S. for a future semester.
Spring entering students who intend to be physically inside the U.S. during the spring semester must enroll full-time and must take at least one in-person or hybrid/blended class. This will count toward a full course of study as defined by the F-1 regulations. This temporary adjustment to the regulations is only in effect due to COVID-19.
An online class is conducted fully online and does not require physical attendance to successfully complete the class.
A hybrid/blended class is conducted partially online and includes an in-person attendance requirement in to successfully complete the class. Required physical attendance may include taking an exam in-person, or attending a lab, private instruction, or an ensemble rehearsal.
Entering international students are required to complete the in-person components to maintain valid F-1 status. Students who choose not to attend required in-person components may face immigration-related consequences in the future, such as loss of OPT eligibility or denial of future U.S. visa applications.
During COVID-19, part-time eligibility depends on your physical location while enrolled and taking remote classes this spring, Berklee's part-time policy, and the F-1 regulations.
If you will be inside the U.S. during the spring semester:
You must maintain valid F-1 status in to stay in the U.S. Therefore, you must qualify for part-time under both Berklee's policy and the F-1 regulations, and obtain part-time authorization from ISS.
If you will be outside the U.S. during the spring semester:
All students must qualify for part-time under Berklee's policy to receive permission to enroll part-time from the college. Students who wish to maintain their F-1 status while outside the U.S. must also qualify for part-time under the F-1 regulations and receive part-time authorization from ISS.
You may choose to enroll part-time if you meet the college's part-time criteria but do not qualify under the F-1 regulations. You will lose your F-1 status and you must obtain a new I-20 from Berklee to return to the U.S. (You will not lose your student status at the college while enrolled in remote classes outside the U.S.)
If you choose to lose your F-1 status, your SEVIS record will be terminated no later than February 13. If you are currently in the U.S., you must leave the U.S. by this date.
Yes, you may take a leave of absence from the college beginning in the spring semester. If you choose to do so:
- Your SEVIS record/I-20 will be terminated no later than February 13. You must leave the U.S. by this date.
- You must leave the U.S. by February 13.
- You will need to get a new I-20 from Berklee before returning to the U.S. for a future semester. Returning student information can be found on the Registrar’s Office page.
Please keep in mind that taking a leave of absence may affect your future eligibility for OPT.
Students who would like to stay in the U.S. while taking a semester off must meet the F-1 criteria to take spring as a vacation semester or submit a medical letter for a medical leave authorization.
Based on current guidance, students who maintained F-1 status while outside the U.S. during the fall semester are permitted to return to the U.S. in spring 2021.
First, check the travel signature (login required) on your most recent I-20. If the travel signature expires before you intend to travel to the U.S., complete the online form below to request a new I-20 with an updated travel signature.
ISS will email your new, signed I-20 to you within 10 business days of your request. You must print out the I-20, sign it, and use the physical copy to enter the U.S.
Complete the form below to request a replacement I-20. ISS will email your new, signed replacement I-20 to you within 10 business days of your request. You must print out the I-20, sign it, and use the physical copy to enter the U.S.
No, schools are not required to make a notation on students’ I-20s regarding online enrollment. You may use your most recent valid I-20 to travel to and from the U.S.
Yes, due to COVID-19, SEVP is allowing schools to scan and email valid, signed I-20s to the email address in the student’s SEVIS record (your Berklee email).
No, you must print your I-20 and show the paper copy to the immigration official when you enter the U.S.
While we do not have confirmation of which U.S. consulates are operating, routine visa services have reportedly resumed operations in many major locations. Look up the Visa Appointment Wait Times for your local U.S. embassy or consulate; typically, a wait time will be displayed if routine visa services are operating at that location.
Keep in mind that it may take longer for you to receive your visa due to COVID-19-related accommodations at each embassy. We recommend that you plan your travel arrangements to allow for extended visa processing time. Check the website of the U.S. embassy for your home country to find out when services will become available. F-1 visa application instructions are on the ISS site (login required).
According to the October 1 update issued by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), F-1 students with a valid F-1 visa who are traveling from the Schengen Area, the U.K., and Ireland do not need a national interest exception to travel to the U.S. Please refer to the DOS update for detailed information.
Here are a few things to keep in mind. As always, contact ISS if you have any questions or concerns about traveling.
- The area you are traveling to or from may experience an outbreak of COVID-19 and require a quarantine. You may not be able to leave that area until the quarantine is lifted.
- The area you are traveling to (including within the U.S.) may have mandatory quarantine requirements for all incoming travelers. You would need to find a place to quarantine (e.g., an Airbnb or hotel) and your travel may be delayed.
- Are you able to be flexible if your travel in either direction is delayed? Consider your coursework, authorized work in the U.S., internships, etc.
- Are there fees to change or cancel your flights?
- The U.S. Department of State lists COVID-19 travel restrictions for each country.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides COVID-19 updates and information for travelers.
- Check the website of the U.S. embassy for your home country to find out if COVID-19 affects visa issuance in your country.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has health information about COVID-19 and travel within the U.S.
It depends on whether you will be physically inside or outside the U.S. this spring.
- If you are physically inside the U.S. during the spring semester, you must have CPT authorization from ISS to intern for any company, even if you are performing remote work for a non-U.S. company.
- If you are physically outside the U.S. during the spring semester, you do not need to have CPT authorization from ISS to intern for any company, even if you are performing remote work for a company based in the U.S.
- All students who wish to participate in a spring internship must follow the process through the Career Center. Follow the instructions on the Internship Guide to begin the application process. Once your internship is secured, the Career Center will forward your internship details to ISS so we can authorize CPT on your I-20.
Contact the Career Center and your internship supervisor to confirm that the offer is still valid for the spring semester. Follow the instructions above, depending on your location, to determine whether you need CPT authorization.
Follow the OPT application process on the ISS OPT page.
Yes, you are eligible to apply for OPT. Your time outside of the U.S. will not affect your eligibility to apply for OPT as long as you are in valid F-1 status in fall 2020 and spring 2021, regardless of your physical location.
No, you must mail your OPT application from within the U.S. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations state that applicants must have a valid I-94 demonstrating entry into the U.S. at the time they mail their OPT application. Therefore, OPT applications must be mailed from within the U.S.
If spring is your final semester and you are outside of the U.S., you must return to the U.S. no later than April 30, 2021 (the first day of finals week) to mail your OPT application to USCIS. Students who return to the U.S. after this date will no longer be eligible for OPT.
Students who return after April 30 may not be admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status because you will not have a valid academic reason for entering the U.S.
Students who return to the U.S. after their I-20 end date will not be admitted in F-1 status and will no longer be eligible for OPT.
The Berklee mailroom will continue to receive mail, and an ISS staff member will retrieve mail from USCIS during the week. Receipt notices, approval notices, social security number (SSN) cards, and other USCIS communications will be scanned and emailed to your Berklee email. ISS will also pay to ship them to you anywhere in the world.
Yes. Due to COVID-19, SEVP is temporarily allowing students to stay in valid status when working remotely for a U.S. employer (including freelance work performed for U.S. clients). Your employer or freelance clients must be physically in the U.S. for your work to count as OPT employment. Work performed for non-U.S.-based clients/companies does not count toward your OPT employment time.
No, SEVP is temporarily allowing students to stay in valid status if they are working fewer than 20 hours per week. Remember to report all employment via your SEVP Portal.
No, the work authorization end date printed on your EAD will not change.
If travel restrictions prevent you from returning to the U.S., SEVP is temporarily allowing students on OPT to maintain their valid OPT by working remotely for a U.S.-based company or freelance clients. Your employer and/or freelance clients must be physically inside the U.S. for your work to qualify as OPT employment. Work performed for non-U.S.-based entities does not count toward your OPT employment time.
Unfortunately, the regulations regarding unemployment time have not changed. Your OPT authorization will be canceled if you reach your maximum unemployment time before you can return or are permitted to return to the U.S.
ISS understands that speaking with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials may be stressful for all travelers to the U.S. Based on our experience and shared information from our professional networks, we can offer the following advice:
- The CBP officer may or may not ask to see proof of employment. Before you travel, print documents that prove you have current or upcoming OPT employment and keep them in your carry-on.
- Remain calm and be polite and respectful when speaking to immigration officials.
- Be prepared to explain your OPT work to the best of your ability.
- Listen carefully to the officers’ questions to avoid providing more information than the answer requires.
ISS is here to help. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns before you travel to the U.S.
While you are physically in the U.S., you must have USCIS work authorization to work remotely for any company in the U.S. or worldwide (excluding Berklee student employment). Please review the Gigs, Online Work, Volunteering, and More page on the ISS site.
F-1 students who are physically outside the U.S. do not need USCIS authorization to work for any company worldwide, including student employment at Berklee.
Yes, current ICE/SEVP guidance states that students may work remotely as an on-campus student employee, inside or outside the U.S. You do not need work authorization on your I-20 to work for Berklee Student Employment. Go to the COVID-19 and Student Employment page (login required) for important spring student employment information.
- Office hours: We are operating remotely from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. ET.
- Phone: Call us at 1-617-747-6600 and leave a voicemail (include your Berklee ID number and phone number). An advisor will return your call during business hours.
- Email: email@example.com (include your Berklee ID number).
- Meet with an international advisor: Sign up for virtual drop-in hours or schedule a virtual appointment.
International Student Services emails important updates to College and Conservatory F-1 visa holders (including alumni on post-completion OPT). These emails are archived in full on the Email Communication History page.
International Student Services is the first place to go for accurate information on policies and procedures concerning international students. Your friends and roommates are not trained to analyze and make recommendations concerning your individual situation. It is always recommended that you come to International Student Services any time you have questions about maintaining your F-1 status.
We also encourage any international students finding it difficult to adjust to life in the United States to consult our office for assistance.
- Read President Roger H. Brown’s message to prospective international students on Berklee’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Watch an international student discuss his education at Berklee:
Adjusting to life in the U.S. can be difficult. It is normal for international students to have feelings of confusion, fear, frustration, or homesickness. The international advisors in International Student Advising and personal counselors in Health and Wellness are available to discuss any concerns or problems that you may have as you adjust to life in Boston and at Berklee. In addition, the following documents may be helpful:
When you travel into the U.S., you will need to present the following documents at the U.S. port of entry:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 Visa (except for passport holders from Canada and Bermuda)
- Valid Form I-20
- Proof of I-901 (SEVIS) fee payment
First time students may enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the start date listed on the Form I-20.
Your Form I-20 is the certificate of eligibility issued by Berklee and consists of three pages: the student information page, the endorsement page, and the instructions page. The student information page includes information about Berklee and the program you have been admitted to. Your SEVIS ID number (which begins with N) is printed at the top of the page.
If you are entering the U.S. to attend school for the first time, the Custom and Border Control (CBP) official at the U.S. port of entry will review your Form I-20 and place an entry stamp in your passport. This stamp indicates that you have been inspected for admission into the U.S. and have been authorized to attend the school whose name appears on your Form I-20. You must attend the school that issued you the Form I-20.
The signature on page 2 of your Form I-20 is valid for 12 months (or six months if you are on USCIS-approved Post-Completion Optional Practical Training). While travel signatures are valid for 12 months, if you intend to apply for a new F-1 visa, we recommend that your signature be less than six months old.
It takes one week to process a travel signature request. If you intend to travel outside the U.S., you may request a revalidation (travel) signature at the Counseling and Advising Center. You will be required to complete a Travel Signature Request form and leave your Form I-20 for up to one week. You may use that signature for unlimited entries to the U.S. during the specified time period.
The Form I-20 must be accurate and valid throughout your enrollment and you are responsible for the accuracy of this document. Check the Form I-20 to make sure that all the dates and enrollment information are correct. Be sure that you do not allow your Form I-20 to expire prior to completion of your academic program. Speak with your international student advisor if you see any incorrect information on your I-20 or if you need to request an extension of the document.
Note: each dependent who accompanies you to the U.S. must have an individual Form I-20 (indicated by the class "F-2" on page one of the form).
Entry visas are issued by the Department of State at U.S embassies or consulates throughout the world. Students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States must obtain an F-1 student visa in order to attend Berklee College of Music. Non-U.S. citizens entering the country with a visitor visa (B-1, B-2) or under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not permitted to engage in full-time study.
The visa stamp on your passport is your permission to enter the U.S. It indicates the number of times you may enter the U.S. and the time period for which this permission is valid. You cannot apply for a new visa while you are in the U.S. If you leave the U.S. and want to re-enter, you must have a valid visa.
Entering students who have questions about their F-1 visa should speak with an applicant advisor in the Admissions Office; continuing and returning students should speak with an international advisor in International Student Services.
As an international student, you are required to be enrolled full-time at Berklee for at least two semesters per calendar year. This means you must register for and earn grades for at least 12 required credits each semester in order to maintain your F-1 status unless you are authorized for part-time enrollment by International Student Services. To be authorized for part-time enrollment, you must meet with an international advisor in International Student Services.
Course withdrawals, credit by exam, and transfer credit do not count as part of your 12 enrolled credits. If you have questions about part-time enrollment, course withdrawals, or credit by exam, come to International Student Services for more information.
In your final semester, you must be registered for at least one required course.
You must maintain a grade point average of at least 2.0 and meet Berklee's published Satisfactory Academic Progress guidelines. If you are having difficulty doing so, please speak with an academic advisor.
Students register for internships through the Career Center. Staff work closely with international advisors to verify eligiblity for participation in Berklee-sponsored internships. If you want to register for an internship, speak with a Career Center advisor and an international advisor in International Student Services.
Internship enrollment must be reported to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and authorized on page 3 of a student's Form I-20. It is your responsibility to inform the Career Center and you international advisor as early as possible of any internship plans you may have. Failure to do so could result in a denial of the internship or violation of your F-1 status.
You may work on campus through the student employment program. During non-vacation semesters, students may not work more than 20 hours per week on campus. Contact the Student Employment Office for more information concerning on-campus student employment.
International students may not work off-campus without permission from the U.S. government. If you have had a valid F-1 status for two consecutive semesters and you are interested in working off-campus, come to International Student Services and request the "Employment Options" handout. This handout explains the various types of work permission you may be eligible for, and how to apply. Off-campus employment is extremely limited and must be directly related to your studies at Berklee.
Students can visit us in the Center for Student Advising and Success (921 Boylston Street, third floor) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-747-6600.