International Student Services
Sign up for a virtual appointment (login required) with your assigned international advisor. Advisors will do their best to accommodate students in different time zones around the world.
Request a Travel Signature or Replacement I-20
Don't worry if you lost your I-20, forgot your I-20, or need a new travel signature. It's easy for ISS to make a new I-20 for you. Here's what you need to do:
- For I-20 travel signature requests only: first check your travel signature. Make sure it's valid until September 30, 2020; you need a new travel signature only if it will expire before this date. Here's how to check your travel signature (login required).
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
- Why you need a new I-20. For example, your travel signature expired, you lost your I-20, you forgot your I-20 at your apartment, and so on.
- Your full current mailing address. Include (if applicable) the apartment number, zip or postal code, and country.
- Your phone number. Include the country code if it is a non-U.S. number.
- ISS will issue your new I-20 and pay to mail it to you anywhere in the world via UPS shipping.
If you stay in the U.S.: It's okay if your F-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S. Your immigration status is safe as long as you maintain your valid F-1 status and continue to stay enrolled in all of your spring 2020 courses. Remember, your valid F-1 status is determined by your I-20 and SEVIS record; you need a valid F-1 visa only when you enter the U.S.
If you leave the U.S.: If your F-1 visa is expired or will expire after you leave the U.S., you must apply for a new F-1 visa (login required) in your home country before you can come back. However, your return may be delayed because most U.S. consulates and embassies worldwide have temporarily suspended visa issuance. Read more.
F-1 Status and Regulations
Some F-1 regulations remain the same, but others have temporarily changed to account for COVID-19–related challenges.
Update Your U.S. Address with ISS
You must update your U.S. address with ISS within 10 days of moving, even if it's temporary. Email email@example.com with your new/temporary U.S. address. Make sure to include your apartment number (if applicable) and your zip code. You do not need a new I-20 when you update your address because your address only appears in your online SEVIS record.
Online Classes and F-1 Status
The U.S. government is temporarily allowing F-1 students to stay in valid status while completing all of their classes online, including labs and ensembles. However, the other enrollment regulations remain the same: you must stay enrolled in at least 12 credits for two semesters per calendar year, unless approved for part-time enrollment (login required) by Berklee. You do not have to stay in Boston or the U.S. to complete your classes online. Additionally, your F-1 status allows you to leave and come back to the U.S. as needed while enrolled in online classes. You are still subject to port-of-entry entrance and COVID-19 quarantine and isolation restrictions.
Is my F-1 status safe if I am outside of the U.S. for more than five months?
Yes. 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 remainder of the spring 2020 semester, followed by an annual vacation during the summer 2020 semester.
Please note that this is a temporary change to the regulation. We expect the standard regulation will apply after the end of the spring 2020 semester. If this is the case, your SEVIS record may be terminated if you declare summer 2020 as your annual vacation and do not return to full-time study in Boston for the fall 2020.
ISS advisors understand that this is a very stressful time for international students. Unfortunately, we do not have any information beyond the published details on official .gov websites—we know the same things that you do. Please be assured that we are closely monitoring all F-1 related communications from the U.S. government. We will immediately notify you of any important changes to OPT regulations.
How Travel Restrictions May Affect You
- F-1 visa issuance: Most U.S. consulates and embassies worldwide are temporarily suspending visa issuance, and all visa appointments after March 18 have been cancelled. Your return to the U.S. may be significantly delayed if you leave the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa or if your F-1 visa will expire after you leave the U.S.
- F-1 status/I-20: You may lose your F-1 status/I-20 if you cannot return to the U.S. for a required semester (for example, if you take summer 2020 as your annual vacation and cannot return for fall 2020). If this is the case, follow the steps outlined on the Returning International Student Information (login required) page.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): Students who cannot return to the U.S. may be unable to apply for OPT or lose USCIS-approved OPT. Additionally, USCIS OPT processing time may increase. We do not yet have enough data detect delays for spring 2020 graduates. Detailed information can be found in the OPT section of this page.
More Information About Travel Restrictions
- U.S. Department of State: country-specific COVID-19 travel restrictions
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security: COVID-19 updates and information for travelers
- Check the website of the embassy or consulate for your home country to find out if COVID-19 affects visa issuance in your country
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): health information about COVID-19, travel, and restrictions
ISS is closely monitoring all F-1 related communications from the U.S. government. We will immediately notify you of any important changes to OPT regulations.
How to Apply for OPT
While we are operating remotely, ISS will process OPT applications by email and approve them as quickly as possible.
- Complete the OPT workshop and OPT application (login required).
- Scan your complete OPT application, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your advisor will contact you if they require additional information.
- Your advisor will make your OPT I-20 and email it to you. Application mailing instructions will be included.
- Prepare your application, and mail it to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) .
Please note: You must be physically present in the U.S. before your I-20 program end date, and you must mail your OPT application to USCIS while you are physically present in the U.S. You will lose the opportunity to apply for OPT if you are outside of the U.S. and cannot re-enter before your I-20 program end date.
I-20 program end dates are as follows:
- Undergraduate students at Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory at Berklee: May 10, 2020.
- Graduate students at Boston Conservatory at Berklee: May 10, 2020.
- Graduate students at Berklee College of Music: June 28, 2020.
Receving OPT Documents from USCIS
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.edu email address. ISS will also pay to ship them to you anywhere in the world.
USCIS-Approved OPT End Date
The OPT regulations (login required) remain unchanged. The OPT start and end dates on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) remain the same.
Travel Restrictions and Unemployment Time
You will lose your OPT if you reach your maximum unemployment time before you can return/are permitted to return to the U.S. The OPT employment and unemployment regulations (login required) remain unchanged. We encourage you to speak with your employer about alternative ways to maintain employment from outside the U.S., such as working online or other arrangements.
You may see a doctor online with Online Connect if you are concerned about your health for any reason. Online Connect provides students 18 and older with online doctor visits. This service is for Berklee students only; you cannot share it with friends or family members. Berklee Health and Wellness will pay the Online Connect telehealth access fee for students.
How to enroll in Online Connect:
- Download the Online Connect app, or visit myonlineconnect.org.
- Use the service key "Berklee" to register your account.
Additional Information About Health and COVID-19
Berklee Public Safety published a guide for keeping yourself and others healthy. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has the most up-to-date information about COVID-19.
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 email@example.com or 617-747-6600.