Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information for International Students
Page last updated on May 14, 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.
During this extraordinary time, ISS is pleased to provide our full range of services remotely, including advising appointments and drop-in hours. Even though you can’t come into the office, we can connect with you via Google Hangouts or phone, or correspond by email. Whether you need a new I-20, have questions about enrollment, or need to submit an OPT application, let us know how we can help you.
ISS presented a webinar on April 2 and 3 titled "COVID-19 and F-1 Status: What You Need to Know." You can download the slide deck and watch the webinar video for additional information about ISS virtual operations, maintaining F-1 status, student resources, and more. A question-and-answer session is included at the end of the webinar video.
We understand this may be a challenging time. Your safety and wellbeing are our top priority. Our team remains available to assist you in navigating this new reality. Please stay healthy.
- Office hours: We are operating remotely from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (Boston time).
- 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).
Detailed information is on the Pass/No Credit Grading Policy page of the Registrar's Office site.
What does a grade of “pass” (P) or “no credit” (NC) mean?
A grade of P or NC is a “neutral” grade that indicates you were enrolled in a spring 2020 class, you received a grade, but you didn’t want the class grade to affect your GPA. The class will remain on your transcript because you were enrolled in it, but a grade of P or NC will be shown.
A grade of P or NC is not a bad mark on your transcript. Temporary grading options for COVID-19 are the current standard at colleges across the U.S.
We assure you that a grade of P or NC does not affect your F-1 status, eligibility for CPT/OPT, or future immigration benefits.
About the P Grade Option
- This is available to students who received a letter grade of A through D.
- Request a P grade if the class grade you received is lower than your cumulative GPA. A grade of P will not count toward your GPA, and your cumulative GPA could increase.
- A class with a P grade will count toward your degree completion, which means that you do not have to retake the class.
About the NC Grade Option
- This is available to students who received a letter grade of F.
- An NC grade will not affect your GPA.
- A class with a grade of NC will not count toward your degree completion, which means that you will have to retake the class (or take a different class that will fulfill the same academic requirement).
P/NC and Your Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) Standing
- Students in good academic standing: a grade of P or NC will not affect your SAP standing.
- Students who are currently on academic warning or a contract: refer to your Berklee email for specific instructions or requirements about the P/NC option.
- Refer to the Pass/No Credit Grading FAQs for more detailed information.
How to Request a P/NC Grade
Complete the Pass/No Credit Grading Option Form, available on the Registrar's Office page between May 14 and May 21 only. You will not be able to request a P/NC grade after May 21.
Read the detailed information on the Pass/No Credit Grading Policy for Spring 2020 page.
ISS has confirmed that the U.S. government will continue temporarily allowing F-1 students to remain in valid status while completing their summer 2020 classes online through the college, either inside or outside of the U.S.
Some classes typically offered during the summer may not be available due to COVID-19 course reductions, and you may find that one or more of the classes you are required to take for your program are not available. The U.S. government has approved temporary exceptions to the full- and part-time regulations so that students affected by reduced course offerings can remain in valid F-1 status. (We expect the full catalog of classes to be offered in the fall.)
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).
Read this information carefully to find out what you need to do for the summer semester.
Students Who Were Enrolled Full-Time in Spring 2020
The summer semester can qualify as your vacation semester, and you do not need to enroll. However, you may enroll (at the college or at Berklee Online) part- of full-time if you like. The standard full- and part-time regulations (login required) apply in fall 2020.
What You Need to Do
- For part-time enrollment, fill out the Part-Time Status Request Form for International Students (login required), and select "summer" as the reason for your request.
- For non-enrollment, do not register for classes. There is nothing else you need to do with ISS.
Students Who Were on a Vacation Semester in Spring 2020
If you are able to register for all the classes you are required to take for your program this summer, you must enroll full-time. You are not eligible for an additional vacation semester or part-time enrollment in summer 2020; review the standard full- and part-time regulations (login required).
If you are unable to register for 12 required credits this summer (or as many required credits as you need to complete your degree/graduate) because a required course is not being offered or all sections are full, you should register for as many required credits as you can, and you must request part-time authorization. If you cannot register for any required credits, you do not need to enroll.*
What You Need to Do
- For part-time enrollment, fill out the Part-Time Status Request Form for International Students (login required), and select “COVID-19” as the reason for your request.
- For non-enrollment, email ISS@berklee.edu with your name, student ID number, and a list of the required summer 2020 courses that you are unable to register for.
*Note that this exception applies only to students who have been affected by COVID-19 course/section reductions. ISS will verify course availability before authorizing part-time or non-enrollment. You will not need a new I-20.
Beginning May 18, ISS will hold virtual drop-in hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. EDT (Boston time). Students who cannot attend virtual drop-in hours may schedule a virtual advising appointment (login required).
Go to the Virtual Drop-In Hours page (login required) to sign up.
Beginning May 18, virtual advising appointments will be available Monday–Thursday.
Virtual appointments have been shortened to 15 minutes per student, and students can choose to meet with any available advisor. Together, these expanded options will allow you to meet with an advisor at a time that is convenient for you. Schedule a virtual appointment (login required).
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 to 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.
OPT Applications for Summer 2020 Graduates
Currently, the existing OPT application requirements remain in place. Whether you have decided to complete your summer online college courses inside or outside of the U.S., you must be physically present in the U.S. when you mail your OPT application to the government.
ISS will begin accepting OPT applications on June 2.
- If you will be outside the U.S. while completing your summer classes: you must return to the U.S. during the summer semester to mail your application to USCIS. You will lose the opportunity to apply for OPT if you cannot re-enter the U.S. before the end of the summer semester.
- If you will be physically inside the U.S. during the summer semester: the standard OPT application deadlines apply. You must be physically present in the U.S. when you mail your OPT application to the government.
OPT Applications for Spring 2020 Graduates
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).
Note: If you’ve left the U.S., you must return before the end of the spring semester to mail your application to USCIS. You will lose the opportunity to apply for OPT if you cannot re-enter the U.S. before the end of the spring semester.
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.
If You Cannot Return to the U.S. due to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
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.
Working outside of the U.S. for a U.S. employer does not count against your unemployment time. This includes virtual freelance work for clients in the U.S., such as teaching online lessons, production work, composing, and so on. It is important to note that your employer or freelance clients must be physically in the U.S. in order for your work to count as OPT employment.
If You Are Laid off or Placed on Temporary Leave
First, you must determine whether you are being laid off or being placed on a temporary leave in accordance with your company's leave policies. This is a very important distinction, so ask your boss or your company's Human Resources Office if you aren't sure.
"Laid off" means that you won't have a job to come back to, and you would be asked to reapply once the company resumes operations. If you are laid off, you must report (login required) the end of your employment to ISS within 10 days of your employment end date. The days between your employment end date and the start of a new job must be subtracted from your unemployment time.
"Temporary leave" means that your workplace is temporarily suspending operations; they will keep your position for you and expect you to return when the company reopens. The time that you aren't working due to paid or unpaid temporary leave does not count against your unemployment time.
Please note that the international community has asked the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and USCIS to consider temporarily halting the OPT unemployment time clock to account for COVID-19–related closures and restrictions. If updated guidance is released, we will share it with you as soon as we receive it. In the meantime, we have to operate under the normal OPT unemployment regulations (login required).
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 has 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.
Updates to information on this page are recorded below.
- Updated information about summer 2020 virtual drop-in hours and virtual advising appointments
- Information about P/NC grading options
- Updated summer 2020 enrollment information
- Updated virtual drop-in hours to reflect schedule change beginning May 4
- Added updated summer 2020 enrollment information
- New information added for summer 2020 graduates applying for post-completion OPT
- Added links to COVID-19 webinar slide deck and video recording
- Added the Update History section
- Added additional information to address how travel restrictions affect OPT unemployment time
- Clarified OPT regulations about working for a U.S. employer while outside of the U.S.
- Added statement that information on this page overrides all other information on the ISS site
- Added information about summer 2020 enrollment
- Added virtual business hours and contact information
- Announced signups for virtual appointments beginning at 5:00 p.m. EDT
- Detailed the steps for requesting a new I-20 or updated travel signature
- Added U.S. Department of State announcement regarding suspension of visa services at consulates abroad; included links to relevant government websites
- Updated F-1 visa information to include what students should do if they leave or stay in the U.S.
- Announced signups for virtual appointments will be available beginning on March 20
- Announced adjusted virtual drop-in hours schedule
- Added links to direct students to the virtual drop-in hours and virtual appointments pages
- Added F-1 visa information and linked to the ISS Travel, I-20 Signature, and F-1 Visa page
- Updated information about the OPT application process and travel restrictions
- Replaced the Campus and Academics section with a link to the Berklee-wide COVID-19 page
- Announced extended drop-in hours on March 13 and March 20
- Added information on if and when to report a new U.S. address
- Added information about F-1 status and the five-month rule
- Added information about travel restrictions for enrolled students and students on USCIS-approved OPT
- Added information about health concerns
College and conservatory F-1 visa holders (including alumni on post-completion OPT) received the following email communications from ISS on the dates indicated.
Subject: Important updates for international students regarding the summer 2020 semester
Dear International Student: Important updates for international students regarding the summer 2020 semester
We know that you are receiving plenty of emails from the college. So from now on, email updates from ISS will be very brief and will include links for you to read the important details on the ISS COVID-19 page. It is very important that you read all of the information on our website before you schedule an appointment or attend drop-in hours.
Summer 2020 Enrollment
- Students who enroll virtually at Berklee College of Music during the summer will remain in F-1 status.
- If summer 2020 will be your vacation semester, you are not required to enroll.
- If spring 2020 is your vacation semester, you are required to enroll full-time (or authorized part-time) during the summer.
- Berklee Online (BOL) is not the same as Berklee College of Music. BOL classes do not count toward the 12-credit enrollment requirement for F-1 students. Read the online class policy.
- Details about what you need to know and do are on the ISS COVID 19 page.
OPT Applications for Summer Graduates
- ISS will begin accepting OPT applications on June 2.
- You must be physically in the U.S. when you mail your OPT application to the government. More details are on the ISS COVID-19 page.
Please remember that the ISS website is the source to visit for accurate official information concerning F-1 students. Do not rely on social media posts or what you hear from your friends!
Your ISS Advising Team
Subject: ISS is suspending in-person operations beginning March 19, 2020
Dear International Student,
For the continued health and safety of students and staff, Berklee International Student Services will transition to online-only operations beginning Thursday, March 19, 2020. You can still meet with an advisor during virtual drop-in hours, or schedule a virtual appointment with your advisor.
Students who have applied for OPT: ISS staff will continue to receive and process regular postal mail from USCIS as usual. Read more.
Thank you for your patience while we transition to remote operations. ISS staff want to reassure you that we will continue to provide the same services while we are operating remotely. Continue to check your Berklee email regularly for important communications from ISS, and check the ISS website for the most up-to-date information.
Your ISS advisors,
Andrea, Ken, Nick, and Vu
Subject: Important message about ISS operating hours this week
Dear International Student:
ISS plans to have staff available in-person in our office through Wednesday, March 18. However, as the situation continues to change daily, we cannot guarantee that we can have staff on-campus every day.
We recommend that you take care of the following items as soon as possible, but no later than Wednesday, March 18 during extended drop-in hours:
- Get your I-20 signed for travel (how to check if you need a travel signature)
- Submit a request to replace a lost I-20.
- Submit your completed OPT request packet to ISS.
- Pick up a new I-20, pick up an EAD (OPT card) or SSN card, or pick up an OPT application that is ready to mail to USCIS. Before visiting ISS, check your Berklee email for a notification that these items are ready for pickup.
Later this week, we will email you with information about procedures for remote advising and services for international students.
Please do not worry if you cannot complete these items by March 18. ISS staff want to reassure you that we will continue to provide the same services while we are operating remotely, including email, advising appointments, creating/mailing I-20s, receiving OPT cards and notices via mail, etc. Continue to check your Berklee email regularly for updates from ISS, and check the ISS website for detailed information.
Subject: Important information for international students regarding today’s campus announcement
Dear International Student,
ISS staff are here to help you. Please review the following information carefully. Later this week we will email a link to a page on the ISS site that will include the following information and more. The information below is for guidance during these exceptional circumstances related to COVID-19.
Your F-1 Status
- You do not need to worry about your immigration status. The U.S. government is allowing F-1 students to stay in valid status while completing all of their classes online, including labs and ensembles; speak to your professors for details about online classes.
- You must stay enrolled in at least 12 credits even though all of your classes will be online. The same rules for part-time still apply while classes are online; you can read them on the ISS website.
- You do not have to stay in Boston or the U.S. to complete your classes online. 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 quarantine/isolation restrictions related to COVID-19. Click here to read up-to-date government travel information.
- Check the travel signature on your I-20 to make sure it is valid until September 30, 2020. Click here to see how to check your travel signature.
- Don’t worry if you need a new travel signature or need to replace a lost I-20. Email ISS@berklee.edu to request a new I-20. ISS can pay to ship it to you anywhere in the world.
Students Applying for OPT
- You must apply for OPT from within the U.S. You can leave the U.S. after mailing your application to the government.
- ISS will have one advisor dedicated to review and assist with OPT applications on Tuesday, March 17 from 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m in the Center for Student Advising and Success. Read about the OPT process and come to drop-in advising with your complete OPT request packet.
- You may also email your application documents to email@example.com. When your application is ready, advisors will mail it to you and pay for the shipping fees.
Drop-Ins and Appointments
- ISS will have extended drop-in hours Monday through Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. through March 20.
- Additionally, on Friday, March 13th we will have one advisor dedicated to issue I-20 travel signatures between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
- You may schedule an appointment with your assigned advisor through March 18 and choose to meet in-person or via phone/Google Hangout. ISS staff will continue to hold phone/web advising appointments with students throughout the semester.
ISS staff understand this news is overwhelming, especially for international students. We are here to help and support you as much as possible. Please read the March 11 Berklee-wide email announcement for information about alternative housing options during this time.
Director of International Student Services