International Services for Students and Scholars (ISSS)

The information below is based on Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. This guidance is subject to change, and ISSS will communicate new information to students. 

Fall 2021 Semester

Rensselaer expects that all students will attend classes in person. In order to obtain and maintain an F-1 visa status in the U.S., you must be registered for at least one in-person class.

 

Rensselaer expects that all students will attend classes in person. If you take any online classes outside the U.S., you are required to report your location to ISSS via email at isssoffice@rpi.edu.   

All incoming international students must be on campus by September 13, 2021. Email ISSS at isssoffice@rpi.edu with case-specific questions. 

No, but you can request a letter authorizing a late arrival. Email ISSS at isssoffice@rpi.edu to inform us of your date of arrival. 

No.

To re-enter the U.S., you must present your passport, valid F-1 visa, and an I-20 with a valid travel signature (issued within 12 months of your entry to the U.S.). If your travel signature is no longer valid (issued more than a year from your entry date), you must request a new travel signature by submitting the I-20 Request form, available on the ISSS website. 

In case of an emergency, contact Rensselaer Public Safety at (518) 276-6656. Public Safety will reach ISSS staff as necessary. 

If Rensselaer is required to move to 100% online courses, F-1 students will maintain their F-1 status and will not be required to depart the U.S. 

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) confirmed that if an F-1 student remained enrolled full time and completed their coursework online, they would maintain their F-1 status even if they were studying outside of the U.S. SEVP also confirmed the five-month rule would not apply to students maintaining their F-1 status. You do not need to apply for a new visa if your current visa is still valid on the date you wish to re-enter.

Spring 2021 Semester

Q. If I am outside of the country for more than five months, will I be able to re-enter? Do I need a new visa?

A. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) confirmed that if an F-1 student remained enrolled full time and completed their coursework online, they would maintain their F-1 status even if they were studying outside of the United States. SEVP also confirmed the five-month rule would not apply to students maintaining their F-1 status. You do not need to apply for a new visa if your current visa is still valid on the date you wish to re-enter.

 

Q. Will I need to go to an unrestricted third country and stay there for 14 days in order to enter the United States?

A. This depends upon several factors, including your location before entering the United States. For guidance, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, and the article, "Travelers Prohibited from Entry to the U.S."

 

Q. What documents will I need to re-enter the U.S.?

A. To re-enter the United States, you must present your passport, valid F-1 visa, and an I-20 with a valid travel signature (issued within 12 months of your entry to the United States). If your travel signature is no longer valid (issued more than a year from your entry date), you must request a new travel signature by submitting the I-20 Request form, available on the ISSS website.

 

Q. When entering the United States, if the Customs and Border Protection Officer needs to contact the Institute, what information should I provide them?

A. In case of an emergency, contact Rensselaer Public Safety at (518) 276-6656. Public Safety will reach ISSS staff as necessary.

 

Q. What are the COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements to enter the U.S. and/or New York State?

A. For details on traveling into the United States, read guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For details on traveling into New York State, read the New York State COVID-19 Travel Advisory.

Q. If my class cohort is allowed back on campus, can I take all online courses, or can I take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses?

A. According to SEVP guidance, continuing students can take all online courses or a mix of in-person/hybrid and still maintain their F-1 status. New students who are outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

 

Q. How can I tell if the classes on my schedule are online, in-person, or hybrid?

A. The Registrar will provide indicators in SIS for each course to signal if it will be held online, in-person, or in a hybrid format.

 

Q. If I am taking all online classes, is there a limit to how many classes I am permitted to take?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance does not restrict the number of classes you can take online, although you must be enrolled as a full-time student (unless you receive prior authorization from ISSS to be part-time during your final semester).

New students who are currently outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States. Students must continue to meet Institutional requirements on the number of classes that can be taken during the semester.

 

Q. I am currently outside of the United States. Do I need to remain outside of the U.S. if I do not have in-person classes?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance advises that as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to enter the United States. New students who are outside the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States. New students must enter the United States by the end of the SEVIS registration period (Feb. 17, 2021).

 

Q. I am already in the U.S.. Do I need to leave if I do not have in-person classes?

A. According to SEVP guidance, as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to remain in the United States. Continuing students can take all online courses or a mix of in-person/hybrid and still maintain their F-1 status.

 

Q. If I am taking all online classes from outside of the U.S., will my visa status be affected?

A. New students cannot obtain F-1 status if remaining outside of the United States. However, you are not required to be in F-1 status to begin your studies online. According to SEVP guidance, continuing students can take all online courses and maintain their F-1 status, even if they are outside of the United States.

 

Q. Will online classes affect my ability to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

A. Under current guidance, online classes will not affect current students’ ability to apply for OPT or CPT. CPT and OPT regulations state that you must be in F-1 status for one full academic year in order to apply for these benefits. Therefore, new students in an accelerated program (12 months) who choose to begin their program online (outside the U.S.) may be impacted. This may also impact re-admitted students who have less than one year remaining in their program, but choose to take all online classes outside the U.S. Federal regulations state that you cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States. So, if you are in the final semester of your program, and are taking 100% online classes outside the United States, you may be impacted. Please schedule a virtual advising appointment to discuss your case with ISSS staff.

 

Q. If Rensselaer is required to move all courses online, will I lose my F-1 status and have to leave the country?

A. If Rensselaer is required to move to 100% online courses, F-1 students will maintain their F-1 status and will not be required to depart the United States.

Q. I am an incoming first-year student. What if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions via email at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting their program.

 

 Q. If I cannot enter the U.S. by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. Students must arrive in the United States no later than Feb. 17, 2021 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration. You can begin your classwork online. If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States. If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my start to the fall?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions via email at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting their program.

 

Q. As a new student, is there any documentation that I need to show at the port of entry to prove that I am taking in-person classes?

A. No. You should not need additional documentation to prove you are taking in-person classes. However, if you have already registered for classes, you can show a printed copy of your registration to prove you are taking in-person/hybrid courses.

 

Q. As a new first-year student, what is the latest date I can arrive at Rensselaer?

A. Undergraduate students are expected to arrive at Rensselaer by Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. To request a later arrival date, email the Office of the First-Year Experience at fye@rpi.edu. For immigration purposes, you must arrive in the United States no later than Feb. 17, 2021 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration. If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States. If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

Q. As a sophomore international student, will my Arch experience change if I take all online coursework during the spring 2021 semester?

A. No. Sophomores are expected to take classes on campus during the spring 2021 semester. If you were approved to take all online courses, your Arch experience will not change. You should plan to be on campus for the summer 2021 term to begin your Arch year. If you have specific questions related to your visa status for The Arch, please contact ISSS at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu to discuss your situation on a case-by-case basis.

Q. As a junior international student, do I need to leave the U.S. during the spring 2021 semester?

A. Juniors are required to pursue their semester-away experience during the spring 2021 semester. As long as your semester-away experience is approved by ISSS, you will maintain your F-1 status, whether you are inside or outside of the United States. Students who were granted an Arch exemption for the spring 2021 semester can take all online courses and still maintain their F-1 status, whether they are inside or outside of the United States. If you have specific questions related to your visa status for The Arch, contact ISSS at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu to discuss your situation on a case-by-case basis.

 

Q. As a junior international student who took online courses outside of the U.S. during the fall 2020 semester and who will remain outside of the U.S. to participate in my Arch semester-away experience during the spring 2021 semester, I will be outside of the U.S. for more than one year when I return to Rensselaer for the fall 2021 semester. Will I experience any issues regarding my immigration status when entering the U.S.?

A. According to current SEVP guidance, if an F-1 student remained enrolled full-time and completed their coursework online, they would maintain their F-1 status even if they were studying outside of the United States. Likewise, you will maintain your F-1 status if you are pursuing an approved Arch away experience. SEVP confirmed the five-month rule would not apply to students maintaining their F-1 status. For documentation to support your eligibility to enter the United States, download and fill out the online form to request a travel letter from ISSS at https://info.rpi.edu/isss/isss-forms. Please submit your online request approximately two months before you intend to travel to the United States or apply for a new visa (if applicable) to ensure that the date of the letter is reasonable in relation to your date of arrival to the United States.

Q. As a senior international student, am I allowed to take classes from outside of the U.S. and still graduate?

A. Yes. You can complete your coursework online and outside of the United States and still graduate. Note: you cannot apply for OPT outside of the United States.

 

Q. I have been approved by ISSS to be part-time during the spring 2021 semester. Can I still take a part-time course load?

A. Yes, as long as you meet all of your graduation requirements by the end of the semester.

Q. As an incoming international graduate student, what if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Based on your program, Graduate Admissions and your department will work with you to discuss your options. To get started, email gradadmissions@rpi.edu.

 

Q. If I cannot enter the U.S. by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. The Office of Graduate Education (OGE) will permit students to arrive until the deadline for graduate students to add courses, which is Feb. 5, 2021. Inform your academic department of your late arrival so the department can provide necessary support. For requests to arrive after Feb. 5, 2021, request written approval from your academic department and submit it to ISSS. For immigration purposes, you must arrive in the United States no later than Feb. 17, 2021 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration. If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States. If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my co-term one semester?

A. Each case is unique and will be individually reviewed. Contact Rensselaer Admissions via email at gradadmissions@rpi.edu and schedule a virtual advising appointment with ISSS so they can provide guidance on the immigration implications.

Return-to-Campus 2020

Q. If I am outside of the country for more than five months, will I be able to re-enter? Do I need a new visa?

A. SEVP confirmed that if an F-1 student remained enrolled full-time and completed their coursework online, they would maintain their F-1 status even if they were studying outside of the United States. SEVP also confirmed the five-month rule would not apply to students maintaining their F-1 status. You do not need to apply for a new visa if your current visa is still valid on the date you wish to re-enter.

 

Q. Will I need to go to an unrestricted third country and stay there for 14 days in order to enter the United States? 

A. This depends upon several factors, including your location before entering the United States. Find guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

 

Q. What documents will I need to re-enter the United States?

A. To re-enter the United States, you must present your passport, valid F-1 visa, and an I-20 with a valid travel signature (issued within 12 months of your entry to the United States).

If your travel signature is no longer valid (issued more than a year from your entry date), you must request a new travel signature by submitting the I-20 Request form, available on the ISSS website.

Q. If my class cohort is allowed back on campus, can I take all online courses, or can I take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses?

A. According to SEVP guidance, continuing students can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status. You can also take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses and maintain your F-1 status.

New students who are outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

 

Q. How can I tell if the classes on my schedule are online, in-person, or hybrid?

A. The Registrar will provide indicators in SIS for each course to signal if a course will be held online, in-person, or in a hybrid format.

 

Q. If I am taking all online classes in the fall, is there a limit to how many classes I am permitted to take online?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance does not restrict the number of classes you can take online, although you must be enrolled as a full-time student (unless you receive prior authorization from ISSS to be part-time during your final semester).

New students who are currently outside of the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

Students must continue to meet Institutional requirements for how many classes you can take during the semester.

 

Q. I am currently outside of the United States. Do I need to remain outside of the United States if I do not have in-person classes?

A. For continuing students, SEVP guidance advises that as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to enter the United States.

New students who are outside the United States are required to take at least one in-person or hybrid course to be permitted to enter the United States.

New students must enter the United States by the end of the SEVIS registration period (Tuesday, September 29).

 

Q. I am already in the United States. Do I need to leave if I do not have in-person classes?

A. According to SEVP guidance, as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status, you are permitted to remain in the United States. Continuing students can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status. You can also take a mix of in-person/hybrid and online courses and maintain your F-1 status.

 

Q.  After Thanksgiving Break, all classes will be remote. Will I need to depart the United States at that time?

A. No. If you are in the United States during the fall semester, you will not be required to depart the United States during the break.

 

Q. If I take all online classes from outside of the United States, will my visa status be affected?

A. New students: New students cannot obtain F-1 status if remaining outside of the United States. However, you are not required to be in F-1 status to begin your studies online.

Continuing students: According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, even if you are outside of the United States.

 

Q. Will online classes affect my ability to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?

A. Under current guidance, online classes will not affect current students’ ability to apply for OPT or CPT. 

CPT and OPT regulations state that you must be in F-1 status for one full academic year in order to apply for these benefits. Therefore, new students in an accelerated program (12 months) who choose to begin their program online (outside the U.S.) may be impacted. This may also impact re-admitted students who have less than one year remaining in their program, but choose to take all online classes outside the U.S. 

Federal regulations state that you cannot apply for OPT from outside of the United States. So, if you are in the final semester of your program, and are taking 100% online classes outside the U.S., you may be impacted.

Please schedule a virtual advising appointment to discuss your case with ISSS staff.

 

Q. If Rensselaer is required to move all courses online, will I lose my F-1 status and have to leave the country?

A. If Rensselaer is required to move to 100% online courses, F-1 students will maintain their F-1 status and will not be required to depart the United States.

 

Q. I am an incoming first-year student. What if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting your program.

 

Q. If I cannot enter the United States by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. Students must arrive in the United States no later than September 29 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration. You can begin your classwork online.

If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States.

If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my start to the spring?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at admissions@rpi.edu. They are working with students to determine the best course of action for starting your program.

 

Q. As a sophomore international student, do I need to leave the United States during the fall semester?

A. Sophomores will pursue online coursework during the fall semester 2020. According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, whether you are inside or outside of the United States.

 

Q. As a sophomore international student, will my Arch experience be changed due to online classes during the fall semester?

A. No. Sophomores will return to campus in the spring and will complete the Arch summer term on campus. Therefore, you will be able to participate in your future Arch semester away without issue.

 

Q. As a junior international student, what immigration requirements do I have to meet for the fall semester?

A. You must be enrolled as a full-time student in the fall semester, unless you have been approved by The Arch for an exemption to take your semester away in the fall.

If approved, contact ISSS to discuss your situation on a case-by-case basis.

According to SEVP guidance, you can take all online courses and maintain your F-1 status, whether you are inside or outside of the United States.

 

Q. As a junior international student, will my immigration status affect my Arch semester away?

A. During the spring 2021 semester, you will take your semester away and maintain your visa status.

 

Q. As a senior international student, am I allowed to take classes from outside of the United States and still graduate?

A. Yes. You can complete your coursework online and outside of the United States and still graduate.

Note: you cannot apply for OPT outside of the United States.

 

Q. I have been approved by ISSS to be part-time in the fall. Can I still take a part-time course load?

A. Yes, as long as you will meet all of your graduation requirements by the end of the semester.  

 

Q. As an incoming international graduate student, what if I am unable to get my visa in time?

A. Based on your program, Graduate Admissions and your department are working with incoming international students to discuss your options. Email Graduate Admissions to inquire about your options at gradadmissions@rpi.edu.

 

Q. If I cannot enter the United States by the first day of classes, can I arrive later in the semester?

A. This is a decision that will be made by your academic department. Contact them for guidance.

For immigration purposes, you must arrive in the United States no later than September 29 in order for ISSS to complete your SEVIS registration.

If you anticipate arriving after the program start date (on page 1 of your I-20), you must email ISSS in advance to request a new I-20 with revised dates to be permitted to enter the United States.

If you are in quarantine, you can begin your classwork online.

 

Q. Can I defer my co-term one semester?

A. Contact Rensselaer Admissions at gradadmissions@rpi.edu. ISSS must also provide guidance on the immigration implications. This is a case-by-case scenario, so please schedule a virtual advising appointment with ISSS.

Back to top