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ISSS News

Welcome to the News page for ISSS!

Here is where you can find information about ISSS Programs and Announcements.

This page was last updated on: September 25, 2020.

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Announcements

Please expand each section below to view announcements by selecting the + sign.

ISSS News of the Week

Click here to see the ISSS News of the Week:

Need to convert the image to plain text? Use this free online OCR service: www.onlineocr.net/

Open Hours

ISSS offers Open Hours for students, exchange visitors, and alumni to come in and speak with an advisor in person. ISSS is currently working remotely for Fall 2020.

ISSS has moved to an online platform for advising. You can schedule a 15 minute meeting with an ISSS advisor during our Open Hours every weekday, Monday - Friday. 

GO HERE to schedule an appointment: https://go.oncehub.com/RPIISSSOffice

  • If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please do so as soon as possible to open the space to others who need assistance.

Appointments will be held as virtual meetings via the WebEx platform.

  • An ISSS advisor will send you a calendar invitation that contains a link to access the WebEx meeting within one business day after your appointment is scheduled.
Scam Calls

ISSS Reminder Notices

What Should You Do?

Do you suspect you have been scammed or received a scam message/phone call? Here are steps you can take:

  1. Report the scam to RPI.
    • Contact ISSS and contact Public Safety so they can take a report of what happened.
    • Public Safety may advise you to also file a police report with the Troy Police Department.
  2. If you provided sensitive information, like your SSN or financial information, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report identify theft and get a recovery plan
    • If the scam involved login credentials or card information, you need to contact your banks and credit card companies to inform them.
    • If the scam involved financial information or personal information, you can prevent fraud of your identity by requesting a credit freeze or placing a fraud alert on your credit.
  3. Report the scam to government agencies.

KNOWN SCAMS

IRS Scam Calls

Be ware of people calling who pretend to be the IRS. The IRS does not call to ask you for money. They only send you payment notifications via paper mail.

Often these callers say frightening words, such as they threaten to arrest you if you do not make payment [which is often via a gift card], or they will report you to ICE. If you receive a call, please note the caller's phone number and say that you will call them back, then contact ISSS via phone immediately.

DO NOT MAKE ANY PAYMENTS OVER THE PHONE. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated and are able to mask the number they call from so it looks like the FBI or the IRS.

USCIS or Department of Homeland Security Scam Calls

Be ware of people calling who pretend to be from USCIS or the Department of Homeland Security. Often the caller threatens to deport you if you do not pay to keep your visa status.

USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security will never contact you via phone.

Social Security Number Scam Calls Social Security Number Scam Calls

You are told that your Social Security Number (SSN) will be suspended, and you are asked to provide personally identifying information and/or payment to stop the suspension of your SSN. The SSN Office will never call you.

Scam Targeting PRC Citizens in the U.S.

The caller impersonates People's Republic of China (PRC) law enforcement, a government official, a representative from a financial institution, or a shipping company and uses threats to obtain personal information and/or payment.

DHL Scam Calls

Scammers have been pretending to be DHL representatives and indicating a package the student shipped from the U.S. to another country was stopped by customs and contains illegally manufacted documents, like fake passports and debit cards. The student did not ship this package, but are kept on the line and then "transferred" to the local police to provide their national identification number [such as the Chinese ID number]. Students are not asked for money, but asked to provide identity proof. DO NOT PROVIDE YOUR NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER and instead get their phone number and name, and then contact ISSS.

Link to more details about this scam is available here. Please contact ISSS if this happens to you, and do not follow the instructions in the article.

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Programs

ISSS holds programs during the year to provide support for the international population at Rensselaer. These programs range from orientation sessions and informational workshops to social events.

Please expand each section below to view the schedule for each workshop series by selecting the + sign.

Orientation for New Students - Fall 2020

Graduate Students & Undergraduate Students

  • ISSS Orientation is going virtual.
    • There will be a series of online modules that must be completed.
    • All virtual modules must be completed by Friday, July 31st.
      • Update: The deadline for orientation has been extended to August 30, 2020.

You can find more information about F-1 Orientation here: info.rpi.edu/isss/new-f1-students/#Orientation

Scholar Orientation

ISSS holds a Scholar Orientation session each month to help the scholars understand the requirements of maintaining status in the U.S. and to answer any questions.

The Orientation schedule can be found here: https://info.rpi.edu/isss/new-exchange-visitors/#Orientation

OPT Workshops

ISSS developed a workshop series to help F-1 students prepare for their OPT application and ask questions. We recommend that students who are in their final semester and intend to apply for OPT participate in a workshop to be prepared for their OPT application.

The Fall 2020 OPT Workshop schedule can be found here: https://rpi.box.com/v/OPTworkshops202009

ISSS has a soft deadline for December 2020 graduates to apply for OPT: Friday, October 23, 2020. We will still process applications submitted after this date.

Workshop Dates

  • Wednesday, September 9 at 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 17 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Friday, September 25 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Monday, September 28 at 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 6 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 14 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 22 at 11:00 a.m.
  • Monday, November 9 at 4:00 p.m.

Workshop Access Instructions

All workshops will be virtal events on Webex. To access the event, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Webex using your RCS account
  2. Click WebEx Events on the gray menu bar on the left
  3. Search for "ISSS OPT Workshop" for the date and time you want
  4. Event password: OPTfall
  5. Register for the event
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Immigration Announcements

Please expand each section below to view immigration announcements by selecting the + sign.

August 05, 2020: Unlawful Presence Policy

From NAFSA: Association of International Educators:

"On July 31, 2020 DHS filed a motion to dismiss its own appeal of the lower court's decision. For now, USCIS has returned to applying prior policy guidance based on its unlawful presence memo issued on May 6, 2009. Under that prior policy, individuals admitted for duration of status do not begin accruing unlawful presence until an immigration judge finds a status violation in the course of an immigration proceeding, or an immigration officer finds a violation of status in the course of an application for an immigration benefit."

Previous Update from February 06, 2020

A permanent nationwide injunction was issued blocking the August 2018 policy from USCIS.

From NAFSA Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigration Resource: “On February 6, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a permanent nationwide injunction blocking the August 8, 2018 USCIS policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.”

Previous Update from 2019

USCIS has revised their policy regarding unlawful presence, effective August 9, 2018.

Please see this link for additional information: https://rpi.box.com/v/USCISunlawfulpresence

Travel Restrictions Based on Country as of August 20, 2020

From NAFSA COVID-19 Resources: "Canada-Mexico "Essential Travel" Restrictions.  Two Federal Register notices published on March 24, 2020 announced the decision to temporarily allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for "essential travel" only. The restrictions have been extended six times, and are currently in effect until 11:59 p.m. EDT on October 21, 2020."

The notices do permit "essential travel" by individuals traveling to attend educational institutions.

From NAFSA COVID-19 Resources: "Travel-Related Proclamations Affecting Entry from Certain Countries. The President has issued five COVID-19-related proclamations to limit travel to the United States. These proclamations will remain in effect until terminated by the President." These proclamations suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present in the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States (in alphabetical order):

  • Brazil
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau
  • Republic of Ireland
  • The Schengen Area (this includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland)
  • The United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe

From the Department of State: National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland. "Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. Students from those areas who are traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request."

From U.S. Customs and Border Protection Carrier Liason Program: Waivers of Presidential Proclamations 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland) for Academics and Students. "F and M visa holders subject to these Proclamations have been granted a national interest exception to travel and can be boarded without contacting CBP as long as all admissibility and document requirements are met."

July 16, 2020: Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

From The U.S. Department of State: Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

"The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework for safely returning our workforce to Department facilities.  U.S. Embassies and Consulates have continued to provide emergency and mission-critical visa services since March and will continue to do so as they are able.  As post-specific conditions improve, our missions will begin providing additional services, culminating eventually in a complete resumption of routine visa services.

We are unable to provide a specific date for when each mission will resume specific visa services, or when each mission will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels.  See each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering."

Accessed on 07/16/2020, URL: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/phased-resumption-routine-visa-services.html

June 23, 2020: Presidential Proclamation

From NAFSA Resources: Proclamation Suspending Entry of Certain H, J, and L Nonimmigrants

"On June 5, 2020, the president issued a proclamation titled Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak, that will go into effect at at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020."

"Section 2 of the proclamation suspends "entry into the United States of any alien seeking entry pursuant to any of the following nonimmigrant visas" until December 31, 2020, subject to section 3 of the proclamation:

  • "an H-1B or H-2B visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;"
  • "a J visa, to the extent the alien is participating in an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien;"
  • "an L visa, and any alien accompanying or following to join such alien"

NAFSA note: This is an exclusive list of covered visa types. The proclamation does not apply to individuals seeking entry on a visa type not listed in the proclamation. For example, it does not apply to entry on an F-1 visa, or a B-2 visa, or to entry on a J-1 visa to participate in exchange categories other than those listed. For example, it does not apply to participants seeking entry in the the J-1 professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, college or university student, or ECFMG alien physician categories."

Update from June 29, 2020:

"NAFSA note: Reading Section 3 inversely, the proclamation should not apply to someone who is in the United States on June 24, 2020 (the effective date of the proclamation), or to someone who has an H, L, or J nonimmigrant visa valid on June 24, 2020 (whether they are inside or outside the United States on that date) which they will use to seek entry, or to someone who has an official travel document such as advance parole that is valid on or issued after June 24, 2020."

June 18, 2020: Department of Transportation Order

Updated June 18, 2020:

From NAFSA Resources: Status of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States

"On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued Order 2020-6-6 "to permit Chinese carriers to operate, in the aggregate, a total of four weekly round-trip scheduled passenger flights to and from the United States, an aggregate level of scheduled passenger services that would be equivalent to that permitted by Chinese aviation authorities for U.S. carriers.""

Updated June 12, 2020:

From U.S. Department of Transportation: U.S. Department of Transportation Modifies June 3 Order Regarding Chinese Carriers

"As a result of China’s willingness to permit U.S. carriers the opportunity to operate one weekly passenger flight each, the Department revised its June 3rd Order today in order to grant Chinese carriers, in aggregate, the right to operate two weekly passenger flights to the United States."

June 04, 2020:

From NAFSA Resources: Suspension of Passenger Flights by Chinese Airlines to and from the United States

"A June 3, 2020 Department of Transportation order set to automatically go into effect on June 16, 2020 (unless President Trump approves the order earlier), will "suspend scheduled passenger operations of all Chinese carriers to and from the United States." The following day, The New York Times reported that "Beijing will allow limited flights by international carriers to resume after the White House threatened to block Chinese passenger jets from flying to the U.S." It remains to be seen how China's response alters the Department of Transportation order."

"If the order goes into affect unchanged, it will affect flights by the following Chinese airlines:

  1. Air China Limited (doing business as Air China)
  2. Beijing Capital Airlines Co., Ltd.
  3. China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited
  4. Hainan Airlines Holding Co. Ltd.
  5. Sichuan Airlines Co., Ltd.
  6. China Southern Airlines Company Limited
  7. Xiamen Airlines

The Department of Transportation's order applies to scheduled passenger flights coming into and going out of the United States, but does not impact cargo operations."

June 01, 2020: Presidential Proclamation

From NAFSA Resources: Proclamation Suspending Entry of Chinese Students and Researchers Connected to PRC “Military-Civil Fusion Strategy".

"On May 29, 2020, the President issued Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Students and Researchers from the People’s Republic of China. The proclamation is effective at 12:00 p.m. eastern daylight time on June 1, 2020, and will remain in effect until terminated by the President.

Section 1 of the proclamation suspends "entry into the United States as a nonimmigrant of any national of the PRC seeking to enter the United States pursuant to an F or J visa to study or conduct research in the United States, except for a student seeking to pursue undergraduate study," and who either:

  • Currently "receives funding from or who currently is employed by, studies at, or conducts research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'," or
  • In the past "has been employed by, studied at, or conducted research at or on behalf of... an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'"

Under the proclamation, "the term “military-civil fusion strategy” means actions by or at the behest of the PRC to acquire and divert foreign technologies, specifically critical and emerging technologies, to incorporate into and advance the PRC’s military capabilities."

Section 1 wholly exempts F and J undergraduate students from the proclamation. Likewise, graduate students and researchers are also exempt from the proclamation if they do not have any of the specific current or past funding, employment, study, or research nexuses with "an entity in the PRC that implements or supports the PRC’s 'military-civil fusion strategy'."

April 23, 2020: Presidential Proclamation

From NAFSA COVID-19 Resources: "Coronavirus Proclamation of April 22, 2020 Limits Entry of Certain Immigrants.  On April 22, 2020, President Trump issued a Presidential Proclamation that suspends entry for 60 days of certain new immigrants who do not already have an approved immigrant visa. The proclamation does not impact applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence, or nonimmigrants (such as students, H-1B workers, visitors for business or pleasure, etc.)"

"Initial effective period: 60 days starting 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020."

April 22, 2020: Travel Restriction Updates

From NAFSA COVID-19 Resources: "Canada-Mexico "Essential Travel" Restrictions.  Two Federal Register notices published on March 24, 2020 announced the decision to temporarily allow entry to the United States through land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada and U.S. Mexico borders for “essential travel” only. The restrictions were then extended and are currently in effect until May 20, 2020."

The notices do permit "essential travel" by individuals traveling to attend educational institutions.

From NAFSA COVID-19 Resources: "Coronavirus travel bans by Presidential Proclamation. The President has issued four COVID-19-related proclamations to limit travel to the United States." These proclamations suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present in the following countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States (in alphabetical order):

  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau
  • Republic of Ireland
  • The Schengen Area (this includes: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).
  • The United Kingdom, excluding overseas territories outside of Europe
February 21, 2020: Travel Ban Updates

From NAFSA Travel Ban Resources: “Trump Administration Expands Travel Ban. In a January 31, 2020 Presidential Proclamation, the Trump administration expanded its travel ban to place visa and entry restrictions on travelers from six additional countries: Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. The new ban (Travel Ban 4.0) becomes effective at 12:01 eastern standard time on February 21, 2020. Travel Ban 4.0 contains restrictions on immigrants but not on nonimmigrants, so Travel Ban 4.0 will not impact acquisition of nonimmigrant visas like F-1 student, J-1 exchange visitor, H-1B worker, etc., or of admission to the United States in those categories. Meanwhile, Travel Ban 3.0 continues in effect on certain citizens of Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.”

For specific questions related to this Presidential Proclamation, please contact International Services in person during Open Hours, or by email or phone.

January 31, 2020: Novel Coronavirus Update - Travel Restrictions

January 31, 2020 - The Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) has declared the Novel Coronavirus as a public health emergency.

From NAFSA Coronavirus Critical Resources: “Presidential Proclamation Coronavirus Travel Ban. Also on January 31, 2020, President Trump signed a separate Presidential Proclamation titled Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The proclamation cites INA 212(f) to suspend entry into the United States of all aliens (immigrants, nonimmigrants, and other non U.S. citizens) who were physically present within the People's Republic of China, excluding the Special Autonomous Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. This coronavirus travel ban is effective starting 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 2, 2020.”

For information on Rensselaer’s communications regarding the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, please see this link: info.rpi.edu/coronavirus

December 12, 2019: OPT & STEM OPT Reporting Policy Guidance

On September 27, 2019, SEVP published new guidance on determining the direct relationship between OPT employment and a student’s major area of study.  This guidance specifies what is required to prove that employment is “directly related to the students area of study,” and outlines the responsibilities of both the student and ISSS staff to meet the reporting requirements.  

Students on Post-Completion OPT

If you are adding new employment or updating how the employment is related to your major, you need to notify International Services via email at isssoffice@rpi.edu that you have made a change to your SEVP Portal which requires ISSS review. We will review your information to ensure that your position is clearly related to your field of study and advise if any clarification is needed. In this process, we are reading what you have reported in the SEVP Portal, in the “How employment is related to course work” question.

Here is a sample answer to the “How employment is related to course work” question:

I will be working as a Biomedical Engineer. This is in relation to my Master's degree in Biomedical Engineering. During my education, I took various courses such as Advanced Calculus, Finite Element Analysis, Mathematical Statistics, and Statistical Analysis. This job requires direct application of those courses. In addition, my role requires me to perform statistical calculations to analyze the accuracy of biomedical images.

Students on STEM OPT

International Services carefully reviews your Form I-983 and your STEM OPT Reporting Form to determine how the position is clearly related to your field of study and will advise if any clarification is needed during the process of adding employment through ISSS. Please do not make any changes to your employment information through the SEVP Portal, as you need to report all employment changes directly to ISSS along with the appropriate documentation.

June 06, 2019: Social Media Question on Visa Applications

"The Department of State (DOS) has added a "social media" question to Form DS-160,  the standard online application used by individuals to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. The item requires applicants to use a drop-down list to indicate the social media platforms that they have used during the five years preceding their visa application, and to provide any identifiers or handles they used on those platforms. DOS also added a similar item to the Form DS-260 immigrant visa application" (NAFSA Release).

Find more information in this NAFSA article: http://www.nafsa.org/Professional_Resources/Browse_by_Interest/International_Students_and_Scholars/Social_Media_Question_on_Visa_Applications/

ARCHIVED Immigration Announcements

ARCHIVED Immigration Announcements - from 2019 and earlier

November 08, 2019 F-1 Students & OPT Concerns

November 19, 2018 OPT & STEM OPT Unemployment Counter Update

September 28, 2018  Cap-Gap & Pending H1-B Petition Alert

August 17, 2018  STEM OPT Employment - Third Party Employers