ISSS News

Welcome to the News page for ISSS!

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

This page was last updated on: April 03, 2020.

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COVID-19 Information

Please review the campus-wide information from Rensselaer regarding Coronavirus here: covid19.rpi.edu

  • In the Students section, there is a section with important information for International Students. This includes information about the Five Month Rule.

The below information are updates from ISSS for international students. Please check this page regularly to see updates regarding ISSS services and communications with students.

ISSS COVID-19 Update Messages

April 2, 2020: COVID-19 Update #7 (Digital Signature Guides, Remote Work, ISSS Programs)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the evening of Thursday, April 2nd by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update07

UPDATE - Link Correction for NPZ COVID-19 Workshop registration: https://npzcovid19workshop-rpi.eventbrite.com

March 25, 2020: COVID-19 Update #6 (Five-Month Rule, OPT Workshops, Letter Request)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the afternoon of Wednesday, March 25th by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update06

March 19, 2020: COVID-19 Update #5 (Alumni Information)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the afternoon of Thursday, March 19th by ISSS Assistant Director Emilie Buse with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update05

March 18, 2020: COVID-19 Update #4 (Location Reporting, OPT Application Info)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the afternoon of Wednesday, March 18th by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update04

March 17, 2020: COVID-19 Update #3 (Documents, Virtual Advising, General Communication)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 17th by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update03

March 16, 2020: COVID-19 Update #2 (Visa Status, Open Hours Protocol)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the evening of Friday, March 13th by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update02

March 13, 2020: COVID-19 Update #1 (Housing)

A message to F-1 visa holders was sent in the evening of Thursday, March 12th by ISSS Director Mary Nellis with an update regarding COVID-19 and student concerns.

Please see the message content at this link: rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-COVID19update01

March 12, 2020: Protocol Development

9:16 a.m.: ISSS is currently developing protocols for international students regarding the email from President Jackson that remote instruction has been extended to the end of Spring semester 2020.

We will communicate to you via your RPI email with updates and information, and anticipate the first communication will be sent by the end of today, March 12th.

Advising Information

ISSS will be moving to an online platform for advising. You will be able to 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.

  • To set up your WebEx account and view your scheduled meetings, please follow these instructions: https://rpi.box.com/v/RPI-ISSS-webexaccess
  • An ISSS advisor will send you a link to access the WebEx meeting after your appointment is scheduled.

If your question does not require an appointment, you can send your inquiry via email to ISSSoffice@rpi.edu. We aim to reply to all messages within 1-2 business days.

Location Reporting

UPDATE March 25, 2020: If you did not report your location to ISSS via the form, please send an email to us at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu with your RIN, name, and full address where you are located, including the country and zip code (either inside or outside of the U.S.).

In Update #2, ISSS advised that you would need to submit your location information as a part of maintaining your F-1 visa status.

Your location report is due by 11:59 PM EST on Monday, March 23rd.

Report your location at this link: http://bit.ly/ISSS-RPI-locationreport

Community Announcements Regarding COVID-19

March 27, 2020: Community Announcement Regarding COVID-19

Please review the Community Announcement made this afternoon by President Jackson regarding COVID-19 and in-person instruction.

Until further notice, the physical campus will remain closed, except for critical operations, and all non-essential employees will continue to work remotely.

Community Announcement Link: https://covid19.rpi.edu/communications

March 10, 2020: Community Announcement Regarding COVID-19

Please review the Community Announcement made this afternoon by President Jackson regarding COVID-19 and in-person instruction.

ISSS is open this week and will utilize social distancing protocols when meeting in-person with students. We are developing protocols for service to international students starting March 16th and will communicate to you via email and Facebook when determined.

Community Announcement Link: https://info.rpi.edu/coronavirus/communications#CoronavirusCOVID19RensselaerSuspendsAllInPersonInstruction

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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:

  • ISSS News of the Week: March 23 - 31
    • ISSS will suspend our News of the Week emails until further notice. Information can be found on our website.
  • ISSS News of the Week: March 09 - 13
  • ISSS News of the Week: March 02 - 06

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.

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

Scam Calls

Scam Calls - March 22, 2019

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.

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 here.

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.

Software

ISSS is in process of switching to a new software called Terra Dotta. We will keep you posted of any changes and let you know how to access your account when it is ready.

If you receive any automated emails from Terra Dotta, please forward them to ISSS along with your RIN so we can look into why that is occurring.

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Immigration Announcements

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

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.

February 06, 2020: Unlawful Presence Policy

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

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.

November 08, 2019: F-1 Students & OPT Concerns

Students have reached out about possible OPT policy changes.

See the ISSS information provided to address these concerns: https://rpi.box.com/v/ISSS-studentOPTconcerns

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 2018 and earlier

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

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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

The dates for ISSS Orientation in Fall 2020 are now set.

 Please plan your travel in advance to ensure you can attend on the appropriate date.

  • Graduate Students: Monday, August 24, 2020
  • Undergraduate Students: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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

Scholar Orientation for 19-20

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 Spring 2020 OPT Workshop schedule is as follows:

  • January 31, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. - Low Center for Industrial Innovation, Room 4034
  • February 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. - Darrin Communications Center, Room 236
  • February 12, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. - Low Center for Industrial Innovation, Room 4034
  • February 20, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. - Low Center for Industrial Innovation, Room 4050
  • March 2, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. - Lally Hall, Room 102
  • March 10, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. - Low Center for Industrial Innovation, Room 4040
  • April 1, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. - VIRTUAL Workshop in WebEx (pre-registration required)
  • April 16, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. - VIRTUAL Workshop in WebEx (pre-registration required)

Please register in advance for the workshop you plan to attend. Register at this link: https://isss-spring2020-optworkshoptickets.eventbrite.com

ISSS has a soft deadline for you to apply for OPT: March 16, 2020. We will still process applications submitted after this date.

Workshop flyer: https://rpi.box.com/v/OPTworkshops202001

Travel Signature Week

ISSS will hold two Travel Signature Weeks in Spring 2020 for students to obtain a travel signature on the spot on their I-20 or DS-2019.

If you are planning to travel outside the U.S. in the next year, ISSS recommends you get a travel signature before you leave if you do not have a travel signature or if your last signature was issued over six months ago.

Bring your most recent I-20 or DS-2019, passport, and visa to ISSS for a signature on the spot during these dates and times:

  • February 24 - 28 from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
  • April 20 - 24 from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. The April 2020 Travel Signature Week has been cancelled, as ISSS are working remotely.

Travel Signature Week flyer: https://rpi.box.com/v/travelsignatureweek202001