Guidance on Remote Student Appointments Performed Outside the U.S.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, MIT may have students with paid appointments (UROPs, RAs, TAs, Fellows, etc.) in foreign countries. MIT has developed a framework for allowing eligible students to proceed with anticipated appointments from outside the US.

Latest FAQs: March 22, 2021

When are graduate students with summer/fall 2021 appointments expected back in the U.S.?
MIT is expecting graduate students to conduct their summer and fall U.S.-based appointments from the U.S., and to come/return to the U.S. prior to the start of those appointments (June 1 for most summer appointments, later for some with partial summer appointments; September 1 for fall appointments).

Which students are eligible to apply for an exception to pursue their summer 2021 appointments from abroad?
As Vice Chancellor Waitz and the Deans noted in their letter to enrolled students, our goal is to focus the exception process, and dedicate MIT resources, to those students who are prevented from coming to the U.S. or who would face serious obstacles if they attempted to return. Therefore, students should be aware that exceptions will be considered only in the following situations: 

  • Visa delays, travel bans, border closures, and other COVID-related factors (e.g., unable to board plane due to positive COVID-19 test) prevent their travel to the U.S.; 
  • They, or a household member who must travel with them to the U.S., have a health condition that makes travelling to the U.S. high-risk; 
  • They, or a household member who must travel with them to the U.S., need to remain abroad to receive medical treatment; or  
  • They are caring for a family member with a health condition that requires the student’s care.  

In addition, the appointments should meet these general eligibility criteria: 

  • The student must be in good academic standing, registered with the Institute for the full appointment period, and enrolled in remotely-offered courses or research credits. If applicable, the student must be enrolled for the minimum credits of coursework or research required for the appointment.
  • The student must be able to perform the duties of the appointment remotely, and must have the equipment and resources necessary to conduct those duties remotely.
  • The student’s supervisor must permit the appointment activities to be performed in the foreign country. In making this decision, the supervisor should consider whether the appointment involves confidential, proprietary, or sensitive information, and whether the information can be adequately protected.
  • The student’s funding must be available and secured for the entire appointment period.
  • The student must have a U.S. bank account or be able to receive payments through direct deposit or via paper check. (Note: some foreign banks do not accept checks or wires from U.S. banking institutions).

What is the process for submitting an exception request? 
As in prior semesters, the student should contact their graduate administrator who will submit an intake form for the student’s remote international appointment.   

How does a graduate student with an RA, TA, or fellowship appointment notify MIT that they are unable to travel due to one of the medical reasons noted above?
Students should complete the medical situation form, which allows them to briefly describe the situation. This form will be confidentially reviewed by a student support professional and routed to the appropriate office for further exploration with the student.  Students should be aware that we may require documentation from a licensed medical provider (either the student’s or the family/household member’s). Students who intend to make an exception request for medical reasons are strongly encouraged to start collecting supporting medical documentation as soon as possible.

Medical certifications must be in English. Although the translation is best done by the medical provider or another independent translator, MIT will accept translations done by students with the expectation that the translations be done accurately.   

Additionally, if a student is seeking to conduct their appointment from abroad for these reasons, the student’s graduate administrator should check the corresponding box on the intake form (Question 14). No medical information or documentation needs to be provided to the graduate administrator or academic department, or included on the intake form completed by the graduate administrator. 

The information provided by the student will be reviewed only in connection with their request for a remote international appointment for summer 2021.  The information will not be considered as a broader request for future accommodations at the Institute.  

What is the deadline for requesting an exception?
Students with summer appointments starting June 1, 2021 should work with their graduate administrators to submit their requests by April 15, 2021. For students with appointments starting after June 1, 2021 (including any partial summer appointments and fall appointments), the request should be submitted at least six weeks before the anticipated start date. 

What if my reason for requesting an exception does not arise until after these deadlines?
Students in this situation should contact their graduate administrator as soon as possible. They should also make contingency plans in the event their appointment request is not approved.  

I am expecting to have an RA/TA appointment this summer. If my exception request is granted, will I be able to conduct my RA/TA appointment from abroad?
This depends on many factors, including where the student is located, the type of appointment, how it is funded, and the nature of the student’s activities. In some situations, approved students will be able to conduct their RA/TA appointments from abroad. However, as in prior terms, some students who remain abroad will need to have their appointments modified in some way–which may include a change in funding source, a conversion of an RA/TA appointment to a non-service fellowship appointment, or a conversion to non-paid status.  

What if a graduate student is approved for a remote international appointment but is then able to return/come to the U.S. sometime after their appointment start date? (For example, if a travel restriction or stay-at-home order is lifted after this date.)
These students should return/come to the U.S. as soon as possible after they become able to return to/enter the U.S.

I am a student who is currently in the U.S. and I would like to leave the U.S. for a period of time later this spring or during the summer.  If I get stuck abroad, can I apply for a remote international appointment?
We strongly encourage all students thinking about leaving the U.S. to review MIT’s travel policy and, for international students, to consult with their ISO Advisors before they plan their trip.  Each student is in a unique situation but should understand the pros and cons of travelling before they make a decision — especially if they will be travelling to a country under an active or threatened lockdown or travel restrictions.

If a student must leave the U.S. and gets stuck outside the U.S. (for example, they fall under a travel restriction preventing them from coming to the U.S.), they may apply for a remote international appointment. We may not be able to provide ongoing financial support to students who leave the U.S. and are unable to get back to the U.S. 

I am a student who has been in the U.S. for the spring 2021 term and I would like to take a vacation overseas this summer. Can I conduct some of my summer appointment from abroad while on vacation? And do I need to submit a request for an exception?
Generally, with approval from their department/PIs, students who have been in the U.S. during the spring 2021 term may take a vacation outside of the U.S. so long as the majority of their summer appointment time is spent in the U.S.  It is assumed that a student is not conducting research while on vacation.  If a student is conducting research from outside the U.S., their stipend cannot be charged to a federal grant.  Also, students travelling to Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea, or the Crimea region of Ukraine may not conduct their MIT appointment from these locations.  If a student meets this guidance, no intake form is needed for their travel abroad. 

Does this process apply to students who do not have summer appointments?
No. However, students travelling abroad should review MIT’s guidance on travelling.  

Does the exception process apply to tuition-only fellowships?
The exception process applies to tuition-only fellowships if the fellowship requires research to be done while the student is outside the U.S.  If a tuition-only fellowship involves no research from abroad, then the exception process does not apply and no intake form is needed.

Do these guidelines apply to students receiving financial support while on non-resident thesis research status?No. These students will continue to receive their funding.

Do these guidelines apply to field work that needs to be conducted abroad?
No. Students whose appointments require them to conduct field work outside the U.S. should continue to follow the existing processes for those appointments.

Do we have enough available MIT housing for students who are returning? How will the selection / placement process work?

Summer Housing
While it is highly likely that MIT Housing can accommodate most requests for summer housing, MIT Housing cannot guarantee a room type. Students who are interested in Fall 2021 housing with a summer arrival date are encouraged to apply to the Fall 2021 allocation. Applications are open between March 31 – April 25.  The results of this lottery process will be released May 6. Applicants are able to indicate their preferred arrival dates, which will be matched as close as possible to available units.

MIT Graduate Housing does not offer summer-only housing; but will accommodate students returning from remote appointments with summer housing needs on a case-by-case basis.  Remote appointment students who are interested in summer only housing should email with their request.  Please note, assignments will be provided mid-May after the completion of fall housing processes.

Fall Housing
MIT Housing cannot guarantee campus housing to every student who wants it.  There is an application process to determine assignments based on demand.   Applications for the fall 2021 graduate housing allocation are available March 31 – April 25.  Students will receive their housing results on May 6.  If students do not apply by April 25, they may apply to the self-selection waiting list process which opens on May 7.  Students may self-select an assignment on a weekly basis beginning on May 17.  HRS will release housing inventory every week and students will have the ability to preview and select a housing assignment on a weekly basis and in real time.  For additional information on how to apply and select an assignment via the waiting list process, please visit this link.

Students who plan to return to campus should be sure to understand the campus access, testing, and compliance protocols, which may be updated or modified for summer or fall term.  Please email with any housing-related questions.

What if returning to the U.S. would mean significant financial hardship for a student?MIT will provide assistance to graduate students experiencing significant financial hardships arising from the requirement to return to the U.S. Students with need should apply to the Graduate Student Short Term Emergency Hardship Fund at Each request will be considered individually and decisions will be based on need and evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Requests will be reviewed and resolved by the Office of Graduate Education. There is a misconception among some students that short term emergency hardship funding is capped. That is not the case. Each request is carefully considered and we always seek to meet demonstrated need based on the unique circumstances of each request.

Will international students returning to campus be able to obtain the Covid-19 vaccine?
Based on Massachusetts’ vaccine rollout plan, we are optimistic that all of our students–including our international students–will be eligible to start receiving COVID-19 vaccines as early as April (some may already be eligible).

What are the anticipated health and disease mitigation measures MIT expects to have in place in the summer and fall to keep the campus community safe?
Although things are likely to change throughout the summer and into the fall, we anticipate having continued testing and other measures to protect the health of the community as we have throughout the pandemic.

What are some ways students can find emotional and mental health support and assistance with their decision making?
We encourage students to reach out for support if they need it. Student support resources may be found here. In addition, students may want to take advantage of the MIT Graduate Assistance and Information Network (GAIN), a 24/7 network of professionals who provide life management resources and referrals.