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Policies and Procedures

Updated March 26, 2021

This policy library contains policies and policy statements relating to the International Center's immigration and visa services, document services, and programs. Please check back frequently as these policies are updated on a regular basis.

Records and Documents

The International Center's record retention policies are posted at the Records Retention section of Digital Collection & Archives.

In general and in most cases, the International Center will retain visa and immigration records for up to five years beyond the last term of enrollment (for students), end of program (for scholars), or end of visa sponsorship or employment separation (for employees). Records may be retained for additional periods of time as required by regulation, law, or related considerations (e.g., litigation) and as directed by University Counsel or other appropriate authority.

Immigration notices and documents received by the International Center, including government mail or related documents produced and/or received on behalf of a Tufts student or scholar, will be retained on a courtesy basis for up to ninety days. If the student, scholar, or other individual does not respond to International Center efforts to arrange for re-delivery the documents or provide directions for document disposal, the documents will either be confidentially recycled or returned to the originating agency (e.g., Homeland Security, Social Security).

Questions regarding records retention should be directed to the International Center at internationalcenter@tufts.edu.

Updated November 12, 2019

The International Center will endeavor to deliver important immigration and related government documents to students, scholars, and others in a secure and cost- and time-efficient manner as is feasible. Options for document delivery will typically include:

  • in-person pick-up at one of the International Center's locations, when and where available
  • secure electronic mail, where feasible and appropriate
  • campus mail, where appropriate
  • USPS first class mail, where appropriate

Documents that must be delivered in the original to a student to an off-campus location will generally be delivered at the expense of the student, with selections from among different delivery options (e.g., USPS Priority Mail, Federal Express, UPS, DHL) to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Documents produced through a service covered by an International Center service fee (primarily relating to J-1 and H-1B visa processes) will not be charged although exceptions may apply for re-delivery of documents lost due to no fault of the International Center. Documents that require expedited delivery due to International Center delay or error will not be charged to the addressee.

Note that if a student / scholar / employee designates in-person pick up, it is their responsibility to do so in a timely manner. Otherwise, the document retention rules described in our "International Center Record and Document Retention Policies" will apply.

(Update: March 2020) Due to COVID-19 conditions, document delivery is being coordinated on a case-by-case basis to accommodate service interruptions and office closures. These exceptional measures will apply for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and interruption to standard office operations.

Updated November 11, 2020

Immigration Sponsorship (Employment)

This policy discusses when Tufts University departments (and employees) may seek the legal services of outside immigration attorneys for the purpose of securing US non-immigrant or immigrant status on behalf of an employee.

Non-Immigrant Visa Services

In order to ensure the University's compliance with federal regulations governing immigration sponsorship processes, the prior approval of the International Center is required before a Tufts department and/or Tufts employee may engage an outside immigration attorney to provide non-immigrant legal services. This restriction applies to any case in which Tufts must serve as the employer and legal petitioner for an employee beneficiary. Only those immigration law firms approved by the International Center, in consultation with University Counsel, may be used.

In general, non-immigrant sponsorship processes will be managed directly by the International Center, and referred out to an approved immigration law firm in only exceptional circumstances where International Center resources and expertise are not sufficient to manage a case successfully.

Immigrant (Permanent Resident) Visa Services

Immigrant (permanent residence) processes will be referred to one of the University's approved immigration law firms following the procedures outlined in the Sponsoring Permanent Residents section of this web site. Schools and departments will be responsible for paying any attorney fees for which the University is obligated to pay as the petitioner for a beneficiary employee. Prior approval of the International Center is required whenever the University is required to act as a legal sponsor or signatory to a PERM labor certification and/or Form I-140 petition.

Employees may contract with outside attorneys and law firms of their choosing for any process concerning their personal legal and household affairs and other matters either not directly related to or contingent upon their employment relationship with Tufts. These include services relating to the immigration or legal status of dependents, as well as immigrant sponsorship that does not require Tufts to act as legal signatory or petitioner.

Questions regarding this policy should be directed to Andrew Shiotani, International Center Director, at Andrew.Shiotani@tufts.edu.

Updated March 26, 2019

Immigration Sponsorship (Student / Academic Programs)

Tufts University is currently authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), under the Department of Homeland Security, to enroll nonimmigrant students in academic programs included in its Form I-17, "Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student." Tufts currently maintains three Form I-17 authorizations for Medford / Somerville (also covering SMFA, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Friedman School of Nutritional Science, and International Programs and Partnerships); the Fletcher School; and Boston Health Sciences.

Approval Required to Enroll F-1 Students

Only those programs that have been approved by SEVP and included in one of our Form I-17 authorizations are eligible to enroll F-1 students. Any new program or academic offering seeking to enroll F-1 international students must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security before the International Center can issue any F-1 student visa documents. Additionally, any new program must be approved under the University's PDAC (Program Development and Approval Committee) process before the International Center can initiate visa approval processes.

Departments seeking to request approval to enroll international students under the F-1 student visa should contact Andrew Shiotani, the Director of the International Center, at Andrew.Shiotani@tufts.edu. To initiate the sponsorship process, the department must submit a request to the International Center for review and submission to the Department of Homeland Security. Read more about how to request approval to enroll F-1 students in a new program.

Updating Form I-17

The process for updating a Form I-17 is overseen by the International Center. In the event a Tufts department wishes to create a new academic program available to international students, the International Center will determine if an update to one of Tufts's Form I-17s is necessary. If an I-17 update is necessary, the International Center will work with the appropriate department to initiate and manage the I-17 update process. I-17 updates require submission of considerable evidence to SEVP, which will adjudicate the update request and determine whether the program is eligible to enroll F-1 students. Only when SEVP has approved the update will the program be eligible to enroll F-1 international students.  IMPORTANT: Form I-17 updates are lengthy and complex and SEVP can take several months to over a year to adjudicate update requests. Programs should keep in mind that offering immediate sponsorship to students may not be feasible given the limitations of the I-17 update process.

Admission versus Sponsorship

Programs approved by Tufts to enroll students may admit any student - including non-US citizens or permanent resident applicants - who meet the requirements for admission. However, programs are not permitted to offer applicants student visa sponsorship unless the program has been approved to do so by the International Center and, if necessary, SEVP. In this context, visa sponsorship requires Tufts to certify the eligibility of a nonimmigrant student to apply for a student visa and enter the US in student status for the explicit purpose of engaging in study at Tufts. Students who are admitted to a non-eligible program must have alternative, independent means for entering the US and participating in Tufts's academic offerings.

Programs Not Eligible for Sponsorship

A basic requirement for visa sponsorship eligibility is that a program must offer a full-time, primarily residential (on-campus) program, with full-time defined as a minimum of 12 SHUs per semester for undergraduate study and 9 SHUs per semester for graduate or graduate-level study (graduate students may also establish full-time equivalency through a combination of courses, teaching / research assistantships, thesis / dissertation credits, etc.). As a result, the following types of programs will not qualify for visa sponsorship under any circumstances.

  • Programs that are primarily or exclusively offered as online or distance education courses, including courses taken outside the US
  • Programs that offer only a part-time curriculum by design

Exceptions or programs with unique curricular arrangements should be reviewed by the International Center to determine sponsorship eligibility.

Updated September 6, 2021

This statement clarifies the International Center's position regarding immigration and visa requirements for international students seeking to attend and enroll in a Tufts University program.

International students are not required to hold a specific US immigration status as a condition of seeking admission to and enrolling at Tufts University. Admissions and enrollment decisions should be based on satisfaction of admissions and related criteria. Students should not be advised that they cannot enroll, if otherwise eligible to do so, on the grounds that they lack proper immigration status (see exceptions below for F-2 and B-1/B-2 visa holders). However, international students should be advised to seek guidance from the International Center in these circumstances:

  • if they would like to seek student visa sponsorship through Tufts based on admission to an eligible full-time program of study at Tufts
  • if they are currently in F-2 status, B-1/B-2 (or WB/WT) status, which do not allow full-time study or any study while in the US
  • if they have any questions about their current status and implications for study and employment at Tufts

Tufts does offer F-1 or J-1 immigration sponsorship to students admitted to eligible programs and who need assistance in obtaining a visa to enter the US specifically to study at Tufts. It is ultimately the individual student's responsibility to seek appropriate guidance and pursue options vis-a-vis their legal status in the US.

Note that while international student admission and enrollment is not contingent upon immigration status, any student interested in or expected to engage in on-campus employment must be in a status that permits US-based employment. Tufts cannot offer employment to an international student who is not in a status that allows for on-campus employment with Tufts. For more information, contact the International Center.

Students Who Hold Independent Immigration Status

International students may already have immigration status independent of their admission to Tufts that allows them to remain in the US and study (whether part-time or full-time). Changing to F or J student visa status is not required as a condition of enrolling at Tufts. However, it is up to each individual student to be aware of limitations or restrictions that their current immigration status places on their ability to study and/or to engage in related activities such as on-campus employment. Any student who has a question about their eligibility to study in the US under their current immigration status can contact the International Center for guidance or a qualified immigration attorney for legal assistance.

While individuals are responsible for managing their own immigration status, persons in the US in B-1/B-2 visitor (or WB / WT visa waiver) status should be aware that enrolling in a course of study is generally prohibited under US federal regulations. In addition, F-2 dependents are not permitted to engage in full-time study at the college level, but are allowed to study on a part-time basis only. F-2 students under the sponsorship of Tufts's F-1 visa program are not permitted to enroll full-time. Students who plan to change to F or J status from a status that does not allow study (e.g., B status) should be aware that federal regulations may not allow them to begin studying full-time (or at all) until their new status is approved. Such students should contact their visa sponsor or the International Center for more guidance.

Undocumented Students / Refugees and Asylees

Students who are considered undocumented ("DACA" students) are not considered international students and as such should not be referred to the International Center. Please contact the First Resource Center or the appropriate office for Diversity and Inclusion for more information. Similarly, students who have been granted refugee status or who are in asylum proceedings (or who have been granted asylum) are not considered international students and do not receive services through the International Center.

F-1 or J-1 Sponsorship through Tufts

Tufts University does offer immigration sponsorship under the F-1 student visa (and, where applicable, the J-1 exchange visitor visa) for admitted students who require and request visa sponsorship from the University in order to enter the US for temporary study in a full-time program at Tufts. Most, but not all, Tufts programs are eligible to sponsor F-1 or J-1 students. Contact the International Center for further information. F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors sponsored by Tufts are required to abide by relevant International Center and other Tufts policies and procedures pertaining to their immigration status requirements.

If there are any questions regarding this policy, contact Andrew Shiotani, Director of the International Center, at Andrew.Shiotani@tufts.edu.

Updated March 26, 2021

This statement clarifies the International Center's responsibility and role in terminating the immigration status of F-1 students who voluntarily withdraw from their programs or who are placed on temporary or permanent academic withdrawal, suspended, or expelled.

Reduced Course Load: International Center Approval Required

In general, F-1 student status is contingent upon the student's eligible to maintain full-time enrollment and make normal progress in their course of study. Exceptions to the full-time enrollment requirement are available for the annual vacation term, in cases of documented medical illness, for initial academic adjustment difficulties, and in the final semester of study if full-time enrollment is not needed in order to satisfy remaining degree requirements. Where a student is eligible for a reduced course load and followed appropriate procedures for securing International Center authorization, the student is considered to be maintaining valid immigration status and the record will not be terminated. Student status may be subject to termination, however, if the student fails to maintain full-time enrollment without obtaining prior approval from the International Center for a reduced course load.

Early Withdrawal Requested by Student

An international student in F-1 status who decides to withdraw voluntarily from their program must submit a request for an authorized early withdrawal to the International Center. Once the request is granted, the student is permitted under visa regulations to withdraw from classes, and will be granted a period of fifteen days to depart the US. This request is independent of any school or department procedures for withdrawing from study and related considerations such as refund eligibility and leave of absence approval processes. We encourage school advisors and students to work with the International Center to ensure a coordinated withdrawal process, so that both academic and immigration considerations are taken into account. A student who withdraws from study without first obtaining the prior approval of the International Center may be deemed to have withdrawn without authorization, which is considered an immigration violation. In this case, the International Center is required to terminate the student's status for unauthorized withdrawal.

Academic Withdrawal or Suspension

The International Center is required to terminate the immigration status of a student and notify the Department of Homeland Security within 21 days in cases involving the required academic withdrawal or suspension of a student from classes. If the withdrawal decision is accompanied by an appeals process, the International Center will generally wait until the appeals process has been exhausted before initiating the termination procedure. However, the International Center may be required to terminate the student's status even prior to the end of an appeals process if the student is not eligible to return to current term classes or prohibited from enrolling in the next term in which the student would be required to enroll on a full-time basis. Consequently, the student's status may be terminated if the student is unable to enroll full-time by the end of the semester's deadline to add classes. Since the timing of cases may depend on individual circumstances, academic deans should contact the International Center for guidance on specific cases.

Expulsion

In the event a student is expelled from the University for urgent or exigent circumstances, the International Center is required to terminate the student's immigration status for expulsion. The International Center will generally take steps to do so immediately upon notification by University Counsel and other appropriate academic authorities confirming the expulsion.

Academic Progress Issues

Student immigration status will not be automatically terminated in cases involving a student who may be formally enrolled on a full-time basis, but is failing to make academic progress due to non-attendance, poor academic performance, or related reasons. In such cases, students will be encouraged to seek appropriate assistance, guidance, and resources. Immigration consequences will only ensue if academic performance issues later impact the student's eligibility to maintain full-time enrollment, such as when a student is academically suspended or withdrawn for a temporary period of time. Students who are demonstrating significant and/or persistent challenges in making satisfactory academic performance may be counseled to voluntarily withdraw for a temporary period or seek academic support or academic alternatives prior to losing student status. Because cases can vary from student to student, academic advisors are encouraged to reach out to the International Center to discuss specifics.

If there are any questions regarding this policy, contact Andrew Shiotani, Director of the International Center, at Andrew.Shiotani@tufts.edu.

Updated April 1, 2021