Frequently Asked Questions
Do not call OIE to check on the status of your I-20. We understand your concern but responding to phone calls and emails regarding the status results in delaying the processing of your I-20.
The receptionist who answers the phone CANNOT provide detailed information or guidance. You will receive an email from OIE if further information is needed.
We ask that you use this FAQ and the Settling In Guide to help you with your inquiries before arriving at Carnegie Mellon University. Further details will be provided during orientation.
As a non-immigrant student you will need an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility from CMU to apply for an F-1 student visa. In most cases, the Office of International Education (OIE) is responsible for generating your document.
Undergraduate students will receive the International Student Information Form and Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor from the Office of Admissions. The student will complete the information form and ask their financial sponsor to complete the affidavit and provide verification of available finances. The student will then send the completed International Student Information Form, Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor, original supporting financial documentation and a copy of their passport to the Office of Admissions as directed on the form.
Graduate students will receive the International Student Information Form and Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor from the admitting department. The student will complete the information form and ask their financial sponsor (if applicable) to complete the affidavit and provide verification of available finances. The student will then send the completed International Student Information Form, Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor, original supporting financial documentation and a copy of their passport either to The Office of International Education or to the department as directed on the form.
Incomplete packages will not be processed.
For details, visit the OIE website.
There are several steps involved in processing the I-20. Once OIE receives the completed International Student Information Form, Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor, original financial supporting documents and a copy of the passport from the student along with data from the academic department we will process the I-20 and send it to you at the address you indicate on the information form. Our goal is to process the I-20 within 4-5 weeks of receiving ALL necessary information from the student and the Office of Admissions and/or the admitting academic department.
The I-20 will be sent to you with instructions on how to pay the SEVIS fee, applying for the F-1 visa and orientation information. Do not make your visa appointment until you receive your I-20 or SEVIS ID number (see below, "How will OIE send the I-20 to me?"). Do not make flight arrangements until you have secured your visa.
Our staff is working quickly and diligently to prepare immigration documents for over 2000 incoming students. To ease processing, once your packet has been received at OIE, if there are any questions or problems, OIE staff will contact you directly. Please do not call our office as this slows processing.
Undergraduate students and Graduate students' documents will be mailed using eShipGlobal through University Express Mail Service. This service is at the student’s expense and will allow you to receive your immigration document from CMU in an efficient manner via FedEx or DHL in 3-5 days at the address you indicate at the time of mailing. Do not go through DHL or FedEx directly. You will receive an email from OIE when your I-20 has been processed with instructions on how to create a shipping label using eShipGlobal and you can give your current address at that time.
If you have questions about how to use this service, visit the FAQs section of eshipglobal or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting financial documents must be: 1) in English, 2) original documentation (no copies, faxes or scans), 3) dated less than 6 months old, and 4) clearly state the name of the account holder and the amount of funding available in US dollar equivalent.
You may have multiple sponsors. Each sponsor must provide a signed Affidavit of Support noting the amount of money they will provide for each year of support and provide original documentation of their financial resources.
Some banks do not provide statements with a US dollar value. In this case, the currency being used must be clearly indicated. OIE will use an internet conversion site to determine the approximate value of the balance.
- An educational loan is acceptable for financial support. The official letter from the loan issuing agency must be on loan agency letterhead. The letter needs to clearly indicate the loan as ‘approved’ or ‘sanctioned.’
- OIE does not accept Chartered Accountant statements, retirement accounts or life insurance policies.
- We will accept stocks and bonds at 50% value.
- Notarized statements are accepted but not required.
- Public provident funds are considered retirement funds and are NOT acceptable as such. If this money can be used for educational purposes, the letter should clearly state the amount available.
Refer to the OIE web page for details on acceptable financial support. It is advisable to send all of your documents and they will be reviewed by our staff. If there are any questions or if further documentation is necessary, our staff will contact you directly. If everything is in order, your immigration document will be processed normally.
Are you currently in F-1 student status at another school in the US? If yes, you must submit a Transfer In Form (.pdf) and request that the Designated School Official (DSO), foreign student advisor, academic advisor or administrator of your current school ‘release/transfer’ your SEVIS immigration record to CMU. The release date is important! It must be on or after the date on which you complete your academic requirements for that program. If you are currently engaged in OPT or CPT at your previous school, that work permission automatically terminates on the release date, so plan this accordingly. Your I-20 cannot be issued until AFTER the transfer release date has been reached.
The I-20 will be processed on or shortly after the ‘release’ date and you will be emailed to arrange for shipping. Note that your current F-1 student visa sticker in your passport (if valid) can be used to enter the US along with the CMU I-20 if you undergo this transfer release process. If you undergo this "transfer" process, you are exempt from paying the SEVIS fee again.
Refer to the OIE web page for instructions.
Are you currently in J-1 student status? Call OIE to schedule a phone appointment with an OIE Advisor. 412-268-5231
If you are currently in some other legal status (such as B-2, F-2, J-2, or H-4), and intend to obtain F-1 status you should submit the required forms necessary to issue an I-20. You will receive information regarding changing your immigration status with the I-20.
You may also wish to call the OIE front desk at 412-268-5231 to set up a phone appointment to discuss your goals and legal status issues with an OIE advisor.
Refer to OIE’s Change of Status Instructions (.pdf).
Contact OIE at least 3 months prior to your anticipated return.
Undergraduate students who will return from a leave of absence must:
- submit the “Return from Leave of Absence” form found on the HUB web site.
- email OIE to request the International Student Information Form and Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor.
Graduate students who will return from a leave of absence must:
- receive approval to return from the academic department.
- email OIE to request the International Student Information Form and Affidavit of Support for Financial Sponsor.
Complete and submit the forms by mail with original supporting financial documentation. Faxes, scans and emails are not accepted. When OIE receives the forms we will confirm your approval to return with the department and process the I-20.
All students who are returning from a leave of absence are required to complete an immigration check-in. This is required by the Department of Homeland Security to register your arrival at Carnegie Mellon.
To complete the immigration check-in process you may either attend orientation at the beginning of the term or call OIE immediately upon arrival to be scheduled to attend a check-in session.
Finding a nice place to live is important and can be one of the most stressful parts of moving to a new city. First-year undergraduates are required to live in a Carnegie Mellon residence hall. You will receive details from Housing Services in the Fat Letter.
Graduate students live in off-campus housing. Pictures can be deceiving! OIE recommends that you do not secure an apartment until you arrive and can see it for yourself. Housing Services can offer some assistance with apartment listings through ‘Community Housing’.
Refer to OIE’s Settling In Guide for additional resources.
Health insurance is very important and is required for all full-time degree seeking students at Carnegie Mellon. For more information, visit the Student Health Services website.
How do I get a Pennsylvania driver’s license?
Newly admitted students must attend orientation and complete the immigration check-in before they can apply for a driver's license. Further information on this process will be provided at international orientation.
There are several steps involved in getting a Pennsylvania (PA) driver’s license. Students must apply for the PA driver’s license at the point when there is still at least one year remaining on the I-20 document.
If you plan to drive, be sure to bring your home country license AND the International Driver’s Permit, since applying for and receiving the Pennsylvania driver’s license can be a complicated and time-consuming process.
You can find more details under the Additional Resources section of the OIE website.
How do I get a Social Security Number (SSN)?
Newly admitted students must attend orientation and complete the immigration check-in before OIE can verify your immigration status to the Social Security Administration.
Social Security Numbers are only issued for people who are working in the US. Students who are not working cannot obtain the SSN but, upon request of the Social Security Administration, will be issued a ‘letter of denial.’ For information on how to obtain the denial letter, consult OIE's Social Security Information handout (pdf).
Fulbright and other students in J status who are not under CMU's sponsorship should contact their sponsor directly for SSN information.
Social Security Numbers (SSN) are not required to obtain cell phones or utility services. However, if you do not have a SSN you will likely have to follow additional procedures, such as paying a large deposit.
J-1 students must have permission from their program sponsor prior to beginning on-campus employment if the employment is not listed as a source of funding on their DS-2019.
F-1 students do not require additional permission for on-campus work.
Please note that on campus is defined as work for Carnegie Mellon University. Work that takes place at Carnegie Mellon for another employer (a professor's private company or companies housed in the Collaborative Innovation Center, for example) or work that takes place at another school is NOT "on campus" and would require employment authorization. Students should discuss employment authorization with their OIE advisor for any employment opportunity that involves an employer other than Carnegie Mellon University.
On-campus jobs are advertised on TartanTrak through the Career Center.
Exchange students must visit the Career Center in person to access TartanTrak.
The Department of Homeland Security requires that the name on the I-20 must match the name on the passport. Therefore, OIE will issue the I-20 to match the name exactly as it is noted on the passport. In addition, the US Department of Homeland Security requires that names on immigration documents do not contain hyphens or other diacritical marks. Also, first and middle name are required to appear in the same "first name" field.
Most Americans have (and US databases assume) a first name (given) and a last name (family name.) Because of naming traditions in the US, it is convenient for foreign students to have names which follow this same pattern, i.e. John Smith where John is the first/given name and the last name/family name is Smith. OIE is aware, however, that naming traditions vary around the world.
Some students make the choice to update the passport name to a more American/Western format, i.e. first/given name and last/family name. This decision belongs with the student and his/her family. This would alleviate potential complications after arriving in the US when applying for a social security number or Pennsylvania driver’s license because these government agencies prefer a surname and given name. If the passport name is updated, a copy should be sent to OIE to support the I-20 issuance or re-issuance.
In all cases, all official documents and records in the US should be the same, specifically passport, I-20, name in Carnegie Mellon records, social security card, driver’s license.
The Admission Number is not a required field on the I-20 and therefore is not entered in the SEVIS database.
This is not an error. Page 2 of your I-20 will be signed during the required Immigration Check-in at orientation.
OIE is not responsible for billing matters. All students, regardless of nationality or level of study, should contact the HUB (Enrollment Services) about tuition payments, billing, and financial issues. The phone number is 412-268-8186.
How do I find out what my CMU email account and student id number are?
Undergraduate students will receive the admission ID number on the application receipt letter. Do Not lose this number!! You will be able to access your account information through ‘Now That I Am Enrolling.’
Graduate students will receive communication from their academic department administrator informing them of the Andrew email account, password and student id number. To start the process, you can set up your Andrew ID if you have not already. Note: Graduate students will need the Andrew ID in order to register for an orientation session through The Bridge. Instructions on how to create your Andrew ID.
I'm filling out the US Department of State Nonimmigrant Visa Application DS-160. I need to provide the address of where I will stay in the US and the name and telephone number of the person I will be staying with. I don't have an apartment or a roommate yet. What should I do?
You should enter the address of your academic department, usually found on the letter of admission. Item 25 is not required as it is for those entering for tourism or business.
Your I-20 signature may expire while abroad. If so, send an email to your Study Abroad advisor (email@example.com) who will forward you a Payment form. You can send this form to us with your I-20. We will then sign and send the I-20 back as indicated.
The name of your major at CMU will not, in most cases, match the major name on your I-20. Major codes on the I-20 are linked to US Department of Education codes that are in turn linked to CMU major names in the immigration database. That the major name does not exactly match is not a cause for concern and will not cause problems with the visa process or entry into the US. Your immigration document is correct.
OIE will issue over 2000 I-20s for new students. We realize how important this document is to each of our new students, and we process and ship them as quickly as possible.
If you attended a school in the US and had your SEVIS record transferred to Carnegie Mellon, the notation at item 3 on the I-20 will state “Transfer Pending from: your current school.” When you attend immigration orientation with OIE and complete the check-in process, OIE will register your attendance at CMU and your record will be reported as “Transfer Complete.”
You should follow all instructions sent with your I-20 from OIE. You'll start by paying the SEVIS fee (if applicable). Then you make an appointment for your visa application. Be sure to check the website of the US Embassy/Consulate for information about what you should bring to the interview and prepare your documentation carefully prior to the appointment.
It is important to know that administrative processing is not a visa denial - it is a delay and cannot be expedited as the US Department of State considers it a matter of US national security. If the consular officer wants any additional information from you, you should provide it as soon as possible. You should contact OIE if the delay is for more than 4 weeks. You can email us at with the date you applied, the US Consulate/Embassy at which you applied and your passport number. You may wish to reference OIE’s website for more information about visa delays.
My I-20 says I must arrive by a certain date. I am planning to arrive later than that. What do I do?
Immigration expects for you to arrive on campus prior to the start of classes. If you are able to arrive by August 31, you should not need additional documentation and should not experience problems at the border. Your I-20 will not and cannot be updated to reflect your travel plans.
If you cannot arrive by August 31, you must contact your department for approval to arrive late and to obtain a letter from them stating that they do not object to your late entry. You can provide this letter to the border officer if you are asked.
My friend got notification that their I-20 is ready for shipping. We sent our packets at the same time. Where is my I-20?
I-20 issuance has several steps. Not only does OIE need your packet, we need information from your department as well which can add to processing time. Processing time for each individual student will vary. If there are any problems with your case, you will be contacted directly.
CMU holds orientations for different purposes. We encourage you to attend all orientation sessions to help you be prepared and get the most out of your CMU experience and learn all that we have to offer.
Your academic department may hold orientation to inform you about their policies and to give you important department-specific information.
OIE holds several mandatory immigration orientation sessions. All of the OIE sessions are the same and offered so that you can pick one that suits your schedule. You must choose one to attend to complete your arrival check in and to maintain your status.
Graduate university-wide orientation is for all new graduate students. For all new graduate students, many important topics will be covered.
First-year undergraduate students orientation is a week-long program designed to help new undergraduate students.
Last Updated On: January 10, 2017