Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions: Fall Semester SEVP Guidance for Newly Admitted F-1 Students

Updated September 18, 2020 

Questions below address concerns related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and the Fall 2020 semester for newly admitted students. Continuing students should reference these FAQs for their questions. 

Immigration regulations and policies are subject to change and may change rapidly without much advance notice.  Students should routinely review our FAQs, the university’s Coronavirus Information page, as well as read all university emails sent to their Andrew account.

New international students will be able to take a full remote course load from overseas for the fall 2020 semester. An active SEVIS record and I-20 are not required to enroll in remote coursework from overseas. New international students who choose this option will not be activated in SEVIS in fall 2020 and will need a new I-20 issued reflecting their future arrival date to the U.S for a future semester.

OIE will begin issuing updated I-20s to new international students who intend to arrive to the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester after the start of the fall semester.

NOTE:  remote instruction may be restricted in some countries. 

Please note: This FAQ only applies to students in the Pittsburgh area.  Students located outside of the Pittsburgh area will need to consult with their local SSN office concerning the procedure for obtaining an SSN denial letter.

Step 1: Student completes an SS-5 form: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf, and includes a brief cover letter or note stating this is ‘requesting an SSN denial letter for a Pennsylvania driver’s license’

Step 2: Student includes a copy of their passport picture page and student visa sticker.

Step 3: Student mails the cover letter, SS-5, and copies of their passport and visa together to: Social Security, 6117 Station St., Pittsburgh, PA 15206.  Do NOT mail original immigration documents.

Step 4: The SSN office processes the request and the SSN Denial letter is mailed to the student.

Unfortunately, new international students with an initial SEVIS I-20 may not enter the U.S. to pursue a fully remote course load of study. New international students with an initial SEVIS I-20 must take some in-person classes at the campus/location indicated on their I-20 form.

Yes, new international students with an initial SEVIS I-20 must take some in-person classes during the fall 2020 semester in order to have an active SEVIS record.

Based on the most recent guidance from SEVP released July 24, you do not need a new annotated I-20 issued certifying your plans to take in-person coursework for your visa appointment. 

New or continuing international students who have upcoming visa appointments may wish to carry the attached letter created by OIE to their visa interview and while traveling to the U.S. to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. Please be advised: this letter does not guarantee approval of a visa or entry to the U.S. However, we hope that it is helpful as an additional measure of documentation and support.

Aditionally, new students may wish to carry proof of in-person course participation to their visa appointment and while traveling to the U.S.  to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. In Student Information Online (SIO), students can use the list view feature and print-out their semester schedule (example below). OIE does not recommend presenting this information unless specifically asked by a U.S. official.

SIO

Current guidance suggests that a 14-day quarantine prior to joining in-person coursework or engaging in on-campus research will help reduce spread of the virus, so anyone coming from outside Southwestern Pennsylvania should plan to self-quarantine upon arrival to the region. If you are an incoming graduate student, you should also factor in any orientation activities that may impact the date of your arrival in Pittsburgh, as some departments are developing hybrid orientation sessions. While it is our understanding that some departments may allow for an arrival up until the add/drop deadline, OIE strongly encourages that new students arrive to the U.S. by mid-August (or earlier) for two reasons: 

  1. To fulfill the self-quarantining expectation for all students arriving from outside Allegheny County; and,
  2.  To satisfy in-person class requirement for new international students as early in the semester as possible

New international students who are unable to secure an F-1 visa and arrive on campus for the fall 2020 semester will not be activated in SEVIS, but will be able to begin their program remotely if they so choose. New students who begin their program remotely from overseas will need a new I-20 issued reflecting their future semester arrival date to the U.S. New students who choose to defer their program start will also need a new I-20 reflecting their future semester start date. If OIE has already issued you an I-20 document, your SEVIS ID will remain the same when we reissue your I-20 with the updated start date.

OIE will begin issuing updated I-20s to new international students who intend to arrive to the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester after the start of the fall semester.

NOTE:  remote instruction may be restricted in some countries. 

To be eligible for off-campus employment authorization, such as Curricular Practical Training (CPT), you will need to enroll in at least two full semesters after coming to the U.S. in F-1 status. Exception: graduate students in programs that require an internship in their first year will be eligible for CPT next summer if they are able to arrive in the US for in person instruction at the start of the spring semester.

Unfortunately no. If you will not be able to arrive by the start of classes, or the first week or two (if your academic program allows a slightly late arrival), you won’t be able to come to the U.S. in the fall. In this case OIE will need to update your I-20 for a spring 2021 or fall 2021 arrival.  I-20s for spring 2021 arrival will be issued after the start of the fall semester. If OIE has already issued you an I-20 document, your SEVIS ID will remain the same when we reissue your I-20 with the updated start date. Due to immigration reporting requirements, it will not be possible for you to arrive in the U.S. in the middle of the semester.

We encourage students to arrive by mid-August to be able to self-quarantine prior to the start of classes on Aug. 31.

Yes, you may continue with your current F-1 visa application. You will need an updated I-20, reflecting the spring 2021 start date. OIE will begin issuing updated I-20s to new international students who intend to arrive to the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester after the start of the fall semester. If OIE has already issued you an I-20 document, your SEVIS ID will remain the same when we reissue your I-20 with the updated start date.
New international students who choose to defer their program start will receive a new I-20 reflecting their spring 2021 start date. OIE will begin issuing updated I-20s to new international students who intend to arrive to the U.S. for the spring 2021 semester after the start of the fall semester. If OIE has already issued you an I-20 document, your SEVIS ID will remain the same when we reissue your I-20 with the updated start date. You can apply for a visa 120 days prior to your program start.
  • If you have already received your fall 2020 semester I-20 from CMU but are deferring to the spring 2021 semester, you do not need to submit any additional request to OIE. Once we start processing new spring semester I-20s after the start of the fall semester, we will contact you.
  • If you did not receive an I-20 for the fall 2020 semester, your admitting department will submit a request to OIE in mid-September indicating you will be coming to CMU for spring 2021. You will receive an email with instructions to log into MyOIE at that time.
If you are currently inside the U.S. in a different immigration status, please contact OIE or your OIE advisor, and we will help you consider your options to change your current immigration status.
An on-line course is defined by the immigration regulations as a course that is offered principally through the use of long distance means and “does not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examinations or other purposes integral to completion of class”.  

The course is considered online only if it does not have any in person components – it is taught completely online, no physical presence is required at any time, and the student can take it from anywhere in the world without ever setting foot on campus. If the course has at least some required in person component(s), it is considered to be in person.

New students may wish to carry proof of in-person course participation to their visa appointment and while traveling to the U.S.  to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. In Student Information Online (SIO), students can use the list view feature and print-out their semester schedule (example below). OIE does not recommend presenting this information unless specifically asked by a U.S. official.

SIO

New or continuing international students who have upcoming visa appointments may also wish to carry the attached letter created by OIE to their visa interview and while traveling to the U.S. to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. Please be advised: this letter does not guarantee approval of a visa or entry to the U.S. However, we hope that it is helpful as an additional measure of documentation and support.

SEVP has provided guidance regarding electronic issuance and signing of Forms I-20 for the duration of COVID-19 emergency. SEVP has confirmed that both U.S. Department of State (in charge of U.S. consulates and visa issuance) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (in charge of admission into the U.S.) are in support of the use of electronic I-20 Forms.  Please feel free to use SEVP guidance when communicating with either of these agencies, if the question of your electronic I-20 Form comes up.

New students may wish to carry proof of in-person course participation to their visa appointment and while traveling to the U.S.  to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. In Student Information Online (SIO), students can use the list view feature and print-out their semester schedule (example below). OIE does not recommend presenting this information unless specifically asked by a U.S. official.

SIO

New or continuing international students who have upcoming visa appointments may also wish to carry the attached letter created by OIE to their visa interview and while traveling to the U.S. to present to U.S. State Department or Customs and Border Patrol Officials, should they have questions about Carnegie Mellons’ fall semester plans. Please be advised: this letter does not guarantee approval of a visa or entry to the U.S. However, we hope that it is helpful as an additional measure of documentation and support.

Students who were enrolled at CMU in the spring semester and are now starting a new academic program at CMU are considered continuing students. They are subject to the same fall 2020 semester rules as all other continuing students (please see the above FAQs).
You do not need to apply for a new visa if your F-1 visa is issued for your CMU program and will still be valid at the time you are arriving in the U.S. for the spring semester.

Transfer Student Questions

Transfer students who are currently in the U.S. or who are planning to return to the U.S. for the fall semester will be considered continuing students and therefore will be able to complete their fall coursework remotely from anywhere within the U.S. after completing the mandatory immigration check-in with OIE.
You may remain in the US with an expired visa. An expired visa “sticker” will not affect your F-1 status. If you decide to travel outside of the US in the future, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before coming back to the US.

Under the July 24 SEVP guidance, schools may not activate SEVIS records for transfer students who will complete their fall coursework remotely from overseas. If the transfer student is outside of the United States and does not enter the United States for fall 2020, the student’s SEVIS record will remain in initial status. At the point transfer students plan to return to the U.S., OIE will need to request a data fix of the student’s SEVIS record and issue a new I-20 once the record is corrected.

Please note that to be eligible for a data fix of the SEVIS record, the student must be enrolled full-time in the fall semester. Transfer students who are not enrolled as full-time students in the fall are no longer maintaining F-1 status. Therefore, their F-1 SEVIS records will be terminated.