Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions: Fall Semester SEVP Guidance for Continuing Students

Updated September 18, 2020 

Questions below address concerns related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and the Fall 2020 semester for continuing students. New 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.

Yes. According to the newly released July 24 SEVP Frequently Asked Questions related to the Fall 2020 semester (updated August 7), continuing students who are present in the U.S. can study from anywhere within the U.S., as long as they remain enrolled full time.

  • You do not need a travel signature to exit the US – you only need a valid travel signature for re-entry into the US.
  • For an updated travel signature you should send an e-mail to OIE ( and attach completed  OIE Request for Services Request Form.  You will receive a new I-20 (with a new travel signature) by e-mail. The current government guidance allows the use of electronic I-20s for travel. You can find government guidanceon the SEVP website.
  • J-1 students who need a new travel signature will need to arrange for the shipping (with eShip Global) of their new DS-2019 Form, since electronic distribution of DS-2019s is prohibited by law.
The 5 month rule applies to F-1 students who have been outside of the U.S. for 5 months or more without being enrolled at their U.S. school. If you have been continuing your full-time enrollment at CMU, the rule doesn’t apply to you, even if you have been outside of the U.S. for over 5 months.

Continuing students in F-1 status with an active SEVIS record may complete their Fall 2020 coursework remotely from overseas. As long as the student’s SEVIS record remains active and the student maintains full-time enrollment, their F-1 status and future employment eligibility will not be impacted. It is our understanding that the F-1 visa sticker in your passport will also remain valid (until its expiration date).

The U.S. government still requires OPT applications to be sent from within the U.S.

At this time there is no requirement for a new I-20.

NOTE:  remote instruction may be restricted in some countries. 

Continuing students in F-1 status may return to the U.S. to engage in a fully remote program of study for the Fall 2020 semester. Continuing students who require a new F-1 visa to come back to the U.S. for the fall semester will not need a new I-20 for the visa interview.

It is our understanding that for continuing F-1 students, F-1 status can be maintained for fall 2020 with a fully remote program of study, but whether an individual is eligible to apply for an F visa is a decision that must be made by the U.S. Department of State.

As long as your academic program allows it, you may arrive to the U.S. after the start of the fall semester to continue with your full-time enrollment.

You will not need a new I-20 if your current I-20 has been signed for travel within the past 12 months.

You will be able to maintain your F-1 or J-1 status in either scenario.

For J-1 students, the Exchange Visitor Program requires some in person instruction which will occur before Thanksgiving. 

For F-1 students, according to the July 24, 2020 guidance, continuing students pursuing studies in the United States for the fall 2020 semester will be able to continue studying from within the United States and keep their F-1 status if a university moves to all remote instruction. 

F-1 continuing students who plan to study remotely from outside the U.S. will continue to have an active SEVIS record. As long as your SEVIS record remains active and you remain fully enrolled, we do not anticipate a negative impact on your future eligibility for CPT or OPT.

However, the U.S. government requires OPT applications to be sent from within the U.S.

NOTE:  remote instruction may be restricted in some countries. 


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.

OIE recommends that students (from all countries) consider international travel plans carefully as travel bans/restrictions may be in place at the time they want to return to the U.S. Visa processing may be delayed or unavailable due to health and safety concerns at many U.S. Consulates. If you are a continuing student who has left the U.S., you will be able to complete your fall 2020 coursework remotely from overseas without negative impact to your F-1 student status. You will, however, need a new F-1 student visa for when you return to the U.S.

NOTE: The U.S. government requires OPT applications to be sent from within the U.S.

Additionally:  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:, 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.