Frequently Asked Questions
I have been accepted - what do I do now?
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 International Education 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.
When will I get my I-20?
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. Our goal is to process the I-20 within 6 weeks of receiving ALL necessary information from the student and the Office of Admissions and/or the admitting academic department.
Please be patient--we are 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. Do not call our office as this slows processing.
How will OIE send the I-20 to me?
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.
What is the total amount I need to show on my financial documents?
Expenses for Pittsburgh campus: 2018-2019:
**for other CMU campuses, please contact your department for updated numbers.
$26,215 + Tuition
Dependent Expenses (if applicable)
What is acceptable proof of financial support?
To demonstrate each source of your financial support, follow the instructions below. Keep one original copy of these documents for yourself; they may be needed when applying to the US Consulate or Embassy for a student visa and/or to present to border officials upon entry to the US.
Supporting financial documents must:
- Be in English
- Be the original documentation (no copies, faxes, or scans)
- Be dated less than 6 months old
- Clearly state the name of the account holder
- Clearly state the amount of funding available in US dollar equivalent. If unable to obtain a statement or bank letter with US dollar value, OIE will convert the value upon review.
Acceptable Financial Documentation
- Bank Statement
- Letter from a bank on bank letterhead
- 50% of the value for stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, and similar investments.
- Notarized statements are accepted, but not required.
Unacceptable Financial Documentation
- Neither the value of property nor the proposed sale of such property counts as evidence of financial support.
- OIE will not accept Chartered Accountant statements, life insurance policies or retirement accounts.
- Public Provident Funds (PPF) are considered retirement funds and are not acceptable unless the letter from the PPF clearly states a specific amount available for educational purposes.
If there are any questions or if further documentation is necessary, our staff will contact you directly.
Source of Funds
Carnegie Mellon University
Copy of award letter
Original letter from the agency awarding the scholarship, indicating your name as the award recipient, and indicating the precise amount awarded, the duration of the award, and other terms of the award. The letter must be dated no more than six months in the past.
TWO DOCUMENTS REQUIRED from each sponsor:
The affidavit must be signed and dated by the sponsor.
I am currently in a school in the U.S. What should I do?
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
I have another visa status. Do I need to change status? What should I do?
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).
I am returning from a leave of absence. What should I do?
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.
How do I find an apartment?
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.
How do I get health insurance?
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 Resource List 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 U.S. 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.
I need a Social Security Number to get a cell phone, utility services, etc.
Can I work? How do I get a job?
F-1 and J-1 students may work on campus 20 hours or fewer per week while school is in session and full-time during vacation terms or any official school breaks.
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.
My name in my passport is not the way I want it on the I-20. What should I do?
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 listed on my new I-20.
The OIE Advisor did not sign page 2 of my I-20? What do I do?
How do I make tuition payments? I haven't received a bill yet.
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 U.S. Department of State Non-immigrant Visa Application DS-160. I need to provide the address and a person of contact inside the US.
- A personal contact, or 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.
What “course of study" should I write in the DS-160 Application? The actual major name or the one written on my I-20?
Why is the name of my major on my I-20 different from the name of my major at CMU?
How do I keep my I-20 signature current while studying abroad, as my 6 month travel signature validity will expire?
Can you expedite the processing of my I-20 because I made my visa appointment already?
Why does my I-20 note "Transfer Pending from..."?
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.”
I got my I-20. What do I do now?
What do I do if my visa is delayed because the US Consulate/Embassy says additional administrative processing is necessary?
My I-20 I must arrive by a certain date. I am planning to arrive later than that. What do I do now?
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 see there are several orientations...university wide, my department and OIE. Which one should I attend?
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.