Carnegie Mellon University

Pre-Arrival FAQs

Updated January 25, 2021

The following frequently asked questions address common inquiries regarding coming to Carnegie Mellon, how to apply for and receive an immigration document (I-20/DS-2019) and how to apply for a visa.

If you are a newly admitted student planning on attending Carnegie Mellon in spring 2021, please refer to our FAQ guide for newly admitted students and coronavirus/COVID-19.

Applying for an Immigration Document (I-20 or DS-2019)

As a non-immigrant student you will need a Certificate of Eligibility from CMU to apply for a student visa. In most cases, the Office of International Education (OIE) is responsible for generating your document. 

Undergraduate students admitted for Fall 2020 will gain access to the MyOIE Portal in mid-spring 2020.  The student will complete the New Student Initial Document Request E-Form through the MyOIE Portal, including an Affidavit of Support from a financial sponsor (if applicable), or any other financial documentation. These materials will be attached to the online form and submitted electronically. OIE reserves the right to request original documentation if needed. Note: If you are an Early Decision new student for Fall 2020 and OIE has already received your mailed-in documents with a completed International Student Information Form, you do not need to complete the New Student Initial Document Request through the MyOIE portal. 

Graduate students admitted for Fall 2020 will receive information regarding OIE's new e-Form document submission process. Once the admitting department submits a request to OIE, students will receive an email with details on how to log-in to the MyOIE portal to complete the required forms. The student will complete the information form and ask their financial sponsor (if applicable) to complete the affidavit and provide verification of available finances. These materials will be attached to the online form and submitted electronically. OIE reserves the right to request original documentation if needed. 

Incorrect electronic submissions may result in processing delays. For details, visit the OIE website 

Expenses for Pittsburgh Campus: 2020-2021*

Undergraduate Expenses

  • Tuition

  • Fees

  • Room & Board

  • Health Insurance

  • Books + Supplies

  • $57,560

  • $1,364

  • $15,550

  • $3, 021

  • $2,400


Graduate Expenses

  • Tuition

  • Fees

  • Room & Board

  • Health Insurance

  • Books + Supplies

  • Contact Academic Department

  • $906

  • $22,710

  • $3,021

  • $2,212

$28, 849 + Tuition

Dependent Expenses (if applicable)

  • Spouse

  • One child

  • Each additional child

  • $9,492

  • $7,272

  • $4,428

Expenses for Silicon Valley Campus: 2020-2021*

Graduate Expenses

  • Tuition

  • Fees

  • Room & Board

  • Health Insurance

  • Books + Supplies

  • Contact Academic Department

  • $906

  • $26,798

  • $3,021

  • $2,212

$32, 937 + Tuition

Expenses for New York Campus: 2020-2021*

Graduate Expenses

  • Tuition

  • Fees

  • Room & Board

  • Health Insurance

  • Books + Supplies

  • Contact Academic Department

  • $440

  • $24,527

  • $3,021

  • $2,212

$30, 200 + Tuition

*Note: For the most accurate and up-to-date cost of attendance, visit the Student Financial Services website

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:

  1. Be in English
  2. Be the original documentation
  3. Be dated less than 6 months old
  4. Clearly state the name of the account holder
  5. 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

Documentation Required

Carnegie Mellon University

Copy of award letter

Other Scholarship

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.

Personal Funds

  • Original acceptable financial documentation clearly stating your name, the current available balance and type of currency. (If not in US dollar value, OIE will convert upon review.)
  • 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.’

Family/Private Sponsor 

TWO DOCUMENTS REQUIRED from each sponsor:

  • Affidavit of Financial Support indicating: 1. the precise amount of financial support promised to you, 2. the number of years the support will continue, and 3. the type of financial support after the first 12 months.

The affidavit must be signed and dated by the sponsor.


  • Original acceptable financial documentation with the name of the sponsor, a balance equal to or greater than the amount promised, and the type of currency.

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.

IMPORTANT: The Transfer in Form should be attached to the "New Student Initial Document Request" e-Form accessed through the MyOIE portal. 

The I-20 will be processed on or shortly after the ‘release’ date and you will be notified by email. 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 at 412-268-5231 to schedule a phone appointment  with an OIE Advisor.

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.  We recommend people in other statuses call OIE 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.
  • Complete the New Student Initial Document Request e-Form on the MyOIE portal. 

Graduate students who will return from a leave of absence must:

  • Receive approval to return from the academic department.
  • Complete the New Student Initial Document Request e-Form on the MyOIE portal. 

Complete and submit the e-Form with original supporting financial documentation. When OIE receives submission of the e-Form, 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.
You will be required to complete an immigration check-in with OIE.  Follow instructions in the email you will receive from OIE to complete this mandatory check-in process. 

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.  Instructions on how to create your Andrew ID.

Receiving the Immigration Document (I-20 or DS-2019)

There are several steps involved in processing the I-20. Once OIE receives the completed New Student Initial Document Request E-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.


Due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, OIE will distribute new I-20s electronically via email once the document has been issued.  At this time, we are not planning to mail documents unless required to by the US government. Please disregard the below information during this unprecedented period. 

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.  Do not create a label until you receive the email from OIE.

If you have questions about how to use this service, visit the FAQs section of eshipglobal or email

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 them as quickly as possible.
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.

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.
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.
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.”

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 the start of classes, you must contact your department and OIE for approval to arrive late.

Applying for a Visa

The contact and address information needs to be:
  • A personal contact, or
  • Your academic department, usually found on the letter of admission
You should write the actual name of your major or program of study.
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.


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 for graduate students.  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.  For undergraduate international students, the mandatory immigration orientation sessions is held during the Welcome Day.  There is also a session for international family members held that day as well.