Carnegie Mellon University

Frequently Asked Questions: Spring Semester SEVP Guidance for Continuing Students

Updated January 12, 2021

IMPORTANT NOTE: Unfortunately, the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP) has not yet issued any guidance regarding enrollment for the spring 2021 semester. We will communicate should they issue new guidance. However, in the meantime, the below FAQs are in response to the guidance issued last summer. 

In the absence of new guidance for spring 2021, we will continue to follow this guidance. Questions below address concerns related to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and the spring 2021 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, OIE News Articles, and the university’s Coronavirus Information page, as well as read all university emails sent to their Andrew account.

According to the SEVP Frequently Asked Questions related to the Fall 2020 semester (updated August 7), continuing F-1 students who were enrolled in March 2020 in the U.S. can study from anywhere within the U.S., as long as they remain enrolled full time. According to the guidance issued in summer 2020 (the only guidance currently in place), students who first came to the U.S. to study for the fall 2020 semester are required to have some in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester.

  • 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 (oie@andrew.cmu.edu) 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.

Based on the guidance issued last summer, continuing students in F-1 status who were studying in the U.S. in March 2020 with an active SEVIS record may complete their spring 2021 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).

NOTE:  remote instruction may be restricted in some countries. 

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

According to the guidance issued in summer 2020 (the only guidance currently in place), students who first came to the U.S. to study for the fall 2020 semester are required to have some in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester to maintain F-1 status and OPT/CPT eligibility.

If a student has plans to re-enter the U.S. then the I-20/DS-2019 must have a travel signature that is less than 12 months old at the time of their re-entry.  Please see the ‘How can I get a new travel signature from OIE (since OIE is working remotely)?’ FAQ if a new travel signature is needed.

Based on the guidance issued last summer, continuing students in F-1 status who were studying in the U.S. in March 2020 may return to the U.S. to engage in a fully remote program of study for the spring 2021 semester. Continuing students who require a new F-1 visa to come back to the U.S. for the spring semester will not need a new I-20 for the visa interview.

It is our understanding that for continuing F-1 students who were studying in the U.S. in March 2020, F-1 status can be maintained for spring 2021 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.

According to the guidance issued in summer 2020 (the only guidance currently in place), students who first came to the U.S. to study for the fall 2020 semester are required to have some in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester to maintain F-1 status and OPT/CPT eligibility.

As long as your academic program allows it and as long as you were studying in the U.S. in March 2020, you may arrive to the U.S. after the start of the spring 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.

According to the guidance issued in summer 2020 (the only guidance currently in place), students who first came to the U.S. to study for the fall 2020 semester are required to have some in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester to maintain F-1 status and OPT/CPT eligibility.

F-1 continuing students who were studying in the U.S. in March 2020 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. 

According to the guidance issued in summer 2020 (the only guidance currently in place), students who first came to the U.S. to study for the fall 2020 semester are required to have some in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester to maintain F-1 status and OPT/CPT eligibility.

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 United States. 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 was enrolled in the U.S. in March 2020 and has left the U.S., you will be able to complete your spring 2021 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: 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.