Important OIE Updates & Information Request for New Undergraduate Students
Update as of July 24, 2020: We are working quickly to update the information below with new and updated guidance for the fall semester released today by SEVP.
July 16, 2020
On behalf of the Office of International Education (OIE), I am pleased to welcome you to the Carnegie Mellon community! I hope that you, your family and your friends are staying well.
Our office recognizes that, given the current global pandemic, this is an especially challenging time for international students. We understand that there are many uncertainties surrounding your timeline for arrival on campus and that you have recently received several important communications from the university. We want you to know that we are here to support you and distribute information to you as quickly as possible. With that said, there are a few updates we can provide at this time. Once we know more information, we will continue to provide updates on the OIE website, so we encourage you to check that site regularly for additional information.
U.S. Government Guidance for COVID-Related Campus Adjustments
On July 6, the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which governs the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and regulations for F-1 schools and students, announced guidance for COVID-19 and fall 2020. Many universities, including CMU, deemed the guidance to be burdensome and inflexible for our international students. After an outpouring of advocacy efforts, the U.S. government rescinded that guidance and decided to revert to guidance issued in March 2020. While we celebrate this positive development, we also realize that it raises new questions and that it is frustrating that there are still uncertainties which make it difficult for students to finalize fall plans. We are in a rapidly changing environment and conflicting information is being distributed by different government offices. We share your concerns and frustrations and are working to obtain answers to the outstanding questions to be able to both understand and communicate how these changing policies will impact Carnegie Mellon students. We will communicate new information as quickly as possible.
In order to enter the U.S. in F-1 status, most international students will need to obtain an F-1 visa sticker from a U.S. Embassy/Consulate with the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility provided by OIE (or J-1 visa for J-1 status, using the DS-2019). We are aware that most consulates are not processing visas and, unfortunately, we do not know when routine visa processing will resume. It may be possible to schedule visa appointments at some consulates, but many of the available appointments will take place this fall, which is too late for an August arrival. Additionally, we do not yet know how the State Department will interpret SEVP’s March guidance for the upcoming semester.
Travel bans or restrictions remain in place for many countries around the world. Currently, it is not possible to enter the U.S. from Brazil, China, Iran, Ireland, the Schengen region of Europe, and the United Kingdom. Students whose travel plans require them to transit through other countries should be aware of their travel bans/restrictions, too. Before booking a flight, we recommend checking the current travel status for any country (including your own) that you may be trying to transit through.
U.S. Presidential Proclamations
U.S. government guidance continues to evolve and change. In addition to the SEVP guidance, the U.S. Administration has issued several proclamations in recent months. One that may impact some students is the May 29 proclamation which suspends entry to the U.S. for some students and researchers from China (PRC). This order does not apply to undergraduate students. More information on this, and other proclamations, can be found on the OIE website.
To help our office plan for your needs, we are requesting that a questionnaire be completed in Student Information Online (SIO). On July 20, when you log in to SIO, a banner will appear at the top of your pages that will prompt you to share information about the following:
- Your Current Location in July 2020
- Your Planned Location for fall 2020
Note that the banner in SIO is a new feature and will appear whenever there are additional questions requiring your response.
We know that your fall plans may not be finalized and there are a number of factors to weigh, including additional guidance coming from SEVP but sharing your current and planned fall location will be critical in helping us assess student needs and engage in advocacy efforts. These questions should be answered to the best of your ability by June 25.
We encourage all of our international students to review information on the OIE website, in particular, our homepage, the Foreign Student section and the MyOIE page. These sites include a lot of helpful material to prepare you for your Carnegie Mellon University experience. In the days and weeks ahead, we also strongly recommend regularly checking your CMU email accounts for any potential updates from the university or OIE about the upcoming fall semester.
Again, we understand that there may be challenges ahead, but OIE is here to help you navigate through them. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any immediate questions or concerns. I have enjoyed getting to "meet" some of you virtually and I look forward to the day when we are able to meet in person, on campus.Best Wishes,