Carnegie Mellon University
October 29, 2020

OIE Guidance: Upcoming Travel Considerations

With Thanksgiving and Winter Break rapidly approaching, as well as Carnegie Mellon’s transition to remote instruction after Thanksgiving and for final exams, we know that many students and scholars are thinking about travel. Regardless of your direction, OIE certainly understands the excitement of reaching a final destination at the end of a trip; however, we are mindful that this is a challenging time for international travel.

Our staff know that so many of you have not seen family, friends, and other loved ones for an extended period of time and are anxious to reconnect with them in person. While it is difficult for OIE to provide general international travel advice when there are so many different individual situations, we do encourage CMU students and scholars to consider plans very carefully. Please know that OIE does not make recommendations to reconsider travel lightly, as we, too, have loved ones who live in other cities and countries who we have not seen in quite a while.

That said, please review the following guidance for upcoming travel.  

Travel Bans and Restrictions

What is the risk?

Various travel bans and restrictions continue to be in place, which may impact your ability to travel from or to a specific destination.

Where can I check what bans or restrictions are in place?

For updated summaries of U.S. government COVID-19 travel bans, please see the NAFSA website.

U.S. Consulates & Embassies Are Not Fully Operational

What is the risk?

If your visa has expired and you require a new visa, many U.S. consulates and embassies have not resumed normal operations. This means that it may be harder in some countries to secure a visa or impossible in others where U.S. consulates are not open at all at this time.

Where can I find information about which consulates and embassies are open?

Individual consulate or embassy websites will have information regarding their operations.

New Proposed Immigration Rule

What is the risk?

There is a new proposed immigration rule related to Duration of Status (D/S). If this rule goes into effect by the time you return to the U.S., it may potentially affect the period of time for which you will be admitted into the U.S. upon re-entry.

Where can I find more information?

OIE provided a summary of this proposed rule recently which has substantial information.

SEVP Guidance for Spring 2021

What is the risk?

As SEVP has not provided guidance for the spring 2021 semester, we do not yet know what requirements may be in place for students in F-1/J-1 status. We do think it likely that some in-person requirements may be in place. Given the uncertainty and the separate risks involved with travel, we continue to urge careful consideration when making your plans.

If you do decide to travel, keep in mind that when re-entering the U.S. after international travel you will need the following documents:

  1. Valid passport (valid for 6 months into the future)
  2. Valid F-1/J-1 visa (not expired)
  3. Most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel
    1. If you are a current student:
      1. Your travel signature is valid for 12 months. If your document was signed in October 2020 – then is valid until October 2021.
    2. If you are on OPT/STEM OPT:
      1. Students on OPT/STEM OPT are required to update their I-20 travel signature every 6 months.
    3. Digital copies of I-20’s are currently allowed. You can find USCIS guidance, and SEVP guidance regarding this on the government websites
    4. You do not need a travel signature to exit the U.S. – only to re-enter
  4. Proof of enrollment (see The HUB website) (for current students) or proof of employment and valid EAD (for students on OPT/STEM OPT)
  5. We also recommend that you carry all these items in your carry-on bags, and to also bring a printout of your current I-94 Record, and a copy of your I-94 Travel History page.

We urge additional consideration when planning travel in the following circumstances:

  1. If Spring 2021 is your final semester
    1. If you are unable to return for your final semester and if SEVP does not allow remote study, you may lose your eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  2. If you require a new visa
    1. As U.S. consulates and embassies are not fully operational, you may be unable to secure a new visa at this time.
  3. If you plan to work in the U.S. next semester or next summer
    1. If you are unable to return for your final semester and if SEVP does not allow remote study, you may lose your eligibility for work permission.
  4. If you are applying/planning to apply for post-completion OPT/STEM OPT extension
    1. You must be in the U.S. to submit your application. Travel while your OPT/STEM OPT application is pending with USCIS is allowed but there may be additional complications (talk with OIE advisor).
  5. If you are currently on post-completion OPT/STEM OPT extension
    1. Prepare for possible delay in returning to work. Remote work on OPT/STEM OPT is currently allowed but no information on when this may change.

OIE is here to support you in your decision making regarding international travel.  We encourage you to consider scheduling an appointment with one of the OIE advisors who can make recommendations based on your specific circumstances.

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