Carnegie Mellon University

Preparing to Come to Pittsburgh

Immigration and Visa Issues

Critical immigration procedures are discussed in the arrival and orientation brochure which accompanies your Certificate of Eligibility. Read this information very carefully to know the correct procedures for your particular situation. For a list of US Embassies, Consulates and websites, click here. For more information, check the OIE website.

When you are traveling to the US, make sure you carry your original documents (passport, I-20/DS-2019, evidence of admission and financial resources) with you in your carry-on luggage.  Do not pack your immigration documents in checked luggage.

Weather and What to Bring

During the summer, June through September, the weather is often hot and humid. Lightweight clothing is required. During the winter season, late November into April, expect sudden and extreme weather changes: several days of cold weather may be followed by days of moderate temperatures; days of snow and/or rain alternate with periods of clear and bright weather. Warm overcoats and boots are needed and may be purchased at nearby stores and shopping malls. (All buildings are heated, so medium weight clothing is most comfortable indoors.) Spring and fall seasons are moderate. Below are some averages:

Summer 70° to 90°+ 21° to 32°
Winter 20° to 45° (may drop to 0° or below) -6° to 7°
Spring/Fall 50° to 70°+ 0° to 20°+

In addition to clothes, books and other essentials, consider bringing the following items for your stay in the US: extra eyeglasses or contact lenses, medications (in clearly labeled containers), photos, traditional clothing, addresses of friends and family, phone numbers of contact people in the US, compact items that will help your residence feel like home. Check with your airline regarding luggage weight and security measures or consult the Transportation Security Administration. Remember: Do not pack your immigration documents in checked luggage.


You should have available a small amount ($100-$300) of US currency ($1 and $5 bills) and coins. These funds will be used for your arrival expenses such as taxis, meals, books, supplies, and other personal needs. For your protection, it is best to not carry any large sums of money on your person or in your luggage.

If you bring a bank draft or a foreign check to open an account, you cannot draw-upon it for 2 to 3 weeks, so do not rely upon these funds for immediate cash. After you have established an account, you may have money wired directly from your home bank to your Pittsburgh bank. Since wiring fees can be expensive (check with your bank in advance!), consider wiring only large sums.

If you have major credit cards bring them. Since you have no credit history in the US, initially it will be difficult or even impossible to obtain a credit card even if you have a credit card in your home country.

Tuition Payments

Information on payment options and billing can be found on the HUB's website. General payment information can also be found on the Hub website.

Airport Currency Exchange

While it may be more convenient to buy US dollars in your home country, limited buy/sell currency exchange is available at Travelex Worldwide Money located in the Pittsburgh International Airport on the Landside Transit Level (open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm) and the International Arrivals Level (open from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm). They are open every day and offer additional services of faxing and international calling cards. Ask airport personnel for directions to their offices. You can contact them by phone at 412-472-5151.

Sending Packages to Carnegie Mellon

Until you know your new address, you may have your letters and packages sent to:

Your Name
Carnegie Mellon University, International Student
SMC code (for undergraduates, if known)
5032 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15289

You must pick up your mail as soon as possible after arriving on campus. Please inquire at the Carnegie Mellon Post Office, lower level in the University Center.

Social Security Number (SSN)

A Social Security Number is a type of national identification number that is required for employment in the US. An SSN is not required for living in the US but is used by the US government to withhold taxes from pay.


Students in F-1 status must have an offer of employment to be eligible to apply for an SSN (for example: an offer of on-campus employment or off-campus work permission such as OPT or CPT). For F-1 or J-1 students who have an on-campus job offer, your on-campus employer must complete an OIE Social Security Form (.pdf), which OIE must also sign to verify immigration status.

Students then take the above form, in person, to the local Social Security Administration office to begin the application process. Students will need to take their passport, I-20 or DS-2019, I-94 electronic printout to apply.

J-1 students either need to have the employment noted on the DS-2019 form or, if the employment is not noted, J-1 students on CMU’s documents will need a confirmation letter from OIE. J-1 students sponsored by another agency or government will need to get a confirmation from their visa sponsor.

You will also need to provide an address where your new card can be sent. The Social Security Administration recommends that international applicants wait at least 10 business days after checking in with OIE before submitting an application for an SSN. Further directions on how to apply for an SSN can be found on the OIE SSN Handout (.pdf).


Scholars find it convenient to apply for a permanent SSN when they arrive in Pittsburgh. You will be asked for the SSN at the bank, by your landlord, CMU payroll office, etc. It’s the closest thing that Americans have to a national identification number although you are not required to have one unless you will be paid in the US.

Apply at a nearby Social Security Administration (SSA) office at least 10 business days after you have attended scholar orientation at OIE. It takes approximately 10 business days for your entry into the US to be recorded in the immigration database that the SSA must check before they can assign a number to you. You must take your passport, DS-2019, I-94 electronic printout and the SSN application.