Fall 2020 Information for International Graduate Students

Fall 2020 International Graduate Enrollment Options

Despite these uncertain times, we hope that you are excited about the Fall 2020 academic semester at the University of Pittsburgh. Although we are excited to welcome you to campus, we know that doing so may not be possible for some of you. Many of our programs are providing enrollments options. Please contact your Academic Department for additional information about your specific options.

On July 17, in partnership with the Office of the Provost and the University Center for International Studies, OIS hosted a webinar for all incoming and current graduate international students. This webinar was designed to answer questions you have about the enrollment options for the fall, immigration, and more. If you were unable to attend, or want to watch the recording of the webinar, here are the links in YouTube and Billibilli.

To F-1 travelers from the Schengen Region, United Kingdom and Ireland: U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued the following document which verifies that F-1 students and their dependents may travel to the U.S. from the Schengen region, U.K., and Ireland under a National Interest Exception to the Presidential Proclamation travel ban. Students traveling from those countries are encouraged to print and carry this document when traveling into the U.S.

Notice about SEVP Guidance: The U.S. Government first issued guidance regarding special COVID-19 related immigration standards in March 2020. These standards were in effect from March through the end of summer terms across the U.S. On July 6, 2020 and July 7, 2020, SEVP issued new guidance for Fall 2020, which significantly changed the March guidance. A lawsuit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institution of Technology, challenging the government's guidance. On July 14, 2020, the Government and universities entered into an agreement which rescinded the July 6 and 7th guidance and which reinstated the March 2020 Guidance.

SEVP has issued Guidance and FAQ’S regarding Fall 2020. OIS is carefully monitoring all developments and will provide updates to our FAQ's below as necessary. Please note that the answers to these questions may change if/when SEVP guidance evolves. Students should frequently review the FAQs below that are pertinent to their situation. At this time, OIS recommends all students travel with a copy of this Fall 2020 Letter for Students.


  • NEW AND CONTINUING STUDENTS: The University’s instructional model, Flex@Pitt, is fully supportive of international students and in compliance with Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement guidance. Flex@Pitt ensures that in-person learning experiences will be accessible to all students and enables instructors and students to prepare for all modes of teaching and learning, including in-person and hybrid/blended activities. Robust resources—including new classroom equipment and health and safety guidelines—will facilitate dynamic modes of teaching and learning activities inside and outside the classroom; students should work with their academic advisor to select the courses most appropriate to their academic path.

OIS Open Forums

OIS has decided to host open forums twice a week so we can answer questions directly via a zoom meeting. Please plan to drop in on Tuesdays or Fridays any time between 9:00am - 11:00am Eastern Time. Questions will be answered publicly in the order they are received, in order to give everyone the benefit of hearing the answers. You can feel free to come and go as you are able, and please understand that it may take some time to get your specific question answered. You can register to attend one of the OIS Open Forums here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. The Department of State announced a  phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020.  The resumption of visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis so long as it safe for Department of State personnel to return to work. Students should check with the specific consulate site to its operations by going to https://www.usembassy.gov/
Remember that the proclamations from the White House restricting certain travelers from entering the United States due to COVID-19 remain intact. Notably, the Department of State announced on July 16, 2020 that F-1 international students would be exempt from the proclamations banning certain travelers from the Schengen Area, UK, and Ireland. 

Based on the outcome in the Harvard/MIT lawsuit and the July 15 FAQ, our reading is that international students with active SEVIS records may keep their active SEVIS status as long as they enroll full-time. When Pitt returns to normal operations, students must return to campus to maintain active SEVIS status.

Yes. Continuing international students can take classes in various modes: in-person, hybrid, or fully remote from within or outside the United States. The SEVIS record will remain active as long as the student maintains full-time enrollment in a Pitt program.  
For up to date information, please see www.coronavirus.pitt.edu and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Yes. An I-20 and active SEVIS record are not required to enroll in online courses from outside the United States. New international students will not be activated in SEVIS in fall 2020, but they will be activated after arrival in the United States and enrollment in in-person classes.  

Yes, but take note of the following: 
·      New international students outside of the United States may take an entirely online course load while they remain outside of the United States.   
·      International students with an INITIAL SEVIS I-20 may not enter the United States to take an entirely online course load.
·      International students with an INITIAL SEVIS I-20 may enter the United States if the student is not taking an entirely online course load. Based upon the July 24th SEVP Guidance and FAQ’s, international students with I-20s marked “initial attendance” will be permitted to study at Pitt while enrolling in Flex @ Pitt courses, provided at least one of those courses has an in-person component during the semester. 

On July 15, 2020, ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issued an FAQ document for universities to follow with respect to international students in Fall 2020. This FAQ replaces the now rescinded July 6 directive blocking online only students in the United States.  On July 24, 2020, ICE issued clarifying questions to supplement this guidance. 

Yes. Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

 Consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, all those who enter the USA from foreign travel are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. During this 14-day period, one is to follow these steps to monitor your health and practice social distancing:
1.     Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. 
2.     Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school.
3.     Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares.
4.     Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).

The University intends to offer a minimum of two cloth masks, with the Pitt logo, to every student upon arrival. Also, the University positioned numerous hand sanitizer stations throughout campus. They are located at all entry and exit areas, elevators, rest rooms, etc.

We will be requiring all Pitt students—including students living off campus—to shelter in place upon arrival. Students will only be permitted to attend classes in person once their 14-day shelter-in-place period is complete. As a result, some students may need to attend classes remotely even after in-person classes have begun. For students living in University housing, the 14-day sheltering-in-place requirement will occur in two parts: seven days immediately before and seven days immediately after a student’s arrival on campus.

No. The visa type that you use to enter the U.S. determines what you are able to do in the U.S.  A B1/B2 visa does not allow you to study. 
For up to date information, please see www.coronavirus.pitt.edu and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

The biggest concerns would be internet access, security firewalls that may prevent access to some online platforms and time zone differences.  If you are comfortable that you are able to access Canvas and other technology consistently, you should not have any trouble with Flex@Pitt while abroad. Pitt IT has resources available to help students who are experiencing connectivity issues or who may not have access to reliable technology or Wi-Fi at home. Contact the 24/7 IT Help Desk by calling 412-624-HELP (4357) to learn more.

It is the intention to make classes available via asynchronous instruction, meaning that lectures may be recorded.  However, some instructors may prefer that students join in real time to facilitate discussions and promote learning.  Efforts are being made to schedule classes in ways that make this easier for people in different time zones.  More information about Flex @ Pitt is available at: https://teaching.pitt.edu/#Flex-Pitt-Instructional-Model-Fall-2020.

UCIS is currently working with the Provost and Registrar’s Office on a mechanism by which grades can be listed on a Pitt transcript. Please continue to visit 

Decisions about Spring semester will be made after continued consultation with health advisors and careful monitoring of the COVID-19 situation at the time.  

The Flex@Pitt model of instruction allows for the seamless transition between in-person and online course delivery as the situation changes.  Therefore, if the need arises, all courses will deliver content remotely. More information about Flex @ Pitt is available at: https://teaching.pitt.edu/#Flex-Pitt-Instructional-Model-Fall-2020.For updates on classes, undergraduate students should visit:  https://www.provost.pitt.edu/students/fall-2020-undergraduate-studies-updates; graduate students should visit https://www.provost.pitt.edu/students/graduate-studies.

Decisions about classrooms will be communicated to students in mid-July so within the next couple of weeks. For updates on classes, undergraduate students should visit: https://www.provost.pitt.edu/students/fall-2020-undergraduate-studies-updates; graduate students should visit: https://www.provost.pitt.edu/students/graduate-studies.

Graduate programs have varying start dates.  Please check with your academic program to determine the first day of your classes.

No. If you choose the Flex@Pitt option to study remotely from your home country in the Fall 2020 semester, it is recommended but not required to have health insurance. When you return to classes on campus, the requirement to enroll in UPMC health insurance or attest to having other US-based coverage will be reinstated effective immediately.