Fall 2020 Information for International Undergraduate Students

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. The options listed below will ensure that you will have the best Pitt experience, even if you are unable to arrive in-person to a Pitt campus this fall.

  For us to best serve you, we must understand your fall plans. Please complete this online survey as soon as possible, as some options are reaching capacity. Please note, although you can edit your survey response before the appropriate deadline, no changes can be made to your selections after these deadlines have passed, so please read and consider each option, carefully.

On July 7, in partnership with the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, Student Affairs, the Wellness Center, the Study Abroad Office, and the University Center for International Studies, OIS hosted a webinar for all incoming and current undergraduate 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 On July 14, 2020, the Government and universities entered into an agreement which rescinded the July 6 and 7th guidance and which reinstated the March 2020 Guidance. At this time, OIS recommends all students travel with a copy of this Fall 2020 Letter for Students.

SEVP has issued Guidance and FAQ’S regarding Fall 2020

Fall 2020 International Undergraduate Enrollment Options

In Person Classroom

  • NEW STUDENTS: International undergraduate students who are able to arrive in the United States on or before September 4, 2020 should plan to attend classes in person following current health and safety guidelines. You will be expected to participate in classes remotely prior to entry into the United States and throughout any mandatory self-quarantine within the United States.
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: International students who are able to arrive in the United States on or before September 4, 2020 should plan to attend classes in person following current health and safety guidelines. You will be expected to participate in classes remotely prior to entry into the United States and throughout any mandatory self-quarantine within the United States.

Pitt on Location

  • NEW STUDENTS: International students in China, India, South Korea, and Vietnam will be offered a course of study through a Pitt Study Abroad partner.  This course of study will be full-time and will include in-person classes taught at partner institutions in-country on an educational platform that is supported within each country.
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: International students in China, India, South Korea, and Vietnam will be offered a course of study through a Pitt Study Abroad partner.  This course of study will be full-time and will include in-person classes taught at partner institutions in-country on an educational platform that is supported within each country.

Remote Learning Abroad

  • NEW STUDENTS: International students will be permitted to enroll in classes remotely, either from within the United States, if that option is approved for full-time study through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), or from outside the United States. In some countries, this option may be limited by Internet accessibility and time differences. Canvas is the preferred mode of instruction for all Pitt classes, and we have been informed that this platform is not accessible in many parts of China. Therefore, if you select this option, and you are unable to access classes consistently, your grades will suffer. Note also that you will not be permitted to select this option and then enter the United States prior to the Spring 2021 semester. The U.S. government will not permit an initial student to enter the country if they are going to take online classes only. New students CAN select this option and take remote/online courses from only outside the United States.
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: International students will be permitted to enroll in classes remotely, either from within the United States, if that option is approved for full-time study through SEVP, or from outside the United States. In some countries, this option may be limited by Internet accessibility and time differences. Canvas is the preferred mode of instruction for all Pitt classes, and we have been informed that this platform is not accessible in many parts of China. Therefore, if you select this option, and you are unable to access classes consistently, your grades will suffer.

Flex@Pitt

  • 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.

Deferral or Leave of Absence

  • NEW STUDENTS: Any international student can opt to defer attendance to either the Spring or Fall 2021 semesters. Note that all deferrals must go through the formal process found here (https://oafa.pitt.edu/apply/admissions-process/deferring-admission/), and deferrals to Spring may not be guaranteed on-campus housing.
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: A continuing international student can take a leave of absence by September 4, 2020. If you are a continuing student who is still inside the United States, and you decide to take a leave of absence, you must depart the United States no later than September 3, 2020 (i.e., 15 days past the first day of classes).

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.
 

 In the event of quarantine, there will be options to have meals delivered to their room. 

Students will be permitted to quarantine in their on-campus accommodation after the official move-in date of August 13th.  For additional information, please contact Housing Services at https://www.pc.pitt.edu/housing-services
 

Unfortunately, the U.S. Embassies are not open for visa appointments.  We do know that some embassies state that they are open for emergency appointments, and some seem to allow a visa appointment if your program will start in the next several weeks.  However, we have also heard reports that appointments that are scheduled by these embassies are then cancelled or rescheduled when the time for the appointment comes. You are encouraged to check the embassy near you to see what their policy is and attempt to get an appointment, but be prepared for potential delays. 

You can indicate your preference before July 10 deadline, If your roommate is not able to come, you should have your roommate reach out to Panther Central to make them aware. 

There are several issues related to travel during this time. First, U.S. Embassies are currently closed for routine visa appointments, so if you do not have a student visa already, the chances of receiving one in time for the fall semester are very limited.  In addition, there is a U.S. travel ban in place if you have been in the following countries sometime in the 14 days prior to entering the U.S: Brazil, China, Iran, European Schengen area (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City), Republic of Ireland. 

If you are a continuing student and you enroll in full-time courses through Flex@Pitt, your SEVIS record will be kept active and you will not lose your immigration status.  There is not clear guidance about whether you would be able to apply for OPT while you are outside the U.S. if you are graduating this semester. We will continue to monitor that guidance and update the FAQ as necessary.