Spring 2021 information for International Undergraduate Students

Despite these uncertain times, we hope that you are excited about the Spring 2021 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 upcoming term.

To all air travelers entering the U.S.: Effective January 26, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for all air passengers arriving into the U.S. The test must be conducted with a specimen collected within 3 calendar days preceding the flight.

To nonimmigrant travelers from Brazil, Iran, and China: The Presidential Proclamation which establishes a travel ban from these areas is still in effect. Therefore, if you intend to travel to the U.S. from one of these locations, you must first travel to a third country and remain there for 14 full days before traveling into the U.S.

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.

To undergraduate students living in Pitt residence halls: Please check University guidance regarding Spring 2021 arrival information.

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 On July 14, 2020, the Government and universities entered into an agreement which rescinded the July 6 and 7th guidance and which reinstated the March 2020 Guidance.

PLEASE NOTE: SEVP has indicated that for the Spring 2021 term, non-immigrant students should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020. Therefore, the FAQ’s below follow the SEVP Fall 2020 Guidance and FAQ’S. 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 Spring 2021 Letter for Students.

Spring 2021 International Undergraduate Enrollment Options

Option 1: New Students Only: If you choose to attend classes in the United States, you must arrive on campus by January 19th. Please note that this will not be an option if you do not already have a student visa or an appointment to obtain one. Please confirm this information before selecting this option. You will be expected to participate in classes remotely prior to entry into the United States and throughout any mandatory self-quarantine upon arrival in the United States. All students coming to the United States for the first time for the spring 2021 term must be enrolled in at least one class that has an in-person component, as immigration guidelines state that students new to the United States may not be enrolled in a fully online program.

Option 2: Attend a Pitt on Location Program in your home country. 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 each country. Pitt on Location will also offer housing in university dorms or nearby university-style residences in each city where the program is offered. You must submit an application for this program by December 1st. More information can be found here: https://www.abroad.pitt.edu/onlocation

Option 3: Complete University of Pittsburgh Courses through Flex @ Pitt: Complete Flex @ Pitt courses in the US or your home country (please note: this option uses the learning management system Canvas which may not be reliable in China and other countries including India and South Korea). Technological support will be provided through the University for students’ pursuing this option. This will allow for access to on-campus coursework, advising, mentoring, and other important resources, in an entirely remote environment. This option is best if you are unable, or do not wish to, travel outside of your home-country. More information can be found here https://teaching.pitt.edu/

Deferral or Leave of Absence

NEW STUDENTS: Any international student can opt to defer attendance to the Fall 2021 semester. 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 February 5, 2021. 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 February 3, 2021 (i.e., 15 days past the first day of classes).

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Department of State has announced a phased resumption of routine visa services. Students should check with the specific consulate site to its operations by going to https://www.usembassy.gov/.

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. According to the most recent guidance issued by SEVP, 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.  If SEVP guidance changes before the beginning of the spring 2021 term, the FAQs will be updated. New students may not enter the U.S. and begin a full load of online courses. At least one course must have an in-person component for all new students. 

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 until their 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. SEVP has indicated that for the Spring 2021 term, non-immigrant students should continue to abide by SEVP guidance originally issued in March 2020

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.  For information about airline travel during the pandemic, see this CDC webpage.

 Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, the PA Department of Health has updated their travel information to require either a COVID-negative test or strict quarantine upon return to PA from any other state or country.  Please review this governmental guidance closely.  Effective January 26, 2021, all airline passengers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the U.S.  Tests must be within 3 days of departure.  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.

As required by the current PA Department of Health requirements, you must quarantine for 14 days every time you enter PA from a different state, OR have a negative COVID test.  As a result, some students may need to attend classes remotely even after in-person classes have begun.


 In the event of quarantine, on-campus students will have options for meal delivery to their room. 

Students will be permitted to quarantine in their on-campus accommodation after the official move-in date. Students living in on-campus housing will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result to enter University housing.  If you arrive prior to the official move-in date, or you have off-campus accommodations that are not immediately available to you, Pitt has an agreement with a local hotel that is able to house students for quarantine purposes at a reduced rate. For additional information, please contact Housing Services at https://www.pc.pitt.edu/housing-services.
Information about Spring 2021 arrival - issued 1/12/2021 - can be found here.

Please review our Travel Considerations During the Pandemic handout to get an idea of the various issues you must think about when traveling during this time.

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. 

If you wish to take a leave of absence, we would advise that you speak with your academic advisor and make sure that you follow your program's requirements.  In addition, please go to My OIS and complete a “Departure Form” so that OIS knows what to do with your I-20. 

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

Our understanding is that the 5-month rule would not apply during this time. Continuing students may keep their SEVIS records active as long as they are enrolled full-time in a Pitt-sponsored program and then re-enter the U.S. when they are able to travel.   

If you plan to graduate and do not wish to apply for OPT, you can take classes online and graduate as expected. 

The current DHS guidance allows you to take online courses, and your SEVIS record may be kept active during that time if you are taking a full course load.