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 by no later than July 10th if you plan to live on campus and August 10th if you plan to live off campus or engage in a virtual or remote learning option. 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.

Notice about SEVP Guidance: The July 6, 2020 SEVP Guidance and the July 7, 2020 SEVP FAQs contain conflicting information, especially as it relates to the status of SEVIS records by continuing students who study outside the U.S. for the Fall 2020 semester. In addition, a lawsuit has been 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.

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.

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).

Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. Regulations state that, “Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full-time basis, in a Service-approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year. This provision also includes students who, during their course of study, were enrolled in a study abroad program, if the student spent at least one full academic term enrolled in a full course of study in the United States prior to studying abroad.”
Pitt’s Office of International Services (OIS) recommends taking a conservative approach to all this guidance, and OIS interprets it to mean that a student must have been enrolled one full year while in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa in order to be eligible for either OPT or CPT.  While it is possible that the government may provide additional clarification and officially approve online enrollment while outside the United States for these purposes, at this time, OIS does not believe this is permitted. The OIS guidance below reflects this approach.

  • NEW STUDENTS: You will need to be enrolled in a course of study for two complete semesters within the United States prior to becoming eligible for CPT/OPT. That means if you select the Remote Learning Abroad option or defer attendance for Fall 2020, you would not be eligible for CPT/OPT until at least Fall 2021, after taking a full course load in both the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 terms in the United States.
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: You will be eligible for CPT/OPT after completing at least two semesters of courses within the United States SEVP has verified that the Spring 2020 semester is acceptable under these rules, even if you returned home and completed the semester remotely.

During the  COVID-19 pandemic, SEVP has indicated that an electronic copy of the I-20 is acceptable. However, OIS is concerned that other U.S. government agencies may not accept an electronic I-20. Initial students will continue to receive their I-20s via the eShipGlobal service. If you do not receive your I-20 due to COVID-related mailing issues, please contact oisnew@pitt.edu to request an electronic copy of your I-20. 

  • NEW STUDENTS: You may, and should, attend the visa appointment, but if you are a new student, you will not be able to travel to your Pitt campus immediately. You must be able to arrive to campus no later than August 19, 2020, or you will need to wait until the Spring semester. OIS is required to either register you or defer your attendance in the SEVIS system, and August 19, 2020 is our deadline for doing this. Once your I-20 is deferred, you will be permitted to enter within 30 days of the Spring semester deferral date.  
     
  • CONTINUING STUDENTS: Yes. Because you are a continuing student with a valid I-20, you may enter the United States as soon as you obtain your visa, unless you are from a country currently sanctioned with a travel ban.

There are currently travel restrictions that might interfere with your ability to enter the U.S. For example, current travel restrictions do not permit you to enter the U.S. within 14 days of living or visiting the following countries:  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, United Kingdom,
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts the current status of these restrictions and you should check this page frequently as you make plans to travel to the U.S.

Your I-20 will be deferred to the Spring 2021 semester (or later than that if you choose), and you will not be permitted to enter the United States until 30 days prior to the start date of your new I-20.

Until the U.S. government issues guidance for the Fall 2020 semester, we cannot guarantee anything. However, we believe that it is likely that SEVP will permit students outside the United States to retain their active SEVIS status, as long as they are enrolled in classes full-time. We also expect that SEVP will allow those in the United States to continue to take online courses to satisfy the full-time requirement. Therefore, we intend to keep your SEVIS record active, as long as you remain a full-time student at Pitt, even when you are out of the country or enrolled in classes remotely. When SEVP issues the Fall 2020 guidance, we will update this FAQ. Continuing students who opt to take a leave of absence for the Fall semester will have their I-20s terminated (Authorized Early Withdrawal) and will either be issued new I-20s or have their current I-20 reactivated prior to re-entering the United States.

The current planning effort supports the activities of the University, which include teaching, housing and residence life, student activities, food services, research, athletics, and more. These activities will still occur, but they will look differently, in accordance with health guidance and the new requirements outlined in our infection prevention and control program. As a result, we will need to modify some of our activities to ensure that they remain safe and consistent with our commitment to manage risks related to COVID-19. More information is available here: https://www.coronavirus.pitt.edu

Yes. Students who believe they can arrive on a University of Pittsburgh campus by September 4, 2020 may enroll in courses as recommended by their academic advisor. The Flex@Pitt instructional model allows for students who live in the residence halls to attend class in-person, participate remotely, or to view the recorded class session online (as available).

The Flex@Pitt approach will use technology-enhanced classrooms that can serve both in-person attendees and remote attendees at once to maintain social distancing and de-densify these spaces. For example, some very large enrollment classes will not be able to be run in a fully in-person mode and may require rotating cohorts of students due to physical infrastructure restrictions because of social distancing. Lectures and class interactions will be recorded for students in other time zones to watch when it’s convenient for them.

Yes. Students preferring to enroll in either Pitt on Location or Remote Learning Abroad must declare that preference via the selection survey by no later than August 10, 2020. Please also refer to the Immigration questions for additional factors to consider in choosing these options. 

The Flex@Pitt approach provides opportunities for students to engage in course materials and activities, regardless of their location. However, there may be challenges to accessing Canvas and other learning and communication platforms, depending on where in the world students are trying to access these platforms. Students should be aware of the risk and potential challenges to consistently accessing online platforms, prior to making decisions for remote learning while abroad.

We have begun this conversation with our partner providers for the spring, and we hope to have details on their ability to offer programming very soon.

Yes. The Flex@Pitt instructional model allows students to participate in remote learning, regardless of their location.

Students will work with a Pitt Study Abroad advisor on all matters related to this learning experience and program. Additionally, all enrolled students, will receive an email in early August with further information on Pitt IT services and support for international students.

If a student chooses the remote global option, he or she will work with a Pitt Study Abroad advisor to make the necessary adjustment to his or her course schedule.