COVID-19 Update: Immigration Assistance and Support

On behalf of Ariel C. Armony, Vice Provost for Global Affairs

Dear Students,

Earlier today, you received important information from Chancellor Patrick Gallagher about the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment to your health, safety and security. As you know, Pitt is transitioning to an online instructional environment to minimize the potential impact of COVID-19 on campus. Your health and well-being are our top priority and we want to be sure that you feel welcome and supported on our campus as you complete the spring semester.

We realize that you may have questions regarding the effects of these decisions on your enrollment standing at Pitt and your immigration status. Here is what you need to know:

Immigration Status

  • Changing the instructional environment will NOT affect your current standing as an enrolled student.In addition, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in the Department of Homeland Security has indicated that they recognize that schools may need to adapt teaching procedures and that they intend to be flexible with the regulations in this regard.  Therefore,  according to the communications that we have received from SEVP, your temporary participation in an online instructional environment will NOT affect your current immigration status.

OIS Office Appointments

  • At this time, OIS will continue to hold walk-In hours (Mondays and Thursdays, 1 - 4 p.m.) as well as scheduled in-person appointments. Otherwise, you are encouraged to email your questions to your immigration specialistand we will respond. We will also offer appointments by phone or video conferencing, scheduled through our website.

Travel Recommendations

  • OIS strongly urges you NOT to travel back home at this time, especially if you are from a country where COVID-19 is highly prevalent and/or you are from a country where there has been a travel restriction implemented because of COVID-19 (currently China and Iran) for the following reasons:

    • China and Iran:  International visitors/students/scholars who have been to China or Iran during the previous 14 days are not permitted to enter the U.S. We do not know when that travel ban will be lifted. If you return to China or Iran and the travel ban remains in effect in August, you would not be permitted to reenter the U.S. for the fall semester until you are outside of China or Iran for at least 14 days. 
    • Travel to other locations:  At this point we can not anticipate when/if other countries will be added to existing travel bans. If you travel to another country and it is added to the travel ban list when you are there, you will not be permitted to return to the U.S. until the ban is lifted or until you spend 14 days outside the U.S. in a third unrestricted country.
    • Five-month rule:  If you opt to return home now, keep in mind that if you are outside the U.S. for more than five months, you will need a new I-20 and SEVIS record in order to return to the U.S. to complete your program. This may have OPT/CPT implications for you, depending upon your circumstances.  


  • The University is aware that the current situation has caused anxiety for international students as they face unexpected housing challenges. OIS is working with other units across campus and want to assure you that everyone is working together to create manageable solutions.

    • Spring Term Housing:  According to the message you have received from Kenyon Bonner EdD, vice provost and dean of students, University housing will be available through the remainder of the semester, for those students who are unable to return home. Although the general advice is for students to return to their permanent addresses, it is understood that this would be difficult and not advisable for most international students. Off-campus international residents are encouraged to remain in their off-campus units and on-campus residents will receive instructions from Panther Central for how to remain in on-campus housing.
    • Summer Housing:  Many of you have expressed your concern over summer housing, as you may have intended to return home for the summer, and that is no longer possible.  Pitt’s housing office has graciously agreed to make living units available to anyone who is facing this dilemma. Additional information about how to reserve a housing unit will be available in the next few weeks, but please rest assured that your housing needs will be met. 

As always, our helpful immigration specialists and the entire team at the Office of International Services (OIS)are available to address your questions and concerns. Our office will support you and assist in partnering with units across campus to minimize interruptions to your academic or work responsibilities.

We are encouraging all Pitt students to closely monitor this situation and to visit the Public Safety and Emergency Management website, which is the University’s centralized and reliable source for information on this issue.