Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are general answers to OIS’ most frequently asked questions. Please also check our Fact Sheets and My OIS for information. If you cannot find the answer to your question on the OIS website, other ways to contact OIS are as follows:

Your employer may determine who should sign the Form I-983. Usually this is someone who has adequate knowledge about your employment and training. You may want to check with your company to find out if they will allow your supervisor to complete the form, or if someone in their Human Resources department must complete the form.

Yes, you can continue to work on campus while participating in CPT. The federal government does not have any specific regulations that limit the cumulative hours of CPT and on-campus employment.

There is a difference between “volunteering” and “unpaid” internships. Individuals can volunteer their time (without compensation) for religious, charitable, civic, or humanitarian purposes to non-profit organizations. Volunteers don’t require any special, or specific skills. These established volunteer positions with non-profit / community organizations do not require CPT authorization. The vast majority of unpaid internships need CPT authorization because they require specific, advanced skills. In the past, the federal government has defined employment as “any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit.” If a student were to “volunteer” at a non-profit organization and complete tasks that a staff member would normally do (order supplies, manage purchasing orders, etc.), the student would need CPT authorization. The same is true if a student wanted to “volunteer” at a for-profit business – CPT is required. Please check with your your Immigration Specialist about any volunteer opportunities.

Clinical experiences, mostly found within School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing, and School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, may not require CPT authorization. OIS sees clinical rotations as an extension of the classroom, because there is direct supervision by either Pitt faculty/staff or an elected preceptor. Non-required practical experiences need CPT authorization. Contact your your Immigration Specialist with questions.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is defined as off-campus employment which is an “integral part of an established curriculum, including: alternate work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” Source: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(i) Please review our CPT Information hadnout for more information.

It is NOT recommended that you travel while your H-1B application is pending at USCIS. If you do travel, the application for a change or extension of status will be considered abandoned and you will need to wait for the H-1B petition to be approved, then obtain a new visa prior to re-entering the U.S.
For more information, please review our Travel Information fact sheet.

Although you can legally travel while your OPT application is pending, it is not recommended that you do so. If you do decide to travel, make sure that you have someone checking your mail regularly in case USCIS requests additional information or notifies you of an issue with your application.
For more information about OPT and STEM OPT, please visit the Optional Practical Training webpage.

If you take a brief trip (30 days or less) to Canada, Mexico, or an “adjacent island” (most Caribbean countries) and you are in valid F-1 or J-1 status when you leave the U.S., you do not need to renew your expired visa in order to return to the U.S. This is called Automatic Re-validation. It is not applicable for citizens of countries designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism. Check the OIS Travel Information fact sheet for more information.

You should not have to present your immigration documents when travelling within the U.S., as long as you have some other kind of valid identification for airline travel. If you are travelling by air, and you do not have a driver’s license or Pennsylvania state ID, then you will need to carry your passport. If you do not wish to carry your immigration documents for domestic travel, you may choose to have a copy of your documents available.
For more information, please review our Travel Information fact sheet.

Online: Submit a ‘Shipment Request’ e-form in My OIS, for the reason of Travel Signature. In-Person: You may come to OIS and either drop off your document and pick it up later, or you can come during Walk-In hours and obtain a signature with little to no wait. NOTE: This option is currently suspended due to COVID-19 related office closures.

You will need a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 in order to re-enter the U.S. after international travel. Most travel signatures are valid for one year. (Exception: Travel signatures for people on OPT are valid for 6 months.)

Please log-in to My OIS. Under the Biographical Information menu, please complete the ‘Shipment Request’ e-form to receive your new document.

We are sorry you are having difficulty logging in to My OIS.  Please confirm that you are using the following link and information to log in:  

  • Website:   My OIS
  • Username:  Your Official Pitt Username  (if your email address is, your username is abc123; do not use the
  • Password: Your Official Pitt Password 

If this is the website and information you have been using to try and log in, please email OIS and we will work with you to resolve this issue.  If you are on OPT, or you are an incoming student or scholar, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the My OIS landing page for your link to log in, called ‘Limited Services Login’.

First contact your host department and let them know that you have arrived to start your program on the start date noted on your DS-2019. The department will assist with the onboarding processes and joining the University of Pittsburgh. To check in with OIS, please complete the following: Complete the Pre-Arrival Checklist in My OIS. Register for and attend a J-1 Scholar Orientation. Once you have completed both steps, OIS will activate your SEVIS record to note that you have successfully arrived in the United States and completed the required processes in compliance with your J-1 status. Your SEVIS record must be activated within 30 days of your program start date, so it is very important that you start the process as soon as possible after your arrival.

Yes, you may defer your admission. Please first contact your academic department to arrange your deferral. Next, send an email to to confirm with OIS that you intend to defer. We will defer your I-20 if it has already been issued. If an I-20 has not been issued, we’ll simply make a note in our records that you will need an I-20 at a later date.

If it has been less than 5 months since your last date of enrollment at the previous institution, we should be able to use your current SEVIS record to create a Pitt I-20. Please be sure to complete the ‘Transfer In’ e-form on your Pre-Arrival Checklist in My OIS, so that we know you already have a SEVIS record. Also be sure to notify your current school that you wish you transfer your record to Pitt. The ‘Transfer In’ e-form has information they will need in order to transfer the record.

Your academic department must first notify OIS of your admission and intention to enroll. After we have been notified, we will email you with instructions on how to request your I-20 or DS-2019. You will not receive an email from us until we have been notified by your department of your admission, and sometimes this can take several days after you have made your enrollment deposit.

If you want to transfer your F-1 SEVIS record, these are the School Codes for each of the University of Pittsburgh campuses.

  • University of Pittsburgh Main Campus: PHI214F10188000
  • University of Pittsburgh at Bradford: PHI214F10188001
  • University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg: PHI214F10188002
  • University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown: PHI214F10188003
  • University of Pittsburgh at Titusville: PHI214F10188004

Students have 2 options:

  1. Leave the United States, apply for an F-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and then re-entering the United States in F-1 status.
  2. Remain in the United States and submit a “Change of Status” application with USCIS.

There are benefits and drawbacks with either option.

  • Changing status at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate can be faster, and perhaps even more convenient if you have plans to travel outside of the U.S. within the next few months; however, international travel can be very expensive.
  • Changing status from within the United States can take between 9 to 12 months, but you would save on travel expenses. However, you must maintain your previous status up to 30 days before USCIS approves your Change of Status application. This can be problematic.

Learn more about Change of Status options here.