Guidelines for Graduate Programs Accepting International Students for Fall 2020/Spring 2021 Admissions

Given the uncertainty around visa availability and international travel this summer and fall, many Pitt programs have asked for guidance around what options they may present to international students wishing to enroll in graduate and professional programs. Below is guidance for what options programs can offer to international students who cannot arrive in time for the beginning of the fall semester. Note that while these options (separate ones for funded programs such as PhD programs and professional programs) have been endorsed as acceptable, no school is required to offer any of these options—other than the in-person option—to admitted students. Schools also should be sure that all admitted students are made aware of any options that they are allowing.

Options for new international students in funded programs—including most PhD programs

PhD Option 1: In person

New international students arriving on or before September 4 can begin classes and other educational activities along with all other students.

PhD Option 2: Deferral for a semester

International students not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4 may be offered deferred admission until January 2021. Note that deferral of admission does not guarantee that students’ funding packages will be maintained. Students should consult with their graduate program to understand what funding may be available to students who defer enrollment. The Pitt Office of International Services (OIS) will work with students to apply for a visa for January arrival so they may continue their program in person starting in the spring semester.

PhD Option 3: Deferral for one year

International students not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4 may be offered deferred admission until Fall 2021. Note that deferral of admission does not guarantee that students’ funding packages will be maintained. Students should consult with their graduate program to understand what funding may be available to students who defer enrollment. The Pitt Office of International Services (OIS) will work with students to apply for a visa for Fall 2021 arrival.

PhD Option 4: Participate remotely during the fall semester

International students enrolled in graduate programs—including most PhD programs—in which students are typically supported with a stipend and tuition scholarship, who are not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4, may elect to participate remotely in the fall semester. In this case a tuition remission scholarship may be provided by the department or program, but students may not receive a stipend during the semester if they are performing GSA, GSR, TA or TF duties. The Pitt Office of International Services (OIS) will work with students to apply for a visa in time for January arrival, so they may continue their program in person starting in the spring semester. For the fall remote semester, students may enroll as full- or part-time students. If students are engaged in research in any way—even class research projects—programs must consult with the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies to review plans for compliance with export control guidelines and other laws.

Options for new international students professional programs—including most masters programs and all graduate degree and certificate programs in which students are expected to pay tuition and do not receive a stipend

PP Option 1: In person

New international students arriving on or before September 4 can begin classes and other educational activities along with all other students.

PP Option 2: Deferral for a semester

International students not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4 may be offered deferred admission until January 2021. The Pitt Office of International Services (OIS) will work with students to apply for a visa for January 2021 arrival.

PP Option 3: Deferral for one year

International students not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4 may be offered deferred admission in Fall 2021. The Pitt Office of International Services (OIS) will work with students to apply for a visa for Fall 2021 arrival.  

PP Option 4: Participate remotely during the fall semester in an in-person professional program

International students enrolled in professional programs who are not able to secure a visa in time to arrive by September 4 may elect to participate remotely in the fall semester. Tuition charges will still apply as for in-person programs. Pitt Office of International Services will work with students to apply for a visa in time for January arrival, so they may continue their program in-person starting in the spring semester. For the fall remote semester, students may be full- or part-time. If students are engaged in research in any way—even class research projects—programs must consult with the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies to review plans for compliance with export control guidelines and other laws.

Note on OPT and CPT Eligibility

The general rule for Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training is that students must first complete two terms of in-person education. Thus, if a student either takes remote classes in their home country or defers by one semester and arrives at Pitt in January, they may not be eligible to begin OPT or CPT until they have completed two additional semesters. It is possible that the U.S. government will clarify its position on these rules in the coming months and this guidance will be adjusted accordingly.