Q: I am a student planning to enroll full-time in residential courses and enter the U.S. Will I need an updated I-20 with remarks showing that I am enrolled full-time in residential instruction to enter the U.S.?
A. On July 14, SEVP rescinded guidance requiring all students to receive updated I-20s reflecting instructional mode for the term. Students interested in traveling with a letter stating Georgia Tech's instructional delivery mode are encouraged to request the "OIE Support Letter" in the iStart F/J Check In Menu.
Q: If I finish my degree program while outside the U.S. am I eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training from abroad?
A: The I-765 is the application you file with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request the Optional Practical Training benefit for pre, post, and STEM extension OPT. On page 4, Part 3 of the I-765, USCIS states you must file the application while inside the United States. No special provisions to allow F-1 student visa holders to apply from outside the U.S. during COVID-19 have been communicated by USCIS.
Q: I am graduating this semester and had planned to return to my home country; however, due to travel restrictions around COVID-19, I am unable to do so. What are my options?
A: Options available after finishing your program of study and during your 60 day grace period include the following:
- Apply for Optional Practical Training, if eligible: Please see the OIE OPT Website information on important timing considerations, eligibility considerations, and application instructions.
- Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. college or university prior to the end of your 60-day grace period. More information about transfers is available on the OIE website here.
- Request to begin a new program of study at Georgia Institute of Technology. If you have been admitted to a new program at Georgia Tech, you should submit an update using the iStart e-form entitled “Change of Degree Level” within 10 days of the change and no later than 45 days in to your 60-day grace period.
- Apply for a change of visa status under the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney, e.g. Visitor visa.
- Contact your Embassy to determine if other options might exist for evacuation.
- Consult with a qualified immigration attorney about any challenges you may incur as a result of remaining in the U.S. beyond your grace period.
If you have any questions or concerns about these options, we encourage you to contact us at your earliest opportunity. Contact information is available here: /isss_advising.
Q: I am planning to remain inside the U.S. for study this semester. Will I be required to enroll in full-time?
A. Yes, F-1 student visa holders are required to maintain full-time enrollment in all required academic terms in order to keep the SEVIS record Active. Additional information about enrollment expectations can be found on our website: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/content/enrollment-requirements
Q: I am planning to take a Leave of Absence this term. What occurs with my SEVIS record and how do I report this to OIE?
A. F-1 students not planning to enroll in the term must submit the iStart e-form “Intent to Depart” to report that they will not enroll prior to the start of the term. OIE will then positively terminate the immigration record for "Authorized Early Withdrawal" to reflect the F-1 student is taking a leave of absence from the institution. The F-1 student will then receive a 15 day grace period to depart the U.S.
Once the F-1 student is ready to resume study at Georgia Tech and prior to re-entering the U.S., the F-1 student will need to complete the "I-20 Request for Returning Students" e-form in iStart found under the "F Student" menu. Additional information and guidance will be provided to the F-1 student within the e-form. We encourage students to begin this process no later than 60 days before the start of the term they intend to return.
Q. I'm planning to enroll from outside the U.S. either online, at GT Lorraine, or GT Shenzhen. I do not wish to keep my SEVIS record Active. How do I update OIE and what information should I be aware of?
A. F-1 students not planning to maintain an Active SEVIS record status must submit the iStart "Intent to Depart” e-form to report this information to OIE. OIE will then positively terminate the immigration record for "Authorized Early Withdrawal" to reflect the F-1 student is no longer maintaining an Active F-1 SEVIS record. If inside the U.S., the F-1 student will then receive a 15 day grace period to depart the U.S.
Once the F-1 student is ready to resume study at Georgia Tech and prior to re-entering the U.S., the F-1 student will need to complete the "I-20 Request for Returning Students" e-form in iStart found under the "F Student" menu. Additional information and guidance will be provided to the F-1 student within the e-form.
Based on the July 15 SEVP FAQ, the 5-month rule requiring the student to apply for a new visa and I-20 if outside the U.S. for more than 5 months is currently suspended. Due to the suspension of this rule, F-1 students planning to return should not be required to apply for a new visa if their prior visa is unexpired. We encourage students to contact their U.S. embassy or consulate for more information on visa validity concerns.