NEWLY ADMITTED STUDENT GUIDANCE

Q. What challenges are new and/or continuing international students experiencing with entering the U.S.?

Currently, there are several known challenges:

  • U.S. visa consular services are suspended in some countries. 
  • U.S. entry restrictions are in place for many countries, listed here.
  • Many flights are canceled worldwide, hampering travel.

Q. Can I request a letter stating Georgia Tech is offering in-person instruction?

A. All students outside the U.S. can request a letter stating the Institute is offering in-person instruction. The e-form to request a letter for emergency visa appointments can be found in iStart under the “F/J Student Arrival and Check-In” tab labeled: OIE Support Letter Request.

Q: If I am a new student planning to enter the U.S. to attend Georgia Tech, can I enroll in online only courses and travel to the U.S.?

A. SEVP requires new students planning to enroll in online only courses to remain outside the U.S. Students enrolled in residential courses are eligible to enter the U.S. Additional information about enrollment expectations can be found on our website: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/content/enrollment-requirements 

New students enrolled in online only courses who remain outside the U.S. must report their intent to enroll online via the iStart “Arrival Confirmation” e-form. OIE will then update the program start date on the SEVIS record and issue a new I-20. Students receiving an updated program start date will not be required to pay the I-901 fee again or reapply for a visa if they have already received one.

Q: If I am transferring my SEVIS record to Georgia Tech but plan to enroll online only from outside the U.S., will my SEVIS record be active?

A. If you do not plan to re-enter the U.S. for studies, OIE will defer your start date on the transfer I-20 to the term in which you plan to arrive in the U.S. In this situation you will not be required to pay the I-901 fee again and will not need to apply for a new visa if the previous F-1 visa is not expired.

Q: I am a new student planning to enroll full-time in residential courses and enter the U.S. Will I need an updated I-20 with remarks showing 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A. On July 14, SEVP rescinded guidance requiring all students to receive updated I-20 reflecting enrollment plans for the term. Students interested in traveling with a letter stating Georgia Tech’s instructional delivery plans are encouraged to request the “OIE Support Letter” in the iStart F/J Check In Menu.

Q : If I need to defer my I-20 start date or admission, do I need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee and pay for shipping costs to mail the I-20 again?

A. SEVP does not require you to pay the SEVIS fee again after an I-20 deferral. As of June 28, 2021, the Office of International Education (OIE) will discontinue the issuance of paper I-20 forms to students and will instead issue digitally-signed electronic I-20 forms. More information about this process can be found on our website: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/isss/digitally-signed-i-20-form-guidance

Q: If I take online classes for the semester and join campus later, will I get a new I-20, will the SEVIS number change, and should I try to make visa appointment now or later when receive the new i20?

  • Please complete the OIE Check In e-forms in iStart to confirm your plans to OIE. If you have additional questions about the OIE Check-In, please review our website for more information: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/isss-check-in
  • Once you have completed the Check-In, you will get an updated I-20 which reflects the date you will begin studies inside the U.S. The SEVIS ID will remain the same. You should move forward with scheduling your visa interview at your earliest opportunity after receiving your first I-20 from OIE due to visa interview wait times.
  • If you are a graduate student and have a scheduled in-person visa interview approaching but you don’t yet have your updated I-20 form, you can submit the iStart e-form "Graduate Student Admission Deferral Review Request" to request an expedited review of your deferral in order to receive an updated I-20 in time for your visa interview. 

Q: If I received the I-20 and can't get the visa before the semester begins, can I use the same I-20 to apply for a visa if I defer admission?

  • OIE recommends you attend your visa interview with the I-20 form with the correct dates for the semester in which you will begin your program of study inside the U.S. If you are a graduate student and have a scheduled in-person visa interview approaching but you don’t yet have your updated I-20 form, you can submit the iStart e-form "Graduate Student Admission Deferral Review Request" to request an expedited review of your admission deferral in order to receive an updated I-20 in time for your visa interview. 

Q: If a new student attends the semester online, what happens to the F-1 Status or I-20?

  • Please complete the OIE Check In e-forms in iStart to confirm your plans to OIE. If you have additional questions about the OIE Check-In, please review our website for more information: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/isss-check-in
  • You will receive an updated I-20 after completing the OIE Check In and indicating you will begin studies in an online format and plan to arrive in the U.S. in the next semester.
  • You will not be in Active F-1 status while you are enrolled online. You will enter the U.S. in a later semester and gain Initial F-1 student status at the U.S. port of entry. After completing the required OIE Check-In process, your SEVIS record will be updated to Active F-1 student visa status.

Q: I have a valid B1/B2 visa. Given that visa appointments aren't available until later, can I travel on a B1/B2 Visa and apply for a status change later while in the U.S. or when I arrive next semester?

  • If you decide to visit the U.S. to tour campus or otherwise prepare for your Atlanta experience while in a visitor visa status or via the ESTA program, please note that you will be required to depart the U.S. and re-enter in a visa status eligible for study prior to the next available term. Or, you can file for a change of status within the U.S. through USCIS. You must receive approval of the change of status prior to enrolling in the next available term. Please note that the wait times vary for change of status within the U.S. through USCIS, but on average it takes about 8 months for a change of status to be approved.

Q: Considering the current pandemic situation, what is the latest day the university allows for F-1 student visa holders to arrive in the U.S. for the semester?

  • Students unable to arrive by the start of classes need to request support with late arrival within the “Arrival Confirmation” e-form found within the OIE Check In e-forms. Your academic department and OIE will review and determine the latest date the department can support the student with late arrival.
  • If you decide to visit the U.S. to tour campus or otherwise prepare for your Atlanta experience while in a visitor visa status or via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program, please note that you will be required to depart the U.S. and re-enter in a visa status eligible for study prior to the next available term. Or, you can file for a change of status within the U.S. through USCIS. You must receive approval of the change of status prior to enrolling in the next available term. Please note that the wait times vary for change of status within the U.S. through USCIS, but on average it takes about 8 months for a change of status to be approved.

 Q: Does enrolling online as a new student impact plans for internships?

  • Per SEVP guidance, new students residing outside the U.S. beginning their first term(s) of a degree with online courses will not be able to count time enrolled abroad toward the one-year requirement for CPT and OPT because they will not be in “active” SEVIS status. Exceptions to the one-year requirement for CPT are available only for graduate students who must immediately participate in a degree required internship or practicum as outlined in the degree’s plan of study.

Q: As an undergrad student, if I take the first semester online as a result of visa issues, can I study on campus in a later semester?

  • Yes, if you decide to enroll in online courses and want to study on campus in a later term, you will need to request a deferral of your I-20 Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record by completing the OIE Check-In in the iStart portal. OIE will then issue you an updated I-20 for the term in which you plan to arrive. 

Q: I’m a new student with an initial I-20. Will OIE send me a scanned copy of my initial I-20?

Q: I am a graduate student and I have been admitted to Georgia Tech. How can I request my I-20?

  • Congratulations on your admission! Once your academic department has submitted a request for an I-20 to be issued for you, you will receive a link from info@oie.gatech.edu asking you to provide additional information for the process. We ask that you follow up directly with your department if you have questions on when the I-20 process will be initiated. More information about the process can be found on our website: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/ISSS_Pre-Arrival
  • We are looking forward to welcoming you to Georgia Tech!

Q: I am unable to obtain financial support documentation to request my I-20 form from Georgia Tech. When is the latest I can submit financial documentation to request the initial I-20 form from Georgia Tech? 

  • In general, please upload the documents in to iStart as soon as the I-20 Request e-form is sent to you in the iStart portal. If you experience challenges in obtaining financial documents beyond the deadlines listed below, then you are encouraged to contact info@oie.gatech.edu to notify us of the challenges. 
  • Students inside the U.S. transferring their Active SEVIS record from another U.S. Institution should complete their I-20 form request at least 2 weeks prior to the start of classes.

Q: I am a newly admitted student requiring a visa, but visa services are currently suspended in my region, what options are available to me?

  • Locate another U.S. embassy or consulate open for routine visa services and apply there. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, changes to travel restrictions and visa services are occurring daily and could interrupt your plans to travel elsewhere for visa processing.
  • Contact the local embassy or consulate to see if any provisions for student visas are in place to support your application for a student visa. Wait patiently for visa services to reopen in your region and keep your intended program start date the same.
  • Request a deferral of your intended program start date. Please follow the process outlined below based on your education level and expected program start date:
    • Undergraduate Students:  We are continuing to monitor the availability of visa appointments as the rapidly evolving situation continues to unfold. If you ultimately need to request a deferral, you must have first paid your enrollment deposit. If you have specific questions concerning your circumstances or need to make a deferral request, contact Undergraduate Admissions at admission@gatech.edu.  
    • Graduate students: The Office of Graduate Studies provides additional information on remote learning options available to international students in the COVID-19 Guidance for Graduate Education online at  grad.gatech.edu/covid19
    • Once you have communicated about your deferral, you will need to complete the OIE Check In to your confirm your plans to OIE so that they can update your immigration document to reflect the new term you intend to start your program inside the U.S.

Q: When requesting my I-20 I indicated the embassy I would go to for my visa appointment, but now I would like to go to a different embassy. Is that a problem?

  • Please feel free to go to whichever embassy is most convenient/accessible for you, even if it is different from what you originally indicated to OIE in your I-20 request.  

Q: I can no longer come to Georgia Tech in the upcoming semester, but would like to come in a later semester. What should I do?

  • It is possible to request a deferral of your intended program start date. Please follow the process outlined below based on your education level and expected program start date.
    • Graduate students only: The Office of Graduate Studies provides additional information on remote learning options available to international students in the COVID-19 Guidance for Graduate Education online at  grad.gatech.edu/covid19  
    • Undergraduate Students: We are continuing to monitor the availability of visa appointments as the rapidly evolving situation continues to unfold. If you ultimately need to request a deferral, you must have first paid your enrollment deposit. If you have specific questions concerning your circumstances or need to make a deferral request, contact Undergraduate Admissions at admission@gatech.edu.
  • Once you have communicated about your deferral, you will need to complete the OIE Check In to your confirm your plans to OIE so that they can update your immigration document to reflect the new term you intend to start your program inside the U.S.

Q: Does a transfer student, who is living in U.S., have to pick up I-20 in person in OIE?

  • Starting June 28, 2021, the Office of International Education (OIE) will discontinue the issuance of paper I-20 forms to students and will instead issue digitally-signed electronic I-20 forms. OIE advisors will digitally sign the electronic I-20 form and provide the PDF file directly to students in a protected sharing format. More information about this can be found on our website: https://isss.oie.gatech.edu/isss/digitally-signed-i-20-form-guidance