Q: I am a student planning to enroll full-time in residential and hybrid courses and enter the U.S. for fall 2020. Will I need an updated I-20 with remarks showing that I ame 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A. On July 14, SEVP rescinded guidance requiring all students to receive updated I-20s reflecting instructional mode for the term.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 fall 2020 instructional delivery mode are encouraged to request the "OIE Support Letter" in the iStart F/J Check In Menu.
Q: What time zone do I need to consider for distance learning?
A: To minimize conflicts, faculty have been encouraged to offer classes at the regularly scheduled time while being flexible with students who may have difficulty because of varying time zones. Additionally, some classes may move to an asynchronous format where there is no uniform, scheduled class time. Office hours will be held in a modified or remote format as determined by each faculty member.
OIE recommends that you consult with your academic advisor or professor regarding the timing considerations for your courses. You should receive further information from your academic department directly on how the distance learning format will operate.
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: https://oie.gatech.edu/isss_advising.
Q: I am planning to enroll online this fall term from outside the U.S. Will I be able to keep my SEVIS record Active?
- A. Yes, under the provisions of the July 15 SEVP FAQ, students planning to enroll outside the U.S. can maintain Active SEVIS status for fall term. Additionally, under the same guidance, the 5-month rule requiring students to apply for a new I-20 and visa to return is suspended.
- Continuing students planning to study outside the U.S. are required to update their location using the iStart “Fall Intentions” e-form. Under the July 15 SEVP FAQ guidance, time accrued towards practical training benefits would not be lost due to enrolling online from outside the U.S.
Q: I am planning to remain inside the U.S. for study this fall. Will I be required to enroll in full-time?
A. Yes, whether enrolled inside or outside the U.S., F-1 student visa holders maintaining status are required to maintain full-time enrollment in all required academic terms in order to keep the SEVIS record Active.
Q: I am planning to remain inside the U.S. for study this fall. Am I allowed to enroll fully online and maintain an Active SEVIS record?
- A. Georgia Tech will be offering primarily residential (in-person with physical distancing) and hybrid (limited in-person) courses in the fall, with some sections of remote coursework. Based on the July 15 SEVP FAQ, F-1 students unable to take a full schedule of residential courses due to the Covid-19 pandemic are eligible to enroll in remote sections to maintain status.
Q: I am planning to take a Leave of Absence during the fall 2020 term. What occurs with my SEVIS record and how do I report this to OIE? A. F-1 students not planning to enroll in fall term must submit the iStart e-form “Intent to Depart” to report that they will not enroll in fall. F-1 students not enrolled for fall 2020 term will be required to depart the U.S. Prior to re-entering the U.S., you will need to request reactivation of your SEVIS record by emailing email@example.com with the following information:
- · Degree program
- · Date of departure from the U.S.
- · Reason for Leave of Absence
- · Name and email address of your academic advisor/graduate coordinator (who OIE will contact so that we can confirm your expected graduation date).
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 in spring 2021 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.
Q: Do we need to take in-person classes in fall 2020 if we are medically vulnerable to getting severely ill from Covid-19? Is there a way to avoid in person classes for medically vulnerable students?
- A. F-1 students with medical conditions preventing a full course of study in fall term are encouraged to complete the iStart “Medical Reduced Course Load” e-form to request support with an authorized reduction of course load for the fall term from OIE. Students planning to enroll full-time who need other medical accommodations should contact Georgia Tech’s Office of Disability Services as well as their academic advisor for more information on how to request course accommodations and options.
Q: CPT in fall 2020: Can I have part-time CPT in another U.S. city and take Georgia Tech classes remotely as long as I am enrolled for 12 or more credits?
- A. Students interested in this option will need to consult with an OIE adviser in an individual advising appointment to review CPT eligibility for the term.