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 a combination of in-person and hybrid delivery?
A. All students outside the U.S. can request a letter stating the Institute has returned to 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 for fall 2020, can I enroll in online only courses and travel to the U.S.?
A. Based on SEVP guidance issued on July 24, new students planning to enroll in online only courses should remain outside the U.S. Students enrolled in in-person or hybrid residential courses are eligible to enter the U.S.
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 in fall 2020?
A. If you do not plan to re-enter the U.S. in fall for studies, OIE will defer your start date on the transfer I-20 to the spring 2021 term. 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 and hybrid courses and enter the U.S. for fall 2020. 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A. On July 14, SEVP rescinded guidance requiring all students to receive updated I-20 reflecting enrollment plans for the term.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 Fall 2020 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. You will be responsible for any shipping costs for your I-20 unless your academic department has agreed to cover these as part of your assistantship or admission offer.
Q: If I take online classes for the fall 2020 semester and join on campus study in the spring 2021 semester, 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?
- Yes, 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, 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 fall semester 2020 begins, can I use the same I-20 to apply for visa if I defer admission to spring semester 2021?
- OIE recommends you attend your visa interview with an original I-20 document 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, 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: Will students have their OIE holds removed to register for classes, even if they can't complete the final part of the Check-In form?
- Students who request an I-20 or DS-2019 by July 15, 2020 will have the OIE hold rescheduled to occur after Phase II registration ends for the term in which they plan to enter the U.S. and demonstrate compliance with the state of Georgia’s lawful presence requirement.
Q: If a new student attends fall semester 2020 online, what happens to the F-1 Status or I-20?
- You will receive an updated I-20 for spring start after completing the iStart Arrival Confirmation e-form and indicating you will begin studies in an online format in fall 2020 and plan to arrive in the U.S. in Spring 2021. You will not be in Active F-1 status while you are enrolled online. You will enter the U.S. in Spring 2021 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 in the fall, 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 fall semester 2020?
- Upon obtaining your visa and requesting OIE and academic department approval, you may arrive late in Atlanta up to 30 days after the start of the term per SEVP regulations. In order to request late arrival, you must submit the iStart Arrival Confirmation e-form. OIE will work with your academic department to request support for your late arrival. Students arriving during this 30-day timeframe would be required to follow quarantine guidelines.
- 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 in fall 2020 impact plans for internships next summer?
- 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: Would it be beneficial to come to Atlanta, even if the classes are online?
- The current guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) states that F-1 students engaging in fully online instruction are not eligible to enter the U.S., and must wait to enter in a semester where they will be enrolled for in-person instruction.
Q: As an undergrad student, if I take the first semester online as a result of visa issues, can I resume on campus in January?
- Yes, if you decide to enroll in online courses for the fall 2020 semester, but want to resume courses on campus in January 2021, you will need to request a deferral of your I-20 Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record by completing the Arrival Confirmation e-form in the iStart portal. OIE will then issue you an updated I-20 for arrival in the spring term and provide you with arrival support information throughout the fall.
Q: I’m a new student with an initial I-20. Will OIE send me a scanned copy of my initial I-20?
- OIE is continuing to print and ship original I-20s during this time via E-Ship Global Express Mail and is not providing scanned copies as a routine service. F and J students need to have the original copy of the I-20 for visa interviews and entry to the U.S. As you await your original I-20, you can view your program dates, SEVIS ID, Education Level, and I-20 status in iStart at https://istart.gatech.edu.
Q: I am a graduate student and I have been admitted to Georgia Tech for Fall 2020. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 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 email@example.com to notify us of the challenges.
- Students expecting to receive their I-20 form for the fall term should submit all materials by July 1 and those admitted for spring term should submit materials by Nov 1. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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 for Fall 2020, 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
Q:Does a transfer student, who is living in U.S., have to pick up I-20 in person in OIE?
- A. Transfer students will complete the International Student Check-In e-form online via the iStart portal and will not be required to physically report to the institution to complete international student check-in. Students can request to have their Georgia Tech I-20 shipped to them either by Express Mail at the student’s expense or U.S. Postal Service with no tracking at OIE’s expense.
Q: Can a transfer F-1 student take courses remotely from inside the U.S.?
- 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 during the pandemic.