To maintain lawful F status, F-1 students are required to:
Be enrolled full-time (12+hrs) each semester unless a vacation semester has been earned or been approved for an authorized reduced course load by the ISSS. In order to maintain status, the student must be granted the authorized reduced course load prior to dropping below full-time. For more information on reduced course loads click here.
Keep a valid, unexpired I-20 and passport (passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future).
Ensure contact information is correct by notifying OIE of any change in your email address and U.S. and/or foreign physical address. This information must be submitted through iStart, using the Personal Information Update e-form.
Be enrolled in a degree-seeking course of study and make normal progress towards that degree.
Notify ISSS of any change of major or degree level within 10 days of the change. I-20 updates are requested in iStart.
Submit an I-20 extension request in iStart before the I-20 expires.
Work no more than 20 hours/week (on and/or off campus) while enrolled full- time.
Work off-campus only with OIE or USCIS authorization. Off-campus work without authorization is a serious violation of status.
Have a valid travel signature on your I-20 before leaving and re-entering the U.S.
Complete an Income Tax Return as per IRS regulation by April 15th of every year. Visit OIE's tax website for more information.
Notify ISSS of any change to or addition of F2 dependents.
Within 60 days of completing the degree program, do one of the following:
1. Apply for post-completion OPT
2. Be admitted to another GA Tech degree program and request a change of level in iStart
3. Be admitted to a degree program at another U.S institution and request a Transfer in iStart
4. Apply for a change of status by submitting a I-539 application to USCIS
5. Depart the U.S.
A government issued passport permits a student to leave and re-enter his/her own country and normally contains an expiration date. In order to enter the U.S, F students must present a passport that valid at least 6 months into the future. Therefore, F students should ensure to keep their passport up to date.
Renewing your passport:
Contact the closest consulate or embassy in the U.S. For a list of embassies and consulates in the U.S visit the U.S State Department's website.
Ask the consulate representative what forms and fees are required.
Once the new passport is received, upload a copy in iStart using the Immigration Document Upload e-form.
With the exception of students from Canada or Bermuda, F students are required to present a valid F visa upon entry into the U.S. The visa is stamped into the passport by the U.S consulate or embassy. The visa does not determine the length of time F students can remain in the U.S. It is the I-20 that reflects the length of stay. Since it is an entry permit, the visa can expire while the student resides in the U.S., but it must be valid at time of reentry.
Renewing your U.S. visa for re-entry: It is not possible to renew an F-1 visa while you are in the U.S. If you are traveling abroad and your visa has expired, you will need to renew your visa while abroad unless you are eligible for automatic visa revalidation. For information on renewing your passport at a consulate/embassy abroad, visit OIE's Visa Renewal website.
Once the new visa is obtained, upload a copy in iStart using the Immigration Document Upload e-form.
Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)
I-94 arrival/departure records are issued at the time of entry into the U.S. All F students should possess a I-94 record that contains the following:
An "Admit Until Date" of D/S. D/S stands for duration of status and signifies that a F student may remain in the U.S for the length of their program of study as long as they are maintaining lawful status. Upon completion of studies, F students may apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). If approved, F students are allowed to remain in the U.S for the OPT period plus an additional 60 day grace period.
A "Class of Admission" of F-1
Correct date of entry into the U.S
Correct biographical information
An 11 digit I-94 number
Paper I-94s versus Electronic I-94s
Paper I-94s: Until April 30, 2013, the I-94 was a paper document. Students who arrived in the U.S. before April 30, 2013 and who have not traveled abroad, will still have a paper I-94 which should be stapled in their passport.
Electronic I-94s: On April 30, 2013, the US government published a new regulation eliminating paper I-94s arrival/departure records and moved to an electronic system. These records can be accessed online, and foreign visitors will no longer need to fill out the paper I-94 form when arriving to the US. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officials will gather the visitor's arrival and departure information by accessing the electronic travel records. For more information please see OIE's announcement about the new process or CBP's FAQ page.
To access your electronic I-94 record, please visit CBP's I-94 Number Retrieval website.
Having problems accessing your I-94, click here for help.
The I-20 is a "Certificate of Eligibility" is the immigration document issued to an individual who has been admitted to Georgia Tech to pursue a full-time academic program and requires a student visa to enter the U.S. to study. The majority of international students at Georgia Tech will be issued an I-20 to apply for an F-1 student visa. The I-20 states an F student's biographical, academic, and financial information. The I-20 contains an expected program completion date. Students who meet their degree requirements prior to this date will have their I-20 shortened. Students who do not complete by the end date listed on the I-20, are required to request an extension from the OIE prior to the expiration date listed on the form I-20.
Please note: SEVIS recently underwent a major upgrade, and the look of the I-20 changed dramatically. Therefore, your I-20 may look different than the I-20 another student has. You can see the two different versions of the I-20, with the older version on the left and the new version on the right. For more detailed information about these changes, please see the Study in the States website.
We will begin the process of issuing everyone a new I-20 in the upcoming year so that every GT student has an updated I-20 by July 2016. Whether you have the new or older version should have no or limited impact when you're applying for benefits such as a driver's license or social security number.
Depending upon which version of your I-20 that you have, either the second or third page contains space for employment authorization and travel signatures. These are granted by a Georgia Tech Designated School Official (DSO)/International Student Advisor.
When to Carry your Immigration Documents
You should carry your original immigration documents (I-20 or DS-2019, passport, I-94) with you when you travel outside the Atlanta area or when visiting any government office, such as the Social Security Administration or to get your driver's license.
However, OIE recommends that you carry copies of your documents with you when you are inside the Atlanta area and keep your original documents in a safe place that is easily accessible. This way, you are less likely to lose them but are able to present them if needed. It is your choice if you would like to carry your original documents or copies with you during the course of a normal day.
In order to maintain lawful status, F students are required to be enrolled full-time (12+hrs) each semester unless a vacation semester has been earned or been approved for an authorized reduced course load by the ISSS. See below for delays on reduced course loads and vacation semesters. Note: in order to maintain status, the student must be granted the authorized reduced course load prior to dropping below full-time.
Academic Reduced Course Loads (1-11credit hours)
There are limited reasons for which a student may be granted an academic reduced course load.
Reasons for an academic reduced course load include:
- Initial Difficulty with English Language (available in student’s 1st semester only)
- Initial Difficulty with Reading Requirements (available in student’s 1st semester only)
- Unfamiliarity with American Teaching Methods (available in student’s 1st semester only)
- Improper Course Level Placement: an advisor suggested you enroll in a course that you cannot successfully complete
- To Complete Course of Study in Current Term (available in student’s final semester only)
To request an academic reduced course load:
- Submit an academic reduced course load e-form request in iStart. In the e-form explain the reason for the reduced course load and provide the name of the appropriate Academic Advisor (undergraduates) or Graduate Coordinator (graduates)
- The e-form will be routed to the academic advisor/graduate coordinator for review. If approved, iStart will notify an OIE advisor to review the request.
- Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will determine if the recommendation meets the criteria set by F-1 regulations and send an approval or denial email.
- Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.
Medical Reduced Course Loads (0-11 credit hours)
A student experiencing a medical issue (physical or psychological) may be eligible for a medical reduced course load. A medical RCL allows students to register for 0-11 credit hours. Medical reduced course loads can be granted for no more than 12 months in the aggregate during any one course of study. The request must be approved by an International Student Advisor prior to the dropping below full-time. Medical reduced course loads are approved on a semester by semester basis. Therefore, students will need to reapply for a medical reduced course for each semester in which the problem persists.
To request a medical reduced course load:
1. Obtain the following documents from a U.S. licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist:
- Completed Recommendation for a Reduced Course Load Due to an Illness or Medical Condition form.
- A signed, typed letter on the doctor or psychologist's letterhead. The letter must state that the doctor or psychologist does not recommend full-time enrollment due to a medical issue.
- A copy of the doctor or psychologist’s business card.
2. Login to iStart and complete the Medical Reduced Course Load e-form which includes uploading a pdf of the aforementioned documents.
3. Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will progress the request and send an approval or denial email.
4. Upon receiving an approval email, the student may drop below 12 credits. If the e-form is not approved, the student must stay enrolled in 12 credits or risk violating lawful status.
Please Note: If you are on a medical reduced course load and do not pay student fees, you will not be automatically covered by insurance. OIE strongly recommends that you purchase insurance during this time!!!
Vacation Semester/Annual Vacation: (0-12+ credits)
F students are not required to be registered during the summer semester as long as the student was enrolled full-time in the previous spring semester and will enroll full-time in the following fall semester. During the summer term, immigration laws allow students to be registered full-time, part-time or not at all as long as they are not beginning their academic program in the summer semester.
A student may register part-time following a vacation semester if it is the student's graduation semester and they will apply for an academic reduced course load.
F-1 status and Audit Hours
Undergraduate students must be registered in 12 credit bearing hours. Audit hours do not count towards the 12 credit hour requirement. Students can choose to take courses as pass/fail based on the Georgia Tech guidelines(link to registrar’s office)
Graduate students can register for up to 3 audit hours as part of their 12 hour required minimum.
It is a Department of Homeland Security requirement that F-1 students possess I-20s that most accurately reflect their biographical, address, financial, and academic information. This is particularly important if you will be traveling and renewing your F-1 student visa.
Biographical: Change in name
Dependents: Addition of F2 dependent
Address: United States Address and Foriegn Address
Financial: Significant change to financial support such as an addition or loss of a GRA or GTA
Academic: Change in major, degree level or program completion date
Depending on the type of request, I-20 updates are done through either Buzzport or iStart.
- Name changes: Students should not change their name with the Registrar’s office/Buzzport unless they intend to make changes to their immigration documents. Students should speak with an International Student Advisor before requesting a name change.
- Address changes: F-1 students are required to update their United States and Foriegn Address by submitting the Personal Information Update e-form in iStart.
iStart Initiated E-forms:
- Request New Dependent SEVIS Document: To request an I-20 for a F2 dependent (spouse or child)
- Financial Statement Update: To reflect a significant change to funding, i.e. the addition or loss of a GRA/GTA or scholarship
- Graduate Program Extension: To request an extension if more time is required to complete an undergraduate student's educational objectives. The request must be approved by a graduate coordinator and the student may need to supply proof of funding if the student is not fully funded by their department.
- Undergraduate Program Extension: To request an extension if more time is required to complete a graduate student's educational objectives. The request must be approved by an academic advisor, and the student will need to supply proof of funding.
- Change of Degree Level: To reflect a change in degree level once a students is admitted to another degree level; i.e. BS to MS or MS to PhD
- Undergraduate Change of Major: To reflect a change in an undergraduate's primary major (see below for an explanation of primary major). The request does not need to be approved by an academic advisor, and the student does not need to supply proof of funding unless an extension is also required. Please read below to learn about primary majors and if/when to change your major.
- Graduate Change of Major: To reflect a change in a graduate student's primary major (see below for an explanation of primary major). The request must be approved by a graduate coordinator, and the student may need to supply proof of funding if the student is not fully funded by their department. Please read below to learn about primary majors and if/when to change your major.
Change of Majors
I am renewing my F-1 student visa and the major on my I-20 doesn't match my transcript. What do I do?
When renewing their F1 visa, students should provide the consulate with the updated I-20 reflecting the change of major. In addition to the I-20, the consulate will request several GA Tech institutional documents, including an official transcript. Since the change of major is not applied to the official transcript until the following academic term, students who have recently updated their I-20 will possibly have an I-20 reflecting the new major and a transcript containing the old major. ISSS suggests that students use both documents for the visa renewal along with the signed change of major request that was submitted to the Registrar’s office.
What is a Primary Major?
F-1 students are permitted to add and/or change majors and minors. However, secondary majors and/or minors are not reported in SEVIS. Therefore, they do not appear in section 5 of the I-20. The major listed in section 5 of the I-20 corresponds to a student’s primary major as listed in Buzzport and with the Office of the Registrar.
When the Office of the Registrar adds or changes a student’s record to reflect a new major or minor, the student will receive an automatic email from iStart. This email will request that the student login to iStart and complete a Change of Major e-form.
Should I submit the Change of Major e-form?
Students who have added a minor or a secondary major should not submit the Change of Major e-form as the minor or secondary major will not be entered in SEVIS.
The following types of students must complete the change of major e-form within 10 business days of the change:
- Students who have changed their major
- Students with more than one major, but have changed the priority.
Within 5 business days of a complete request, a new I-20 will be created reflecting the new primary major.
I have more than one major, which should I make my primary major?
Before deciding on a primary major, students should consider their long term objectives here in the U.S as the major listed in section 5 of the I-20 can impact the type of employment in which students may engage.
International students participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT) may only work in positions directly related to their fields of studies. During the first 12 months of OPT, students may hold positions related to either major as long as the primary major is listed in section 5 and the secondary major is indicated in the remarks section of the I-20.
However, students who plan to apply for the 17-month STEM OPT extension must have the STEM extension eligible major as their primary major and printed in section 5 of their I-20. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. International students in a STEM eligible major are able to apply for a 17-month STEM OPT extension. This means that after the initial first 12 months allowed for OPT, students who graduated in a STEM eligible major can apply for an additional 17 months of OPT bringing the total amount of time allowed for OPT to 29 months. Please find a list of Georgia Tech STEM eligible majors at our ‘What are the STEM eligible majors here at Georgia Tech?’ website.
What is a CIP code?
Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) are 5 digit codes (00.000) assigned to each program of study to ensure that the same material is being covered in each program of study; regardless of the name assigned by the individual university. Since the content of a major can vary depending on the university, CIP codes are a good way to ensure students’ majors are categorized correctly on the national scale.
The U.S Department of Education manages the CIP taxonomic scheme, but it is the University System of Georgia Board of Regents that assigns the appropriate CIP code to Georgia Tech majors. F-1 students can find their program of study’s CIP code at the top of the third page of their I-20.
How does that affect international students?
F-1 students may notice that the major listed in section 5 of the I-20 differs from the name of their academic program at Georgia Tech; this is typically a result of CIP codes. I-20s are federal documents. Thus, ISSS must use the federal government’s classification system. When creating an I-20 in SEVIS, the ISSS enters in the CIP code associated with the student’s program of study rather than typing in the name of the major assigned by Georgia Tech. Students who believe that the major on their I-20 is incorrect, and it is not the result of a difference in CIP codes, should contact ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On occasion, students will receive an automated email from email@example.com stating that they have changed their major, and they must complete a change of major e-form in iStart. Students who have not changed their majors with the university, may still get this email due to a change in the CIP code associated with their major. Students who receive a change in major email, but have not changed their major at GA Tech, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to determine if there has been a change in CIP codes.
While making progress towards their degree, F students are eligible to leave the U.S temporarily and return to continue their studies. In order to re-enter the U.S, F students (and their dependents, if any) are required to show a valid signature on I-20 and relevant documents at the port of entry:
Valid I-20 with unexpired travel signature on the third page of the I-20. Required
- A travel signature is valid for one year and multiple entries for active enrolled students, 6 months for students participating in Post Completion OPT/STEM extension.
- Students must obtain a travel signature prior to departing the U.S. by completing the Travel Signature Request e-form in iStart.
- It is recommended that students request a travel signature at the time a plane ticket is purchased.
Valid passport (valid at least 6 months into the future). Required
Valid F visa Required
- If the visa is valid for only one entry, or has expired, a new visa must be obtained from the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad in order to reenter the U.S. It is not possible to apply for a visa from within the U.S.
- Prepare for visa renewal prior to departing the U.S. Students will likely need to present financial documentation, official transcripts, and other documents that are issued in the U.S.
- Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain F or J visas. You will use your immigration documents issued by OIE to enter, but do not require a visa.
Valid EAD card (OPT students only) Recommended
Job offer letter (OPT students only) Recommended
Copy of student transcripts. Recommended
Copy of financial documents (e.g. bank statements, GRA/GTA letter, etc.) Recommended
Copy of I-901 SEVIS fee receipt. Recommended
Exception to Valid Visa Requirement: Automatic Visa Revalidation
Automatic visa revalidation allows F and J non-immigrant visa holders to visit Canada, Mexico and adjacent Caribbean islands (excluding Cuba) for less than 30 days and reenter the U.S. with an expired visa stamp. Upon returning to the U.S, students utilizing automatic visa revalidation must present a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature, and I-94 record. If you have an electronic I-94 record, it is recommended that you bring a hard copy during travel and present it upon exit and entry. Citizens of Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation.
Note: Non-immigrants who apply for a visa during their stay in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean are not eligible to use automatic visa revalidation if the visa is denied or delayed.
Students traveling to a country other than their own, may need a visitor's visa to enter. For a list of foreign embassies in the U.S. visit the U.S. Department of State's website.
When you enter the U.S. for the first time or when you travel and return while on a Georgia Tech I-20 or DS-2019, you will be required to show the following documents:
I-20 or DS-2019
- I-20: Issued to F-1 students from Georgia Tech afer they have been admitted to the university, paid their deposit, and uploaded required financial documents.
Page 1 of the I-20 has a SEVIS identification number in the top, right corner (N000_ _ _ _ _ _ _), the name of your program, your academic level, the validity dates of the I-20 (known as the Program Start Date and the Program End Date), as well as financial information for yourself and your course of study.
Page 3 includes any special authorizations of your F-1 status (OPT, CPT, Reduced Course Load) and lines for ISSS to sign so that you may travel and re-enter the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year and multiple entries for continuing students, but for F-1 students on post-completion OPT, travel signatures are good for only 6 months.
Note: A travel signature is not required the first time you enter the U.S.
Throughout your time at Georgia Tech, you will likely receive updated copies of your I-20 as your program changes. You should keep each copy in a safe place where it is accessible because you will be required to submit past I-20s when applying for future immigration benefits.
- DS-2019: Issued to J-1 students, scholars, and interns. Most of these may be issued by Georgia Tech, but may have been issued by a government agency or a student exchange organization.
The identification number is at the top, right corner (N000_ _ _ _ _ _ _). You will also find information about your J-1 program, your dates of eligibility and a signature line verifying that you are eligible to travel and re-enter the United States.
Note: A travel signature is not required the first time you enter the U.S.
To request a travel signature, please log in to iStart and complete the Travel Signature e-form. OIE encourages all students, scholars, and student interns to submit a travel signature request when a plane ticket is bought to avoid last minute emergencies.
Your passport is issued by your country of citizenship for the purpose of identification, and to allow you to enter and leave that country; you will not be able to travel without it. Your passport should always be valid for at least 6 months when entering the U.S. You will not be able to get a visa with a passport that is within 6 months of expiration.
Valid U.S. Visa
International students, scholars, and student interns are required to have a visa stamp in their passport to enter the U.S. Your visa stamp indicates the immigration status in which you may enter the U.S.; it is important to check that your visa has the correct visa classification as different classifications have different benefits and restrictions. For information about applying for your visa, please see OIE's Applying for an F-1/J-1 visa page.
U.S. visas are entrance documents to the United States and you may stay in the U.S. after your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired. However, if you travel outside the U.S. after it is expired, you will be required to renew your visa before returning to the U.S. U.S. visas must be issued outside the U.S. so it is not possible to renew your visa inside the U.S. When making travel plans after your visa has expired, please allow enough time to receive a new visa. For information about renewing your visa as a continuing student or scholar, please see OIE's website.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain F or J visas. You will use your immigration documents issued by OIE to enter, but do not require a visa.
- There may be an exception in the requirement of having a valid U.S. visa if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent Caribbean Islands for less than 30 days. For more information, please visit ICE’s website covering ‘Reentry for F-1 Nonimmigrants Traveling Outside the United States for Five Months or Less’ for more information.
Copy of I-109 SEVIS Fee Receipt
You are required to pay the SEVIS fee when a new SEVIS record is created. This means that if a previous SEVIS record was terminated or completed and you receive a new SEVIS record, you will be required to pay this fee again.
When international visitors arrive to the U.S., they are issued an I-94 arrival/departure record. In April 2013, Customs and Border Protection began issuing electronic I-94 records. Visitors who have entered the U.S. after April 2013 can find their electronic I-94 record at CBP's I-94 Number Retrieval website. Visitors who entered the U.S. prior to April 2013 should still have a paper I-94 card.
Other Tips for Traveling Outside the U.S.
- The Department of Homeland Security recommends that students carry a copy of their most recent transcript and proof of financial support when they return.
- You should consult the embassy or consulate of the country or countries to which you will be visiting to see if you need a visitor (or transit) visa for that country.
- Frequently Asked Questions on Reentering to the US are on the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Website: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f.htm.
A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship. A visa is permission to request entry to the U.S. so until you are outside of the U.S. and require travel into the U.S., a valid visa stamp is not necessary. Procedures and requirements for visas can vary between countries and are often subject to change. As such, reviewing the visa requirements on the website for the appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate is the best way to prepare you for the visa application process.
In order to renew your U.S. visa you must do the following:
1. Obtain a signature from an ISSS advisor on your I-20 (for F-1 visa holders) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa holders). The travel signature is valid for one year and multiple entries.
2. Visit the website: www.travel.state.gov to determine the procedures for applying for a visa at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country in which you’ll be traveling. Please be aware that some embassies require you to make an appointment in advance in order to apply for visa renewal.
Approximate visa appointment and processing wait times can be found on the Department of State's website.
3. If your funding has changed, you are required to update the financial portion of your I-20 or DS-2019. Request an updated I-20 or DS-2019 by completing the Financial Update e-form in iStart. Your new document will be ready for pick up in 5 business days.
Note: If you are a GRA or GTA, ask your department to provide you with an updated GRA/GTA offer letter that confirms your tuition waiver and stipend.
Suggested Background Documentation
In addition to the documentation required by the Consulate/Embassy Visa Processing section, you should prepare and have available information to share in the interview (verbally or in documentation when appropriate).
- Description of your academic or research program objectives
- Complete resume and list of publications; an official transcript if you are enrolled as a student in the U.S.
- Proof of funding for your student or scholarly activity
- Proof of "binding ties" to your home country. F and J visas are non-immigrant intent visas. You will need to prove to the visa officer plan to return home country after graduation
- If you are subject to paying the SEVIS fee take the receipt with you to the consulate: If you need to re-print please visit fmjfee.com
- If you are a student authorized for post graduation OPT, it is best to bring the EAD work permit and information about the employment or training you will engage in during the OPT. The signature on the I-20 is valid ONLY for 6 months during a period of OPT.
Security Advisory Opinion (SAO)
When is a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) requested? An SAO may be required of a visa applicant for a number of reasons: a "hit" during a name-check; being a "national" of certain countries; studying or researching an academic field on the Technology Alert List (TAL); or, based on the "intuition" of the interviewing officer.
If you are subject to an SAO, unfortunately, there is nothing that Georgia Tech can do to expedite the process. If you are a current graduate student at Georgia Tech and subject to an SAO, please inform your academic department so that they are aware of the delay. This is especially important if you are a GRA/GTA. Therefore, you must wait until the check is complete, which can be anywhere from 2 weeks to several months.
- Name check: Every applicant for any visa must undergo a name-check through the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD). If the applicant's name matches a name on the database as a 'problem,' an SAO is required.
- Nationality: Being a "national" of certain countries may be all that is needed to require an SAO. "National" may mean that the individual has dual citizenship, once was a citizen of one of those countries, OR was born in one of those countries. The only way to avoid this is if proof of renunciation of that citizenship is in writing (whether in fact the applicant was ever a citizen of the country).
- Technology Alert List (TAL): Many of the fields of study listed on the TAL are very broadly stated which results in a number of SAOs. If the research is clearly not of strategic importance, a detailed (but not lengthy!) explanation of the specific research that the applicant is engaged in may remove the need for an SAO.
- Intuition: Consular officers are asked to use their own impressions to request an SAO if they are at all unsure of whether it is necessary or not.
**Travel information for F-1 and J-1 student visa holders:
This information was compiled by the Office of International Education with assistance from NAFSA: Association of International Educators as a way to help Georgia Tech students better understand visa delays. These are recommendations only.
Filing taxes in the US can be confusing. While the U.S. government has complex tax laws, the purpose of this information is to help identify Georgia Tech International Students/Scholars if they must file tax forms, what to file, when to file by and what resources we offer to answer tax filing questions and complete and file federal and state tax returns. Please read the entire page as it will help you to complete the appropriate tax documents that are a part of maintaining your visa status within the US.
Guide to Who-Files-What
The U.S. federal and state governments tax income, taxable scholarships and other types of monetary gain. Tax is generally withheld before a payment is made and individuals are expected to file tax reports by a specified deadline after the end of the tax year as a mechanism to reconcile all tax withheld against what the federal and state government identifies should have been withheld. At the end of the year, if the tax payments that were made were not enough to cover the total income tax due, you must pay the federal and/or state revenue department. Conversely, if you paid too much over the course of the tax year (more than what you owe in tax), then the federal and/or state revenue department will send back your excess payment in the form of a tax refund.
No Income? File Form 8843
Were you present in the United States for any period during the year 2017 (January 1-December 31)? Are you a non-resident for tax purposes? A yes answer to both questions means you must file a tax form 8843, even if you did not work. All nonresident aliens present in the U.S. under F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 nonimmigrant status must file Form 8843 "Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals With a Medical Condition" -- even if they received NO income during a tax year. Depending on various factors, you also may need to file both a federal and state tax return. This year, all tax forms and returns must be mailed by Tuesday April 17th, 2018 to the IRS and each individual state you earned income during the tax year.
Form 8843 must be filed if an individual is:
- Present in the U.S. for any day during 2017
- A nonresident alien (an individual who has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.)
- Present in the U.S. under F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2 status
If an individual meets all three qualifications above, the Form 8843 must be filed for the tax year. The OIE encourages students who are non-residents for tax purposes to complete the form 8843 using the information below.
Click Here for Helpful Tips to complete Form 8843
Federal & State Taxes
International Student and Scholar Services has purchased access licenses for international students to use Sprintax software to assist Georgia Tech students and scholars to file Federal and State tax returns. There are a limited number of codes available, so request one and use it as soon as possible. Students who request a code near the tax deadline (April 17th) are a) not guaranteed a code and b) not guaranteed to receive their code in time to complete their tax return in time for the tax deadline.
Sprintax will determine your tax residency. If you are a nonresident for tax purposes and earned taxable income, then use Sprintax to help you through the process of completing your Federal and State tax return documents. If the software identifies you are a resident taxpayer then please follow instructions available on IRS.gov for individual resident taxpayer filing.
Georgia Tech non-resident taxpayers who earned income should use the Sprintax software to complete your Federal and State tax returns. The OIE has paid Sprintax to cover the cost of the federal tax return for Georgia Tech non-resident students and scholars. You will be responsible for paying Sprintax to complete State tax filing, at a discounted rate for each state return you are required to file.
The OIE will continue to assist Georgia Tech students and scholars to provide the paperwork and support to assist with filing for an ITIN and for a return of Social Security taxes (FICA) withheld in error. Individuals can also choose pay a discounted rate to Sprintax to complete the ITIN or Social Security taxes (FICA) withholding in error tax forms.
Filing Taxes after April 17, 2018: Individuals are still required to file the applicable tax forms even after the deadline. You can continue to request a Sprintax Access Code (if codes are still available) using the instructions below, or refer to the information above to file the Form 8843.
** Georgia Tech will continue to use Glacier for employer payroll compliance and record keeping. Sprintax tax preparation software is for individual non-resident taxpayers to complete tax returns.
How to Request a Sprintax Access Code:
1. If you need to file an annual tax return, please complete the Sprintax Access Request e-form which will be available in iStart under the "SSN and Taxes" menu. This e-form will be available on February 12, 2018.
2. If you do not need to file an annual tax return because you had no taxable income, you do not need to access Sprintax and can use the information above to complete the form 8843.
3. Still have Sprintax access questions? Email your name, GT ID, and question to: email@example.com
Please use the following when completing Sprintax:
Academic Program Director Name: Marisa Atencio
Academic Program Address:
Georgia Institute of Technology
631 Cherry St, Savant Bldg 211
Atlanta, GA 30332-0284
Please Note: If you are non-resident for tax purposes, and you had no U.S. earned income or scholarships in U.S., you must file IRS Form 8843. Spouses and dependents in F-2 and J-2 status who are non-residents for tax purposes must also file Form 8843. Use the Helpful Tips video above to help you complete the form. All you will need to do is mail the form 8843. There will be no tax forms required for the State of Georgia.
- Guide to Tax Forms and Vocabulary
- Instructions to file the form 8843 and form 8316 to request a refund of SSN taxes (FICA) withheld in error
- How to Request an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) During the Tax Season
- Information and Resources from the Office of Human Resources
- Global HR International Student and Scholar FAQs
Filing a Resident Tax Return? Use the following handout to learn How to Claim a Tax Treaty Benefit When Filing a Resident Tax Return. (pdf)
The Georgia 500 form has changed recently. Students are strongly recommended to use Sprintax to prepare and file your Georgia State taxes. Reminder: Sprintax will charge $25.95 for preparation of a state return for each state in which you worked.
NOTE: Filing income tax forms is the personal responsibility of each international student and scholar. ISSS has designed this website as a service to help you meet your tax filing obligations but please be aware that you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your income tax returns.
Avoid Tax Scams
We want you to be aware of tax scams, especially to scammers who call and say they are with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). There is an increase in aggressive phone scams during tax season. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's website on Tax Identify Theft for ways to identify a tax scam, and helpful tips for keeping yourself safe.
Students are considered to be a transfer student if they meeting one of the following criteria:
- Complete a program at one institution and begin a new program at another institution, or
- Transfer from one institution to another to complete the same degree program.
To request a SEVIS transfer:
- Obtain an acceptance letter from the new institution.
- Complete the Transfer Out Request e-form in iStart. In the e-form, upload a copy of the admission letter, provide the name and SEVIS school code for the new institution and include the requested transfer release date.
- Within 5 business days, an OIE advisor will initiate the transfer. The record will not fully transfer until the transfer release date has passed.
- Begin classes at the new institution with 5 months of the transfer. Students who do not begin classes within 5 months must get a new "initial attendance" I-20 from the new institution.
Important reminders regarding choosing a transfer date:
- After the transfer release date, Georgia Tech will no longer have access to the record and cannot make any changes to the record. Any changes to the record must be made by the new institution including transferring the record to a different school.
- Students are only eligible to work on-campus at the institution that possesses the SEVIS records.
- After the transfer date, students participating in post-completion OPT must stop off-campus employment and is only eligible to work at the new school.
- The SEVIS record must be transferred to the new school within 60 days of completing their Georgia Tech program. After the 60 day grace period, the record is no longer eligible for transfer in SEVIS.
F students interested in changing to a status other than F2, J1 or J2 should consult an immigration attorney. OIE does not have the expertise to advise students on other statuses.
However, it is important that students notify OIE when they change immigration status or would like to abandon their F status while a change of status application is pending.
- Login to iStart and review the information in the Change of Status from F1/F2 e-form.
- If the change of status has been approved or you would like to abandon your F-1 status while an application is pending, complete the e-form. In the e-form, upload proof of your pending/approved change of status. Examples include:
- paper I-94 card issued by Customs and Border Protection along with the corresponding entry visa
- electronic I-94 card along with the corresponding entry visa
- I-797 notice of action containing the I-94 card issued by USCIS
- front and back of the U.S. permanent residency card (green card)
- U.S passport or naturalization documents
- An International Student Advisor will review your request within 5 business days and either terminate or complete your SEVIS record depending on your individual situation and remove your F-1 status from the Georgia Tech information system.
Important Reminders for All Students with Terminated/Completed F-1 SEVIS Records Due to a Change of Status:
- Not eligible for F-1 benefits such as on-campus work benefit or off-campus work authorization (OPT or CPT).
- No longer automatically enrolled in Georgia Tech's international student health insurance plan.
- Are responsible for providing the Registrar's Office with proof of the change of status.
- If employed on-campus, are responsible for providing Human Resources with proof of the approved/pending change of status to update their tax and employment documentation.
- Important: It is possible to possess an approved change of status application but the change of status is not yet effective (i.e. an H1B application approved in May but an effective date of October 1st). If a change in employment occurs between the approval notice date and effective date (i.e. discontinuation of employment by H1B sponsor), students must contact the OIE immediately to prevent the termination of their F1 status.
Additional Considerations for Students with Pending U.S Permanent Residency Applications and Requesting a Termination of Their F-1 Status:
- Consult an immigration attorney before choosing to terminate F-1 status prior to receiving legal permanent residency.
- Will require a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to be employed.
- OIE will no longer be able to make updates to your student visa status
- If the permanent residency application is denied, you will be considered to be out of status (that is, unlawfully in the U.S.)
A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and wishes to continue studying at Georgia Tech has two options to regain valid status: Travel and Re-entry or Reinstatement. These options should be discussed with an International Student Advisor in detail.
If you have failed to maintain your F-1 status and your SEVIS record is terminated, you are no longer eligible for on-campus employment, practical training, travel signature for re-entry to the US, or any other benefits of F-1 status.
Options for F-1 Students to Regain Status
Option 1: Travel and Re-Entry
This option includes: obtaining a new I-20, departing the U.S, applying for a new F-1 visa and reentering the US with a new SEVIS record. Prior to departure, you will provide OIE with new financial documentation in order to obtain a new I-20. After the I-20 is issued, you will be required to pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a new F-1 visa outside the U.S. Upon being issued a new visa, you will be eligible to return to the U.S. at a Port of Entry within 30 days from the start of the semester.
Please Note: If you choose to travel to regain status, there is no guarantee that you will be issued a new visa or permitted to re-enter the U.S. The U.S. Department of State will review your visa application and decide if you are eligible for a student visa. The decision to admit you to the U.S. is made by the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. OIE will prepare you as best as we can for both encounters.
If you are admitted to the U.S. with your F-1 visa, you will gain F-1 status. However, you will have a new SEVIS record, which means that you must be in status for 2 semesters with the new record to be eligible to apply for OPT or CPT.
Option 2: Apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement through USCIS
The F-1 visa status reinstatement process is subjective. USCIS reviews the applicant’s I-539 application and supporting paper materials and makes the decision on whether or not to approve the F-1 visa status reinstatement. OIE will review your case and materials carefully and will determine whether we believe you are a good candidate for reinstatement. If we believe you are not eligible for reinstatement, we may suggest that you travel and re-enter the U.S to obtain lawful status.
Applicants for F-1 visa status reinstatement will be evaluated based upon the following criteria:
- Applicant has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or the failure to file within the 5 month period was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the applicant filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible under these exceptional circumstances).
- Applicant does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of [USCIS] regulations.
- Applicant is currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study in the immediate future at the school which issued the Form I-20.
- Applicant has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
- Applicant is not deportable on any ground other than section 237(a)(1)(B) or (C)(i) of the Act.
- Applicant establishes to the satisfaction of the [USCIS], in detail showing, either that:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond your control. Such circumstances might include serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster, or inadvertence, oversight, or neglect on the part of the DSO, but do not include instances where a pattern of violations or where a willful failure on your part resulted in the need for reinstatment.
- The violation relates to a reduction in your course load that would have been within a DSO's power to authorize, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.
Procedure to apply for F-1 Visa Status Reinstatement
Step One - Meet with an International Student Advisor to assess your eligibility for F-1 visa status reinstatement. The advisor will determine if you are a viable candidate for F-1 visa status reinstatement. If so, he/she will explain how to request the new I-20 required for the reinstatement application.
Step Two – Complete the Intent to Depart/End I-20 E-Form in by logging in to iStart.gatech.edu.
Step Three – Prepare the following documents:
- USCIS form I-539, available on the USCIS web site: http://www.uscis.gov/forms. Complete the form as a draft and during final review the ISSS advisor will suggest any changes needed before a final version is submitted to USCIS.
- I-539 Application Fee (http://www.uscis.gov/forms), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.
- A cover letter from you requesting reinstatement to F-1 status and explaining your circumstances. You should explain that the violation of F-1 status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Attach any additional supporting documents.
- A new SEVIS I-20 issued by Georgia Tech for purposes of reinstatement (signed by you and an ISSS advisor).
- A photocopy of your previous I-20 form(s).
- Financial support documents to show evidence of continued funding—documents should be recent (no more than 6 months old). The financial documents should meet the requirements listed on OIE's financial documentation website.
- A photocopy of your passport photo page—include any other pages that contain the expiration date, extensions, or any biographical information. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future.
- A photocopy of your most recent visa (stamp), used to enter the US.
- Your original I-94 card (if issued paper I-94) or CBP entry/admission stamp (if issued electronic I-94).
***Be sure to copy front and back of paper I-94 clearly showing the USCIS stamp. Keep this copy for your records.
- A photocopy of your transcript and course registration from OSCAR.
Step Four - Meet with ISSS advisor with whom you have been communicating to review the final application for reinstatement.
- A decision to reinstate you to F-1 student status is at the discretion of the USCIS.
- Processing times at USCIS vary greatly. Expect to wait 3-6 months before receiving a response.
- While the application is pending, you are NOT eligible for any F-1 student benefits, such as practical training employment authorization or on-campus employment. If you are reinstated into F-1 status, you must obtain proper authorization before working.
- Travel outside the U.S. while a reinstatement application is pending may be considered an abandonment of the application. If you need to leave the U.S. while your application is pending, you must meet with an ISSS advisor prior to travel.
- If the application is approved, USCIS will endorse the new I-20 form and return it to the mailing address listed on the I-539 form. ISSS will contact you if we receive any updates on your behalf. Please also contact ISSS when you receive information from USCIS.
- If you have dependents in F-2 status, their status is automatically reinstated with your reinstatement.
- If the application is denied, you will begin to accrue days of unlawful presence in the U.S. (accrual of more than 180 days of unlawful presence could subject a person to a 3-year or 10-year bar from reentering the U.S.). If your application is denied, you have the option to file an appeal with the USCIS, but we will strongly encourage you to hire a competent immigration attorney.
Remaining Out of Status
Choosing to remain in the U.S. out of status is a high risk decision that the OIE does not recommend. If you remain in the U.S. after your I-20 has been terminated, your name will be made available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and you risk being deported from the U.S. You are not eligible to receive any benefits of your previous status, such as work authorization (on-campus work, CPT or OPT). OIE will contact the Office of Human Resources to inform them that you are out of status, and your GT employment will be discontinued immediately.
Remaining in the U.S. after you have SEVIS record is terminated is a very serious offense of immigration regulations and may prevent you from returning to the U.S. in the future. If you are certain you would like to remain out of status for the course of your degree, you will be required to provide a signature to OIE stating that you understand the consequences.