As a J-1 scholar at Georgia Tech, you are responsible for knowing and complying with the J-1 scholar immigration regulations. The immigration regulations are administered by the Department of State and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is important for you to understand the immigration regulations. The Department of State does not consider ignorance of the law a legitimate reason for failing to obey it. This information is designed to assist you with your awareness of and compliance with the rules that regulate those in J-1 and J-2 (dependents) status.
To maintain lawful J status, J scholars are required to:
- Keep a valid, unexpired DS-2019 and passport (passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future).
- Maintain continuious health insurance for the duration of your time in the U.S.
- Participate only in the activity listed on your DS-2019. You may not enroll in GT classes during your time at Georgia Tech.
- Update your physical address (SEVIS Inside and SEVIS Outside Address) using the J Scholar Address Update e-form in iStart when there is a change in U.S. or home country address.
- Have a valid travel signature on your DS-2019 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 J-2 dependents.
- Get any incidental employment approved before the activity takes place. Please see the J Scholar Incidental Employment Authorization Request for more information.
As a J Exchange Visitor in the United States, you must purchase and maintain health insurance that meets or exceeds U.S. Department of State standards for yourself and your J-2 dependents for the full duration of your J program. Government regulations stipulate that if you willfully fail to carry health insurance for yourself and your dependents for the duration of your J Exchange Visitor program, your J-1 sponsor must report the violation to the U.S. Department of State through a termination your J SEVIS record.
Risks of not having health insurance:
It is dangerous to be in the United States without adequate health insurance. In many countries the government bears the expense of health care for its citizens, and sometimes even for visitors, individuals and families. This is NOT the case in the United States, individuals are responsible for these costs themselves. Having adequate insurance affords you access to better and more timely health care and provides the only protection against the enormous costs of health care that are a reality in the U.S.
Health Insurance Options:
As a part of the OIE check-in, each J-1 scholar or student intern will certify an insurance compliance statement and provide evidence of the health insurance plan using iStart.
J Exchange Visitors must upload one of the following:
- Evidence of an insurance policy purchased prior to arriving to the U.S. that the Scholar has verified meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State minimum standards.
- Evidence of enrollment in an appropriate insurance plan offered to you as a benefit of employment with Georgia Tech & a Medical Evacuation & Repatriation plan purchased separately
- Evidence of enrollment in one of the insurance plans offered by Georgia Tech or the University System of Georgia to international students and scholars.
Validation in SEVIS, which is a notification to the U.S. Department of State, will not occur until after completing the OIE check-in and uploading evidence of adequate health insurance. After OIE reviews and approves the Check-in e-form, the DS-2019 will be validated and the Exchange Visitor will be scheduled for a mandatory OIE Orientation.
Health Insurance Standards:
As an Exchange Visitor in the United States, under a rule effective since September 1, 1994, you must carry health insurance that meets or exceeds U.S. Department of State standards for yourself and your J-2 dependents for the full duration of your J program. Government regulations stipulate that scholars who willfully fail to carry health insurance for shall be reported to the Department of State through a termination of the J program. The Department of State has basic MINIMUM requirements for the amounts of coverage a J-1 or J-2 Exchange Visitor must have for the duration of their J program.
Exchange Visitor Program standards:
University System of Georgia Board of Regents SHIP Standards:
In addition to the federal insurance requirements, the University System on Georgia Board of Regents also has a student/scholar health insurance policy (SHIP) which ensures F and J students and scholars participating in programs at USG system institutions have access to adequate insurance. The USG SHIP policy includes:
- Both accident and sickness coverage
- Minimum benefit $250,000 per policy year
- Provision for repatriation of remains of not less than $25,000*
- Medical evacuation to one’s home country and family reunification of not less than $50,000*
- A deductible of $500 or less and/or co-pay per individual, per year
- In-patient and outpatient, mental and nervous disorder benefits
- Prescription Drug Coverage
- Pay benefits worldwide
Be aware that there are many insurance companies who promote they are US Department of State compliant. While these insurance plans may be in compliance with the minimum U.S. Department of State standards, often the insurance coverage excludes common medical needs such as pregnancy, pre-existing conditions, well-care, or injuries that occur due to common activities. In addition, insurance policies may include limits per accident or injury. Only insurance that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State requirements, will ensure compliance for J Exchange Visitors.
How Medical Insurance Works in the U.S.
When you pay health coverage, the money you pay (your premium) is combined with the premiums of others to for a pool of money. That money is then used to pay the medical bills of those participants who need health care. Your coverage remains valid only as long as you continue to pay your insurance premiums.
Once you purchase insurance, the company will provide you with an insurance identification card for use as proof of your coverage when you are seeking health care from a hospital or doctor. The company will also provide written instructions for reporting and documenting medical expenses (filing a claim). The company will evaluate any claim that you file, and make the appropriate payment for coverage under your particular policy. In some cases the company pays the hospital or doctor directly; in others the company reimburses the policy- holder after he or she has paid the bills.
Georgia Tech employees
Ask your department HR administrator if health insurance is a part of your employee benefits package. If so, you will learn about the insurance options by attending a benefits orientation at the Office of Human Resources as soon as possible after your arrival. Work with your sponsoring department HR administrator to schedule the HR new employee orientation or visit the OHR website.
Be aware that certain GT employee health insurance plans do not meet the U.S. Department of State minimum standards. As of the calendar year 2019, only the BlueChoice HMO, Kaiser Permanente HMO, and Comprehensive Care plans are in compliance with U.S. Department of State requirements. For further details please examine the USG Comparison Guide. As health insurance coverage amounts can change at any time, OIE recommends that you confirm that your health insurance plan is compliant with U.S. Department of State standards (see chart above) when you initially select a plan, and re-confirm that your plan is compliant each year of your program during the GT employee insurance open enrollment period.
If you are eligible for GT employee benefits: 1) you must complete the OHR enrollment process including selecting health insurance, 2) ensure you have temporary coverage if the insurance plan will not begin with the start of your J program, AND 3) purchase a separate Medical Evacuation and Repatriation plan in order to be in compliance with Department of State regulations.
Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance is available through the University System of Georgia partner PGH Global. Please visit the PGH Global's Med Evac./Repat. Insurance Enrollment Site to enroll online for this stand-alone coverage (NOTE: This link will send you to ACSA Insurance, which is a PGH subsidiary; this is PGH Global med evac insurance). Additionally, you can review other travel insurance options with other insurance providers at the NAFSA Association for International Educators Marketplace. The Exchange Visitor is responsible for ensuring that you enroll in a medical evac/repat. insurance plan that meets the U.S. Department of State minimum standards, as described on this page. Evidence of Medical Evacuation & Repatriation coverage, in addition to your GT OHR Employee Health Policy, is required to complete the J Scholar OIE check-in process and ensure your DS-2019 is activated in SEVIS.
Non-Georgia Tech employees or Georgia Tech employees who are not eligible for insurance benefits
Review health insurance options the health insurance section of the Pre-arrival Guide. You may purchase insurance from any provider as long as the policy meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State insurance standards (you may search for insurance providers at NAFSA Association for International Educators Marketplace), or choose one of the options provided by Georgia Tech below.
Upon arrival to the U.S., you have the option to enroll in one of two plans offered to J scholars at Georgia Tech:
1) Student health insurance plan from United Healthcare (offered through Georgia Tech)-
- As a reminder, U.S. federal regulations “require that all exchange visitors have insurance in effect that covers the exchange visitors for sickness or accidents during the period of time that they participate in the sponsor's exchange visitor program. In addition, sponsors must require that accompanying spouses and dependents of exchange visitors have insurance for sickness and accidents.” The minimum U.S. Department of State coverage requirements for exchange visitor health insurance is presented on this webpage above, in the "Health Insurance Standards" section.
- Effective on August 1, 2019, Georgia Tech will have a new student health insurance provider: United Healthcare. J Exchange Visitors will be able to enroll in GT student health insurance starting on July 22, 2019. For more information including enrollment instructions, please visit the Stamps Health Services website at https://health.gatech.edu/finance/insurance. As a J-1 Exchange Visitor and/or dependent, you will select the Voluntary Core Plan for enrollment.
- If you currently have GT student health insurance through BCBS/Anthem company (the previous provider), your insurance will expire on July 31, 2019 and cannot be renewed. If you are a newly arrived exchange visitor, you may purchase student health insurance from United Healthcare starting on July 22, 2019. Alternative health insurance coverage options are presented in this section.
- If you choose to purchase health insurance from a different health insurance provider now, you may always purchase GT student insurance at a later date if you wish (and upload new insurance proof of enrollment to iStart using Immigration Document Update form)
2) PGH Global health insurance plan (offered through the University System of Georgia)-
- After you have arrived in the U.S. visit the website below to enroll.
- Click the "Get a Quote" link to review plan benefits and complete enrollment on-line via PGH Global's Insurance Enrollment Site
- PGH Global Health Insurance (that includes medical evacuation/repatriation insurance)
- Only PGH Global Medical Evacuation/Repatriation Insurance (NOTE: This link will send you to ACSA Insurance, which is a PGH subsidiary; this is PGH Global insurance).
- PGH Global will process your enrollment and send confirmation within 2-7 business days from the date of payment being made.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal statute that aims to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government. The GA Tech Student Blue Health Plan is ACA compliant.
Individuals who are considered residents for U.S. tax purposes are expected to be enrolled in an ACA compliant insurance plan. Insurance plans offered by PGH Global (linked to above) are not ACA-compliant. If you use PGH Global insurance or insurance from another provider that is not ACA-compliant, you may be subject to an IRS tax penalty if you are considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. Student health insurance offered by Georgia Tech/University System of Georgia is ACA-compliant.
To learn more about the Affordable Care Act and ACA-compliant health plans offered through this program, please see the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website at www.hhs.gov/healthcare/.
Additional resources for Georgia Tech students and visiting scholars to help explain the ACA:
A government issued passport permits an individual to leave and re-enter his/her own country and normally contains an expiration date. In order to enter the U.S, J students, scholars, or student interns must present a passport that valid at least 6 months into the future. If the passport will expire before the end of the period of stay, it's your responsibility to contact the Consulate or Embassy of your country to have the passport extended or renewed.
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.
The visa is for permission to apply for admission to the United Sates for a specific purpose and period of time. The spouse and children of a student on a J-1 visa will be assigned J-2 visas. The visa does not determine the length of time J students, scholars, or student interns can remain in the U.S. It is the DS-2019 that reflects the length of stay. Since it is an entry permit, the visa can expire while the individual student or scholar resides in the U.S., but it must be valid at time of entry at a U.S. immigration port of entry.
Renewing your U.S. visa for re-entry:
It is not possible to renew a J-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 J students, scholars, and student interns 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 J student may remain in the U.S for the length of their program of study as long as they are maintaining lawful status. There is a 30-day grace period after completing your program as a J student, scholar, or student intern.
A "Class of Admission" of J-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. Individuals 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.
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 DS-2019 is the immigration document issued by the J program sponsor to the student, scholar, or student intern. An individual is deemed eligible for a J Exchange Visitor Program and a form DS-2019 when:
1) The academic or research program the individual is participating has an exchange objective. This includes students enrolled under a bi-lateral student exchange agreement, students who will transfer from a Georgia Tech instructional site abroad to the Atlanta instructional site, students who are sponsored by a US Exchange Organization (such as Fulbright, LASPAU, BSMP, etc...), and individuals participating in research or faculty exchanges or a student internship.
2) The individual will be funded by their home country/government and the funding sponsor requests the J visa.
The DS-2019 is a contract between the sponsor, the individual and the U.S. Department of State. The DS-2019 is required to be shown to the U.S. Department of State Consular Official at the visa interview and to the Customs and Border Protection Officer at the port of entry to the U.S. Please ensure the information printed on the DS-2019 is accurate at all times. Refer to Item # 3 of the DS-2019 for the J program dates. The start date determines the date you are expected to begin your J program activities and the expiration date identifies the date authorized to complete your J program at Georgia Tech. If you need additional time after the expiration date to complete your J program activities, you are responsible for ensuring the OIE has received an extension request prior to the expiration of your form. Be advised, each J Exchange Visitor has a 30 day grace period after the expiration date listed on the DS-2019 allowing time to remain in the U.S. to participate in personal activities (not the J program activities described briefly on the DS-2019 form). The form DS-2019 Item # 4 outlines the category of the J visa. The back of the form DS-2019 also provides pertinent information about the Exchange Visitor Program. You should read and adhere to the information therein.
DS-7002 (for J student interns only)
The DS-7002 is an official document that notes the details of a J student intern's program.
When to Carry your Immigration Documents
You should carry your original immigration documents (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.
While a significant aspect of the J Exchange Visitor Program purpose is to facilitate cultural and educational exchange, all activities during the J program period, including domestic and international travel must:
• Be directly related to the J program objectives described on the form DS-2019
• Must be communicated to the faculty host and HR administrator in compliance with 22 C.F.R. § 62.10(e)(2) to monitor the welfare and progress of the Exchange Visitor
• Domestic travel does not require a specific authorization from the OIE
• International Travel requires a specific authorization on the form DS-2019 that can be obtained by submitting a travel authorization e-form request in iStart
To be eligible to return to the U.S. during the period of a J-1 program after travel, a J scholar or student intern must have:
- A valid/unexpired DS-2019 form
- A signature from a Responsible Officer at the sponsoring organization on the bottom right side of the DS-2019 "validating" the return travel to the U.S.
- A valid/unexpired passport
- A visa stamp in the passport that is unexpired at the time of return travel to the U.S.
J scholars and student interns are requested to complete the Travel Signature Request e-form via iStart upon securing international travel plans. OIE advisors will review the travel details and email the scholar with any recommendations prior to the scheduled travel. Travel abroad for substantial periods of time during the J program period presents practical challenges and scholars and their faculty host will be expected to articulate the programmatic reasons the extended travel outside of the U.S. is a needed to complete the program objectives using the Attestation to Recommend Out of Country Authorization form which is available in the travel signature e-form. Upon receipt of the approval email, a scholar or student intern can visit the Office of International Education with their DS-2019 to obtain the signature during scheduled walk-in advising hours. Travel that will exceed 30 days will require an "out of country" request e-form as additional information and review by the Responsible Officer is required.
Note that J-2 dependents are not eligible to remain in the U.S. during a period of J-1 travel that exceeds 30 days and any approved travel e-form will allow an OIE international advisor to sign both J-1 and J-2 dependent DS-2019 forms.
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 certain countries, including 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.
Transfer of J Sponsorship
An exchange visitor may transfer from one program sponsor to another if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the objective for which he or she is currently pursuing in the current exchange program and if the exchange visitor remains within the same participant category.
If you are considering a transfer to another sponsor:
- Secure the details of the new J sponsorship and be sure all involved are aware you hold a J-1 status in the U.S. This includes identifying the proposed start date of your J program activities with the new sponsor.
- To notify the OIE of your intent to transfer, please submit the J Scholar SEVIS transfer request in iStart.
- Your Georgia Tech host department HR administrator will be an approver on the request to transfer the SEVIS record, so please make sure to inform them of your intentions before you submit the e-form request in iStart.
- There cannot be a gap in time between finishing your J program at Georgia Tech and starting your new J sponsorship. This means there may need to be coordination between Georgia Tech and the new sponsor to identify an appropriate SEVIS transfer date.
- Your transfer must be arranged in SEVIS before your current program end date. Once you are in the 30-day grace period after your program end date, a transfer will not be possible.
- Generally, the visiting scholars office at the new sponsor will contact OIE via email to request an electronic transfer of your SEVIS record. Some schools use a “transfer in” form instead of using email, so ask them about their specific procedure.
- Once OIE receives the J Scholar SEVIS Transfer request form that has been approved by your GT host department, we will schedule the SEVIS transfer release date and email you, your current GT host department administrator, and the new sponsor visitor's office contact you provided in your request.
- On the given “transfer release date” the new sponsor will be able to see your SEVIS record in their system and process the DS-2019 and give it to you. The new school will NOT be able to process it until the transfer release date. So, if you are traveling outside the US and need the new DS-2019 to re-enter, you should make this clear to your new sponsor.
Frequently Asked Questions Related to Transfer of Sponsorship:
Q. My J-2 spouse has a valid EAD work permit. Will the work permit continue to be valid under the new sponsorship?
A. Yes, the work permit will be valid through the expiration date printed on the work permit OR the expiration date on the J-2 DS-2019 (end of the J program) whichever is sooner.
Q. I have a driver's license in GA that will expire on the date my current DS-2019 expires and before I begin my new sponsorship. Can I renew my GA driver's license?
A. No, in the state of GA, the Department of Driver's Services (DDS), will only renew a driver's license through the end of the program as listed on the form DS-2019.
Q. My J visa stamp will be valid for another two years after I transfer my sponsorship. Can I continue to use the existing visa stamp for travel after my transfer, even though the notation lists Georgia Institute of Technology?
A. No, the visa stamp in your passport is valid through the expiration date on the stamp only when the SEVIS ID number and the J sponsor notated on the stamp have not changed. When a J Exchange Visitor transfers sponsorship or begins a new J program with a new SEVIS record listing a new SEVIS ID number, the visa stamp is no longer valid. The Exchange Visitor should apply for a new visa stamp at a US Consulate abroad the next time travel outside of the U.S. is planned.
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.
Note: New students are eligible to enter the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the start of the semester or no earlier than the “Earliest Admission Date”.
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.
Note: New students are eligible to enter the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the start of the semester or no earlier than the “Earliest Admission Date”.
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-901 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.
A spouse and/or children (under the age of 21) are eligible to apply for a J-2 visa to accompany you while you are participating in your J-1 Exchange Program in the United States. A spouse, child or other family or friend who would like to visit the J-1 exchange visitor for a short period of time and necessarily remain in the U.S. for the duration of the J Exchange Program should apply for a B1/B2 tourist visa.
When deciding to bring your dependents to the U.S. in a J-2 status, please consider the following:
- A J-2 status is only required when a dependent will come to the U.S. to reside with you for a significant period of the Exchange Program/a period longer than is available as a B tourist. If a dependent will visit for a short period then it may be suitable or even more beneficial to apply for a B tourist visa.
- All J-2 dependents must be covered with health insurance that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of State & University System of Georgia SHIP minimum standards, similar to the J-1. B tourists are encouraged to purchase a travel insurance policy and may be required to provide evidence in the B visa interview although it is not a federal and state legal requirement as it is for J-1 and J-2 visa holders.
- When the J-1 is subject to the 212(e) Home Country Physical Residence requirement, all J-2 dependents will also be subject to the home country residence requirement.
- J-1 Exchange Visitors with a Research Scholar or Professor category will be subject to the 24 month bar preventing repeat participation. This bar on back to back participation in the Research Scholar or Professor category will also apply to all J-2 dependents. This could impact a spouse who is interested in participating in their own J-1 Exchange Program during their time in the U.S. as the 24 month bar would prevent change from a J-2 dependent of a Research Scholar or Professor to a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar.
It is best that prospective J Exchange Visitors identify in the Initial DS-2019 request form submitted by the sponsoring department that dependent DS-2019(s) are requested. It is also possible for a J Exchange Visitor to submit a Dependent J-2 request e-form in iStart at any time after arriving to the U.S. The J-1 Exchange Visitior will enter biographical information about the J-2 dependent and provide proof of funds sufficient to cover the costs of supporting dependent(s) in the U.S.
You will be required to show a minimum of $700/month for a spouse and $400/month for each child.
Financial documents submitted must meet OIE's Financial Document Requirements.
The purpose of this resources is to assist Georgia Tech International Students/Scholars with general information about U.S. income taxes.
Guide to Who-Files-What
The U.S. federal and state governments impose a tax on income, taxable scholarships, and other types of monetary gain. Taxes are 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.
During the tax reporting season, if it is determined that the tax payments that were made during the tax year prior (January 2019 - December 2019) 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 return your excess payment in the form of a tax refund.
Use the following chart to help you know what to file:
No Income? File Form 8843
Were you present in the United States for any period during the year 2019 (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.
Form 8843 must be filed if an individual is:
- Present in the U.S. for any day during 2019
- 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.
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, so request one and use it as soon as possible.
The Sprintax Access Request form will be available after February 14th, 2020 via iStart! Students who request a code near the tax deadline are a) not guaranteed to receive a code and b) not guaranteed to receive their code in time to complete their tax return in time for the tax deadline.
How to Request a Sprintax Tax Code:
- Log in to istart.gatech.edu
- Visit #6: SSN and Taxes in the menu panel on the left side of the screen
- Select “Sprintax Access Request Form”
- Read the instructions and answer the following basic questions:
- Enter your preferred email
- Respond to the three “yes/no” questions
- The e-form will notify you if you are ineligible to use Sprintax, or if you only need to file Form 8843
- If you meet Sprintax usage criteria, click “Submit” and your request for a Sprintax Tax Code will be submitted for review
- You will not receive an access code immediately. Your request will be reviewed within 5 business days. You will receive email notification with the access code within 5 business days.
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.
Individuals can also choose pay a discounted rate to Sprintax to complete the ITIN or Social Security taxes (FICA) withholding in error tax forms.
Please use the following when completing Sprintax:
Academic Program Director Name: Tina Rousselot de Saint Céran
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 843 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)
NOTE: Filing income tax forms is the personal responsibility of each international student and scholar. OIE 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.
What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a permanent nine-digit identification number administered by the Social Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. federal government. SSNs are required for anyone employed in the U.S. because it tracks income for employers and the IRS, but is not required for anything else.
Who is eligible to receive a Social Security Number?
- F-1 students who are employed are eligible for a Social Security Number. F-2s are not eligible for a Social Security Number.
- J visa holders are eligible for a Social Security Number whether employed or not. If a J visa holder is not employed, OIE would encourage you to think carefully about whether you would like to apply for an SSN because of some dangers of having one (see below).
Who is required to have a Social Security Number?
All individuals working in the U.S. are required to have a Social Security Number. Many jobs do not require you to have a Social Security Number to begin working, but you should submit SSN information to your employer as soon as possible.
Why is everyone asking for my Social Security Number?
International visitors are not required to have a Social Security Number to enter the U.S., open a bank account, sign a lease, or get a Georgia driver's license. However, it is likely that you will be asked for an SSN when trying to do these things. This is because SSNs are used to check your financial credit history (i.e. do you pay bills on time?).
If you are asked for an SSN by a cell phone carrier, bank, landlord, etc. you should explain that you are not eligible for one. Since you do not have a financial credit history, you may be asked to pay a higher deposit for certain services.
I am employed and/or eligible for a Social Security Number. How do I get one?
International visitors who are eligible for a Social Security Number can apply 10 working days after your SEVIS record has been registered by ISSS. Your record will be registered after you complete check-in with OIE. If you arrived recently and are not sure if your SEVIS record has been registered, please email email@example.com to confirm.
Note: If working at Georgia Tech, you may begin working and get paid without a Social Security Number. However, you should apply for an SSN as soon as possible and report information to Global HR after you receive it.
For a list of required documentation and information of the closest Social Security Office, please see OIE's Social Security Handout.
Requesting a Social Security support letter from OIE
To request a Social Security support letter from OIE, please log into iStart and submit the e-form request found under SSN and Taxes. You will be required to upload your job offer letter into the e-form. A support letter will be generated for you within five business days and you'll receive an email that it's ready to be picked up at OIE's front desk.
Protecting your Social Security Number
If you get a Social Security Number, you should protect it in order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. While you likely will be asked for your SSN when leasing an apartment, setting up a bill or service (cell phone, utilities), or opening a bank account, you should protect your Social Security Number and do not give it out freely. You should not carry your Social Security card around with you. You should keep your card (and your number) in a safe place and do not give it out to anyone who does not have a legitimate reason to ask for it.
If someone is able to get your Social Security Number, they can open bank accounts or buy things under your name! You can quickly become a victim of identity theft if someone gets your number and they can cause problems far into the future. Do not give your number over the phone or via email, particularly if you did not initiate contact.
If someone is asking you for your Social Security Number and you do not know if you should give it to them, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and an international student advisor will help to advise on what you should do.
A J Scholar is eligible to apply for an extension of stay if:
- You are working toward the objective shown on your most recent Form DS-2019.
- You are maintaining your status as a J-1 Exchange Visitor.
- You can demonstrate adequate funding for the period of the proposed extension.
- You can demonstrate you have complied with health insurance requirements for J-1 Exchange Visitors.
- Your extension will not carry you beyond five years in status as a J-1 Visiting Professor or Research Scholar. If you need to stay longer than five years, consult your J-1 Responsible Officer.
Procedure to apply for an extension
You will receive an email reminder 60 days and again 30 days prior to the expiration of your DS-2019. You should work with your sponsoring department HR administrator to discuss your interest in extending your program as they will be responsible for completing the J-1 extension request via iStart.
You will need to provide your HR administrator copies of your DS-2019, passport, I-94 card, evidence of health insurance and evidence of financial support for the duration of the requested extension. If you have questions please email or call the Office of International Education to speak with a Responsible Officer or schedule an appointment.
Two-Year Home Residence Requirement 212(e)
Some, but not all, exchange visitors are subject to this requirement. Through this provision, the Department of State helps ensure that your home country benefits from your educational and cultural exchange activity upon your return from the U.S.
J-1 exchange visitors, and their dependents (J-2's) become subject to the "Two-Year Rule" if any one of the following three criteria are met:
- If the exchange program was financed by a foreign government or directly or indirectly by the U.S. government for the purpose of exchange.
- If the skills that the exchange visitor is coming to develop or exercise are in a field which the exchange visitor's "home" government requested be on the Department of State's Skills List. The Skills List is compiled by the Department of State. It lists occupational fields and skills possessed by exchange visitors that the home government wishes to have return to the country. If an individual is a national of one country, but was a permanent resident of another country prior to entering the US as an exchange visitor, then one looks to the country of last permanent residence for purposes of assessing subjectivity to the "Two-Year Rule."
- If the exchange visitor comes to the U.S. to receive "graduate medical education or training."
When an Exchange Visitor is subject to this requirement this means that:
- Ineligible to change from J-1 status to another visa status while remaining in the U.S. The Exchange Visitor can travel to apply for a non-immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.
- Ineligible for an H1-B visa, L visa, or immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate until fulfilling the 2 year home residence requirement in your country of residency.
For the terms of the requirement, please review item 1a on the back of your DS-2019 form. If you have any questions about the two year home residency requirement, including whether or not you are subject to it, please ask the U.S. Consular officer when you apply for your visa. Know that upon your arrival to the U.S. the 212(e) residence requirement will be discussed in detail during new J Scholar or Student Intern Orientation.
Can I apply for a waiver of the 2 year home residence requirement/212(e)?
The Office of International Education is not involved in the waiver application nor has any specific advice or guidance to offer individuals who are interested in applying for a waiver of the 212(e) requirement. J Exchange Visitors may file an application to request a waiver on their own or may seek legal council (the OIE can provide support in seeking council). If a J Exchange Visitor is granted a waiver, the OIE will receive a written letter. From the point in which we receive the letter, the OIE is no longer able to extend the J program as listed on the current DS-2019.
24 Month Bar preventing repeat participation and 12 Month Bar preventing participation:
The 12 and 24 month rule affects J-1 exchange visitors who have been in the U.S. on a J-1 visa previously, and wish to return, using the J-1 visa. The bars prohibit certain “repeat participation” in the Research Scholar or Professor categories only. Depending on what your previous J category was, you may be subject to a 12 month bar, a 24 month bar or have no bar at all. When a scholar either concludes or leaves a Research Scholar or Professor J-1 program, whichever happens earlier, the scholar's record becomes inactive in SEVIS. It is from this point that the 24-month bar time starts to accrue. The 24-month bar will be in effect regardless of whether status in the program is a few months in duration or the full five years allowed. Please note, the bars may also applie to your J-2 dependent(s).
The chart below shows how long you would have to wait (the 12 or 24 month bar) before you could request to hav a new J-1 Research Scholar or Professor visa based on what your previous J status was. (If you have never before had J-1 visa sponsorship, then the bars do not apply to you.)
It is extremely important for OIE to be informed of a scholar's departure and his/her future plans, so that the scholar's SEVIS record can be properly maintained to facilitate his/her possible return to the U.S. In some cases, it might be possible to keep a scholar's SEVIS record active if he/she will be out of the country yet continuing the program. We recommend contacting an advisor in OIE to discuss a visitor's plans and intention to return to the U.S. in the future so the SEVIS record may be correctly managed.
The 24-month bar should not be confused with the two-year home residence requirement (212e). These are two completely different regulations.
The two year rule (212e) may apply to visitors in any J category. The 24-month bar only applies to J visa holders who enter the U.S. on the Research Scholar or Professor categories or as a J-2 dependent of a J-1 Professor or Research Scholar.
For more information on the Two-Year Home Residence Rule, review our website, https://oie.gatech.edu/isss/212e-two-year-home-residency-requirement.
When your J exchange program activities are coming to a close please consider the following:
Program Activity Dates:
A J Exchange Visitor is eligible to participate in the academic or research objective outlined on the immigration form DS-2019 only between the dates listed in box number 3 on the form. If the exchange visitor will complete the program prior to the expiration date on the form DS-2019, it is important to communicate this change with the HR administrator in the host academic department to ensure the program dates listed on the form and in SEVIS are amended when appropriate. The HR administrator will notify the OIE of changes to exchange program using iStart and the J scholar will receive an email from the OIE once action has been taken to amend the SEVIS record.
30 Day Grace Period:
Upon completion of the J Exchange Program activities described on the immigration form DS-2019, all J Exchange Visitors have a 30 day grace period to conduct personal activities before departing the U.S. The 30 day grace period begins after the end date listed on the immigration form DS-2019, box number 3.
24 Month Bar Preventing Repeat Participation:
Those scholars who conducted their academic and research activities for a period longer than 6 months with a Research Scholar or Professor category are subject to the 12 & 24 month bar preventing repeat participitation in the Research Scholar or Professor category.
Stay In Touch:
The Office of International Education would love to hear from you after you have returned home to share your experiences with family, friends and colleagues. Please use the J scholar Exit Survey available in iStart to share information with us about your experience.