International Students and Scholars Services

Immigration Information Sessions: Analysis of Recent Guidance from SEVP

International students, both continuing and admitted, are making decisions about academic programs and courses this fall. However, we know that there may be various issues, particularly travel restrictions or visa matters, subject to guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

Please join OIE for one of the following information sessions for analysis of recent guidance from SEVP:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 8:00am EDT
(GT login required: https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/jhjjhxhv)

Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 9:00am EDT
(GT login required: https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/fuatjjxc)


COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQs below are updated as federal regulatory guidance is issued to schools to assist students with questions related to COVID-19. 

To learn more about current U.S. entry restrictions, please visit the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

Tech Moving Forward: Our Road to Recovery provides guidance on Georgia Tech's fall 2020 plans. 

For contact information for your Embassy or consulate about guidance related to returning to your home country, please visit the U.S. Department of State site here

International students, both continuing and admitted, are making decisions about academic programs and courses this fall. However, we know that there may be various issues, particularly travel restrictions or visa matters, subject to guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Please note that all guidance here is subject to change.

SEVP Broadcast Message July 6 & July 7

On July 6, the SEVP released a broadcast message, outlining several proposed modifications to existing Covid-19 procedural adaptations for the Fall 2020 semester. These changes are scheduled to take effect in early August. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities as a Temporary Final Rule in the Federal Register on August 4.

 

Under the provisions of the SEVP proposed guidance all Georgia Tech F-1 student visa holders currently inside the U.S. will be allowed to remain inside the U.S. for study and research during the fall semester. Additionally, new Georgia Tech F-1 student visa holders attempting to enter the U.S. will be allowed to join the institution for study and research this fall.

It is unclear if international students outside the U.S. engaging in coursework from abroad will be able to maintain an Active SEVIS status. Students who left the U.S. for the spring or summer term and plan to maintain their F-1 student visa status in the fall should plan to be in residence in Atlanta, if possible.

Georgia Tech recognizes the uncertainty this guidance may cause for many international students. The institution is currently working to assess impact and find solutions that can be implemented to minimize impact. Georgia Tech will also ask for policy makers to review the July 6 guidance and consider long-lasting implications to the continued academic progression and success of our students.

 

 

 

General Guidance

Q: How can I request support for updating my SEVIS record or requesting an immigration benefit like OPT or CPT?

A: Please utilize the iStart portal at istart.gatech.edu to submit any requests and visit our website for advising options.

Q: How can I learn more about institutional announcements regarding COVID-19?

A: You can stay up-to-date with all of the latest institutional announcements on COVID-19 shared here: http://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus.

Q: How will I receive copies of my I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility during this time?

A: OIE advisers are continuing to process all benefit requests and updates at this time. Once your request is processed you will receive instructions on how to request shipping. Shipping options include U.S. standard postal service at OIE expense or Express shipping with tracking at your expense.

Q: How can I receive a travel signature?

A: Student and scholar visa holders can submit a request for a travel signature via iStart. Once the travel signature is provided you will receive instructions to request shipping via U.S. postal service (at OIE expense) or Express mailing (at your expense).

Q: How can I meet with an OIE adviser during this time?

A: OIE is providing virtual advising services to support international students and scholars. You can organize an appointment with an OIE adviser by visiting the OIE Advising website.

Q: Will travel restrictions still be in place if I depart the U.S. for a temporary period and attempt to return later?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation. It is not possible for us to predict what travel restrictions may be in place over the course of the next several months. If you are interested in international travel during this time, please be aware of the following:

  • Many U.S. embassies and consulates are providing emergency services only to U.S. citizens and not issuing student and Exchange Visitor visas. Travel restrictions for non-US persons entering the U.S. are in place for several countries and more countries may be added in the future.
  • Travel disruptions and U.S. entry restrictions are expected to continue and could affect your ability to maintain your student or exchange visitor visa status if you are unable to return to the U.S. and enroll in a full course of study or pursue program objectives. We encourage you to carefully consider avoiding non-essential international travel during this worldwide health crisis.
  • Many countries are implementing mandatory quarantines and re-entry restrictions for individuals attempting to enter with presence inside the U.S. within the last 14 days.

Q: Due to a shelter in place order and/or concerns about COVID-19, I am temporarily staying at a different address, though I am still maintaining my current address. Do I need to update OIE with this address?

A: Federal regulations require F-1 students to update their residential address within 10 days of a change. If you are temporarily relocating to a new residential address for a short period we recommend you update your SEVIS record with your temporary residential address to ensure compliance with federal requirements. You can update your address by completing the Personal Information Update in the iStart portal. 

Q: Am I eligible for the economic stimulus package as an F-1 or J-1 visa holder?

A: You can find additional guidance on tax residency status and eligibility from the IRS. Tech utilizes Glacier software to determine tax residency status and encourages you to use the software to verify your residency status. Please note that OIE is unable to provide tax guidance or support with tax residency information. Individuals who need additional support should speak with a qualified tax attorney.

Q: How does the Presidential Proclamation on April 24, 2020 impact my immigration status or ability to travel?

A: On April 22, 2020, President Trump signed the Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.

The proclamation became effective on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 11:59 PM (ET), and suspends the entry of any individual seeking to enter the U.S. as an immigrant who:

· Is outside the United States on the effective date of the proclamation;

· Does not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and

· Does not have a valid official travel document (such as a transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document) on the effective date, or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the United States to seek entry or admission.

This executive order does not impact foreign nationals currently in the United States.

Nonimmigrant visa holders (e.g. F-1, H-1B, J-1, O-1, TN) are not included in the entry restrictions of the proclamation.

The proclamation expires 60 days from its effective date and may be continued as necessary. Within 50 days from the effective date, the Secretary of DHS shall, in consultation with the Secretaries of State and Labor, recommend whether the President should continue or modify the proclamation.

How does the Presidential Proclamation from June 22 impact my immigration status or ability to travel?

A. On June 22, 2020, the U.S. government issued a Presidential Proclamation suspending entry to the United States of foreign nationals in certain temporary visa categories. This order will not affect any current or new Georgia Tech employees, scholars or students who are in the U.S. on any non-immigrant visa, including H-1B, J-1 and F-1. It will have some impact on individuals outside the U.S. who are waiting to apply for an H-1B visa.

The proclamation goes into effect on June 24, 2020 and is valid through December 31, 2020. Certain government agencies are directed to re-visit the impact and effectiveness of the order within 30 days, and every 60 days thereafter, so further changes are possible. We are seeking clarification on exactly how this action might be applied in specific cases, but a summary of the impact, as we currently understand it, is included below:

Individuals impacted by the June 22 order include:

Some H-1B specialty occupation workers and their H-4 spouses and children who are outside the U.S. and do not have the H visas approved yet; and Some  J-1 exchange visitor participants in the following categories:

                   Anyone inside or outside the U.S. with a valid visa stamp in the passport on June 22, 2020

       Anyone with a valid travel document on June 22, 2020

       Green card holders (lawful Permanent Residents)

       The spouse or minor child of a U.S. citizen

       Anyone “whose entry would be in the national interest as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security”

       Intern program (Note: This is NOT the Student-Intern program; Georgia Tech participants in the J Student-Intern program are exempt from the restrictions.)

       Trainee program

       Primary and secondary (K-12) teachers – Teacher program

       Summer Work Travel program

       Camp Counselor program

       Au Pair program

       J-2 spouses and children of J-1s in the impacted categories listed above.

The following people are NOT covered by the Proclamation:

       Students on F-1 or J-1 visas, currently admitted, enrolled, or approved for OPT

       Newly-admitted students awaiting an F-1 or J-1 student visa application appointment

       Academic J-1 categories including Research Scholar, Short-term scholar, Professor, Student, and Specialist

       Anyone who entered the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and present in the U.S. on June 22, 2020

  • People present in the U.S. who are applying for a change of status to H-1B should not be impacted.

 

Georgia Tech is a global institution and embraces a culture of global engagement that allows us to tap the contributions of the brightest scholars from the United States and abroad. We value our international students, faculty, and staff. Georgia Tech Human Resources and the Office of International Education will closely monitor future developments, if any, and provide updates as they become available.

Newly Admitted Student Guidance

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

Currently, there are several known challenges:
  • U.S. visa consular services are suspended worldwide.
  • U.S. entry restrictions are in place for many countries, listed here.
  • Many flights are canceled worldwide, hampering travel.

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

A. No, SEVP does not require you to pay the SEVIS fee again after an I-20 deferral. You will be responsible for any shipping costs for your I-20 unless your academic department has agreed to cover these as part of your assistantship or admission offer.

Q: If I take online classes for the fall 2020 semester and join on campus study in the spring 2021 semester, will we get a new I-20, will the SEVIS number change, and should I try to make visa appointment now or later when receive the new i20?

Yes, you will get an updated I-20 which reflects the date you will begin studies inside the U.S. The SEVIS ID will remain the same. You should move forward with scheduling your visa interview at your earliest opportunity after receiving your first I-20 from OIE due to visa interview wait times.

Q: If I received the I-20 and can't get the visa before the fall semester 2020 begins, can I use the same I-20 to apply for visa if I defer admission to spring semester 2021?

OIE recommends you attend your visa interview with an original I-20 document with the correct dates for the semester in which you will begin your program of study inside the U.S. If you have any special timing needs due to a modified appointment date, please contact our office to request support.

Q:  Will students have their OIE holds removed to register for classes, even if they can't complete the final part of the Check-In form?

Students who request an I-20 or DS-2019 by July 15, 2020 will have the OIE hold rescheduled to occur after Phase II registration ends for the term in which they plan to enter the U.S. and demonstrate compliance with the state of Georgia’s lawful presence requirement.

Q: If a new student attends fall semester 2020 online, what happens to the F-1 Status or I-20?

You will receive an updated I-20 for spring start after completing the Istart Arrival Confirmation e-form and indicating you will begin studies in an online format in fall 2020 and plan to arrive in the U.S. in Spring 2021. You will not be in Active F-1 status while you are enrolled online. You will enter the U.S. in Spring 2021 and gain Initial F-1 student status at the U.S. port of entry. After completing the required OIE Check-In process, your SEVIS record will be updated to Active F-1 student visa status.

Q: I have a valid B1/B2 visa. Given that visa appointments aren't available until later in the fall, can I travel on a B1/B2 Visa and apply for a status change later while in the U.S. or when I arrive next semester?
If you decide to visit the U.S. to tour campus or otherwise prepare for your Atlanta experience while in a visitor visa status or via the ESTA program, please note that you will be required to depart the U.S. and re-enter in a visa status eligible for study prior to the next available term. Or, you can file for a change of status within the U.S. through USCIS. You must receive approval of the change of status prior to enrolling in the next available term. Please note that the wait times vary for change of status within the U.S. through USCIS, but on average it takes about 8 months for a change of status to be approved.

Q: Considering the current pandemic situation, what is the latest day the university allows for F-1 student visa holders to arrive in the U.S. for fall semester 2020?

Upon obtaining your visa and requesting OIE and academic department approval, you may arrive late in Atlanta up to 30 days after the start of the term per SEVP regulations.  In order to request late arrival, you must submit the Istart Arrival Confirmation e-form. OIE will work with your academic department to request support for your late arrival. Students arriving during this 30-day timeframe would be required to follow quarantine guidelines.

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

 Q: Does enrolling online as a new student in fall 2020 impact plans for internships next summer?
Per SEVP guidance, new students residing outside the U.S. beginning their first term(s) of a degree with online courses will not be able to count time enrolled abroad toward the one-year requirement for CPT and OPT because they will not be in “active” SEVIS status. Exceptions to the one-year requirement for CPT are available only for graduate students who must immediately participate in a degree required internship or practicum as outlined in the degree’s plan of study.

Q: Would it be beneficial to come to Atlanta, even if the classes are online?

The current guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) states that F-1 students engaging in fully online instruction are not eligible to enter the U.S., and must wait to enter in a semester where they will be enrolled for in-person instruction. We do not anticipate this guidance will change for fall 2020, but are still awaiting instruction from SEVP.

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

Yes, if you decide to enroll in online courses for the fall 2020 semester, but want to resume courses on campus in January 2021, you will need to request a deferral of your I-20 Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record by completing the Arrival Confirmation e-form in the Istart portal. OIE will then issue you an updated I-20 for arrival in the spring term and provide you with arrival support information throughout the fall.

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

A: OIE is continuing to print and ship original I-20s during this time via E-Ship Global Express Mail and is not providing scanned copies as a routine service. F and J students need to have the original copy of the I-20 for visa interviews and entry to the U.S.  As you await your original I-20, you can view your program dates, SEVIS ID, Education Level, and I-20 status in iStart at https://istart.gatech.edu

Q: I am a graduate student and I have been admitted to Georgia Tech for Fall 2020. How can I request my I-20?

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

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

A: In general, please upload the documents in to Istart as soon as the I-20 Request e-form is sent to you in the Istart portal. If you experience challenges in obtaining financial documents beyond the deadlines listed below, then you are encouraged to contact info@oie.gatech.edu to notify us of the challenges. 

Students expecting to receive their I-20 form for the fall term should submit all materials by July 1. Students inside the U.S. transferring their Active SEVIS record from another U.S. Institution should complete their I-20 form request at least 2 weeks prior to the start of classes.

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

A: On March 18, the U.S. Department of State published an announcement regarding the suspension of standard visa services due to the COVID-19 pandemic at many U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. Students in affected regions have the following options:

  • Locate another U.S. embassy or consulate open for routine visa services and apply there. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, changes to travel restrictions and visa services are occurring daily and could interrupt your plans to travel elsewhere for visa processing.
  • Contact the local embassy or consulate to see if any provisions for student visas are in place to support your application for a student visa. Wait patiently for visa services to reopen in your region and keep your intended program start date the same.
  • Request a deferral of your intended program start date. Please follow the process outlined below based on your education level and expected program start date:
    • Undergraduate Students:  We are continuing to monitor the availability of visa appointments as the rapidly evolving situation continues to unfold. If you ultimately need to request a deferral, you must have first paid your enrollment deposit. If you have specific questions concerning your circumstances or need to make a deferral request, contact Undergraduate Admissions at admission@gatech.edu.  

    • Graduate students only: The Office of Graduate Studies provides additional information on remote learning options available to international students in the COVID-19 Guidance for Graduate Education online at  grad.gatech.edu/covid19

Q: I am planning to transfer my SEVIS record from another U.S. institution and planning to depart the U.S. and return prior to my program start date, will it be possible for me to return to the U.S. or will travel restrictions be in place?

A: Travel disruptions and U.S. entry restrictions are expected to continue and could affect your ability to begin your program of study if you depart the U.S. now and attempt to return in summer or fall 2020. We encourage you to carefully consider avoiding non-essential international travel during this worldwide health crisis.

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

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

Q: I can no longer come to Georgia Tech for Fall 2020, but would like to come in a later semester. What should I do?

A: It is possible to request a deferral of your intended program start date. Please follow the process outlined below based on your education level and expected program start date.

  • Graduate students only: The Office of Graduate Studies provides additional information on remote learning options available to international students in the COVID-19 Guidance for Graduate Education online at  grad.gatech.edu/covid19  
  • Undergraduate Students: We are continuing to monitor the availability of visa appointments as the rapidly evolving situation continues to unfold. If you ultimately need to request a deferral, you must have first paid your enrollment deposit. If you have specific questions concerning your circumstances or need to make a deferral request, contact Undergraduate Admissions at admission@gatech.edu.

 

Enrolled Student Guidance

Q: What time zone do I need to consider for distance learning?

A: To minimize conflicts, faculty have been encouraged to offer classes at the regularly scheduled time while being flexible with students who may have difficulty because of varying time zones. Additionally, some classes may move to an asynchronous format where there is no uniform, scheduled class time. Office hours will be held in a modified or remote format as determined by each faculty member.

OIE recommends that you consult with your academic advisor or professor regarding the timing considerations for your courses. You should receive further information from your academic department directly on how the distance learning format will operate.

Q: If I finish my degree program while outside the U.S. am I eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training from abroad?

A: The I-765 is the application you file with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request the Optional Practical Training benefit for pre, post, and STEM extension OPT. On page 4, Part 3 of the I-765, USCIS states you must file the application while in the United States. No special provisions to allow F-1 student visa holders to apply from outside the U.S. during COVID-19 have been communicated by USCIS.

Q: I am graduating this semester and had planned to return to my home country; however, due to travel restrictions around COVID-19, I am unable to do so. What are my options?

A: Options available after finishing your program of study and during your 60 day grace period include the following:

  1. Apply for Optional Practical Training, if eligible: Please see the OIE OPT Website information on important timing considerations, eligibility considerations, and application instructions. 
  2. Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. college or university prior to the end of your 60-day grace period. More information about transfers is available on the OIE website here
  3. Request to begin a new program of study at Georgia Institute of Technology. If you have been admitted to a new program at Georgia Tech, you should submit an update using the iStart e-form entitled “Change of Degree Level” within 10 days of the change and no later than 45 days in to your 60-day grace period.
  4. Apply for a change of visa status under the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney, e.g. Visitor visa.
  5. Contact your Embassy to determine if other options might exist for evacuation.
  6. Consult with a qualified immigration attorney about any challenges you may incur as a result of remaining in the U.S. beyond your grace period.

If you have any questions or concerns about these options, we encourage you to contact us at your earliest opportunity. Contact information is available here: https://oie.gatech.edu/isss_advising.

 

Curricular Practical Training Guidance

Q: I am approved for practical training and need a social security card. The Social Security Administration office is currently closed for appointments. What are my options?

A: Georgia Institute of Technology is working closely with the Social Security Administration to make arrangements for in-person applications for individuals who have never applied for a social security card inside the U.S. Individuals who have already applied for a social security card in the past are eligible to apply for a renewal card via the mail-in application process. More information is available about this process at the following link.

Q: Can I continue curricular practical training in a remote environment?

A: Yes, it is possible to continue practical training in a remote environment with your supervisor’s permission and continued supervision of your practical training experience. Students may engage in CPT during their time abroad, provided they are:

 • Enrolled in a program of study in which CPT is integral to the program of study;

• Their DSO authorized CPT in advance of the CPT start date; and

• Either the employer has an office outside the United States or the employer can assess student engagement and attainment of learning objectives electronically.

Please contact C2D2 to update them with any changes to your employment via CareerBuzz. They will determine if an update is necessary to submit via the Istart portal during this time.

Q: If my internship becomes remote after I have already received my CPT authorization, do I need to update OIE?

A: OIE has a process in place to notify the U.S. government that students participating in CPT will either be participating at the employer address on file in SEVIS or the residential address on file in SEVIS. If your residential address changes, you are required to report this change to OIE within ten days via the Personal Information Update e-form.

Q: If I need to make an update to my current CPT authorization, will I need to pay the Practical Training Fee again?

A: If you have already been authorized for CPT and C2D2 is just submitting an update to that existing authorization, then you will not be sent a new link to provide information and you will not need to pay the practical training fee again.

Q: How do I make changes to my Curricular Practical Training dates?

A: Please notify C2D2 via CareerBuzz of any changes to your CPT dates. C2D2 will share this information with OIE and will work to support you with those changes. Please note you will not be eligible to work outside of the dates listed on your CPT approval.

 

Optional Practical Training Guidance

Q: Can I use the OIE address as my mailing address on the I-765?

A: OIE discourages students from utilizing the OIE address on the I-765 at this time to prevent shipping challenges while the physical campus offices are closed.

Q: I received confirmation that my I-797 was mailed to the OIE office. How can I collect my I-797 from OIE?

A: Following guidance from USG, the OIE physical office is closed at this time. All mail shipped to the OIE office will be retained at the U.S. post office at Georgia Institute of Technology and available when the office resumes mail pick-up services. We ask that all students applying for Optional Practical Training discontinue the use of the OIE mailing address on the I-765 and instead use an address where they are able to personally receive mail.

While you await the ability to pick up the I-797 when the campus returns to normal operations, please utilize the G-1145 electronic receipt notice and track the application via the USCIS website using the receipt number on the G-1145. If you did not file G-1145, then you can request emergency support by contacting info@oie.gatech.edu. The I-797 is not required to begin your employment, but your Employment Authorization document will be required to begin work inside the U.S. on OPT.

Q: My Employment Authorization Document (EAD) was mailed to the OIE office, how do I collect it?

A: Following guidance from USG, the OIE physical office is closed at this time. All mail shipped to the OIE office will be retained at the U.S. post office at Georgia Institute of Technology and available when the office resumes mail pick-up services. We ask that all students applying for Optional Practical Training discontinue the use of the OIE mailing address on the I-765 and instead use an address where they are able to personally receive mail. Emergency pick up options are available on a case-by-case basis, please email info@oie.gatech.edu to outline your emergency situation and our team will review your request for emergency pick-up.

Q: Will the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) allow more than 90 day of unemployment and 150 day cumulative total for 24 month STEM Optional Practical Training due to COVID-19?

A: SEVP has not issued any temporary provisions to allow F-1 student visa holders to exceed the current unemployment limits of 90 days for 12 month post-completion OPT or cumulative total of 150 days for the 24 Month STEM Optional Practical Training Extension period. Students are advised to continue to report employment changes via Istart.gatech.edu within 10 days of the change.

Q: If my employer requires me to work remotely for a temporary period, does this constitute a Material Change of Employment which requires me to update OIE via Istart.gatech.edu?

A: A temporary move to a remote environment due to COVID-19 social distancing measures does not constitute a permanent transfer from one location to another and is not considered a material change which requires reporting to OIE and update in SEVIS.

Q: If I leave the U.S. for a temporary period during my 12 month Post-Completion OPT or 24 Month STEM Optional Practical Training and I am unable to return will I accrue unemployment for the time spent outside the U.S.?

A: SEVP policy guidance states, "Time spent outside the United States during an approved period of post-completion OPT counts as unemployment against the 90/150-day limits, unless the student is either:

Employed during a period of leave authorized by an employer; or Traveling as part of his or her employment.”

If you are unable to return to the U.S. and your employer authorizes you to continue your Optional Practical Training while abroad, you are encouraged to request a letter from your employer stating that you are in a period of travel which is part of your OPT employment.

Q: Can I do an internship and/or volunteer work on OPT? If so, will I stop accumulating unemployment days?

A: It is possible for students on OPT to do internships and volunteer work, as long as you are working at least 20 hours per week and all work is directly related to your major. In that case, the work can count as OPT employment and you would not accumulate unemployment days. You want to be sure that any volunteer work is truly volunteer work and that it does not violate US labor laws. For instance, it is not possible to do work that is normally paid on a volunteer/unpaid basis. Doing paid work for free would violate labor laws and not count as OPT employment. Typically, volunteer work should be with a non-profit organization/charity. When doing volunteer work, we recommend that you carefully document the volunteer-nature of the work and the hours worked, in case you ever need evidence of this in the future. Please work with the organization that you volunteer with to determine how to best document this.

Q: Can I volunteer without pay for a GT professor to help avoid accruing unemployment days?

A: It is possible to engage in Optional Practical Training in an unpaid role that is compliant with U.S. laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Georgia Tech does not have a policy that prohibits volunteering, but it is important in order to ensure compliance with U.S. laws and institutional hiring policies. We encourage you to contact Georgia Tech’s Human Resources Service Now to request review and approval of the volunteer appointment prior to engaging in any projects associated with your practical training experience.

Q: If I move while my OPT is pending, how can I update my mailing address with USCIS?

A: Once you have received your receipt number, you can use the USCIS My Case Status website to request your mailing address be updated.

Q: Since USCIS is no longer offering in-person services, does that impact OPT processing?

A: No. The USCIS Service Centers are continuing to process OPT requests at this time.

Q: My OPT/STEM OPT is ending and I had planned to return to my home country; however, due to travel restrictions around COVID-19, I am unable to do so. What are my options?

A: Options available for those with upcoming Post-Completion OPT expirations and during your sixty day grace period include the following:

  1. Transfer your SEVIS record to another U.S. college or university prior to the end of your sixty day grace period, and begin a new course of study.
  2. Request to begin a new program of study at Georgia Institute of Technology.  If you have been admitted to a new program at Georgia Tech, you should submit an update using the iStart e-form entitled “Change of Degree Level” within 10 days of the change and no later than 45 days in to your 60-day grace period.  
  3. Apply for a change of visa status under the guidance of a qualified immigration attorney
  4. Contact your Embassy to determine if other options might exist for evacuation.
  5. Consult with a qualified immigration attorney about any challenges you may incur as a result of remaining in the U.S. beyond your grace period.

Q: If I am furloughed, or placed in a period of temporary unpaid leave, while in a period of post-completion OPT, will OIE count this as unemployment time towards the maximum limit?

A: If your employment is not terminated, but rather you are placed in a period of unpaid administrative leave with the expectation that you will return to full time paid employment after the temporary period, you are still maintaining OPT employment. We encourage individuals on Optional Practical Training to consult with a qualified immigration attorney about this question.

Temporary leaves of absence as outlined above do not need to be reported to OIE. However if your employment is terminated by your employer during the furlough/temporary leave period, this must be reported to OIE using the iStart portal. F-1 visa holders participating in 12-month post-completion OPT must complete the OPT Personal Contact/Employment Update and those participating in 24 Month OPT STEM Extensions must complete the Material Change to Employment e-form.

Q: If my employer reduces my OPT employment to less than 20 hours per week due to COVID-19, am I still considered to be maintaining status?

A: Yes, SEVP issued guidance on April 30 that states, “For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, SEVP considers students working in their OPT opportunities fewer than 20 hours a week as engaged in OPT.”

Exchange Visitor Guidance

Q: I’m unable to arrive in the U.S. in time to begin my program, what options are available to support me?

A: You may request to change your program start date and program end date by contacting the HR manager in your host department, who will provide the relevant information to OIE. You will be notified by e-mail once your program start/end date(s) are updated. Please note the following: Georgia Tech’s ability to host J-1 Exchange Visitors is subject to federal, state, and institutional policies. In order to support the research reduction to essential research projects and personnel only, Georgia Tech will postpone inviting J-1 Exchange Visitors to participate in research projects until further notice. The Office of International Education (OIE) will work with departments to update existing requests for J-1 Exchange Visitors to start on or after Sept. 21, 2020. The Sept. 21, 2020 arrival date is subject to change based on federal, state, or institutional policy. All J-1 Exchange Visitors are encouraged to purchase travel insurance to mitigate the risk of financial loss should the ability to host J-1 Exchange Visitors change.

Q: As an Exchange Visitor am I able to move to a remote environment in pursuit of my program objective?

A: All exchange visitors in Active status remaining inside the U.S. will be given the option to pursue program objectives remotely inside the U.S. Exchange Visitors should work with their host supervisors to ensure support for remote work accommodations. Any changes to the research activity such as topic, supervision, and international travel should be reviewed to ensure compliance with US laws and regulations. Please report any changes to OIE and please send a request for an export review to the Office of General Counsel, Counsel - Export and Trade, to asklegal@gatech.edu.

Q: I wish to return home and not continue my EV program, how do I notify OIE of my intent to depart?

A: Please notify your academic department HR coordinator that you wish to end your Exchange Visitor program early. Your academic department will notify OIE of the change to program dates.

Q: How can I request an extension of my program within the maximum duration of status?

A: Each exchange visitor category has a maximum duration of stay outlined within the federal regulations as per the chart below. Exchange Visitors with additional time remaining in the maximum duration of stay who wish to continue program objectives are eligible to request an extension. In order to request an extension, the Exchange Visitor should discuss their request to extend their program with their supervisor. The supervisor will request support from the academic department HR coordinator. The HR coordinator will enter a “J Scholar/Student Intern Extension Request” e-form request and work closely with OIE, Global HR, and the Office of General Counsel to request an extension of program end date within the maximum duration of the Exchange Visitor category. Exchange visitors will need to demonstrate proof of funding and evidence of existing health insurance meeting U.S. Department of State requirements with their request for extension.

Table 1: Maximum Duration of Exchange Visitor Categories

Exchange Visitor Category

Maximum Duration

Professor/Research Scholar

5 years

Short-Term Scholar

6 months

Specialist

1 year

Student Intern

1 year

 

Q: What options exist to remain beyond my program end date?

A: Exchange Visitors are eligible to remain inside the U.S. for 30 days after their program end date, this period of time is referred to as the 30-day grace period. Exchange Visitors are ineligible to continue working during the 30-day grace period, but can travel freely inside the U.S. Once you depart the U.S. in the 30-day grace period, you are ineligible to re-enter the U.S. within the 30-day grace period in J-1 status.

Q: I left the U.S. for a temporary period and am now unable to return to the U.S. to pursue my program objectives, what options are available to me to keep my SEVIS record in Active status?

Exchange Visitors in the Research Scholars and Professor categories currently outside the U.S. and unable to return will be provided with the option of either extending the period of their personal leave on Out-of-Country Travel Authorization or continuing their research program objectives after a review of Export Control and Global HR related issues. Exchange Visitors in the Professor and Research Scholar category can request support with extending the period of the Out-of-Country Authorization by submitting the “J Scholar Travel Signature” e-form request.  Exchange visitors interested in pursuing research abroad must receive approval for research plans in advance of beginning research with the Office of General Counsel by emailing asklegal@gatech.edu.

Q: I am planning to depart the U.S. and return home for a temporary period, what options are available to me to keep my SEVIS record in Active status?

Exchange Visitors interested in pursuing Out-of-Country travel authorizations during this time should request an Out-of-Country Travel Authorization utilizing the “J Scholar Travel Signature” e-form available at istart.gatech.edu. Temporary exceptions to the 30 day limit on personal travel will be considered during this time to help support Exchange Visitors interested in returning home during the pandemic. Continuing research program objectives while abroad will require approval from Export Control. Please contact asklegal@gatech.edu to request approval of out-of-country research.

Q: I plan to return to the U.S. to pursue my program objectives after a temporary time abroad, will I be required to self-quarantine?

A: Please follow current guidance available at http://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus#faqs

Q: What other responsibilities do I have to maintain status during this temporary move to a remote environment?

A: Exchange visitors must continue to maintain all Exchange Visitor requirements listed here.

Q: How can I request support from OIE with updating my SEVIS record?

A: OIE advisers are continuing to process all benefit requests and updates at this time. Once your request is processed you will receive instructions on how to request shipping. Shipping options include U.S. standard postal service at OIE expense or Express shipping with tracking at your expense.

Q: How can I meet with an OIE adviser during this time?

A: OIE is providing virtual advising services to support international students and scholars. You can organize an appointment with an OIE adviser by visiting the OIE Advising website.

Q:  My J-1 program end date is approaching and my funding support is ending.  Neither I nor my PI have the funds to continue to support an extension and I’m unable to return home due to the current situation.  What are my options?

A: In order to be eligible for an extension of the J-1 program end date, Exchange visitors must demonstrate all of the following evidence:

  • Continued pursuit of original program objectives
  • Adequate financial support for the duration of the extension
  • Proof of insurance coverage meeting U.S. Department of State requirements for the J-1 primary visa holder and any J-2 visa holders

If you are unable to satisfy these conditions you will be ineligible for an extension. Options that exist include the following:

-Transfer to another institution to continue program objectives with funding from that institution prior to the J-1 program end date

-Departure prior to the 30 day grace period after the J-1 program end date

-Change of status within the U.S.

Q: Will I be subject to the 12 month or 24 month bar if I received a J-1 visa but was unable to enter the U.S. due to COVID-19 entry challenges?

A: The 12 and 24 month bar do not apply to individuals with less than 6 months of physical presence inside the U.S. in J-1 status. Because you were unable to enter the U.S. in J-1 status, you will not be subject to these bars. Please contact your host department to request a cancellation of your J-1 SEVIS record.

We encourage you to consult with a qualified immigration attorney if you are unable to pursue the options above and need additional support.

Q: Will it be possible for me to change my status within the U.S. if I am subject to 212(e)?

A: Individuals subject to 212(e) are required to receive approval for a waiver of this requirement from their home country and the U.S. government before they are eligible to apply for a change of status within the U.S. Georgia Tech is unable to provide legal counsel on the waiver application or change of status process to Exchange Visitors. 

 

Last modified: 
Saturday, July 11, 2020 - 9:51am

Welcome! We're Glad You're Here!

Welcome to all F-1 and J-1 visa holders at Georgia Tech! Our mission is to serve as a resource and advocate for the large and diverse population of international students and scholars at Georgia Tech. We strive to create an environment where international students and scholars are able to make a well-integrated transition to Georgia Tech through diverse cultural, educational and leadership opportunities. Our goal is to be the model in building and maintaining an international community in a campus environment with the aim to create lifelong global leaders. 

Our office is currently operating in a continuity of operations mode and offering full services in a virtual environment. Additionally, we are regularly updating the COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions and resources below as new regulatory guidance is published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). We encourage you to review this material if you have questions related to COVID-19 and reach out to our team if you need additional support with advising via our virtual 1:1 advising or by email.

Last modified: 
Friday, June 12, 2020 - 2:19pm

Orientation Series

Financial Assistance for International Students

Student Wellness Resources

International Travel Information

Group Advising Session Sign-up

Group Advising.

OIE understands students may have a number of questions regarding their options for fall. To respond to this need, we are offering group advising sessions to address any questions. 

Please use your Georgia Tech email to register, thank you! 

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