Policies

Please continue to check this page for updates to ISSS policies.  Please note that the absence of a policy on this page does not imply absence of a policy in practice.  In all cases, federal regulations supersede and govern ISSS policies and procedures.

Definition of Certificate Program

Certificate programs are typically short-term education programs designed by GSU departments which lead to the awarding of a specialized credential in a particular field of study.

Federal Regulations and Certificate Programs

Per federal regulations [CFR 214.2 (f)(6)], all F-1 students must enroll and complete a "full course of study" during each fall and spring semester in a program that leads to the attainment of a specific educational or professional objective. Most GSU certificate (CERG) programs cannot be pursued alone at a full time (F/T) rate (12 credit hours for undergraduate/9 credit hours for graduate students) due to class registration availability. As a result, ISSS recommends all F-1 students wishing to pursue a certificate program in addition to their normal degree requirements do so concurrently with their primary program of study listed on Form I-20. If a student is pursuing a certificate concurrently with their degree listed on their Form I-20, no further immigration requirements are necessary to pursue this certificate. Students who have completed their primary program of study and seek to obtain a specialized post-completion certificate must be issued a new Form I-20 by International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) for this certificate. To obtain a Form I-20 following completion of degree studies for a certificate program, the student must meet the specific requirements listed below. ISSS will review and approve each request on a case by case basis.

Issuance of Form I-20 for Certificate Program

ISSS may issue Forms I-20 to eligible students for a certificate program at Georgia State University. However, students issued a new Form I-20 for a certificate program are not eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) based on the certificate program, nor for any other previous degree they completed prior to being issued a Form I-20 for a certificate program. If a student passes up OPT based on their prior completed degree program in order to immediately start a certificate program, they may not apply for OPT based on the earlier degree once the certificate is complete.

Eligibility for I-20 Issuance and Statement of Objective

Prospective students for a post-completion certificate must meet all requirements below in order to be eligible for I-20 issuance by ISSS. In addition to providing documentation required of all international students for I-20 issuance (proof of financial support, copies of immigration documents, etc.), prospective students intending to pursue a post-completion certificate program must also submit a written, official statement of objective explaining the specific academic or professional objective of their intended study. This statement of objective must be written by the GSU academic department where the student intends to achieve the certificate. For example, if a student wishes to pursue a certificate in Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University, the academic department where the Hospitality Administration certificate program is housed must write the statement of objective. A statement of objective must meet the following requirements in order to be accepted for review:
  • Must be written by an academic advisor or professor in the academic department where the certificate will be obtained. Letters written by business managers or non-academic professional staff will not be accepted.
  • Must specify the certificate the student wishes to obtain, and must list all courses (name, number, and term) that must be taken in order to obtain the certificate.
  • Must list the student's expected completion date.
  • Must state that full time study (9 hours for graduate certificates, 12 hours for undergraduate certificates) can be maintained each semester of enrollment. (Classes taken outside of the certificate program cannot be used as part of the full time enrollment requirement.)

Duration of Certificate Study

Study for obtainment of a certificate may not exceed twelve (12) months or one academic year. After completing all the requirements for obtaining the certificate, students have a 60-day "Grace Period" to leave the United States, apply for the change of status, or transfer to another school. A student does not receive a grace period if s/he fails to complete the certificate listed on Form I-20.

Full-time Enrollment Requirement

Students who wish to obtain a certificate after completion of their degree, must maintain full-time enrollment each semester in order to maintain F-1 visa status. Full-time study is defined as at least twelve (undergraduate) or nine (graduate) credit hours.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Post-Completion Certificate

Students studying on a post-completion certificate can only do CPT if the certificate program requires an internship as part of the curriculum. Students must provide documentation with the CPT request showing an internship is required.

How to Change your Status to F-1

After you have obtained a Form I-20 ("Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status") from ISSS, you may apply for a change of status to F-1 through one of the following ways:
  • Submit a change of status application (Form I-539) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the United States. See Changing Your Visa Status for more information.
  • Travel back to your home country, or to a third country, and apply for an F-1 visa to reenter the United States.  NOTE: ISSS DOES NOT recommend travel to a third country. You are responsible for securing an entry visa or pass to enter the third country. Further, if your F-1 visa application is denied in the third country, you will be required to return to your home country.

While Your Change of Status (COS) Application is Pending

Travel:
If you have filed a COS application with USCIS and you travel outside the United States while the COS is pending, you will be considered to have abandoned your application, and you must obtain an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States in order to reenter.
Study and Work:
Students in certain visa statuses (see the chart below) are not eligible to study or work at GSU while a COS application is pending with USCIS. Please see the chart below for more information.*
If COS Not Approved by Start of Studies:
If your COS application is not approved by the second Monday of the semester and your current status does not allow you to study, you can choose to either travel immediately to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country (see above), or defer to the next available semester. If you choose to defer, ISSS will defer your Form I-20 start date to begin in the next available semester. You must work with the admissions office and your academic department to update your academic admission record and assistantship (if applicable). Note: You may defer your attendance only once while your COS application is pending. If you have deferred your attendance once and your COS has still not been approved by the new (deferred) program start date listed on your I-20, your COS I-20 will be cancelled and you must travel to your home country to apply for an F-1 visa. If your COS application is pending and you are eligible to study in your current status, you must maintain full-time enrollment while your COS application is pending.
Current Status Description  Eligible to Study?  Eligible to Work?
B-1/B-2 B-1: Visitor for Business B-2: Visitor for Tourism No No
E Treaty Trader Treaty Investor Treaty Specialty Worker Yes No
F-2 Dependent of F-1 Student No No
H-1B Temporary Worker in a Specialty Occupation Yes May only work for employer who filed an approved H-1B petition listing the H-1B as a beneficiary
H-4 Dependent of H-1B Nonimmigrant Yes No
J-1 Exchange Visitor: Student/Professor/Researcher/Specialist/Trainee Yes Only with authorization of program sponsor listed on Form DS-2019
J-2 Dependent of J-1 Exchange Visitor Yes Yes, with valid EAD issued by USCIS
R-1 Religious Worker Yes May only work for religious organization through which status was obtained
R-2 Dependent of R-1 Religious Worker Yes No
* If your current visa status is not listed above, please consult an International Student Advisor in ISSS for more information.

Once Your Status Has Changed

All F-1 and J-1 students are required to attend mandatory international student orientation. Students who have a COS pending should plan to attend the international student orientation for the semester in which they intend to begin their studies. Please see Mandatory Orientation Program for more information. Once your status has changed to F-1, you must abide by all F-1 regulations in order to maintain your legal status in the United States. Please see Maintaining F-1 Status for more information.

Use of Outside Attorneys

If you use a lawyer to file your COS, you must provide ISSS with copies of any correspondence you receive from USCIS regarding the status of your application (example: receipt and approval notice) within 30 days of the program start date listed on your I-20 form, in order for ISSS to keep your I-20 active. ISSS will place a hold on your academic record and may cancel your I-20 record in SEVIS if you fail to provide documentation regarding your COS application. Note: ISSS is unable to assist students with COS applications to F-1 from the following statuses: A, G, or NATO. If you currently have A, G, or NATO status, ISSS encourages you to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney to help you file a COS.
For undergraduate and graduate non-thesis students, completion of a course of study is the last day of final exams of the semester in which they finish all degree requirements. All other graduate students can choose between three dates for completion of study:
  1. On the last day of finals in the semester in which the student completes all required coursework.
  2. On the date the student successfully defends the thesis/dissertation/project. (This date is established between the student and the academic advisor or department chair.)
  3. On the last day of finals in the semester in which the final degree requirement is met.  This is the same for non-thesis students.
Regulatory Reference: 8 C.F.R. 3.23.5

Definition:

A concurrently-enrolled student is a student who is currently on the visa sponsorship of Georgia State University and who is also taking classes at another SEVIS-approved institution.

Full-time Enrollment Requirement:

Concurrently-enrolled students must maintain full-time enrollment (at least twelve (12) hours for undergraduate students and at least nine (9) hours for graduate students). If summer is your first semester, you must be enrolled full-time (at least six (6) credit hours for both undergraduate and graduate students) for the summer semester. Continuing students are not required to enroll at Georgia State University in summer semester. Credits to count towards full-time enrollment may come from either school, as long as the total combined credits amount to a full course load. At least one course must be taken at Georgia State University.

Documentation Required:

A concurrently-enrolled student must provide the SEVIS school code of the other institution to the GSU International Student and Scholar Services office (ISSS). Concurrently-enrolled students must provide proof of full-time enrollment (for example: registration record or unofficial transcript, listing credit hours, from the other school where the student is taking classes).

Final Degree Requirement Completed at GSU:

University policy states that GSU students may NOT complete their final degree requirement at another school; the final degree requirement must be completed at Georgia State University. If you have questions about this policy please speak with your academic department.

Additional requirements for Graduate Students:

Graduate students seeking concurrent enrollment must provide written approval from the academic advisor or professor in their major department. The approval must state that classes taken as concurrent enrollment will transfer back to GSU and count towards your intended degree.

J-1 Students:

J-1 students participating in an exchange program are not eligible for concurrent enrollment. Home-government or organization-sponsored J-1 students who seek concurrent enrollment must first meet with an international advisor. Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Regulatory Reference: 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)

Courses Used for CPT Approval:

Doctoral dissertation and thesis research hours cannot be used to satisfy the credit bearing course requirement for CPT requested as an optional or required part of a degree program. These courses can only be used as the credit bearing course for CPT if a student’s dissertation or thesis requires gathering data at a particular corporation’s research and development facilities which requires employment or permission for access. The student must register for a course that carries academic credit, that is listed in the regular bulletin of course offerings, and that has a faculty member assigned to teach the course. The course cannot be a class designated outside the scope and purpose of CPT. Example: a student signs up for ACCT 21010 (Principles of Accounting 1) and seeks to utilize this class for both CPT and normal course credit.

Examples of appropriate CPT courses:

  • CSC 8940-Computer Science Internship: The course will require to document and present the project the student worked on during the internship (1-9 credit hours)
  • BIOL 4916-Internships in Biology: Students receive hands-on experience in activities that require knowledge and skills related to the field of biology. Specific topics available each semester will vary. May be taken for credit a maximum of two times (2 credit hours)
  • ACCT 8391-Field Study Accounting: Prerequisite-MPA or MBA student with a 2.7 or higher GPA, accounting internship, consent of instructor. CSP: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. The purpose of this class is to provide course credit for students enrolled in the MPA or MBA program who have an accounting internship. Students are required to submit weekly journals describing their internship experience and a paper at the end of the semester. The topic for the paper has to be approved by the instructor. Students can register for this class only with the consent of the instructor.

Hours Per Week:

During fall and spring semesters, CPT can only be approved on a part-time basis (20 hours a week or less). Full time (more than 20 hours a week) will only be approved in limited circumstances such as:
  • During vacation periods when school is not in session such as summer, winter and spring breaks*
  • During summer semester
  • Students in programs that require full-time internships
  • Students in their final semester who are taking less than a full course load, which has been pre-approved by an ISSS advisor
  • Graduate students who have completed all course work and are taking less than a full course load while completing their thesis or dissertation, which has been pre-approved by an ISSS advisor

Dates:

CPT is tied to the academic calendar and can only be authorized in conjunction with the academic semester. Work may begin as early as the day following final exams of the previous semester, and it may end as late as the last day of final exams of the requested semester. No exceptions can be made to allow work outside these time limits. CPTs can be approved for multiple semesters, but new authorization must be sought and obtained before each semester. Students may not begin working without final authorization from ISSS. If a student is authorized for CPT, that authorization is valid only until the end of final exams of the current semester. If the student wishes to continue working until classes start the next semester, that student must obtain new CPT authorization (which includes registration for a class in the upcoming semester and all CPT application materials).

Documentation Required:

  • Curricular Practical Training form: Step 1 must be fully completed by the student. Step 2 must be fully completed by the supervising professor who will oversee academic evaluation of the employment.
  • Original employer letter: Must be on employer's letterhead, signed, and address all points listed in Step 3 of the CPT form.
  • Proof of academic credit:
    • If internship/CPT is required for your degree program, submit a copy of the current undergraduate or graduate catalog page listing the course requirement.
    • If internship/CPT is not required for your degree program, you must register in an appropriate credit-bearing course prior to applying for CPT. Refer to the information above for details on what courses are appropriate.
Regulatory Reference: 8 CFR 214.2(f)(7)(iii)-(iv)

Overview

F-1 students may apply to ISSS for an extension of program/status if they are not able to complete their degree objective by their current I-20 expiration date. Approval of extension requests is at the discretion of ISSS. In order to preserve the integrity of Georgia State University’s federal certification to enroll F-1 students, ISSS may deny extension requests that do not meet the criteria below.

Eligibility

An F-1 student is eligible for an extension or program/status if all of the following criteria are met:
  • The student submits all documents for an extension request at least five (5) business days before his or her I-20 expiration date. The I-20 expiration date is listed in section 5 of the I-20.
  • The student has continually maintained and is currently maintaining F-1 status. Click here for more information on maintaining F-1 status.
  • The delay in completion of studies is caused by compelling, substantive academic or medical reasons. Such reasons may include changes of major or thesis/dissertation topic, unexpected research problems, or a documented medical illness. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not valid reasons for program extension.
  • The student is making normal academic progress towards the degree objective listed in sections 4 and 5 of Form I-20. Normal progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in the degree program completes the program requirements.

Application Procedures

Information on required documents can be found on Extending Your I-20.

Length of Extension Granted

ISSS may extend a student’s F-1 status in accordance with the recommendation provided by the student’s academic advisor on the I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request Form. For example, if the academic advisor indicates that a student only has one semester of program requirements remaining, ISSS will only extend for one semester. The maximum amount of time an extension may be granted is one year from the date of ISSS approval, not from the I-20 expiration date. The end date of the extended I-20 will coincide with the last day of finals of the semester in which the extension period will end.
Example 1: A student is approved for a one-year extension on November 1, 2013 (during the Fall 2013 semester). The student will receive an extension through December 16, 2014 (which is the last day of finals of the Fall 2014 semester.) Example 2: A student’s I-20 will expire on May 31, 2014. On December 1, 2013, the student requests an extension. The extension request form indicates that the student will not complete her program until the Spring 2015 semester. ISSS approves the request on December 3, 2013. The extension will be granted through December 16, 2014 (last day of finals of the Fall 2014 semester), since this will be one year from the date the extension is approved. If the student needs additional time after December 16, 2014, she must apply for another extension before then.

Financial Documentation Requirements

In addition to the I-20/DS-2019 Extension Request Form, students must provide financial documentation proving sufficient funding for full-time study for the recommended period of extension. Click here for more information on costs of attendance.

Examples:

  • A student who needs an additional semester must submit financial documentation for one semester of full-time study.
  • A student who needs an additional semester but only one course remaining must submit financial documentation for one semester of full-time study.
  • A student who needs another year must submit financial documentation for one year of full-time study.
Total funding required must be immediately available and shown in the documentation. Financial documents must be issued directly by the funding source and must be original documents. (Photocopies, faxes, scanned documents, computer/Web printouts are not acceptable.)

Multiple Extension Requests

Pending student eligibility and ISSS approval, second and subsequent extension requests will be granted in one-semester increments only.

Effect of Early Completion of Degree/Program on an Approved Extension

If a student completes his degree program prior to the new, extended I-20 end date, the student’s F-1 status and I-20 will be shortened to reflect the earlier date of program completion. For example, if a student is granted an extension through the Fall 2014 semester but completes his degree in Spring 2014, the student’s I-20 end date will be shortened to the end of the Spring 2014 semester. See the Completion of Study policy for more information.
Regulatory Reference: 22 C.F.R. § 62.43

Overview

Program extensions for J-1 students are rare, and will be approved on a case by case basis by ISSS. In order to preserve the integrity of Georgia State University's federal certification to sponsorJ-1 students, ISSS may deny extension requests that do not meet the criteria outlined in this policy. J-1 students enrolled in a degree-seeking program may apply to ISSS for an extension of program/status if they are unable to complete their degree objective by their current DS-2019 expiration date. J-1 students studying on a non-degree seeking program may also apply for a DS-2019 extension. Length and approval of an extension request is at the discretion of ISSS. Please note that ISSS cannot process extensions for externally sponsored students (example: Fulbright, Muskie, and USAID -sponsored students).

Eligibility

A student on a J-1 Visa is eligible for an extension of program/status if all of the following criteria are met:

I. J-1 Students on Exchange Agreements

Program extension must be permitted by the official exchange agreement. Please refer to your exchange Program Coordinator and/or the Office of International Initiatives for details about your exchange agreement.

Degree Seeking:

  • The student submits all documents for an extension request at least (5) business days before his or her DS-2019 expiration date. The expiration date is listed in section 3 of the DS-2019.
  • The student has continually maintained and is currently maintaining J-1 status.
  • The delay in completion of studies is caused by compelling, substantive academic or medical reasons. Such reasons may include changes of major or thesis/dissertation topic, unexpected research problems, or a documented medical illness. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not valid reasons for program extension.
  • The student is making progress towards the degree objective per the exchange agreement. Normal progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in the degree program completes the program requirements.
  • The student obtains written permission from the exchange program coordinator/director for extension. The exchange program coordinator/director must address reciprocity ramifications, fee rate code or university funding if the student will continue exchange agreement and receive university support.

Non-degree Seeking:

  • The student submits all documents for an extension request at least (5) business days before his or her DS-2019 expiration date. The expiration date is listed in section 3 of the DS-2019
  • The student has continually maintained and is currently maintaining J-1 status.
  • The student obtains written permission from the exchange program coordinator/director for extension. The exchange program coordinator/director must address reciprocity ramifications, fee rate code or university funding if the student will continue exchange agreement and receive university support.

II. J-1 Students not on Exchange Agreements

  • The student submits all documents for an extension request at least (5) business days before his or her DS-2019 expiration date. The expiration date is listed in section 3 of the DS-2019.
  • The student has continually maintained and is currently maintaining J-1 status.
  • The delay in completion of studies is caused by compelling, substantive academic or medical reasons. Such reasons may include changes of major or thesis/dissertation topic, unexpected research problems, or a documented medical illness. Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not valid reasons for program extension.
  • The student is making progress towards the degree objective per the exchange agreement. Normal progress is the rate at which the average full-time student in the degree program completes the program requirements.

Length of Extension Granted

The approval of and length granted for J-1 extensions is at the sole discretion of ISSS.

Financial Documents Required

The student must provide financial documentation proving sufficient funding for full-time study for the recommended period of extension. For more information on the estimated cost of attendance for J-1 exchange students, please see the ISSS Exchange Student webpage. Total funding required must be immediately available and shown in the documentation. Financial documents must be issued directly by the funding source and must be original documents. (Photocopies, faxes, scanned documents, computer/Web printouts are not acceptable.)

Definition:

For immigration purposes, a Change of Level (COL) usually occurs when an F-1 student has completed or will complete one degree program before beginning a new degree program. The new degree program may be at the same or different educational level.  
  • Example 1: Student completes Bachelor’s in English in Fall 2013 and will begin Master’s in English in Spring 2014.
  • Example 2: Student completes Bachelor’s in English in Spring 2013 and will begin Bachelor’s in Biology in Summer 2013.
  • Example 3: Student is currently pursuing MS in Risk Management and Insurance (MS RMI), and is admitted to the Ph.D. in Real Estate. The student will not have completed the MS RMI when s/he begins the Ph.D. in Real Estate, but the Ph.D. will become the student’s primary academic objective. The student requests a new I-20 for the Ph.D. program, forfeits his eligibility for OPT for the MS RMI program still in progress, and changes level to Ph.D.

When the New Program Must Begin:

COL students must begin their new academic program in the next available semester. If the student completes the first program and cannot begin the new program in the next available semester after admission to the second program is confirmed and made the primary priority, the student must depart the United States within 60 days after completing the first program. The student may re-enter the United States (with a valid F-1 visa and new I-20 for the new program) up to 30 days before the semester in which the new program will begin. If the student requests an I-20 for the new program and will not have completed the first program when s/he begins the new program, no departure from the U.S. is required.

Forfeiture of OPT Eligibility if COL While Still Pursuing First Program

If the student requests an I-20 for the new program and will not have completed the first program when s/he begins the new program, the student must agree in writing to forfeit OPT eligibility for the first program (since creation of the COL I-20 will update the student’s SEVIS immigration record to indicate that the first program is no longer the primary objective). If the student does not wish to forfeit OPT eligibility for the first program, a COL cannot be processed, and the student will not receive an I-20 for the new program.

Issuance of New I-20 Form:

A student who intends to change level must request a new, Initial-status I-20 form for the new program from ISSS. The student must submit original, current financial documents showing funding available to pay for at least one year of the new program, before ISSS will issue the new I-20. Click here for details on financial document requirements (see item 3). In order to ensure GSU’s compliance with federal guidelines, ISSS will issue COL I-20 forms no later than the first day of the next available semester. The student may request and receive the I-20 form for the new program as soon as admission to the new program is complete. This may occur while the first program is still in progress. In no circumstance will ISSS issue an I-20 form to a student after the first day of classes for the term in which the student has been admitted to the new program. If a student has not completed admission procedures and has not received an I-20 form by the first day of classes for the term in which he was admitted, the student must prepare to defer attendance to begin the new program in the next available semester. Federal guidelines state that Georgia State University may only use the first day of classes as the start date on I-20 forms. Any later date cannot be used, as the first day of classes is listed on the GSU I-17 Form filed with the Department of Homeland Security. All F-1 nonimmigrant international students at Georgia State University must begin studies on a specific semester start date listed on the university’s approved Form I-17. Form I-17 (“Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student") is government approval for Georgia State University to enroll F-1 international students, and it lists specific session start dates and degree programs for which F-1 students may be admitted. These session start dates are listed on each newly-admitted F-1 student's I-20 form ("Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status").
In order to ensure GSU’s compliance with federal guidelines, ISSS will issue I-20 forms to newly-admitted students no later than the first day of international student orientation of the term for which the student has been admitted.

In an extreme emergency situation, ISSS may issue an I-20 form to a student after the first day of international student orientation, up to the first day of class for the admit term; however, such situations are rare and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

In no circumstance will ISSS issue an I-20 form to a student after the first day of classes for the term in which the student has been admitted. If a student has not completed admission procedures and has not received an I-20 form by the first day of classes for the term in which he was admitted, the student must prepare to defer attendance at GSU to begin in the next available semester.   Federal guidelines state that Georgia State University may only use the first day of classes as the start date on I-20 forms. Any later date cannot be used, as the first day of classes is listed on the GSU I-17 Form filed with the Department of Homeland Security. All F-1 nonimmigrant international students at Georgia State University must begin studies on a specific semester start date listed on the university’s approved Form I-17. Form I-17 (“Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student") is government approval for Georgia State University to enroll F-1 international students, and it lists specific session start dates and degree programs for which F-1 students may be admitted. These session start dates are listed on each newly-admitted F-1 student's I-20 form ("Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status").

Overview

J-1 Academic Training (AT) is off-campus employment directly related to a student's field of study (22. C.F.R. § 62.23 (f)). Appropriate activities may vary over disciplines. AT can involve sequential or simultaneous activities, either paid or unpaid, with multiple employers, provided the application approval procedures are followed for each employer and activity, and the time limits are not exceeded. Example: A graduate J-1 student with Master's Degree in Accounting is employed as an Accountant with a legal business following completion of studies.

Eligibility

A student on a J-1 Visa is eligible to apply for Academic Training (AT) if the student meets the following general conditions:
  • The student is in good academic standing.
  • The student is primarily in the United States (U.S.) to study rather than engage in AT.
  • The student is participating in AT that is directly related to his or her major field of study as indicated on his or her Form DS-2019.
  • The student receives written approval in advance from ISSS for the duration of the type of AT.
  • AT can only be authorized by the J-1 program sponsor (GSU, Department of State, Fulbright, USAID, etc.).

Documentation Required:

Students applying for AT must submit their AT application and supporting materials at least two weeks before his or her program completion date on their Form DS-2019. AT must be approved prior to the expiration of the program completion date to be eligible for employment. In order to apply for AT, the student must submit the following documents:
  • Academic Training (AT) Application Form completed by Academic Advisor, Exchange Program Coordinator, Department Head, or Dean.
  • A job offer letter from the student's prospective employer on original letterhead which specifies in the body of the letter the following information: salary, location (street address) of employment, full name of supervisor and contact email and phone number, description of training program, beginning and ending dates of employment, and number of hours per week. The letter must be signed and dated by prospective employer. If student will be telecommuting (working at home), the employment letter must note the physical address of the student's work, which would be the student's home address.
  • An original bank certification letter showing the student's financial sponsor can cover the cost of living expenses for the period of the requested AT. If the student's salary is outlined in the job offer letter and covers the amount of estimated living expenses for the period of AT, no financial bank certification letter is needed. All funding must be in liquid form such as a checking or savings account.
  • Once the student complete AT, you must complete the online Academic Training (AT) Evaluation.

Time Limitations:

The amount of time a student is eligible for AT depends on the type of study (non-degree or degree seeking) and length of his or her period of study. AT time limitations are cumulative, meaning that any AT conducted prior to completion of study will be deducted from the maximum allowable time. Only the months remaining may be used following the completion of the degree.
  • Non-degree seeking: AT may be authorized for the same amount of time the student spent studying (a maximum of 12 months) after the completion of the J-1 program. Example: A student on a one semester exchange may only apply for one semester of AT. Non-degree students are limited to a total stay in the U.S. of 24 months, including all study time plus any authorized AT.
  • Degree-seeking: AT cannot be authorized for a period longer than the total period of study for the undergraduate, masters, or doctoral degree levels. The maximum duration of any AT segment is 18 months, unless the student's period of study is less than 18 months. Examples: (1) An accounting undergraduate student who studied at GSU for 3 years (24 months) and completed his or her degree is only eligible for 18 months total of AT (2) A masters student in marketing who completes his or her degree in 12 months is only eligible for 12 months of AT.
  • Exception to 18 month rule: An exception to this limitation allows additional time beyond 18 months to the extent necessary for the exchange visitor to satisfy the mandatory requirements of his or her degree program in the United States. Example: a masters in social work or psychology might require a period of supervised training for longer than 18 months as a condition of obtaining the degree. If more than 18 months of AT is required for a student's degree program, the student must submit a copy of the current undergraduate or graduate catalog listing the requirement and submit an original, signed letter from his academic advisor detailing this requirement. Non-degree seeking students are not eligible for this exception.
  • Ph.D. students who have been offered an established post-doctoral position may be authorized for two 18 month increments of AT, for a total of 36 months), inclusive of prior periods of training. However, AT can only be authorized for 18 month increments. Any additional period of training beyond the first 18 months, must be authorized in advanced by submitting a new AT application prior to the expiration of the student's Form DS-2019.

Start and End Dates of AT

  • The student must present a firm written offer of employment before his or her program completion date on Form DS-2019 for post-completion AT. ISSS recommends the employment begin within 30 days of the program completion date. Employment may begin more than 30 days after the program completion date; however, the time between the program completion date and the employment start date will be deducted from the total 18-month eligibility for AT. Therefore, students who delay the actual start date of employment will lose academic training time.
  • A student who wants to extend or add a new segment of AT must submit a new AT application prior to the expiration of his or her Form DS-2019. For extensions or new segments of AT, ISSS recommends the employment begins within 30 days of the previous AT experience. The new employment may begin more than 30 days after the last AT end date; however, the time between the student's program completion date and the employment start date will be deducted from the total 18-month eligibility for AT. Therefore, students who delay the actual start date of employment will lose academic training time.

Full Time and Part Time AT

Full Time employment is considered (20) hours or more per week. Part time employment is considered (20) hours or less per week. Students may engage only in part time employment during the fall and spring semesters or while engaging in full time study (12 credit hours or more for undergraduates; 9 credit hours or more for graduates). Full Time AT is permitted during official school breaks, annual vacation time, and after completion of the student's program of study or exchange program objective.
Exception: A student may engage in full-time AT before completion of his or her program of study, if full time employment is a requirement of the program of study or exchange program objective. To obtain this exception, a student must submit an original, signed letter from his academic advisor with the AT application detailing this requirement.

AT Approval

AT authorization is at the sole discretion of ISSS and will be decided on a case-by-case basis. If approved, AT authorization will be noted in Section 5 of the student's Form DS-2019. No employment authorization document from USCIS is needed.
Regulatory Reference: 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(B)

Based on 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(B) and standard practice, ISSS may authorize a student to carry less than a full course load due to a temporary medical condition or illness. A student requesting under-enrollment for medical reasons must apply for, and be approved for, the reduced course load before under-enrollment occurs. Failure to receive permission from ISSS before under-enrolling is a violation of F-1 status and may result in termination of a student’s SEVIS record.

In order to apply for authorized medical under-enrollment, the student must take the following steps.
  • Submit Medical Underenrollment Request Form to ISSS, completed by both student and academic advisor.
  • Submit qualified letter of recommendation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist. The letter must follow the specifications and meet the standards outlined on the Medical Underenrollment Request Form.

If approved by ISSS, the student may drop below full-time enrollment only for the period of time granted by ISSS. If a student wishes to continue the under-enrollment in subsequent terms, the student must again apply and be authorized for the reduced course load before under-enrollment occurs. The maximum amount of time allowed by the regulations for medical under-enrollment is 12 months per degree level.

Students should be aware that approval for medical under-enrollment is at the sole discretion of ISSS.
Regulatory Reference: 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(ii)

Definition:

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment directly related to a student's major area of study.

Eligibility:

  • The student must be in valid F-1 status at the time of application, and must have been enrolled full-time for at least one academic year preceding the application.
  • If not enrolled full time, the student must have an under-enrollment form completed by his or her academic advisor and approved by an international student advisor in ISSS.
  • The student must be in the final semester of his or her academic program (unless applying for pre-completion OPT).
  • The student must have no holds on the student record and no balance owed to the university. Having a hold or balance could delay the processing of the OPT request.
  • The student must have attended an employment workshop within the last year.
  • The student must not have already been approved for OPT for the same education level.
  • The student must apply in the time period between 90 days before and 60 days after completion of study. (See definition of "completion of study" below.)
  • Students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields who wish to apply for the 17-month OPT extension have additional eligibility requirements. Please refer to the "17-Month STEM OPT Extension" policy for more information.

Definition of Completion of Study:

For undergraduate and graduate non-thesis students, completion of a course of study is the last day of final exams of the semester in which they finish all degree requirements. All other graduate students can choose between three dates for completion of study:
  1. On the last day of finals in the semester in which the student completes all required coursework.
  2. On the date the student successfully defends the thesis/dissertation/project. (This date is established between the student and the academic advisor or department chair.)
  3. On the last day of finals in the semester in which the final degree requirement is met.  This is the same for non-thesis students.

Dates:

  • The earliest students can apply for OPT is 90 days before completion of study.
  • Students do NOT have to have a job offer in order to apply for OPT, and are encouraged to apply early.
  • Students may also apply within 60 days after completion of study. However, the OPT application must be receipted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by day 60 in order to be eligible. It may take 2-3 weeks from the time the OPT is mailed for USCIS to receive and receipt it. Students who apply after completion of study should allow sufficient time for mailing and receipting at USCIS.
  • Students can choose any date within 60 days after completion of study as the start date of OPT, but they must complete OPT within 14 months after completion of study.
    • Example: If your completion of study date is December 14, 2013, you have until February 14, 2014 to complete your one year of OPT.
  • Applying on the last day will not extend a student's OPT. USCIS processing times may take up to 90 days. Therefore, students who apply late may lose some of their allotted 12 months of OPT.
    • Example: If your completion of study date is December 17, 2013, and you apply for OPT on January 14, 2014, it is possible that your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card may not be approved and arrive until April 14, 2013 (90 days/3 months processing time.) As a result, you would have lost 3 months of your allotted 12 months of OPT.
  • Students may not begin working without receiving the official EAD card in hand.
  • Students applying for the STEM extension have different requirements; please refer to the "Optional Practical Training: STEM Extension" policy for more information.

During OPT:

  • Students may not enroll in classes during OPT. Consult an ISSS advisor for more information.
  • If a student transfers to another school or begins another degree program during OPT, the OPT work authorization will automatically end, even though the EAD card still appears valid. Consult an ISSS advisor for more information.
  • Students must adhere to unemployment limits (90 days for students on post-completion OPT, 120 days for students on STEM extension).
  • Students on OPT must report changes in employment or address via the OPT Employment Report within 10 days of the change. Please refer to the signed copy of the “OPT Statement of Understanding” (completed with ISSS upon applying) for more information.
  • Students may travel outside the United States during OPT, but may return only if they have a job. Students must have proof of employment, a valid (unexpired) F-1 visa, a valid passport, and an I-20 signed for travel in order to return. Travel signature requests must be submitted to ISSS at least two weeks in advance of travel.
  • Students on STEM extension have additional reporting requirements; please refer to the "Optional Practical Training: STEM Extension" policy for more information.

After OPT:

During the 60 days after OPT has expired, students must do one of the following:
  • Depart the United States,
  • Become accepted into and receive, in hand, an Initial-status I-20 form for a new degree program or educational level at Georgia State University or another SEVIS-approved school in the United States,
  • Transfer from Georgia State University to another degree program at a SEVIS-approved school in the United States, or
  • Apply for a change of status from F-1 to another non-immigrant visa category.
Regulatory Reference:  8 CFR 214.2 (f)(10)(ii)(C)

Definition:

Students holding a degree in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) majors may be eligible for a 17-month extension after the first 12-month OPT period (for a total of 29 months of OPT).

Eligibility:

  • Students must be currently participating in an approved OPT period, and must hold a degree in a STEM-eligible field (listed below).
  • Students in the following majors, with the accompanying CIP codes, are STEM-eligible.  (To determine your CIP code, look at page 3 of your I-20.  The CIP code is the 6-digit numerical code (XX.XXXX) listed directly before your major at the top of the page):
    • Actuarial Science (52.1304)
    • Astronomy (40.0201)
    • Biology (26.0101)
    • Business Analysis (14.3701)
    • Chemistry (40.0501)
    • Computer Science (11.0701)
    • Computer Information Systems (11.0101)
    • Decision Sciences (14.2701)
    • Geology/Earth Science (40.0601)
    • Mathematics (27.0101)
    • Operations Research (14.3701)
    • Physics (40.0801)
  • For more information about STEM designated degree programs, click here or talk to an ISSS advisor.
  • Students must apply for the STEM extension before the expiration date listed on their current EAD card issued by USCIS.  USCIS recommends that students apply 90-120 days prior to their EAD expiration date.  ISSS further recommends eligible students apply no later than one month prior to the EAD expiration date, to allow time for processing and receipting at USCIS.

Application Procedures:

For specific application procedures and documents required, click here.

Dates:

Upon approval by USCIS, the STEM extension period will begin the day after the first OPT period expires (as listed on the EAD card), and will end 17 months after that.  For example, if the current EAD expires on 10/01/2013, the STEM period will begin on 10/02/2013 and will end on 02/28/2015.

Working While STEM Application is Pending:

It the student's current EAD has expired and a STEM extension has been receipted and is pending with USCIS, the student may continue to work for up to 180 days while the extension is pending.  Upon approval, USCIS will issue and mail the student a new EAD card showing the extended dates.

During STEM Employment:

Students on STEM OPT employment must:
  • Work in a paid position for an E-Verify employer at least 20 hours per week
  • Work in a position related to the STEM degree
  • Report via the OPT Employment Report within 10 days of the following:
    • Legal name change
    • Change in residential or mailing address
    • Change in employer (provide the employer's name, address, and start date)
    • Loss of employment
  • Report via the OPT Employment Report every 6 months from the start date of the STEM period the following, even if there have been no changes:
    • Full legal name
    • Current mailing and residential address
    • Name and address of current employer
    • Date student began working for current employer
Students on STEM OPT must NOT:
  • Work for any employer who is not enrolled in E-Verify
  • Accrue more than 120 days of unemployment during the entire 29-month OPT period
During OPT:
  • Students may not enroll in classes during OPT.  Consult an ISSS advisor for more information.
  • If a student transfers to another school or begins another program during OPT, the OPT work authorization will automatically end, even though the EAD card will still appear valid.  Consult an ISSS advisor for more information.
  • Student must adhere to unemployment limits (120 days for students on STEM extension).
  • Students on OPT must report any changes in employment or address via the OPT Employment Report within 10 days of the change.  Please refer to the signed copy of the "OPT Statement of Understanding" (completed with ISSS upon applying for OPT) for more information.
  • Students may travel outside the United States during OPT, but may return only if they have a job.  Students must have proof of employment, a valid (unexpired) F-1 visa, a valid passport, and an I-20 signed for travel on page 3 in order to return.  Travel signature requests must be submitted to ISSS at least two weeks in advance of travel.
After OPT:
During the 60 days following expiration of OPT, students must do one of the following:
  1. Depart the United States,
  2. Become accepted into AND receive an Initial-status I-20 form for a new degree program or educational level at Georgia State or another SEVIS-approved school in the United States,
  3. Transfer from Georgia State to begin another degree program at a SEVIS-approved school in the United States, or
  4. Apply for a change of status from F-1 to another non-immigrant visa category.

Definition of Post-Baccalaureate Study:

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) may issue Forms I-20 to eligible students for post-baccalaureate, undergraduate study at Georgia State University. A post-baccalaureate student is a student who already holds a bachelor’s degree from an accredited foreign or U.S. institution, and who wishes to pursue additional undergraduate coursework at Georgia State on a non-degree basis, in order to achieve a specific academic or professional objective (for example, completing additional courses in order to obtain admission to a graduate program).

Eligibility for I-20 Issuance and Statement of Objective:

Prospective post-baccalaureate students must meet all requirements for post-baccalaureate undergraduate admission, as defined by the Georgia State Office of Undergraduate Admissions, in order to be eligible for I-20 issuance by ISSS.

  In addition to providing documentation required of all international students for I-20 issuance (proof of financial support, copies of immigration documents, etc.), prospective post-baccalaureate students must also submit a written, official statement explaining the specific academic or professional objective of their intended study. This statement of objective must be written by the academic department of the institution where the student intends to achieve the objective. For example, if a student wishes to pursue post-baccalaureate study at Georgia State in order to obtain admission to a graduate program at Georgia State, the Georgia State academic department where the graduate program is housed must write the letter. If the student wishes to pursue post-baccalaureate study at Georgia State in order to obtain admission to a graduate program at another university, the other university must write the letter.

The statement of objective must meet the following requirements in order to be accepted:
  • The statement must be written by an academic advisor or professor in the academic department where the academic or professional objective will be obtained. Letters written by business managers or non-academic professional staff will not be accepted.
  • The letter must specify the education or professional objective the student wishes to obtain, and must list all courses, including the term they will be offered, that must be taken in order to fulfill that objective.
  • The letter must state the length of post-baccalaureate study required in order to meet the objective.
  • Post-baccalaureate study may not exceed twelve (12) months or one academic year.

Additional Requirement for Students Coming from Home Country:

If the prospective student is coming directly from their home country to pursue post-baccalaureate study at Georgia State, the student must write an additional letter that explains why the courses they wish to take must be taken in the United States, rather than in their home country.

Duration of Post-Baccalaureate Study:

Post-baccalaureate study for international students may not exceed twelve (12) months or one academic year.

Full-time Enrollment Requirement:

Post-baccalaureate students must maintain full-time enrollment each semester in order to maintain F-1 visa status. Full-time study is defined as at least twelve (12) credit hours.
Regulatory Reference: 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(B)

  Based on 8 CFR 214.2 (f)(6)(iii)(B) and standard practice, ISSS does not consider a normal pregnancy/delivery to be a medical condition that warrants a reduced course load authorization. If a student has a medical complication resulting from an otherwise normal pregnancy or delivery for which she is seeking medical RCL, the student must provide written medical documentation from a licensed physician, medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist that recommends the student take a reduced course load for the specific semester in question. This documentation must include the following language: "Other than a normal pregnancy/delivery, [name of student] has a medical condition which precludes her from taking a full course load in [x] semester." Documentation that does not include this language will not be accepted.

Definition of Study Abroad

Classes taken outside of the U.S. for Georgia State University (GSU) credit, including GSU exchange agreements and dual degree programs that require full time study outside the U.S. Study abroad through an external study abroad provider, other university, or other outside program that will result in transfer credit will not follow the guidelines outlined in this policy. Please consult with an ISSS advisor if you have any questions about your study abroad program.

ISSS Procedures During Study Abroad

Based on 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(10),  ISSS will continue to maintain the student's SEVIS record (including properly registering the student's record each term or session the student is studying abroad), pending that the student provides the appropriate documentation (defined below). The student’s SEVIS record will be annotated in the remarks section that the student is pursuing a full course of study while engaging in an authorized study abroad program.

International Student Responsibilities While Studying Abroad

Maymester or Summer Study Abroad:
Full time enrollment is not mandated during Maymester or Summer study abroad sessions. Students who wish to study abroad during Maymester or Summer terms need to obtain a travel signature on their I-20 at least 2 weeks prior to their trip abroad.

One or More Academic Semesters Abroad:

Before studying abroad, students must:
  • Have been enrolled in a full course of study at Georgia State University for at least one full semester prior to the study abroad term.
  • At least 1 month prior to their departure, provide written documentation from their academic advisor or program coordinator that they will be studying abroad. The documentation must include the following components:
    • Must be on GSU letterhead or from GSU email address
    • List program name, location, start and end date
    • State that health insurance will be purchased or has been purchased
  • Obtain a travel signature prior to leaving the U.S. (Note: travel signatures are only valid for 6 months.)
  • Update Student Accounts with their study abroad status, making sure that health insurance will not be charged during the term they are abroad.
While abroad, students must:
  • Remain registered at GSU, and continue to pursue a full course of study while abroad (9 credits for graduate students and 12 credits for undergraduates).
Note: ISSS does not recommend that international students study abroad during the final semester of their degree program if they intend to apply for OPT. Studying abroad during a student's final semester may endanger their chances of applying for OPT, as they will be unable to apply for OPT from outside of the United States, and may not be permitted to return to the U.S. to apply after the last day of final exams.
In compliance with Board of Regents policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4., any student applying to Georgia State University must provide verification of their lawful presence in the United Status before their admission to the university can be finalized. Transfer students must submit a transfer clearance form, completed by current school international advisor, before they can register classes at Georgia State University. The transfer clearance form must indicate you are in F-1/J-1 status and your SEVIS record will be transferred to Georgia State University before the semester start date. Please refer to the transfer student page for more information.

Transfer Process:

  1. After you have been fully admitted to Georgia State University and submitted complete financial documents to ISSS, you can request your SEVIS record to be transferred to Georgia State University. An International Admission (IA) Hold will be placed on your account until your immigration status is verified by ISSS.
  2. The international advisor at your current school must complete a transfer clearance form to be submitted to International Services by fax or mail.
  3. The immigration advisor will set a release date for your SEVIS record based on the last day of the semester in the current semester and the first day of classes at Georgia State.If you are traveling outside of the country between transferring from schools, you will need to request a new I-20 from Georgia State at least 2 weeks before your departure. You will need the new (transfer pending) I-20/DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S. legally.
  4. Once we receive your transfer clearance form by fax or mail, ISSS will remove the IA hold from your account in order for you to register.
  5. Once your SEVIS record has been released from your current school, they no longer have access to your SEVIS record. Georgia State will have the ability to update your SEVIS record and print a new I-20 for you upon registration for classes.

Summer Transfer Admissions:

Transfer students admitted for the Summer semester must register in and maintain at least six (6) credit hours in order to maintain F-1 status at Georgia State University.