We understand that living in a new country is both exciting and challenging for international students, scholars and their families! Our goal is to provide resources and support so you can maximize your Atlanta experience. International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) at Georgia State provides the following information to help ease your adjustment to life in Atlanta and the U.S.
Disclaimer: This material is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Changes to immigration requirements occur regularly and Georgia State assumes no liability for the accuracy of this content or whether it is complete or current. If you discover errors, please report to us by email email@example.com Thank you.
The following information is for J-2 and F-2 dependent visa holders sponsored by Georgia State.
Please find additional information below regarding frequently asked questions.
Day Care, Pre-K and After School Program (Ages 0-5)
Georgia State Child Development Program
(For children of Georgia State Faculty, Staff and State of Georgia employees only)
The Child Development Program, a part of the College of Education & Human Development offers two locations, the Lanette L. Suttles Child Development Center and the Capitol Hill Child Enrichment Center.
Childcare is available on a 1st-come, 1st-serve basis. If spaces are filled, a waiting list is available. The minimum time for a child to be accepted is 12-18 months. Being placed on the waiting list does not guarantee placement in the center.
Lanette L. Suttles Child Development Center
Capitol Hill Child Enrichment Center
A year-round program that offers either a half or full-day schedule for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old.
Primrose offers accredited programs for infants, young toddlers, early preschool, private kindergarten and after-school and summer camp programs.
Important Questions to Ask When Considering Day-Care:
- Are there individual cribs for each infant?
- Are toys sanitized daily?
- Are the care, meals and nap times personalized for your infant's needs?
- Are play and daily routines used as opportunities for nurturing and learning?
For Preschool Children:
- Does the curriculum prepare children for school?
- Are there at-home activities that connect parents with school events and programs?
- Is high-quality children's literature available?
- Do staff read to the children at least twice a day?
- Are writing materials available to children?
- Is a wide range of instructional methods used, such as small-group learning, whole-group learning and individual learning?
For all childcare, ask if the program is accredited, if background checks are run on all employees and what the student-to-caregiver ratio is. The safety and well-being of your child must be the highest priority for any childcare center.
Public Schools (Ages 6-17)
Steps to register your child for school:
- Determine if your child is eligible to enroll in a public school system in Georgia.
- According to Georgia law, a child must be five years old, on or before September 1, in order to enter a public Kindergarten. The child must be six years old, on or before September 1, in order to enter first grade.
- In general, the student's parent or legal guardian must be a resident of the county or city of the school.
- Determine the school's location. The majority of students and faculty at Georgia State live in one of the following counties or cities within the metropolitan Atlanta area: DeKalb County, City of Decatur, Fulton County, City of Atlanta, Clayton County, Gwinnett County, Henry County and Cobb County. Each county has its own school system.
For information on school locations within each county, visit the website of the county or city government where you live in the U.S.
- Read the specific requirements for the county or city of residence where your child will attend school.
- Each county or city has its own specific requirements and processes for registration. Please be aware that schools revise registration information on a yearly basis. For updated information, please contact the county or city government or school board.
Obtain necessary identification documents, immunizations and health certificates.
All schools require students to show proof of age with a certified birth certificate, Certificate of Immunization (Form 3231) and Certificate of Eye, Ear and Dental Exam (Form 3300):
- Birth certificates: Must be government-issued with an official seal
- Form 3231 (Certificate of Immunization)
- Must be obtained from the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) or from a physician licensed in the state of Georgia. Take your child’s personal immunization records to a GDPH office or Georgia physician and they can complete the form and administer any required vaccines. For more information, please visit the Department of Public Health.
- Immunizations are required for:
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- All currently enrolled children entering 6th grade must have:
- 2 doses of Measles vaccine, 2 doses of Mumps vaccine, 1 dose of Rubella vaccine or laboratory proof of immunity against each.
- 2 doses of Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine or documentation of disease or laboratory proof of immunity.
- Form 3300 (Certificate of Eye, Ear and Dental Exam)
- Must be signed by a private practitioner or representative of the local Department of Health
Visit the school that your child will attend in order to register him/her. Take all necessary documents with you.
A list of websites of some metropolitan Atlanta-area school systems is provided below. Please Note: Neither Georgia State nor ISSS endorses the schools listed below.
Cobb County also has two International Welcome Centers that provide support services specific to the needs of non-immigrant families.
International Welcome Center
514 Glover Street
Marietta, GA 30060
When choosing an apartment, consider:
- Is it furnished or unfurnished?
- Will you have your own bathroom and kitchen or will you share it with others?
- Are there laundry facilities on-site? Are they free or coin-operated?
- How far is it from campus?
- Is it near public transportation?
- Is parking provided (if you have a car)? Is parking in a secure or gated area?
- How long is the lease? 6 or 12 months?
- How much is the deposit? (In addition to the first month of rent, a security deposit is usually required, which is returned to you if you leave the apartment in good condition.)
- Are utilities (gas, electricity, water) included with the rent?
- Is the neighborhood considered safe? (Talk with local residents or police to learn about safety.)
- Can you have roommates?
- Are pets allowed? Is there an additional pet deposit?
Additional Off-Campus Housing Resources:
- Georgia State’s off-campus housing
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
General Requirements for Renting:
- A rental application listing your rental and credit history
- Proof of income that shows you earn at least 2-3 times the rental amount. Provide proof of funding or find a guarantor (co-signer).
- If your rental application is approved, you will usually have to pay a security deposit in addition to the first month’s rent upfront.
Tips & Suggestions:
- If possible, pay by check or money order, not cash.
- Always ask for a receipt in order to have proof that you have paid.
- In the U.S., a written contract is more important than what is said. A lease is a legally binding document; read it carefully before you sign and ask for a copy!
- If possible, bring a friend to help you ask questions.
- To find out how far an apartment or house is from Georgia State, look on Google Maps. The address for Georgia State is 33 Gilmer Street, Atlanta, GA 30303. Google Maps (or a similar site) will be able to give you an idea of how long the commute to and from campus will be.
- To find out which MARTA routes are close to the apartment, visit the MARTA website.
AC/H = Air-conditioning and Heat
BR = Bedroom
BA = Bathroom
½ BA = No shower or bathtub
Util. = Utilities: gas, electricity and water
Dep. = Deposit (usually one month’s rent or less)
MARTA is Atlanta’s public transit system. Georgia State is served by the following MARTA stations and buses.
- Georgia State Station - Green/Blue (East/West) Train Line
- Five Points Station - Transfer point for all Train Lines
- Peachtree Center Station - Red/ Gold (North/South) Train Line
- #16 GSU Library/Decatur St.
- #16 GSU Concert Hall/Gilmer St.
- #16 GSU Bookstore/Courtland St.
Download the free MARTA On the Go App to your phone for real-time bus and rail tracking & schedules.
Georgia State's Auxilliary Services, located in the student center or online offers discounted monthly passes for MARTA.
If you will be living farther away from downtown Atlanta, you may still be able to take a regional commuter bus operated by other agencies to Georgia State.
(Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Paulding and Rockdale counties)
If you plan to drive a car in Atlanta, first make sure you have a valid driver’s license. (See the section above on driver’s licenses.)
You can use Georgia State Parking Decks by purchasing a monthly or semester parking pass at Parking Services.
Required by law:
- Seat belts must be in use by the driver and all passengers.
- Automobile insurance. Costs range from $500 - $2000 / year, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
- Texting and driving or holding any device while driving is illegal.
Georgia Driver's License
All J-1 scholars who plan to drive in the U.S. should apply for a Georgia driver’s license as soon as possible. If you have a valid license from your home country (either with an International Driving Permit or it is in English), you may use this for the first 30 days only.
However, once you have been present in Georgia for more than 30 days or have begun employment, you are considered a resident of Georgia and must obtain a Georgia driver’s license within 30 days to continue driving legally. See the DDS website for more information.
How do I get a Georgia driver's license?
You will be required to take both a written test and a driving test before you can apply for a license. In addition, all applicants are subject to a vision exam. You will be required to give up your foreign license in order to receive a Georgia driver’s license.
You must apply in person to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. The closest Driver’s License Customer Service Center to downtown is the South DeKalb Center located at 2801 Candler Road, Decatur, GA 30034. Visit the DDS website to find the most convenient location for you.
Take all of the following documents with you:
- Previous License or Instructional Permits
- Unexpired passport and J-1 visa
- I-94 Card
- DS-2019 form
- Proof of local residence (a signed lease agreement, a utility bill with your name and local address on it, or a U.S. bank statement—each must be issued within the past 45 days)
- $20 cash
- Social Security Number/Car
Buying Automobile Insurance
Before you buy, compare prices at different insurance companies. You can visit the nerdwallet website to compare many companies at once. You may also choose an independent insurance agent who can recommend the best offer for your situation.
Automobile Insurance Vocabulary
Liability-- The amount that your insurance will pay to another person if you are at fault in an accident (that is if you hit them). It covers damage to their vehicle as well as treatment for any injuries.
Collision-- This category covers damage to your vehicle if you are at fault in an accident (for example, running your car into another car, a tree, etc.)
Deductible-- The amount you (the insured) must pay in a loss before the insurance company will pay. The collision comes with a deductible which you specify. If you have a deductible of $500, for example, you pay the first $500 towards repairs of your vehicle in case of an accident. The higher your deductible, the cheaper your insurance rates will be.
Comprehensive-- This category covers events other than accidents. This includes theft of your vehicle, items in your car, unexpected losses. As with collision, this category also comes with a deductible.
General Information & Stores
In most stores, prices are fixed, which means that you cannot bargain for a lower price. The exception to this is buying very expensive items such as a house or car. The posted price generally does NOT include sales tax, which must be calculated in when you make your purchase. The sales tax varies by county but is usually 6-7% of the purchase price.
Whenever you buy something, ask for a receipt. The receipt proves that you have purchased an item on a particular day in a particular store. If the item is damaged or unsatisfactory, you can usually return the item and receive your money back if you have the receipt.
General Purpose Variety:
- Small Discount Stores: Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree
- Office Max
- Office Depot
- Best Buy
- Brandsmart (discount store)
To find very low prices, you can look for advertisements around campus posted by other students selling something. It is common to find furniture, books, household supplies and other items this way. Other good sources for used items are:
*Never send money by mail or money order. Always meet in public, ex: Police Station / Fire Station / MARTA rail parking lot near a security camera
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Classifieds):
Thrift stores around Atlanta sell used and donated items at very low prices. In the summer and during warm months, those who live in suburban areas may come across yard sales and garage sales. In the U.S. many families sell their used furniture, clothes and many other things in front of their homes for one or two days. This may be the cheapest way to buy items, so don’t be afraid to stop and look! While it is not normal to negotiate with sellers in most stores, at yard sales you are free to negotiate prices.
Food & Groceries
Georgia State has on-campus dining in the student center for breakfast and lunch. There are also many restaurants in the area to choose from during the day.
Common grocery stores around Atlanta include:
The closest grocery store to Georgia State is the Publix at 595 Piedmont Avenue (one mile away).
There are several international farmer’s markets around Atlanta, including:
75 Farmers Market
230 Cleveland Ave SW
Atlanta, GA 30315
Hoa Binh Seafood Market
4897 Buford Hwy #116
Chamblee, GA 30341
4166 Buford Hwy NE, Suite 1115
Atlanta, GA 30345-1081
First Oriental Market
2774 E Ponce De Leon Ave
Note: For non-emergency medical care, check with your health insurance provider first for details on how to obtain routine services. If your situation is not a true emergency and you can wait to visit a regular doctor, you will avoid the large expense and long wait times associated with hospital emergency rooms.
The list below is just a small sample of the area hospitals in the Atlanta area and is in no way a recommendation or endorsement of any provider. You can also search online or ask your colleagues for recommendations.
In some cases, multiple locations may be available. Please check the websites below for more information.
If your situation is a true emergency, call 911 and/or go to the nearest hospital immediately:
Routine dental care commonly includes cleanings, examinations and filling cavities. Dental insurance is optional and is not usually covered by standard health insurance. Otherwise, you should be prepared to pay costs for dental care on your own. The most common way to find a reputable dentist in your area is to ask around.
English Language Resources
At Georgia State
Intensive English Program (IEP)
The IEP is an accredited, intensive, non-credit program designed for non-native speakers who want to develop the language and cultural competence necessary to make success at an American university an achievable goal.
Non-Georgia State Resources
These community organizations offer free English language instruction to the international community.
Cobb Literacy Council
(Call individual locations for details.)
Cobb County School District - Adult Education Program
240 Barber Road
Marietta, GA 30060-3925
Phone: 678-594-8011 ext. 256
Safety on Georgia State Campus
Emergency Contact Numbers
Always dial 911 for true emergencies
GSU Campus Police:
Georgia State Police Safety Escorts (& Non-Emergencies):
Please see the official Georgia State Safety & Security page for detailed information about how to stay safe on campus and in Atlanta:
On-Campus Safety Services
A security guard is assigned to an Escort Van, which is available during the evenings when class is in session. If for any reason you feel unsafe, you may call 404-413-2100 to request a free escort to your location. Escorts are made from Georgia State buildings, nearby MARTA stations (Georgia State, Peachtree Center and Five Points) and parking lots near campus. Hours may be subject to change during weekends and school breaks.
Emergency Call Boxes
Located in parking lots, parking decks and plaza areas, emergency call boxes are an integral part of the safety and security services provided by the Georgia State Police Department. The boxes are activated by opening the door on the box and pushing a call button on the inside. The caller is connected directly to the police radio network and may speak to the police dispatcher. The university currently has more than 58 call boxes, which can be identified by emergency signs and flashing blue lights.
Safety in Atlanta
Like many U.S. cities, there are some areas in Atlanta that can be more dangerous than others, especially at night. Before you go to a new area, especially by yourself or at night, be sure to ask how safe it is. Generally, following basic precautions such as traveling in groups, keeping a close watch on your belongings and avoiding walking alone can help you to avoid potential safety issues.
Interacting with Police
The police are expected to both enforce the law and assist the public. It is always appropriate to ask the police to help with all kinds of matters such as lost or stolen property, noisy neighbors and emergency situations. Police are legally prohibited from taking "gifts" or money. They may arrest people who attempt to offer such payment, so do not do anything that could appear to be a bribe.
Here are some basic tips about how to stay safe on and off-campus:
- Do not walk by yourself at night.
- Keep your books, handbags and backpacks with you. Do not leave them unattended in classrooms, libraries or anywhere else.
- Do not leave valuables or bags in plain view inside your car at any time. If necessary, put them in the trunk.
- Lock your car doors at all times and lock your home door whenever you are not at home.
- If a police officer stops your car, do not get out of the car unless instructed to do so. Roll down your window to speak to the officer.
- When walking, keep your head up and look directly ahead. Look confident, pay attention and be aware of your surroundings.
- Never get into a stranger’s car. If someone in a car asks for directions, stand away from the car when talking to him or her. Do not allow someone, especially in a vehicle, to borrow your cell phone to make a call.
- Get to know your neighbors at home. If you will be away from home for an extended period of time, ask one of your neighbors to collect your mail and newspapers.
- Use your ATM card during the day. If you must use the machine at night, go to an indoor or otherwise well-lit machine.
Some thieves try to steal your private information, known as "identity theft." If successful, they may obtain your credit card numbers, Social Security Number, birthday, address or other personal information without your knowledge. If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, immediately contact your credit card companies. To prevent identity theft, never give your Social Security Number or credit card information to anyone you don't know personally. Simply hang up or delete the email. The government will never call or email you to demand payment. Please watch this short safety video. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of contact, please ask an advisor in ISSS.
Money & Banking
Opening a Bank Account
Make it a priority upon your arrival to open a U.S. checking and/or savings account with a bank or with the Georgia State Federal Credit Union.
Some larger banks with many Atlanta locations include:
In order to open a bank account, please bring all of the following documents with you to the bank:
- Your unexpired passport and visa
- I-94 card
- Home country ID card (if available)
The bank may ask you for your Social Security Number (SSN), a government-issued number that is used for tax purposes. However, it should be possible to open an account using the above documents, even if you do not have an SSN. All scholars who wish to apply for an SSN are eligible to do so. However, you may wish to open a bank account when you arrive for your daily use before you would have time to obtain a Social Security Number.
Cash & Transferring Money
It is not safe to carry large amounts of cash with you - Just Don't! You may be able to use a U.S. ATM to withdrawal money, from your home bank account. This depends on the banking system in the country, so please research beforehand.
Once you have opened a U.S. bank account, you can have money deposited into your account from overseas by wire transfer. When opening your account, be sure to ask the bank official to give you the necessary information you would need to make an international wire transfer.
If you have a spouse or other dependents, you may wish to open a joint account so multiple family members can use the same account.
Using an ATM
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) allow you to make cash withdrawals and several other transactions. This is free at your own bank and its branches, but other bank ATMs may charge a $2-4 fee. You will need an ATM card or a debit card to use the ATM machine. There is a limit on how much money you can withdraw at one time or in a single day. Check with your bank for details.
Using a Debit Card
A debit card is connected directly to your checking account and is used as a credit card (such as MasterCard or Visa), except that the charges made are deducted directly from your checking account immediately. You won't get a separate bill at the end of the month as with a credit card. Be sure to keep track of your spending, as most banks will charge around $25 each time you overdraw your account.
How to Write a Check
Americans still use paper checks sometimes rather than paying with cash or a debit card for big purchases. When opening your bank account, you’ll be given a checkbook. You may use checks, for example, when paying rent or bills. Note it may be easier and faster to pay online, when possible.
Here are steps to follow when writing a check. An example is provided below:
- Write the date that you are “issuing” or writing the check.
- Write the name of the person or business to whom you are making payment and draw a line so no one can add to the name.
- Write the dollar amount in numerals (for example, $20.53). Do not leave any space in between the dollar sign and the first number.
- Spell out the dollar amount in writing (for example, “Twenty-five and 53/100”) and draw a line to fill the space.
- Sign your name as it is printed on the check (don’t sign in Chinese, Japanese, etc.).
- Write down the purpose of the check-in the lower left-hand corner, for example, Groceries or if it is for payment of an account, write the account number in that space.
Culture shock is entirely normal, usually unavoidable and it does not mean anything bad about you or your new home. It can be a very significant learning experience because it makes you more aware of your own culture as well as the new culture you have entered. It will give you valuable skills that will serve you in many ways in the future - it’s part of the benefit of international education.
Some typical symptoms of culture shock are:
- Extreme homesickness
- Avoiding contact with other people, especially Americans
- Negative feelings and hostility toward American culture and people
- Anger, frustration, confusion
- Tiredness or need for excessive amounts of sleep
- Inability to concentrate or work
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of enjoyment in daily activities
- Lack of confidence
- Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
- Depression and feelings of helplessness
Although you can’t stop culture shock, there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better. Here are some ideas:
- Understand that your reactions are normal
- Be open-minded and curious about your new environment
- Talk with others about your feelings
- Make friends with Americans and other international students and scholars
- Stay busy with academics, hobbies and friends
- Exercise or participate in sports
- Try a new activity that you can’t do in your home country
- Don’t forget the reasons you came to America
- Be patient with yourself and your new culture
When culture shock hits you, remember that it is normal! You will pass through periods of ups and downs, but in the end, it will all be worth it. Try to focus on all the positive and rewarding aspects of your experience!
International students and scholars who wish to bring family members to the United States have two options for gaining their new status – within the United States or via travel and re-entry, depending on the type of relationship:
1. Legally-married spouse or unmarried dependent child/children under the age of 21 years
- These individuals are eligible for “derivative” status, which means the dependent status is obtained from the primary status:
|Primary Visa Category||Derivative Visa Category|
Marriage is recognized in the United States for issuance of derivative non-immigrant visas if the marriage is “recognized in the place of celebration.” Since 2016, that standard has also been extended to same-sex marriages.
The dependent and primary visa holder’s duration of status are equal.
- Canadians don’t require a visa but must still be admitted to the U.S. in the proper non-immigrant category.
2. Parent, Sibling, Child over the age of 21 or Fiancé
- These individuals may apply for the B-2 visitor category for a maximum of 6 months. In all cases, documentation of adequate funding to support the invited family members is required.
All applicants for an F-2 or J-2 dependent visa:
Travelling with the Primary F-1 or J-1 to the U.S.
- Visit the embassy or consulate together with the primary F-1 or J-1 visa holder to apply for the appropriate visa stamps.
- Provide the necessary legal documents to establish the relationship with the primary visa holder, such as a marriage or birth certificate. Contact the embassy/ consulate in advance to find out which documents are required.
- Consular officials will also expect to see proof of adequate financial support for family members, along with all I-20s or DS-2019's that have been issued to you by Georgia State.
Not Travelling with the Primary F-1 or J-1 to the U.S.
- Visit the embassy or consulate with necessary legal documents to establish the relationship with the primary visa holder, such as a marriage or birth certificate in addition to documented proof of financial support during their stay in the U.S.
- Financial support must be documented on Form I-20 or DS-2019 as issued to the dependent by Georgia State.
- Requests for dependent documents are made to ISSS via iStart, not in person or by mail.
Funding Required for Dependents
Add Dependent Checklist
- The primary visa holder should log into iStart.
- F1 students, complete the "Add Dependent" e-form.
- J1 students, complete the "DS-2019 and Passport Update Request" e-form
- If you have questions about the financial requirements or technical questions using iStart, please contact your ISSS Advisor.
- When your e-form is complete and submitted and ISSS advisor will review and process the information to create an F-2 form I-20 or a J-2 form DS-2019 for your dependent. You will be notified when the forms are ready in 3-5 business days.
- Then, you can send the I-20 or DS-2019 to your spouse or child(ren) in your home country.
- Your dependents can then make a visa appointment in their home country.
- Note: As of Nov. 1, 2016 eyeglasses are no longer allowed in visa photos. For more information please see the US Dept. of State U.S. Visas page.
- After your dependent obtains the visa, he or she can travel to the U.S.
- Within 30 days after your dependent's arrival, you will need to arrange for health insurance. If you are currently insured by Georgia State Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), you can apply for dependent insurance coverage at additional cost. If you are covered by a different insurance company, contact your provider to inquire about possible options. For more information on insurance for dependents please see the Health Insurance information on the ISSS website.
The following information is for J-2 and F-2 dependent visa holders sponsored by Georgia State.