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Current Students

Once you’ve arrived on campus, your goal as an F-1 or J-1 visa holder is to maintain valid status and make the most of your visa benefits.  Doing so requires that students actively maintain awareness of visa regulations, and provide information and updates in a timely manner to the Office of International Programs & Services.  This is the responsibility of the primary visa holder. Use the following tabs to navigate between the regulations, requirements, and resources necessary for maintaining your visa status.

Staying in Status

Immigration Documents
  • Passport must not expire.  If your passport is expiring, you will need to travel home or check with your U.S. consulate for renewing options at least 6 months in advance.
  • I-20 or DS-2019 must not expire.
  • I-20 or DS-2019 must be accurate.  Ensure that any updates to your major, program end dates, or other academic information are accurate and have been approved by your International Student Advisor.
  • Visa may expire.  If you plan to depart the U.S. you will need to obtain a new visa.Your visa must be valid for re-entry to the U.S.
    • Exception: visiting Canada, Mexico, or adjacent Caribbean Island (except Cuba) for less than 30 days will allow you to re-enter the U.S. (unless it is your home country).  See the travel and visa section for more information.
  • I-94 must be printed each time you enter the U.S.  This is a record of your entry.  Ensure you have been admitted as an F-1 or J-1 student for the Duration of Status (D/S).  You may print it here.
    • If you notice an error on your I-94, contact your international advisor immediately.
Enrollment Requirements
  • Undergraduate full-time = 12 credit hours
  • Graduate full-time = 9 credit hours
  • Only ONE on-line course (3 credits) may count toward full-time enrollment each semester
  • Any credits beyond the minimum full-time requirement may be on-line or in person (in-person is strongly encouraged)
  • Students must actively attend all scheduled classes
  • Withdrawing from a course may cause a student to drop below the minimum full-time enrollment requirements.  Always speak to an advisor before making the decision to withdrawal
Grace Periods
Depending on your situation, you may have a certain number of days to leave the U.S.

  • Completion of F-1 Program/OPT = 60 days to depart U.S., apply for change of status, apply for OPT, or transfer to another school
  • Completion of J-1 Program/AT = 30 days to depart the U.S.
  • Withdrawing from classes with prior approval = 15 days after notifying our office
  • Violation of Status = immediately
Travel Signature Requirement
Get your travel signature from the OIPS prior to international travel!  The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S.  Do not wait until the day before or day of your planned departure!

  • Each signature is valid for one year. (F-1 students on OPT: travel signature is valid for six months.)
  • The travel signature is issued by a DSO/ARO in the Office of International Programs & Services to confirm you are maintaining your F-1 or J-1 student status.
  • The travel signature is located on page 2 of your  I-20 or the front page of your DS-2019.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature.
Visa Revalidation
An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa to re-enter the United States.  This is known as “automatic visa revalidation.”  Students in valid F-1 or J-1 status may travel for fewer than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, and islands of the Caribbean except Cuba.  Upon return to the U.S., your visa will be considered “extended” to that date of re-entry.  Students should make sure to obtain a valid travel signature on their I-20 or DS-2019.Note: If you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico, or islands of the Caribbean, you will not be eligible to return to the U.S. under automatic visa revalidation.  Citizens of Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.
Expired or Invalid Visas
The F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport is permission to apply to the enter the U.S. in that visa category.  As long as your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 remain valid, you are authorized to stay in the U.S. with an expired student visa.  If your visa expires while in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or you have changed your non-immigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 of J-1 visa to return to the United States.  Visas may only be obtained outside of the U.S.  If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months and were not registered full time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a visa and pay the SEVIS fee ($200 for F-1 students, $180 for J-1 students). 

Employment, OPT, and CPT

The immigration regulations about employment are complex. Be sure to carefully review the regulations so that you do not violate any laws or start unauthorized employment. Unauthorized employment of any kind is a serious violation of F-1 or J-1 status, so it is important to learn what employment is allowed before you consider a potential job.

On-Campus Employment
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Applying for a Social Security Number

  • How to Apply for a Social Security Number
    • 1) Your hiring department must provide a Social Security employment letter (on departmental letterhead). They may use the Employer Sample Letter as a reference. Request the letter be sent to the Office of International Program & Services at P.O. Box 8106.
    • 2) After your SSN eligibility letter is prepared, you will be notified by email to pick up your employment letter and a letter from our office, but only after we confirm your SEVIS record has been activated.
    • 3) Take both letters, your passport, and your I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record printed from to the Statesboro Social Security Office located at 1050 Brannen St., Statesboro, GA 30458.
  •  To avoid unnecessary delays, log into your WINGS account and confirm that you have a valid Statesboro area address listed under the “local address” label and that you have a valid local or SEVIS foreign phone number listed
  • The Social Security Office can not process your application more than 30 days before the date you are scheduled to begin working
  • If your start date is before you are able to submit your social security application, you must begin to work and get paid without a SSN. However, you should submit an application by the end of the hiring month to avoid having maximum taxes withheld from your check
  • Your social security card, with your number, will be mailed to you within 10 days after you submit your application. Remember to take your card to the Human Resources Office as soon as you receive it.
  • Other resources:

What is an ITIN?

An ITIN is an Individual Tax Identification Number.  This number is different from a Social Security Number used by individuals earning a U.S. income and filing a U.S. tax return.  This number is an alternative option for students and/or dependents who receive fellowship or scholarship funding during the tax year, but are not eligible for a social security number.  It is also used to identify the dependents of the person filing a tax return.  There are only a few cases where students and scholars can claim dependents on their tax return. IPS advisors are not able to assist with applications for an ITIN. In many cases students/scholars will be able to apply for an ITIN simultaneously with filing their tax return in Spring. Students and Scholars can review the ITIN information on the IRS site about how to apply for an ITIN.

Obtaining Your Driver’s License

Driving is a convenient way to get around Statesboro and Southeast Georgia.  Generally students with an unexpired foreign license may use this for up to one year, and it is advised to carry your passport and visa with you while driving.  Learn more about advice regarding identity requirements and when a State of Georgia driver’s license should be obtained by a non-citizen.  Many students are interested in obtaining a State of Georgia driver’s license, and can learn more via the Georgia Department of Driver Services webpage.

Tuition & Fees
Students should be prepared to pay their full tuition and fees at the start of each term.   The deadlines for payment are set well in advance and are non-negotiable. Not paying tuition, fees, or any other outstanding charge on your student account will result in cancellation of classes.  This has severe consequences for students who need to maintain enrollment in order to stay in status.All tuition and fees due are to be paid online via your WINGS account.  For more information on tuition & fees, payment deadlines, and accepted forms of payment, visit the Office of Student Accounts.

Health Insurance

All students attending university in the U.S. are required to maintain continuous health insurance coverage.  The University System of Georgia offers a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) through United Healthcare.

View the Student Health Insurance Plan and learn more about the Enrollment and Waiver Process here.


All F-1 or J-1 students who studied in the U.S. during the the previous year are required to submit tax return information to the U.S. government by April 15 of each year, regardless of whether you worked or earned income.  This is true even if you are no longer in the U.S.  For example, if you studied at Georgia Southern during January – May 2017, you will still need to submit tax return information by April 15, 2018.  Complying with this requirement is important, especially if you plan to apply for another visa to enter the U.S. in the future.

Georgia Southern partners with Sprintax to provide international students with easy access and support to this process.  Sprintax information has been emailed to your Georgia Southern student email account.

Travel and Visas

Where and When to Apply for a Visa
Apply for visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country.  Some students may be able to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than your home country.  This is called a “third-country national (TCN)” application.  Not all U.S. consulates accept TCN applications, and this practice is not encouraged by the Department of State.  It can be risky to apply in a country other than your home country, and you may encounter greater processing delays.  You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. while your application is being adjudicated or if your application is denied.  Students are encouraged to return to their home country during long breaks (such as summer or winter) to apply for a new visa.
Studying Abroad
Students in valid F-1 or J-1 (except for current exchange students) status may participate in the study abroad and exchange programs offered at Georgia Southern.  While planning to participate on a study abroad, students in valid F-1/J-1 status should ensure they have a valid passport,  and F-1/J-1 visa and authorized travel signature that do not expire prior to returning to the U.S.  You should also carefully review the entry requirements for the country where you will study for citizens of your home country.  For example, if you are a Nigerian citizen who plans to study in France, your entry requirements may differ from U.S. citizen participants attending the program.  No matter what, be sure to consult with your International Student Advisor prior to studying abroad to see if and how these plans may affect your F-1 or J-1 status.
Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.
During your studies at GS you may want to invite your parents or other family members to visit. Here are some suggestions to help them apply for a visitor’s visa (B-2) at a US consulate or embassy in their home country.

To facilitate their visa interview process you should do the following:

  • Write a letter of invitation. Include the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the individuals, a statement of your status here, itinerary details and the length of time they will be visiting (usually less than three months). It is best to emphasize the temporary nature of the invitation and to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country following the visit. If you will provide their financial support while they are here, include that information as well.
  • Include an Enrollment Certification Letter (may be requested online from the Registrar’s Office) to confirm your student status. Graduate students who hold an RA/TA appointment may want to also attach a departmental funding letter.
  • If you are graduating and they are traveling to attend your commencement ceremony, provide fill out the graduation invitation letter request form.
  • For additional information about U.S. consulate/embassy locations and application procedures, review the U.S. Department of State visa information.

Providing your family members with this documentation may improve their chances of obtaining a visa; however, there is no guarantee a visa will be issued. The success of their request for a visa lies in their ability to prove that they have no intention of staying permanently in the U.S.

Please note that IPS advisers are unable to write letter of invitation for your family members.

Issues Re-Entering the United States
If you have repeatedly had trouble entering the U.S., you may have a “flag” on your record. The reasons may vary, but you can ask to have the Department of Homeland Security review your record which may eliminate the problem. Request assistance here:

Academic Issues

For many students, adjusting to the educational system of the U.S. can be a challenging experience.  Students may often find that classroom expectations, behavior, and structure are very different from their home country.  Here are some tips and advice for adjusting and succeeding at Georgia Southern:

  • Participate in class!  In the U.S. students are often expected to complete group projects, give presentations, provide their opinion, and even respectfully disagree with the professor.  Students should get accustomed to fully participating and be aware that their final term grade may depend on being fully involved in class.
  • Attend all class meetings.  Not only does this increase your chances of success, but, remember, maintaining your visa status requires actively attending all of your classes.  If you are not in class, you are missing important material and announcements from your professor.
  • Visit your professor during office hours.  In the U.S., faculty members are here to assist and guide students who require extra advice or are having trouble with the course subject.  Office hours are designed for students who require extra clarification, another example of a concept, or have questions you don’t feel comfortable asking in class.  All professors keep office hours and most list them on the syllabus.  If you have a conflict with the listed office hours, ask to make an appointment.
  • Attend a tutoring session!  At Georgia Southern, tutoring is typically fee and easy to access.  Students can take advantage of the Academic Success Center or check with the academic department.  Many departments – such as Math, Physics, Foreign Languages – have their own tutoring programs.
  • Get help early in the semester.  Don’t wait until the end of the term when you are overwhelmed and too many assignments have already passed.  Ask for assistance immediately when you need it.  In the U.S., people ask for help openly and often – there is no shame attached to this practice.
  • Be advised!  Schedule an appointment and meet with your academic advisor in a timely manner every single semester.  This will help you stay on track, make good course choices, and complete your program in the time allotted by your I-20 or DS-2019.


Looking for a form quickly?  Find them all here collected in one place.

Graduation Invitation Letter Request Form

Reduced Course Load Request

Change of Level (i.e. from Bachelors to Masters)



Last updated: 8/17/2018