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 Welcome International Students!  

GSW Peanut Festiva 2015

“GSW students visit the Plains Peanut Festival.”

The Office of International Programs (OIP) offers a variety of services and programs to international students at Georgia Southwestern State University. The OIP provides information and programs to international students about the campus and community and provides support and assistance concerning visas and related immigration issues. You are welcome to drop in or schedule an appointment if you have questions or concerns:

 

Staff and Office Hours

Dr. Sarah Speir, Director, sarah.speir@gsw.edu

Student Administrative Assistant: Mr. Tobais Pittman, Tabias.Pittman@gsw.edu

Office of International Programs
Academic Center for Excellence, Room 101
Tel: (229) 931-2346
For appointments email: Windows2World@gsw.edu

Current Students

GSW New Student Guide

Explanation of F- 1 Status and Maintaining Status

What does it mean to be "in status"?

The US federal government considers you to be in valid F-1 status if you fulfill all of the conditions of your F-1 visa. The conditions are as follows:

  • Attend the school whose I-20 you used to enter the US
  • Maintain the the validity of your passport and I-20 form
  • Maintain good academic standing
    • Make"normal progress" toward completing your degree requirement
  • Enroll each semester as a full-time student - 12 hours minimum as an undergraduate / 9 hours as a graduate student
    • No more than 3 hours of on-line classes may be used during fall and spring terms to count toward this full time load
    • If you have been enrolled for one academic year, your summer is considered a "break period" and there are no restrictions regarding on-line classes; you may enroll in classes or not during the summer break.
  • Work no more than 20 hours per week on-campus while classes are in session
    • You may work full time (up to 40 hours per week) on-campus during campus breaks and during the summer break if you have been enrolled full time for the previous academic year
  • Off-campus work is legal only with specific authorization through the Office of International Programs (OIP) or USCIS
  • Extend your stay in your degree program before the completion date on your I-20
  • Complete the change of level procedure when changing from one educational degree level to another
  • Keep the OIP informed of both your permanent home address (overseas) and your current US address
  • You are may not drop below a full course of study without prior authorization from the OIP and only under very limited circumstances. You will need to request permission to drop below full-time status by contacting with OIP office

When does the US Federal Government consider a F-1 student to be “out of status”?

You are considered to be “out of status” if you do not fulfill the conditions of your F-1 visa.

What are the consequences of being “out of status”?

If you are out of status, you lose the following privileges and benefits:

  • Eligibility for employment, on- and off-campus work
  • Automatic visa revalidation for trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands except Cuba
  • Extension of program through the notification procedure
  • Transfer to or from another university in the US through the notification procedure
  • Change from one educational level to another through the notification procedure
  • Practical Training (All forms)
  • Your visa stamp may be considered cancelled

If you fall out of status, you may have to depart the US and may not be able to complete your studies.

How do I get back in status?

To get back in status you must do one of two things: Apply to the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for reinstatement within the US or leave the US and re-enter with a new I-20. The ability to apply for a reinstatement is extremely limited. For more details, please consult with OIP. You will not be able to obtain a reinstatement if you have been out of status for five months or more, or if you have worked since becoming out of status.

When does my F-1 status end?

Your F-1 status ends either on the program end date listed on your I-20, or when you complete the last requirement for your program of study, whichever comes first. If you are considering reducing your enrollment below full-time, withdrawing from your program, or if you may be dropped from your program, please consult the OIP prior to taking these actions as they have serious ramifications on your visa status.

How long can I stay in the US?

You may stay in the US for 60 days after the completion of your program. You may not work during those 60 days. If you withdraw from school, you may stay in the US for 15 days only if you have prior approval from the OIP. If you do not request approval from the OIP to withdraw, you must depart the US as soon as possible.

Inform the Office of International Programs Changes to your Academic Program

Students must obtain a new Form I-20 before changing their academic program from one degree level to another (e.g., from Bachelor's to Master's level) or one major/field of study to another (e.g., from Biology to Physics). International students must receive a new I-20 or DS-2019 from OIP before beginning the new program/degree level. To request a new I-20 or DS-2019 because of changes to your academic program, please contact with OIP office individually.

Change of Address

If you change your living address, you must inform the OIP within ten days. Failure to do so is violation of your visa status. To report a change of address, please contact the OIP office individually.

Transferring to a Different School

International students in F or J status are eligible to transfer their immigration records in SEVIS to a new U.S. school. This is a separate process from the academic transfer and involves sending the new U.S. school your active SEVIS F or J record.To request that your SEVIS record be transferred to a different school, please contact the OIP office individually.


Explanation of J-1 Status and what does it mean to be "in status"?

The Department of State (DOS) considers you to be in valid J-1 status if you fulfill all of the conditions of your J-1 visa. The conditions are as follows:

 

 

  • Attend the school whose DS-2019 you used to enter the US
  • Maintain the validity of your passport and DS-2019 form
  • Maintain good academic standing
  • Maintain sufficient financial resources to avoid becoming a "public charge"
  • Enroll each semester as a full-time student
  • Obtain health insurance which meets DOS standards
  • Work no more than 20 hours per week on-campus while classes are in session with specific written authorization from your J-1 sponsor
  • Work off-campus only with specific written authorization from your J-1 sponsor
  • Complete the J-1 transfer procedure to change schools within the US
  • Extend your stay in your degree program (D/S) before the completion date on your DS-2019
  • Complete the change of level procedure when changing from one educational level to another in a timely manner
  • Inform the university of your foreign address and current US address 
  • When does DOS consider me to be "out of status"?

    DOS considers you to be "out of status" if you do not fulfill any of the conditions of your J-1 visa. What are the consequences of being "out of status"? If you are out of status, you lose the following privileges and benefits:

  • Eligibility for employment, on-campus and off-campus work
  • Automatic visa revalidation for trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands except Cuba (unless you are citizen of one of those countries)
  • Extension of program through the notification procedure
  • Transfer to or from another university in the US through the notification procedure
  • Change from one educational level to another through the notification procedure
  • Academic Training 
  • How do I get back in status?

    Students who have fallen "out of status" must consult with an OIP advisor about their situation. Please visit the OIP to discuss your case. When does my J-1 status end? Your J-1 status ends either on the date listed in on your DS-2019, or when you complete the last requirement for your program of study, whichever comes first. If you are considering withdrawing from your program or if you may be dropped from your program, please consult with the OIP as these actions have serious ramifications on your visa status. How long can I stay in the U.S.? You may stay in the US for 30 days after completion of your program. You may not work during those 30 days.


    TRAVELING OUTSIDE OF THE US AND RE-ENTRY

    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR RE-ENTRY TO THE U.S.

    1. Valid Visa (except Canadians)
    2. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)  - only for students on OPT
    3. Valid I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature that will be less than 1 year old upon re-entry or less than 6 months old if on OPT
    4. Passport - Valid for at least 6 months into the future

    Additional Recommended Documentation:

    1. Proof of financial support such as a bank statement or letter less than six months old
    2. Copy of current class enrollment or next semester’s enrollment if traveling during winter or summer break

    Examples: An unofficial transcript, official transcript, or enrollment verification - Obtain a "Letter of Good Standing" from the OIP

    I-515A

    If you arrive at the U.S. Port of Entry without all of your required documents or with unsigned documents, you may be denied entry.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers have the right to issue you a form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry into the U.S for 30 days.  If you are issued a form I-515A, you must contact OIP and follow the instructions given to you on the I-515A.

    TRAVEL SIGNATURES

    You will need a valid signature in order to re-enter the United States during your program of study or while you are on OPT.  Travel signatures are valid for one year while you are a student and for six months during OPT.  In order to get a new travel signatures you can drop off your I-20 at ISS and pick it up the next business day.  If your travel signature lines are full, please contact ISS two-weeks in advance in order to request a new I-20.

    If you are not in Americus, GA and need a new travel signature, you have two options. 

    1.  If time allows, the OIP can issue you a new I-20 which can be express mailed to you at your expense. Please email the OIP to receive instructions on how to receive your new I-20 via express mail and allow approximately 1-2 weeks for processing and mail time.  

    2.  As a last resort, you can attempt to enter with an expired travel signature.  It is at the discretion of CBP to allow entry into the U.S. but most students in this situation are allowed entry and issued an I-515A. In this case, expect delays at the border. See section on I-515A for details.

    I-94
    The I-94 is your U.S. arrival and departure record which is issued by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  It confirms that you have been legally admitted into the United States in a particular visa category.  As of 2013, students entering the U.S.  by air or sea will be issued an electronic I-94.  Your most recent I-94 and travel history can be found on the CBP website. You should access your I-94 after entering the United States and verify that the information is correct including your travel history, the status under which you were admitted, and the spelling of your name. 

    If you entered the United States at a land border crossing or last entered the U.S. before spring 2013, you may still have the paper I-94 card stapled in your passport.  This card should be surrendered the next time you depart unless you are participating in Automatic Visa Revalidation. (see section below) 

    You will need a copy of your I-94 in order to verify employment eligibility and to apply for a social security number, a Georgia Driver’s License/ID card, or OPT.     

    If there are errors on your most recent I-94 record or you are unable to locate it, please meet with OIP staff during walk-in advising.

    VISA STAMP RENEWAL

    The expiration date on your visa is the last day you can use your visa to seek entry into the U.S.  It has nothing to do with how long you can stay in the U.S.  If your visa has expired and you plan to return to the U.S., you will need to renew it while you are out of the country. It is NOT possible to renew your visa while you are still in the United States. Countries that offer visa renewal services via mail are designed to be used while you are in your home country. 

    It is worth noting that some visas are issued for multiple entries to the U.S. while others may only be used once to enter the country.  This information is noted on your visa stamp in the form of an “M” for multiple entries or a number such as 1 or 2.

    Any time someone applies for a visa, there is a possibility of denial or delays due to administrative processing.  Allow sufficient time during your travels in order to apply for a new visa.  Ideally, you should renew your visa in your home country during an extended break such as the first week of winter or summer break. Estimated wait times can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/wait-times.html/

    You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence. 

    In order to renew your visa, at minimum, you will need:

  • DS-160 Application
  • Valid Passport
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature
  • Proof of Financial Support Documents (Example: Bank Statement/Affidavit of Support)
  • Official Transcript (request in MyUW)
  • Enrollment Verification if in between terms (request in MyUW)
  • Proof of I-901 SEVIS fee payment
  • One passport style photo (2”x 2”)
  • Students on OPT will also need:

  • EAD card
  • Letter from your current employer
  • It is important to thoroughly review all information on the specific Embassy or Consulate Visa Section website for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Embassy and Consulate websites will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment.

    Note to F-1 transfer students: You do not need to get a new visa if you transfer from one school to another within the United States. The school annotated in your visa may be different from the school which you are attending.

    If you are traveling only to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands in the Caribbean and your U.S. visa has expired, check to see if you are eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation.

    TRAVEL TO CANADA, MEXICO, & ADJACENT ISLANDS

    AUTOMATIC VISA REVALIDATION

    If your US visa has expired, you might be able to visit Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands for 30 days or less, and return to the United States prior to your program end date without having to obtain a new visa. This is called Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR).

    AVR does not void the requirement to obtain a visa for entry into these countries so please find out if you need to apply for a visa to visit Mexico, Canada or the adjacent islands before you make travel plans. The adjacent islands are:

  • Saint Pierre
  • Miquelon
  • Cuba
  • The Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Bermuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Jamaica
  • The Windward and Leeward Islands
  • Trinidad
  • Martinique
  • Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea
  • For details regarding AVR including eligibility requirements, please visit the Department of State’s website. If you still have questions, the OIP staff is happy to discuss your situation during walk-in advising or via email at windows2world@gsw.edu

    TRANSIT & ENTRY VISAS FOR OTHER COUNTRIES

    Before traveling to countries other than your own, check to see if you need a visa to enter or transit. The OIP cannot advise on procedures to secure entry or transit visas for other countries. The requirements vary from country to country and are based on your country of citizenship. Please visit the website for the consulate or embassy through which you plan to apply.

    TRAVEL AFTER PROGRAM COMPLETION

    The 60 day grace period following program completion is meant to allow time to prepare to return home, transfer to a new school, or travel within the United States. Traveling to another country during your grace period can be complicated, particularly if your plans include transferring your SEVIS record or applying for OPT in the near future. Without careful planning, you may experience travel interruptions or require a visitor visa in order to return to the U.S. Please consult the OIP if you have doubts about your plans.

    OPT applicants: Traveling after your program end date but before you have received your EAD card can be risky. Reduce your risk of encountering difficulties by postponing all unnecessary travel until after you receive your EAD card. Please be aware that if you need to renew your visa while on OPT, you must have a job offer letter in order to do so.

    Traveling in between programs: Please consult the OIP if you are transferring your SEVIS record to another school and plan to travel internationally prior to starting your new program. The timing of your SEVIS transfer will determine which I-20 you should use for travel and re-entry.

    TRAVEL WITHIN THE U.S.

    You should always travel with your passport and I-20, but you will not be required to go through customs when flying within the United States or to U.S. territories. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires a government issued photo identification to fly. For a complete list of acceptable IDs, please visit http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/acceptable-ids


    The Herschel A. Smith Health Center University is the campus health care clinic and is open to all current GSW students.

  • For information about GSW's Health Centers, visit: https://gsw.edu/campus-life/campusliving/healthservices/index
  • For information on GSW's Counseling Services, here is the website: https://gsw.edu/Campus-Life/CampusServices/CounselingServices/index
  • Health Insurance

    Health Insurance is mandatory for all international F-1 and J-1 visa holders. Our policy: PGH Global provides international students with a comprehensive and accessible health insurance plan. International students need to enroll in PGH Global or receive a waiver based on a qualifying insurance program approved by GSW. Please see HEALTH INSURANCE for details. PGH Global Brochure - GSW / Student Portal: PGH Global / PGH Global for GSW F-1 OPT Students

    2016-2017 PGH Global Flyer

    Please note: if you have F-2 or J-2 dependent family members, they are also required to be enrolled in SHIP or receive a waiver as part of an approved insurance program.

    Health Immunizations

    Protect yourself and others by getting your vaccines. Regardless of where you live, GSW students and scholars are expected to have certain vaccinations before arriving to campus.

    All students coming to GSW must bring their immunization records (translated into English) with them or bring with the a completed and signed Immunization Form.

    Health Forms required of All GSW students.

    Safety Resources

    GSW's Department of Public Safety is strongly committed having a safe and protected environment on campus. Campus Safety serves as our campus police force and works in conjunction with the City of Americus police. Campus Safety is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you need them.


     

    F-1 Employment

    On-campus employment Students in F-1 status may work up to 20 hours per week on-campus while enrolled in a full course of study. "On-campus" means that you are hired and paid by Georgia Southwestern State University. Examples of on-campus jobs include work in the GSW Marshall Student Center, the Academic Resource Center (ARC), Library, Cafeteria, Fitness, or in any Academic and Administrative department. As a full-time student, you do not require permission to engage in part-time work on-campus.

    F-1 International Student On-Campus Employment Approval Form

    To look for On-Campus Jobs at GSW - Hurricane Career Path 

    You are asked to complete the form from above to verify our Payroll office about your employment eligibility and you will be asked to complete an I-9 form which all new employees must complete. There is no exception to the 20 hour-per-week ceiling.

    On-campus employment may be full time during vacation periods (summer, winter, and spring breaks) for students who have maintained full-time status before the vacation period and intend to register for the following semester.

    Off-Campus Employment

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are the two commonly used options for working off-campus.

    Curricular Practical Training (CPT): This is an internship or practicum training required by your degree program, or by a course you are taking.

    Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT): This is training used either before you graduate, over summer breaks, or part-time during enrolled terms, and must be directly related to your program of study.

    Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT): This is employment opportunity available to F-1 students after you graduate that is intended to provide one-year (or more if you are in a STEM major) of work experience after you graduate related to your program of study.


    Dear F-1 and J-1 students,

    While you’re here in the U.S., you’re required to complete tax forms, even if you didn’t earn any income during this past year. F-1 and J-1 students who were NOT employed on campus or through CPT or OPT are required to complete the form 8843.  

    You must file a US Federal Tax Return if any of the following apply: 

    • You worked in the US (on campus employment, in a paid internship (CPT), on OPT paid employment, etc.
    • You received a stipend, grant or allowance in the current tax year
    • If you had no earnings – you must file the form 8843 (see above)

    Please see instructions HERE for how to complete the Form 8843.


     

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