I’m a current international student outside of the U.S. Do I have to return to keep my F-1 visa? What if I cannot return? Can I take online courses?

Updated June 16, 2021

Students who left the U.S. and plan to maintain their F-1 student visa status in the fall should plan to be in residence in Atlanta.

F-1 students unable to return to the U.S. within 30 days of the start of the term need to submit an iStart Intent to Depart e-form to notify OIE of their fall plans to remain outside the U.S. OIE will then review current guidance from SEVP to determine if the student’s SEVIS record can remain Active or will need to be terminated for Authorized Early Withdrawal.

  • The student may still elect to enroll in online or remote courses as no visa or Active SEVIS record is required for the purpose of online enrollment while outside the U.S. The opportunity for remote course options will depend on the availability of courses from a particular academic program and restrictions on Office of Foreign Assets Control-sanctioned countries. Students who plan to engage in online learning physically from any of the following countries need to first gain approval from the Office of General Counsel (asklegal@gatech.edu): Cuba, Crimea Region of Ukraine, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
  • If the student is not maintaining an Active SEVIS record, the student will not be automatically enrolled in health insurance coverage or assessed the international student fee for the semester. Nor will the student be required to enroll in a minimum number of credits to maintain their visa status.
  • If not approved by SEVP for the SEVIS record reactivation, the student will receive a new SEVIS record, a new I-20 form, and will be required to re-pay the I-901 fee. If the student still holds a valid F-1 visa, the student will not need to apply for a new visa. If the student’s F-1 visa is expired, they will need to apply for a new F-1 visa with the new SEVIS record before attempting to re-enter the U.S.
  • Additionally, in the scenario where a SEVIS record cannot be reactivated, the F-1 student visa holder’s academic time toward the one-year practical training clock will begin again upon re-entry to the U.S. The student will become eligible for practical training after 30 weeks of full-time instruction inside the U.S.