International Graduate Student Services
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for International Students
My father/mother/brother/sister/friend wants to call and ask about my admission status or my immigration paperwork or immigration status. Can you talk to them?
Your personal and immigration related information is considered private under US Federal privacy laws (FERPA). We cannot discuss your admission application or immigration paperwork or status with anyone UNLESS you give us written permission to talk with someone.
I'm a new student, when can I get my I-20 or DS-2019 form?
If you are a new student, your I-20/DS-2019 will be issued and mailed to you after the Graduate School approves your acceptance and your file is complete, including official TOEFL scores and verification of sufficient funds.
How much money do I have to have before I can get an I-20 or DS-2019 form?
You have to have enough funds to cover your tuition and fees, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses for at least the first year of your studies. See financial requirements for details.
I lost my I-20 form. What should I do?
You need to request a new form from the international office
in the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown. Processing time is approximately
I lost my passport and I-94 card. Can you replace it?
We cannot replace your passport or I-94. You will need to contact the embassy of your country in Washington, D.C. to report the loss and request a new passport.
To replace your I-94 card, you will have to file form I-102 and send it to USCIS along with the appropriate filing fee.
I need a travel signature on my I-20 or DS-2019 form. What do I do? Can someone else bring in my form for a signature on my behalf?
Bring your immigration form and your Hokie student ID card and report to the Graduate School, Room 120. Ask to see an immigration advisor.
If you want to give someone else permission to obtain the travel signature on your form, then you need to send written permission with the person who will be bringing in your form for signature. Tell us that "John Doe" has permission to get your immigration form signed for travel and to return the form to you. Give us their student ID number or email address so we can confirm their identify. They will be asked to show identification to us.
If I change majors, do I need a new I-20 or DS-2019?
Yes, you do. Your form always has to reflect the program in which you are currently enrolled. This means, that you have to get a new form if you change your major or academic level.
If I change from a master's to a PhD program, or from a PhD to a master's, do I need a new I-20 or DS-2019 form?
YES. International students who currently are enrolled and who are applying to change from a master's to a PhD program, or a PhD to a master's, or who are changing majors, must fill out Change of Degree Status or Change of Graduate Program paperwork with the academic department, and have approval from the Graduate School. The forms can be found here.
Approval of this type of academic change requires immigration paperwork to be filed with International Graduate Student Services for a new I-20 or DS-2019 form. Students MUST enroll for the term requested for the change of enrollment. For example, if a master's student in ISE requests to change to a PhD program in ISE, and is approved, that enrollment normally is approved by the Graduate School for the "next available term." If that next term is a summer session, international students must enroll for at least 3 credit hours for that summer session. The immigration regulations state that students with "initial" immigration forms have to enroll as of the program start date on the I-20 or DS-2019 form. Since academic departments normally do not provide summer assistantships that pay for tuition and fees, students will have to pay for the 3 credit hours out-of-pocket.
Can I work on campus?
Yes, you can, if you are a J-1 or F-1 student using a DS-2019 or I-20 form issued by Virginia Tech. On campus employment is a benefit of your status, but you cannot work more than 20 hours when school is in session. You may work up to 40 hours during the summer and winter breaks.
J-1 students whose program sponsor is an organization other than Virginia Tech (such as Fulbright, IIE, LASPAU, AMIDEAST, ISEP, etc) must secure permission from the program sponsor before accepting employment.
I lived in Virginia for over two years. Can I pay in-state tuition?
No, you can't. As long as you are in a "non-resident alien" status (F-1, J-1, F-2, J-2, etc), by definition you cannot be a resident of Virginia, thus you don't qualify for in-state tuition.
I have made more than $4,000 on wages. Can my out-of-state fee be waived?
You have to make the $4,000 during the academic year (fall and spring) on assistantship to qualify for the out-of-state fee waiver. Wage jobs do not qualify for tuition remission or out of state waivers.
I was on assistantship last year. Can my out-of-state fee be waived for this year?
No. Your out-of-state fee can be waived only during the same academic year when you earn the $4,000 on assistantship.
I want to bring my wife or children to stay with me in the U.S. What should I do?
Please contact International Graduate
Student Services -- you will receive some initial information
about your rights and responsibilities when bringing dependents to
You will complete a request form for dependents, which will
be endorsed by a DSO. You will have to submit this form in our offices
at the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown, along with proof that
you will be able to support your dependents financially. The university
of an additional
for a spouse, and $1,500 for each dependent child.
You also are required to purchase health insurance for all dependents as soon as they arrive in the U.S. Please review the information on our website, or contact the Student Medical Insurance Office.
Can my parents or brothers or sisters be included in my I-20 or DS-2019 form?
No. Only spouses and dependent children can be added to your form
Can my wife/husband work?
Spouses in F-2 status cannot work under any circumstances.
Spouses in J-2 status may work with USCIS permission.
What are immigration requirements for enrollment if I am near the end of my degree program?
International graduate students are required to maintain full time hours with few exceptions. You may drop below full-time enrollment in your final semester if you need less than full time hours to complete your Plan of Study, and you are NOT on assistantship. In this case, you must complete a Request for Reduced Enrollment Form, have your advisor sign it stating that you will finish degree requirements by the end of the semester, and submit it to IGSS BEFORE the beginning of your final semester. If approved, you will be allowed to enroll for either Defending Student Status (DSS), or 3 credit hours, or the number of hours required to complete your Plan of Study (if more than 3 hours).
Reduced enrollment is available ONE TIME ONLY, in your final semester. If, through no fault of your own, you do not complete degree requirements by the end of the semester for which you were approved for reduced enrollment, then you MUST complete degree requirements in Defending Student Status the next semester. If you fail to complete on DSS, you will have to enroll for FULL TIME hours in order to finish degree requirements.
How long does it take to process the Optional Practical Training?
Generally it takes 6-8 weeks. However, in the peak periods in December and May it may take as long as 12 weeks to receive authorization. We advise students to apply for the OPT 2-3 months in advance.
When can I apply for Optional Practical Training?
We recommend that you apply up to 90 days before completion of your degree requirements, but you MUST apply before the end of your 60 day grace period. Your practical training must begin before the end of your 60 day grace period. If you wait to apply during the grace period, you will lose some OPT time, so you need to be aware of timing.
When can I legally work on OPT?
If you have applied for OPT, you MUST wait until the OPT is approved and you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in your hands before you legally can do ANY kind of work, whether volunteer or paid. Immigration law states that any work between the program end date on the I-20 form and the start date on the EAD card is specifically prohibited. If the OPT start date has arrived, but you still do not have the EAD card, you CANNOT work. Students cannot do anything that even approximates work during the period when they are waiting for the EAD card. Employers who allow such work can be liable for Department of Labor violations, and the student has committed a work violation.
Work violations are one of the most serious violations that an international student can commit, and work violations can result in deportation to your home country. This is very serious, so do not work illegally.
Are there any requirements for Defending Student Status that are different for international students and domestic students?
International students must defend within the first 5 weeks of the semester in order to maintain immigration status.
- During first 3 weeks of a semester (for example, no later than Feb 3), student must submit Exam Request and Defending Student Status form. Exam card must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the defense date. An earlier defense date requires earlier submission of Exam Request and DSS form.
- Within the next 2 weeks (for example, no later than Feb. 17), student must defend.
- Within the next 2 weeks (for example, no later than March 2), student must submit the ETD.
Degree completion for international students on DSS is the date of submission of the ETD.
Scheduling of the final examination and defense means that you have completed all work on the thesis/dissertation and the only thing left is the taking of the final examination and defense.
International students who have some research or writing remaining in order to finish their thesis or dissertation and who cannot apply for and defend within the first 5 weeks of the semester are required to enroll for 3 credit hours. The 3-hour enrollment documents the need to be physically present on campus for the semester, utilizing university resources and pursuing degree requirements (which is required for continued eligibility for F-1 or J1 status).
My visa expired. Do I have to renew it?
You have to renew it only if and when you travel outside the United States. See visa and travel information for further details.
Can I renew my visa without leaving the United States?
No. Visas can be obtained and renewed only outside the U.S.
I have a valid visa in my old passport, but I have a new passport. Can I still use my visa?
Yes, you can use your valid visa in your old passport. When you travel, you will have to carry both your new passport, and the old one with the visa in it. If you have to return your old passport when you get a new one, you will lose your visa, and have to apply for a new one before you return to the U.S.
My I-20 or DS-2019 has no travel signature spaces remaining. What do I do?
F-1 students will need a new travel signature page, which will be provided if all information on your valid form is still current. If you are applying for a new visa, or if information on your I-20 has changed, then your I-20 must be reissued. In that case, you must download an I-20 Request form from and attach updated funding documentation covering at least two semesters of study.
J-1 students need to complete a DS-2019 Request form. If your funding source has changed, or if the amount of support has changed, then we need for you to provide updated and ORIGINAL funding documentation from your sponsor, covering at least two semesters of study. We will issue a new DS-2019 form and sign it for travel.