Orientation for New & Transfer International Students

Office of International Student Life
210 Memorial Hall
Athens, GA 30602 | USA
Phone: 1 (706) 542-5867
Fax: 1 (706) 543-0006
Email: isl@uga.edu

For information and to register for International Student Orientation, please visit International Student Life! The information included in the ISL orientation is not covered by any other orientation program on campus. Highlights from ISL’s orientation schedules include information concerning immigration issues, taxes for non-residents, cross-cultural adjustment, housing assistance, course registration procedures, Social Security Cards, UGA payroll, and campus tours. Current UGA students serve as orientation leaders (called World Leaders) to assist with international orientation sessions.

Immigration Information for New & Transfer Students

Office of Global Engagement
1324 S. Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA 30602
Phone: 1 (706) 542-2900
Email: immigration@uga.edu

For information about immigration and visa issuance, Immigration Services in the Office of Global Engagement (OGE) is pleased to help you with these processes. Immigration Services’ responsibility is to The University of Georgia and to you.

Immigration Services advisors are highly trained professionals who provide a welcoming and informed setting for internationals at UGA. Their office is a safe place to ask any questions you may have regarding your immigration status while in the U.S.

Congratulations again on your admission to the University of Georgia! For information about immigration documents, applying for a visa, maintaining immigration status, and transferring to UGA from another U.S. institution, please visit https://globalengagement.uga.edu/immigration/.

Immigration Documents

Many different types of immigration statuses are available for entry to the United States. The University of Georgia issues documents that allow you to apply for a student entry visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Student status is a non-immigrant status because students are temporarily in the U.S. for educational purposes only and are expected to return home after their studies are completed. Generally, UGA issues F-1 or J-1 immigration documents for admitted international students. Graduate students (new and transfer students from other U.S. institutions) will receive their immigration documents from Immigration Services directly.

If you have admission questions, please contact these two offices directly, however, assistance for immigration and visa matters must be obtained in the Office of Global Engagement after your arrival.

Applying for a Visa

Although UGA has admitted you to the university, if you are coming directly from overseas the U.S. Embassy/Consulate will make the final decision in granting you a student visa. (Not required for Canadians)

Where should you go? The U. S. Embassy/Consulate closest to your home will process your visa application.

When should you go? Most Embassies/Consulates have specific hours to review non-immigrant visa applications. Most applicants will go to the Embassy/Consulate. Please check with the one located closest to your home for their application procedures.

Remember that the Embassy/Consulate will close for both U.S. and local holidays. Try to arrange an interview long before the day you plan to travel to the U.S. Most U. S. universities begin their academic year in August, so this is a very busy month at the Embassy/Consulate. Plan ahead so you can arrive in time for orientation and class.

What should you take to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate? It is crucial that you take all the proper documents with you during your visa appointment. If you don’t, you may be required to return for a second time, which may delay your visa for several weeks. The Embassy/Consulate will have a list of required documents you will need.

Common Forms/Documents/Items Required for Visa Application

  • Visa application form obtained from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate
  • Application fee
  • I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) provided by UGA or your sponsoring agency
  • Letter of admission from UGA
  • Copy of TOEFL Score as required by UGA, if applicable
  • Proof of finances and/or proof of assistantship award if you have received one
  • Photographs for visa
  • Valid passport
  • Previous school transcripts, diplomas or records (not always required but you should be prepared to present them if requested).

For additional information refer to the U.S. State Department.

What happens at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

You may be required to speak with a consular official that reviews many visa applications every day. The consular officer will quickly review your documents and ask about your plans of study. The officer will verify that you have the academic ability, English language skills, and the financial resources to study at UGA. Since you are applying for a non-immigrant visa, the officer will also look for proof that you intend to return to your home country. The officer will then give you instructions about when to return to pick up your documents and your visa or when to expect them in the mail. A few applicants may receive a request to submit additional information.

For more information on the visa interview, check the UGA Office of Global Engagement

Tourist Visa

You should not enter the U.S. as a tourist using a B-l/B-2 visa or using the WT-Visa Waiver Process. You are intending to be a student, so you should not apply for a tourist visa. You may encounter immigration problems if you enter the U.S. using an inappropriate visa. Don’t worry if you already have a tourist visa in your passport, this will not prevent you from getting a student visa. You cannot attend the University of Georgia if you enter the U.S. on a tourist visa.

Entering the U.S

Do not arrange to fly to the U.S. prior to getting your visa from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Also, remember that you cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. If you do not have the correct immigration paperwork, you may not be allowed to board the plane.

Carry your immigration documents with you onto the plane because you will be required to present your passport and these documents to the Immigration Officer at your port of entry. When you arrive at your port of entry, you will be inspected for admission into the U.S. At this time, you will present your passport & visa, and the I-20 or DS-2019 to the Immigration Officer. Your passport will be stamped with an entry date and your electronic I-94 record will be updated. The inspector will return your documents to you. Put these documents in a safe place because you will need to upload copies of these documents upon your arrival at The University of Georgia.

Please Note: You are required by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to attend the institution whose Immigration documents you use to enter the U.S.

Transferring from Another U.S. Institution

The Office of Global Engagement will work with your international student advisor at your current school to transfer your SEVIS record to UGA prior to your enrollment at UGA. You may not begin your degree program at UGA until the you have completed this transfer process with OGE.

Mandatory Immigration Orientation

All new international students, including students transferring from other U.S. institutions, must complete mandatory online immigration check-in and orientation. 30 days prior to the start of the academic term, students who have entered the United States, or who have transferred their SEVIS records to UGA, will receive emailed instructions to complete check-in and orientation in Compass. Compass is OGE’s online Immigration Portal. You must complete immigration check-in by the first date of classes. Immigration check-in will also clear the Verification of Lawful Presence flag in your ATHENA record.


Health insurance coverage is mandatory for all UGA international and exchange students holding F or J visa statuses. Mandated students are automatically charged for the Mandatory Student Health Insurance Plan on their UGA Student Account.

The University System of Georgia (USG) has strict requirements with regard to what comprises adequate medical insurance coverage in the United States and offers a student insurance plan that fulfills these requirements.

To purchase the student health insurance plan, visit the UGA Human Resources website.

If you decide to purchase a private medical insurance plan, it must meet certain minimum requirements established by USG. Students with other acceptable health insurance coverage may request to waive out of the mandatory plan by submitting waiver requests during each semester’s waiver period.  If a mandated student does not have an approved waiver request at the close of the waiver period, the student will be automatically enrolled in the mandatory plan if coverage is not activated by the student.

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