Graduation Checklist 

  • Beginning of your final semester: 
      • Meet with your academic advisor. Make sure you are completing all requirements for your degree and you will have finished everything by the end of the semester. 
      • If you are taking less than full-time credit hours, you will need a course load authorization in SEVIS. Fill out the Reduced Course Load: Final Semester Form for this permission. 
  • One semester before your expected graduation date: 
      • File a formal application for graduation with the Registrar's Office through MyUWG. 
  • 2-3 Months before graduation: 
    • If friends and family are visiting for the commencement ceremony, prepare for their arrival by looking for places for them to stay. If your relatives will need a tourist visa to enter the US, remind them to apply for the visa at the US Embassy or Consulate closest to them. 
    • If you would like for the ISAP office to write a graduation support letter, please fill out this form for each member of your family that needs a support letter. Letters are ready within 2-3 business days. You will receive an email once they are ready for pickup. 
    • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), if you are planning to use it after you graduate.
  • One month before graduation. 
      • If you will be moving, notify your landlor or housing office that you will be vacating the apartment. Most leases required 30-days written notice. Check your lease for details. 
      • Pay any fines you may have and return all loaned or rented books.
      • Contact your health insurance, car insurance, and life insurance companies to discuss coverage options and whether you need to close the account. 

Requesting a Graduation Support Letter 

  • F-1 Visa Holders 
    F-1 Visa Holders

    Use the Tab button to continue scrolling down. 

    LINK

  • Non Visa Holders
    Non Visa Holders
    SAMPLE LETTER for Inviting Foreign Guests to Commencement

    Your U.S. Address

    City, State, Zip

     

    (Date)

    Consular Officer

    United States (Consulate or Embassy)

    (Find embassy/consulate address, go to http://www.usembassy.gov )

    (City), (Country)

     

    Dear Consular Officer,

    (DO NOT MAIL this letter to the embassy/consulate. Ask your guest to bring it with the graduation verification letter to the visa interview.)

    My name is (your name) and I am a student at the University of West Georgia, pursuing a (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) degree in (field of study). I am graduating in (May or summer) 20_ _ (or graduated in January 20_ _). Attached please see the graduation announcement from my University verifying my graduation.

    I would like to invite my family (and/or friends) listed below to attend my Commencement Ceremony and other celebration activities that will be held in May, 20_ _ .

    First Name  LAST NAME (as in passport), Relationship to you, his/her address

    (List same info as above for more guests here).

    My guest(s) will stay at (U.S. address) during their visit, (and may visit a few other U.S. cities before returning home.) It would be greatly appreciated if you could grant him (her or them) a visitor visa so that he (she or they) may join me to celebrate my graduation.

    If you have any questions, I can be reached by email at (email address) or by phone at (phone number).

    Thank you for your time and kind consideration of the visa application.

    Sincerely,

    Signature

    Your full name

Grace Periods

Grace periods are periods of time that are given to you in order to take care of certain events, such as transferring between schools, changing your status, starting a new program after work authorization (Academic Training or OPT) or departing the U.S. Not being mindful of these grace periods could cause you to fall out of status. 

Students cannot travel internationally (including cruises) and re-enter in F-1 or J-1 status during their grace period. If you have questions about travel during your grace period see an ISAP advisor.

Grace Periods for International Students 
Situation  F-1 Students J-1 Students
After completing your program of study If you are an F-1 student and have completed your program of study, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for change of status, or transfer to another school. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program; if you leave without graduating, you do not receive a grace period.

If you are a J-1 student and have completed your program objective, you have 30 days to leave the United States or change to another visa status.  Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program objective; if you leave without completing your program objective, you do not receive a grace period.

 

After withdrawing from classes

If you are an F-1 student and have withdrawn from classes after receiving authorization from ISAP, you have 15 days to leave the U.S.

If you have withdrawn from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.

Please talk to a J-1 student advisor in ISAP if you have questions about withdrawing from classes.

If you withdraw from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

After work authorization

After your F-1 OPT expires, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for a change of status, or transfer to another school.

After your J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.

 

Transfer Students  

If you are transferring from UWG to another school after OPT, or after you complete your program of study, you need to request that your SEVIS record be transferred to your new school.  This transfer must happen within 60 days after the program completion date (end of your last semester) or after your OPT expires. Please note that you are not required to start your new program within that 60-day-grace period, but you must start it within 5 months from the end of the semester or the date your record was transferred, whichever is earlier.

If you request your transfer in the middle of the semester, you have no grace period and you need to start studying at your new school immediately.

 J-1 students who wish to transfer from UWG to another program sponsor must consult with the International Student office at both schools. The deadline for J-1 students to transfer is the program completion date or the end of Academic Training, whichever is earlier. J-1 students cannot transfer during the 30-day grace period.

Grace Periods for International Students 

  • Situation : After completing your program of study
    F-1 Students: If you are an F-1 student and have completed your program of study, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for change of status, or transfer to another school. Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program; if you leave without graduating, you do not receive a grace period.
    J-1 Students:

    If you are a J-1 student and have completed your program objective, you have 30 days to leave the United States or change to another visa status.  Note that this does NOT apply if you do not complete your program objective; if you leave without completing your program objective, you do not receive a grace period.

     


  • Situation : After withdrawing from classes
    F-1 Students:

    If you are an F-1 student and have withdrawn from classes after receiving authorization from ISAP, you have 15 days to leave the U.S.

    If you have withdrawn from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must leave the U.S. immediately.


    J-1 Students:

    Please talk to a J-1 student advisor in ISAP if you have questions about withdrawing from classes.

    If you withdraw from classes without previous authorization from ISAP, you have no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.


  • Situation : After work authorization
    F-1 Students:

    After your F-1 OPT expires, you have 60 days to leave the United States, apply for a change of status, or transfer to another school.


    J-1 Students:

    After your J-1 Academic Training expires, you have 30 days to leave the United States or apply for a change of status.

     


  • Situation : Transfer Students
    F-1 Students:  

    If you are transferring from UWG to another school after OPT, or after you complete your program of study, you need to request that your SEVIS record be transferred to your new school.  This transfer must happen within 60 days after the program completion date (end of your last semester) or after your OPT expires. Please note that you are not required to start your new program within that 60-day-grace period, but you must start it within 5 months from the end of the semester or the date your record was transferred, whichever is earlier.

    If you request your transfer in the middle of the semester, you have no grace period and you need to start studying at your new school immediately.


    J-1 Students:  J-1 students who wish to transfer from UWG to another program sponsor must consult with the International Student office at both schools. The deadline for J-1 students to transfer is the program completion date or the end of Academic Training, whichever is earlier. J-1 students cannot transfer during the 30-day grace period.

After Graduation

 

Congratulations on your Graduation! Now that you have completed your undergraduate degree program at UWG, you now have many options and avenues that you can go down and each option has its own merits and demerits. Choosing the right option will involve a large amount of research and will come down to personal preference - but hopefully the information will help you, and point you in the right direction to choose the next step in your international education adventure.

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
    Optional Practical Training 

     

     

    Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the USCIS to work towards getting practical training to complement their field of studies.

  • Graduate School
    Graduate School

    Graduate school is a different atmosphere compared to your four-year undergraduate studies. The coursework is generally more difficult, and students may be much more competitive with each other.

    Finances

    Graduate school can be extremely expensive and you will need to consider whether it is the best option for you. If you have already accumulated debt while working toward your undergraduate degree, is it a viable option to incur more debt? Do you think that you will make enough money after you have completed your graduate work to pay off this debt? You will have to weigh up your options.

    One of the most common misperceptions held by international students is that their school will fully or largely fund their education once they are admitted. In reality, financial aid from the school is extremely limited, and most is reserved for US students.

    Fellowships and Assistantships

    You might consider applying for fellowships or assistantships in order to help fund your grad school education. Fellowships are extremely rare, and are reserved for the most qualified candidates. Fellowships generally cover tuition and occasionally living expenses, but you do not get paid. Assistantships, on the other hand, require that you work for or assist a professor or department. You might help a professor with their research, teach a class, or tutor other students. Assistantships are much more commonly supplied than fellowships.

    Fellowships and assistantships are both renewable, meaning you can receive aid for more than one year, as long as you maintain good grades.

    Scholarships

    Unlike fellowships and assistantships, scholarships are generally awarded for one year or one semester only. Like fellowships, they do not require any work on your part, but they are almost always used to cover tuition, and rarely living expenses. The amount of money varies by scholarship; some award large amounts, while other may be just $500.

    Loans

    Another options for financial aid is to apply for a loan. Loans for international students generally have very reasonable repayment terms, but you might need a cosigner who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

    Application Process

    When applying to graduate school, a good way to start is to create a checklist. This will help you keep track of everything you’ve done, and everything you still have left to do, and make sure nothing gets left out or forgotten. It will also help to make sure the whole process seems manageable, and reduce the amount of stress you experience during the process.

    Research

    The first thing to do is to conduct research on all of the schools you are considering. Any information you need, such as application deadlines, curriculum details, and information about professors, can generally be found on the school’s website. If you cannot find the answers you need online, you can email the program director with your questions.

    Interviews

    Some US schools might require an interview as part of the application process. It is generally a good idea to schedule an interview with a school as soon as you decide to apply, even if you haven’t yet started your application. Contact the school to set up a time—but make sure you take time differences into account!

    Think about questions the interviewer might ask, and make sure you have answers prepared. Typical questions include why you are interested in the school, and how much you know about the school in general. Although you should prepare your answers ahead of time, make sure you aren’t reading your prepared answers during the interview. Make a list of talking points and try to speak like you would during any everyday conversation. It is generally a good idea to start preparing at least a week before the actual interview.

    Deadlines

    When it is time to start working on the actual applications, make sure you are familiar with the school’s application deadline. You will also want to set your own personal deadlines so that you can finish your application as soon as possible. Setting your own deadlines will allow you to monitor the whole application process in a timely manner. For example, if the school’s deadline is December 15, set a deadline such as November 20, so you will be sure that you have all your materials prepared with plenty of time to spare.

    Being ready early will ensure that you have time to polish all of your application materials, such as your personal statement essay and resume. Last-minute work is easily recognizable, and will not help you get into your dream school.

  • Job Search
    Job Search

    Job Search
    Before you begin job hunting, it is best to know your visa requirements and restrictions. All the information you need is posted on our visa options page, so take the time to understand all your options and how they affect your employment.

    Difficulties International Students Face

    Job hunting is always hard, but for international students, the process is even more difficult and frustrating. Oftentimes, employers are hesitant to hire international students. This can be for a number of reasons. The most common reasons include:

    • Complexities and misunderstandings concerning visas
    • Hiring international students can be costly and time-consuming
    • Fear of new hires leaving after six months or a year
    • Concern that the student might have poor English skills

    Whether these perceptions are fair or not, the truth is that many employers will hire US students over international students. Don’t despair, though; there are companies in the US that hire students from abroad, and it is possible for you to find a great job in the US.

    Job Hunting as an International Student

    As an international student, job hunting will be a little more complicated for you than it might be for US students. Here are some tips to keep in mind through the process.

    Start Early

    This is good advice for all job seekers, but it especially valid for international students. It is going to take you longer to find employment with a company that will sponsor employees who need work visas, so the sooner you start, the better!

    Research Your Situation

    You are going to need to know the rules and regulations of your specific situation. Make sure you know which visas you need, including the different possibilities, deadlines, and potential costs. The more familiar you are with these things, the more confident you will feel when applying for jobs.

    Take Advantage of UWG's Resources

    UWG's Career Services has a good deal of experience helping international students to find jobs in the US following graduation. Take advantage of that experience, and set up a meeting with a career coach to discuss your specific situation and goals. You will also want to attend career fairs and talk to the recruiters, build relationships. And follow up with them for potential interviews.

    Network

    Around 70% of jobs are found through solid connections. Take advantage of UWG's community; talk to alumni groups who have gone through the same process you are. Build up relationships with your professors and even parents of your American friends.

    Stay Positive and Be Persistent

    Job hunting can be exhausting and demoralizing. You might feel that you are working yourself to the bone, with no noticeable results. The important thing now is to not give up. A positive attitude and confidence in your abilities will show in everything that you do, and will make employers want to invest in you.

    Golden Rules of Job Hunting

    As with all job searches, there are a few golden rules you should always follow:

    • Research the employer thoroughly, either via their website or calling their offices to get more information sent to you.
    • Do searches on-line to see if you can find any articles or other information about the company. The more you research the company, the better chance you will have at an interview.
    • Understand your personal qualities, such as your strengths and weaknesses. If you can make a list of these qualities, you will be able to draw on them in an interview.
    • Wherever possible, mail your resume to the company unless it specifically asks for you to submit it via e-mail. This shows that you have put in more effort, and it allows you to be more professional and creative in terms of presentation.
    • Always follow up with companies when you have sent in your resume for a job. After 1 or 2 weeks, call to make sure that they have received your resume.
    • Before you go on an interview, always practice as much as possible. There are many good websites where you can practice mock questions.
    • If no written job description is given, always ask for one, as well as a company prospectus or profile.
    • At the interview, always wear a business suit, keep your general appearance neat and tidy, and remain confident with eye contact and strong, firm answers.
    • Follow up interviews with thank you letters. This adds a personal touch and allows you to elaborate or add anything you weren't able to do in the interview. 
  • Other Visa Options
    Other Visa Options

    Many of these options will require you to seek the assistance of an Immigration Attorney. Please note that ISAP just list these as options for students, but we are not experts in these visa types and will refer you to an immigration attorney for assistance. 

    Non-Immigrant H-3 Visa (Trainee)

    An H-3 trainee visa is suited to those individuals who do not have appropriate education or work experience. It is for those who would like to come to the U.S. to train in a particular field with the intention of transporting the knowledge and training back to their home country upon completion of their visa. The H-3 visa is valid for 2 years and cannot be extended or transferred to H-1B/L-1 status. To qualify for an H-3 visa, the applicant needs to secure training from a U.S. employer who has an established training program.

    Non-Immigrant H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupation)

    The minimum requirements for obtaining this classification are: (1) a U.S. employer to sponsor the applicant, (2) a U.S. Bachelors Degree or its equivalent, and (3) a correlation between the job duties and the applicant’s education and work experience. In addition to the above requirements, it is also necessary to obtain an approval of a labor condition attestation from the Department of Labor prior to filing the H-1B petition with the Immigration & Naturalization Service. A LCA is required to ensure that foreign workers are not exploited by U.S. employers and are paid the same salaries and obtain the same benefits as their American counterparts.

    The H-1B is granted for an initial period of 3 years and can be extended for an additional 3 years, but cannot be extended beyond 6 years. Spouses and minor children automatically obtain H-4 visas, which entitle them to accompany the applicant to the U.S. and to attend school, but not work, in the U.S.

    Non-Immigrant R-1 Visa (Religious Worker)

    The R-1 religious worker category is designed for ministers, persons working in a professional capacity in a religious occupation, or persons working for a religious organization in a religious occupation. The applicant must demonstrate that he/she had been a member of the religious denomination for at least 2 years preceding the application. Initial admission is for 3 years with an extension of up to 2 years. The U.S. employer is required to demonstrate that it has tax exemption status.

    Non-Immigrant E-1/E-2 Visa (Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor)

    Certain countries have entered into treaties with the United States, which allows their nationals to obtain treaty trader/treaty Investor visas. A fundamental requirement for an E-1 visa is that at least 51% of the company’s trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country. An E-2 visa requires a "substantial investment" to be made into a new or existing enterprise. Managers, executives and other essential employees are eligible for these visas. The visa is usually granted for a 5-year period with 2-year increments upon each entry. It is possible to extend these visas as long as there is a need for the individual to direct and control the U.S. enterprise and the concern remains viable.

    Non-Immigrant L-1 Visa (Intracompany Transfer)

    The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is used for companies abroad who have offices in the U.S. and would like to transfer certain employees here on temporary employment assignments. This visa is designed for managers and executives (maximum admission: 7 years) or people possessing specialized knowledge (maximum admission: 5 years).

    If the U.S. subsidiary is a newly established office, the applicant will only be admitted for an initial period of 1 year. It is possible to apply for extensions, which must be accompanied by documentation showing major business activity or future business activity and an increase in personnel. It is possible to apply for permanent residency through this category as a multinational executive/manager.

    Non-Immigrant Obtaining a "Green Card"

    A person granted permanent residency ("green card status") is permitted to reside and work in the U.S. Depending on their classification, an immigrant may be eligible to file for U.S. citizenship either three years or five years from date of acquiring permanent residency (providing they are not otherwise deemed ineligible).

    There are four main categories under which it is possible to acquire permanent residency status in the U.S. The easiest and quickest way is through a family relationship where the petitioner is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The other categories involve employment sponsorship, diversity immigrants and refugees and asylees.

    • You might also take your chances with the Green Card Lottery.
    • The most common asked question from graduates is: “How do we get a green card through employment?”

    Employment-Based Immigration
    To obtain an employment-based immigrant visa, there is usually a requirement that an applicant applies and obtains labor certification. This process, designed to ensure that no qualified U.S. workers exist for the position, is often difficult and can take several years to complete (depending on jurisdiction). It is therefore desirable to apply under an alternative category, which lacks this labor certification requirement. Most graduates will fall under:

    First Preference: Priority Workers
    This category includes the following: (a) persons of extraordinary ability in sciences, art, education, business or athletics; (b) outstanding professors and researchers, and (c) multinational executives and managers.

    Under the extraordinary ability subcategory above, the applicant does not require a job offer and the application can be processed fairly expeditiously. Only those applicants who have reached the top of their field can apply under this category and must intend to continue to work in the particular area of extraordinary ability. In addition, the applicant must show that his or her entry will benefit the U.S.

    Under the category of outstanding professors and researchers, the standards are more lenient. However, the applicant must have three years of teaching or research experience, as well as a job offer for a permanent position from an appropriate U.S. institution. No Labor Certification application is required for this category.

    Multinational Executives and Managers
    In order to qualify for permanent residence under this category, managers or executives of companies must have been employed for one of the three years preceding their transfer to the United States. Additionally, their employment at the overseas company must have been in an executive or managerial capacity. The U.S. sponsoring employer must also have been in existence for at least one year and the overseas company must be operating.

    Note: If an applicant obtains an L-1B Intracompany visa (based on their specialized knowledge) labor certification will be necessary.

    Second Preference: Advanced Degree Professions / Exceptional Ability
    Members of the professions holding advanced degrees (e.g. masters degrees or bachelors degrees, plus five years of work experience) or aliens of Exceptional Ability. Although Labor Certification is usually required, it is possible to obtain a waiver, if it can be shown that the applicant’s employment will be in the "national interest".

    Third Preference: Labor Certification
    This category usually requires a Labor Certification except in certain cases. Three separate subcategories exist:

    • Professionals (with a Bachelors Degree);
    • Individuals performing a job requiring two years of education, experience or training;
    • Other workers.

    Fourth Preference: Special Immigrants
    This category is designed for "special immigrants" and is limited to 10,000 visas per year. Certain religious workers qualify under this category, which does not require Labor Certification.

    Fifth Preference: Employment Creation - Investors
    This category allows for two-year conditional residency for people who invest either $1 million (or $500,000 in underdeveloped areas or areas of high unemployment) in a new commercial enterprise that employs 10 U.S. citizens or permanent residents on a full-time basis and manages the business on a day-to-day basis.

    The applicant can either create an original business or the purchase of an existing business, which results in a new commercial enterprise, or the expansion of an existing business so that its net worth or employees increase by 40%.

    The investment can be a combination of cash, equipment, inventory, but an unsecured promissory note is unacceptable. Multiple investors are acceptable, but each investor must independently meet the capital and employee requirements.