PhD Students

Georgetown’s classrooms and academic life benefit from an exceptionally talented community of international doctoral students. In addition to the many University resources available to our international Hoyas in F-1 and J-1 status, the PhD website and Frequently Asked Questions provide targeted information to help students maintain legal status and maximize immigration benefits as they pursue their unique academic and professional objectives.

Considerations for F-1/J-1 PhD Students

  • The majority of Georgetown doctoral students study in F-1 status.
  • Students who apply for F-1 work authorization after completion of the dissertation remain in F-1 status while waiting for their authorization to be approved and throughout the 12-month OPT (and when applicable the 24-month STEM OPT) period.
  • Doctoral students in F-1 status receive a Form I-20 for 7 years. The document is always shortened when a student defends earlier than expected.
  • It is the student’s obligation to contact OGS if the source of funding changes during the period. OGS does not search out the student to present new documentation at the end of the five-year funding period.
  • Extending beyond the 7-year period is rare, however, if there are extraordinary circumstances beyond a student’s control, the justification must be presented by the dissertation advisor in writing and the student must submit sufficient funds to cover the length of the extension.
  • OGS only keeps F-1 records and related documents for 3 years following completion of studies or any post-completion work authorization period. It is essential that students safeguard their immigration documents with their other government documents.
  • F-1 students must enroll in the normative credit requirement on record with the GSAS for their program of study. As part of that normative courseload requirement, only one course can be taken online. Students in the dissertation phase of their studies must enroll in a section of thesis research that makes them full time.

  • Very few Georgetown students study in J-1 status. It is essential that students review the F-1/J-1 Comparison Chart (PDF) prior to selecting J-1 status.
  • J-1 status is part of the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program.
  • Students in J-1 status are expected to take advantage of the many opportunities available to interact with Americans and learn about the United States.
  • J-1 students must submit an evaluation at the end of every internship opportunity.
  • Eligibility requirements and restrictions are available on the Admitted F-1 and J-1 Students page.
  • J-1 students cannot research or study abroad outside the United States and leave their SEVIS record active. This means that to return to the United States after each research or study experience would require a new immigration document and a new SEVIS 1-901 Fee. It may also impact the number of months available for Post-Completion Academic Training (AT).
  • J-1 students must be authorized for each and every on-campus work position as well as all off-campus work positions.
    J-1 dependents are allowed to apply to the government for work authorization.
  • Some J-1 students have a two-year home residence requirement before they can change their immigration status to a more permanent immigration status.
  • J-1 students must enroll in the normative credit requirement on record with the GSAS for their program of study. No online courses may be counted toward the full-time courseload.
  • Health insurance is required for all Exchange Visitors and their dependents. The insurance must meet the U.S. State Department’s health insurance requirements.

  • Students are not obligated to renew an expired visa if they do not intend to travel outside the United States. While pursuing a full course of study and making normal progress toward degree, students may remain in the United States with an expired visa stamp.
  • All visas must be renewed at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States. If you would like to renew the visa prior to its expiration, the Embassy or Consulate will generally accept an application to renew a visa that is expiring within 6 months.
  • OGS recommends renewing the visa in the student’s home country to avoid any distress if there is a delay in processing.
    At the time of the consular interview to renew the visa, the consular officer will ask to see updated funding documents from either Georgetown University or the student’s personal or family funds. Bank statements from family members must be accompanied by a support letter from the person listed on the bank account.
  • Students must be prepared to reiterate their nonimmigrant intent at each visa interview.
  • OGS recommends bringing a letter from the department confirming the student is making normal progress toward degree completion if renewing a visa after year 5.
  • OGS recommends bringing an unofficial transcript to show full-time enrollment each semester.
  • Some students wish to renew their expired visas in Canada. Students must check the Canadian website to see if a visa is required to enter Canada as a tourist for the interview at the US embassy. They must also check the U.S. Embassy in Canada website to see if visa applications are considered by citizens of the student’s country.

  • All off-campus paid and unpaid positions require work authorization prior to the start of the internship/training.
    All GU-funded students with service obligations need a Social Security Number (SSN).
  • All first-year students who do not have an SSN but have been awarded a Georgetown non-service stipends must contact OGS for an ITIN within the first month of classes.
  • Students with a non-service stipend are not permitted to work on or off-campus, in paid or unpaid positions.
  • Students with a service stipend are restricted to a combined total of 20 hours per week, for all on- and off-campus positions.
  • F-1 PhD students may work on campus without any special authorization and are limited to 20 hours per week during required academic terms. During summer vacation, there is no limit to the number of hours a student can work on campus.
  • J-1 PhD students must get OGS authorization to work in each and every on-campus position. Students are limited to 20 hours per week during the academic year and may work full-time during summer vacations.
  • Work for any organization other than Georgetown requires authorization prior to beginning the internship/training. Working without proper authorization jeopardizes a student’s legal status.
  • Work with an International Organization (IO) is a specific type of off-campus authorization available to students who wish to work with one of the approved international organizations. While an excellent alternative to CPT, the timing is always complicated because these applications are adjudicated by USCIS and take 3-4 months for approval. Students cannot work until they have the application is approved and they have received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • Work authorization processing times:
    • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (3-4 month processing with USCIS)
    • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) (3-5 days in OGS)
    • Work with an International Organization (IO) (3-4 month processing with USCIS)
  • CPT is highly scrutinized by the U.S. government. Students may enroll in internship courses up to 3 times if new skills are being learned each time.
  • Many doctoral students use CPT during the program of study if the work is required for completion of the dissertation. In these cases, there is no course enrollment and no limit to the number of times a student can apply for CPT. However, a justification letter is required from the dissertation advisor for each authorization period.
  • Students are encouraged to keep detailed and accurate records of the work performed with each authorization to prove that it is integral to the student’s curriculum.

  • Students who wish to keep their F-1 record active and will be engaged in dissertation research abroad must report the foreign address and research dates to their IS Advisor within the first 5 days of each semester. The IS Advisor will report the research abroad in SEVIS. Students are responsible for making sure their I-20 Form has a valid travel signature at every entry to the United States. Travel signatures are valid for 12 months during the program of study. If a student needs a new travel signature while outside the United States, they must register and pay for a FedEx shipment to have the Form I-20 shipped.
  • J-1 students must end their J-1 SEVIS record upon departure for any research or study abroad experience longer than 30 days.

  • To keep their F-1 or J-1 record active, students who want to conduct dissertation research outside of this area should update their local off-campus address in MyAccess within 10 days of the change or the first 5 days of the semester.

  • Students must submit sufficient financial documentation for each of their dependents.
  • OGS requires 3-5 days to issue a dependent document when a dependent joins the F-1 or J-1 student during the course of study.
  • Children born in the United States to F-1 or J-1 students have American citizenship and do not need a dependent Form I-20 or DS-2019.
  • F-2 dependents can study part-time, can volunteer with a charitable or humanitarian organization but cannot be employed in any paid or unpaid capacity.
  • J-2 dependents can study full time and apply for work authorization through USCIS. Once they receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), J-2s may begin employment.
  • Dependents are generally welcome at all University events. If you are unsure, ask!
  • The Premier Plan allows for dependent coverage. The coverage is excellent but expensive.
  • If your dependent makes a final departure from the United States, contact OGS to end the SEVIS record to avoid any future problems entering the United States.
  • J-2 dependents cannot remain in the United States if the J-1 will be out of the country for more than 30 days. 

  • Many students complete their doctoral degrees before the end of the 7-year Form I-20 period.
  • Graduation and completion are two separate events. Graduation is a ceremony. Completion is either the date of the defense or the date of submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School. According to GSAS, the dissertation submission is expected no later than the last day of the month following the defense (e.g., defense on June 15 and submission no later than July 31).
  • Students must contact the IS Advisor when setting a defense date.
  • Students who complete before the Form I-20 end date must report their early completion to OGS and OGS is required to shorten the immigration document accordingly.
  • Students who complete their program early but have a teaching or research obligation as part of their funding in the semester they complete the dissertation, will be shortened to the end of that semester.
  • Students who do not have a teaching or research obligation must be shortened to either the defense date or the dissertation submission date.
  • Students must declare a completion of studies date to OGS before they will be permitted to apply for post-completion work authorization.
  • Students in certain fields may be eligible for the 24-Month STEM OPT Extension. Review the list of applicable programs to determine eligibility.
  • View the PhD OPT Advising Timeline.

Questions about other special PhD considerations? What happens after year 5? 
What are my responsibilities if I must depart the United States for more than 30 days for research or study abroad?