International students in F-1 and J-1 status must complete the doctoral degree within the time frame listed on the immigration document. The original I-20 or DS-2019 Form lists an expiration date that is an estimate based on normal progress toward the doctoral degree. International doctoral students must contact ISSS to inform an advisor of the accurate completion date so that he or she may adjust the immigration document accordingly.
Defining Completion of Studies
ISSS defines completion of studies for all students in doctoral programs as graduation. Therefore, I-20 and DS-2019 Forms for all Ph.D. students at Emory will be adjusted to May, August, or December to reflect the accurate graduation date.
It is the student’s responsibility to meet with his or her advisor in ISSS several months in advance of the oral defense of the dissertation. This meeting provides an opportunity to discuss the timely filing of related work authorization requests. This process also includes an estimation of the dissertation submission date and, consequently, an amendment to the expiration date on the immigration document to reflect an accurate graduation date in May, August, or December. If a student has not already been in contact with an International Student Advisor regarding the submission of an employment application, he or she is urged to contact the advisor as soon as possible as work authorization processing times average 90 days for F-1 students. In contrast, J-1 Academic Training is processed at ISSS and therefore allows for more flexibility in terms of timing. However, J-1 students must still be in touch with ISSS in a timely manner to ensure appropriate adjustment of the immigration document.
Please note: although ISSS defines graduation as the date of completion for doctoral students, Federal Regulations allow F-1 students to apply for post-completion OPT prior to graduation. Students who intend to complete the dissertation mid-semester may wish to pursue this option if they want to begin post-completion employment immediately following dissertation submission. It also allows students to avoid some of the disadvantages associated with pre-completion OPT applications. This option is NOT recommended for students who are mid-program with many years of dissertation research/writing ahead of them. If a student chooses this option, the student must understand that:
For general information on F-1 post-completion employment, please see our section on F-1 Optional Practical Training. For more information on J-1 post-completion employment, please see our section on J-1 Academic Training. Please be sure to discuss your individual situation with your International Student Advisor three to four months prior to your expected date of completion and/or employment so that he or she may provide expert advice on the best option for your particular circumstances.