Definition of Certificate Program
Certificate programs are typically short-term education programs designed by GSU departments which lead to the awarding of a specialized credential in a particular field of study.
Federal Regulations and Certificate Programs
Per federal regulations [CFR 214.2 (f)(6)], all F-1 students must enroll and complete a "full course of study" during each fall and spring semester in a program that leads to the attainment of a specific educational or professional objective. Most GSU certificate (CERG) programs cannot be pursued alone at a full time (F/T) rate (12 credit hours for undergraduate/9 credit hours for graduate students) due to class registration availability. As a result, ISSS recommends all F-1 students wishing to pursue a certificate program in addition to their normal degree requirements do so concurrently with their primary program of study listed on Form I-20. If a student is pursuing a certificate concurrently with their degree listed on their Form I-20, no further immigration requirements are necessary to pursue this certificate.
Students who have completed their primary program of study and seek to obtain a specialized post-completion certificate must be issued a new Form I-20 by International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) for this certificate. To obtain a Form I-20 following completion of degree studies for a certificate program, the student must meet the specific requirements listed below. ISSS will review and approve each request on a case by case basis.
Issuance of Form I-20 for Certificate Program
ISSS may issue Forms I-20 to eligible students for a certificate program at Georgia State University. However, students issued a new Form I-20 for a certificate program are not eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) based on the certificate program, nor for any other previous degree they completed prior to being issued a Form I-20 for a certificate program. If a student passes up OPT based on their prior completed degree program in order to immediately start a certificate program, they may not apply for OPT based on the earlier degree once the certificate is complete.
Eligibility for I-20 Issuance and Statement of Objective
Prospective students for a post-completion certificate must meet all requirements below in order to be eligible for I-20 issuance by ISSS. In addition to providing documentation required of all international students for I-20 issuance (proof of financial support, copies of immigration documents, etc.), prospective students intending to pursue a post-completion certificate program must also submit a written, official statement of objective explaining the specific academic or professional objective of their intended study. This statement of objective must be written by the GSU academic department where the student intends to achieve the certificate. For example, if a student wishes to pursue a certificate in Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University, the academic department where the Hospitality Administration certificate program is housed must write the statement of objective.
A statement of objective must meet the following requirements in order to be accepted for review:
- Must be written by an academic advisor or professor in the academic department where th certificate will be obtained. Letters written by business managers or non-academic professional staff will not be accepted.
- Must specify the certificate the student wishes to obtain, and must list all courses (name, number, and term) that must be taken in order to obtain the certificate.
- Must list the student's expected completion date.
- Must state that full time study (9 hours for graduate certificates, 12 hours for undergraduate certificates) can be maintained each semester of enrollment. (Classes taken outside of the certificate program cannot be used as part of the full time enrollment requirement.)
Duration of Certificate Study
Study for obtainment of a certificate may not exceed twelve (12) months or one academic year. After completing all the requirements for obtaining the certificate, students have a 60-day "Grace Period" to leave the United States, apply for the change of status, or transfer to another school. A student does not receive a grace period if s/he fails to complete the certificate listed on Form I-20.
Full-time Enrollment Requirement
Students who wish to obtain a certificate after completion of their degree, must maintain full-time enrollment each semester in order to maintain F-1 visa status. Full-time study is defined as at least twelve (undergraduate) or nine (graduate) credit hours.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Post-Completion Certificate
Student's studying on a post-completion certificate can only do CPT if the certificate program requires an internship (s) as part of the curriculum. Student must provide documentation with the CPT request showing an internship is required.