F-1 Virtual Start
For F-1 international students who cannot arrive in-person for classes in Spring 2021, UT Dallas will be able to accommodate students by offering a “Virtual Start.” F-1 students can begin their program of study online, from their home country, while completing the visa issuance process. Beginning your program of study online while outside the U.S. will allow you to stay on track with your desired timeline, save on housing expenses while earning credits, and give you more time to complete the immigration process to enter the U.S.
We will continue to update this page, so please check back for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I select the Virtual Start option?
If you have not yet applied for your I-20, you can indicate that you are using the Virtual Start option when you apply. If you have already received your I-20, you can follow the instructions below to notify the ISSO that you will be using the Virtual Start option.
Choose Virtual Start
- Log into iComet
- Click Prospective Student
- Click New Admit: F-1 Student
- Complete the Visa Update eForm
Is there a deadline to select Virtual Start?
If you will be joining us virtually for the semester, please notify us no later than Census Day. If you will not be joining us on-campus, we have to update your Form I-20 to reflect a later joining date.
If I enroll in online courses but obtain a visa mid-semester, can I come to campus for the rest of the semester?
We have an 8-week term that begins in the middle of each semester. The 8-week term for spring 2021 begins March 22, 2021, so if you are able to get your visa in time to come on campus for that 8-week term, we will be happy to work with you to make sure you have the appropriate immigration documents for that mid-semester start.
To request an I-20 for the second 8-week session, first, request your academic program to complete the 2nd 8-Week I-20 Request Form, which certifies you can meet the F-1 enrollment requirements during this 8-week term. Upload the completed, signed form in the Visa Update eForm in iComet to request your mid-semester I-20."
How will a virtual start affect my eligibility for Curricular Practical Training (CPT)?
We know that CPT can be an important part of your academic and professional goals, and we want to support you in achieving these goals.
Your CPT timeline will depend on your program of study. There are two ways to be eligible for CPT:
- Being lawfully enrolled full-time in a U.S. university for at least one academic year (two consecutive long semesters) immediately prior to the semester in which the CPT will take place. In this case, you must be in the U.S. and enroll full-time for a fall and spring semester prior to beginning CPT.
- CPT may begin sooner for programs of study that require immediate participation in CPT.
For the following programs, CPT is required after completing 18 credit hours (whether online or in-person). For example, students who began studying online (or in-person) in fall 2020 will be eligible to start CPT in summer 2021. Check with your academic department for details.
- MS in Business Analytics
- MS in Computer Engineering
- MS in Information Technology and Management
- MS in Management Science
- MS in Marketing
- MS in Supply Chain Management
How will a virtual start affect my eligibility for Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
In order to be eligible for OPT after graduation, you must first be a full-time student in F-1 status for one academic year. At UT Dallas, this means you must enroll full-time for a fall and a spring semester, while in F-1 status. You gain F-1 status when you enter the U.S. with your F-1 visa and Form I-20. Even if you have the F-1 visa, you do not have F-1 status until you actually enter the U.S.
If you have questions about beginning your program of study online, we recommend you contact your academic department. They can help guide you on your degree plan, order of classes, and much more. As you make your academic plan, keep in mind the timeline mentioned above.
Do I need to get my I-20 now if I’m starting virtually?
You do not have to have the Form I-20 to register for classes and begin your academic program. You will need your Form I-20 to apply for the F-1 visa and enter the United States. The ISSO recommends applying for your Form I-20 early, to allow ample time to complete the rest of the immigration processes.
I have an I-20 but I’m studying online this semester. Do I need to do anything?
Yes. If you will not be joining us on campus in the current semester, you will need an I-20 with an updated start date. The “program start date” on your I-20 is the date you plan to begin your F-1 status, inside the United States. It is not the same as the date you began your classes. Please fill out the “F-1 Visa Update” eForm in your iComet application.
How will I receive my I-20?
You will receive your Form I-20 electronically by email at your UT Dallas email address. You may use this electronic copy of your I-20 to schedule your visa appointment and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. When you are ready to apply for your visa, you can request a physical copy of your I-20. There are two steps to request your physical I-20:
- Submit the 'Original Initial I-20 Request' eForm in iComet. You may use the hyperlink, or copy and paste the following link into your web browser: https://icomet.utdallas.edu/istart/controllers/client/ClientEngine.cfm?serviceid=EFormOriginalInitialI20Request0ServiceProvider
- Request a shipping label by submitting the 'Complimentary Express Shipping' eForm in Step 2 of your iComet application. This eForm will direct you to the eShip Global website where you will input the details for your shipping request.
What is the deadline to submit financial documents to get my I-20?
There is no deadline to submit these documents to the ISSO. However, it is to your advantage to submit them as early as possible to allow you ample time to obtain your F1 visa and enter the U.S. on time to start your UT Dallas program. Please see the ISSO webpages on types of financial documents you can submit and the funds you must show to receive your I-20.
What is the processing time to get my I-20?
After you submit your complete application on iComet, the ISSO will review your documents within 3 business days. Watch your UT Dallas email address for updates.
What will happen to my assistantship?
Our academic departments understand that our international TA/RAs have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 situation and have made provisions for doctoral candidates who will be studying full-time but cannot arrive in the U.S. for their first semester. Please check with your department for details.
What are the tuition rates and fees for Virtual Start?
For information about tuition and fees, please refer to the Bursar’s Office - https://www.utdallas.edu/finance/bursar/.
Will the quality of education for online courses differ from on-campus courses?
No, you will be receiving the same high-quality education that UT Dallas is known for. Virtual Start offers the option to begin your coursework online and later transition to face-to-face classes. It does not change your degree program or the courses required for your degree. For details about course registration and your degree plan, please consult with your academic advisor.
If a student takes courses online, will the degree conferred after program completion be the same as an on-campus student?
Your degree is the same degree as an on-campus student. The degree conferred will be labeled the same way as an on-campus student on your transcript so you do not need to worry about a credibility issue.
What if I have more questions?
We are happy to answer your questions. Please email us at [email protected] for any immigration questions related to starting your program at UT Dallas.
Speak with a prospective student advisor about starting your F-1 status at UT Dallas.
Virtual appointments available weekly.