You will need your original DS-2019 when you attend your visa interview and enter the U.S.. Your DS-2019 must be shipped to your residence abroad. Please note, Mercer University does not mail DS-2019’s internationally through regular mail. All international shipments must go through the eShip Global shipping service.
eShip Global Shipping Service
All international shipping from the Office of International Programs is handled through our shipping partner, eShip Global’s University Express Mail Services, or UEMS. This service allows you to pay for and receive your documents through DHL or FedEx. Documents typically arrive 3-5 days after you place your shipping order.
Please do NOT create an account with eShip Global’s University Express Mail Services until you have received an email from the Office of International Programs confirming that your DS-2019 is ready. We will send a draft of your DS-2019 for your review via email – please make sure the information is correct before you place your shipping order.
To request the shipment of your documents, please visit eShip Global’s website, https://study.eshipglobal.com, to create an account.
You must use the site provided above – please do not go through DHL or FedEx directly, as this will delay the shipment and cost more. eShip Global provides discounted shipping and allows you to enter your own shipment information, to ensure the address and other details are accurate and will reach you without a problem. Once you order the shipment, our office will receive notification and will arrange for the pick-up of your package by DHL or FedEx. You can then track the progress of the package through your eShip Global account.
Instructions on Creating an eShipGlobal Shipment
To set up an account and place your shipment order, you will be required to create your own user name and password in order to create an account. To request shipment, you will need your Mercer University Student ID number (also called your campus ID), mailing address, e-mail address, phone number and payment information. Please pay close attention to the information submitted, as errors in the payment information or submitting incorrect or incomplete address information will result in a delay in the mailing of your documents. If you experience any difficulty in registering and processing the shipment, please use the eShipGlobal/UEMS “Help” link for step by step instructions. If you have additional questions about how to use this service, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on "Receive Package from University" from the Home page and follow these instructions:
1. Click the appropriate state on the menu or select state from the drop down list or type few characters of the university name in the box provided.
2. Select the University and click on "Continue".
3. Select the Department and click on "Continue".
4. Complete the shipping form and click on "Continue".
5. On the confirmation page, check your shipment details and select your desired service from the available options and click on "Continue".
6. On the next page, fill out the credit card information form.
7. Click on "Confirm Payment" button and on successful shipment creation; you will be presented with the shipment summary page along with the tracking number.
8. The University is notified about your request. The necessary documents will be sent to your address as soon as the university processes your request. You can track the shipment using the tracking number provided.
Please do let us know if you have any issues while creating your shipment. Make sure you have the correct “From” address and “To” address before submitting your order.
Please note, international shipping is at your expense and your credit/debit card (Visa, Mastercard or Discover credit cards only) will be charged upon requesting the service. This service also allows wire transfer or bank teller deposit for those who are unable to use a credit/debit card. Prices for shipments vary depending on destination, but are typically around US$50.
Mercer University only offers international shipments through eShip Global for many reasons. First, regular mail to many other countries is extremely slow and unreliable, and sensitive immigration documents such as an DS-2019 can be lost, stolen or delayed. eShip offers tracking, so students can plan appropriately for their visa appointments and all the other next steps that depend on the receipt of the DS-2019. Mercer University also does NOT charge international students an additional international fee, which many schools do charge to cover the extra costs required to best serve international students, such as the cost of international shipping. In an effort to keep student fees as low as possible rather than require an additional fee of all students, Mercer instead asks students to cover the cost of their international shipment.
Shipping Within the US
Documents that need to be mailed within the US will be mailed via regular mail at Mercer’s expense. Expedited domestic shipping can also be ordered through eShip.
Failure to maintain lawful status while in the U.S. can lead to lasting consequences. Please be mindful of the requirements for maintaining status. Further details about how to maintain your status will be discussed during your orientation. The following are a list of major regulations to familiarize yourself with:
• Visitors must attend an orientation and have their arrival registered within SEVIS by the (A)RO within 30-days of the program start date.
• Passports must be valid at all times.
• Continual compliance with the Department of State health insurance requirements.
• Report any address changes or changes in financial support within 10 days of the change.
• Program extensions must be requested BEFORE the expiration date printed on Form DS-2019.
• All employment MUST BE AUTHORIZED.
• The expiration of a visitor’s J-1 status is linked directly to the program end date printed on the form DS-2019.
• J-1 Scholars have 30-days to leave the United States after their program end date. Visitors present in the U.S. beyond the 30 days grace period after the expiration date are “out of status” and could negatively impact future immigration and U.S. benefits.
• Discuss any possible program transfers with the Office of International Programs before taking steps to transfer.
Only J-1 Scholars who are either (1) employed by Mercer University or (2) have received employment authorization to work are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).
Those eligible to apply for a Social Security Number will need to take the following documents with them to the Social Security office. Applicants without the following documents will be denied.
• For all J-1 Scholar applicants:
o Completed Application for Social Security Card
o A letter from the international student advisor and scholar coordinator validating the student’s eligibility for employment per immigration regulations
o A letter from the Mercer University supervisor on university letterhead, stating the following:
* A statement that you have been hired with your full name as it appears on your passport
* The department/office that is hiring you
* Your anticipated start date
* Your title
* An estimated number of hours per week you will work
Students must apply for a Social Security Number in person. Locate the nearest Social Security Administration Office near you: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
If you would like to have a State of Georgia Driver’s License, you must apply in person at the Department of Driver Services (DDS). All drivers from other nations (including Canada and U.S. Territories) must pass the State of Georgia’s written, road, and vision tests in order to be issued a Georgia license.
For general requirements and the most convenient location for written and driving exams, please visit the Department of Driver Services website. For specific information and requirements for non-US citizens, please visit the DDS webpage for non-U.S. citizens.
Note: You are not required to have a social security number (SSN) to obtain a GA state driver’s license or identification card. If you do not have a SSN and would like to get a license or identification card, you should obtain a Form SSA-L676 (Social Security Card Denial Notice) from the Social Security Administration. Bring your passport, visa, printout of your I-94 electronic record or I-94 card, I-20 and a completed Application for Social Security Card to the Social Security Administration and request a denial notice. The issuance of this form does not prevent you from being granting a SSN in the future. It simply states that you are currently not eligible for one.
Documents Needed to Apply for a Driver’s License
• Printed I-94 record
• Social Security Card or a Form SSA-L676 (Denial Notice) from the Social Security Administration
• Two different document sources that proves your local residence (such as a signed lease agreement, utility bill, bank statement, school report, school transcript, etc.). These documents must have your name and your local address.
Timeline for Applying for a Driver’s License
1. Wait 10 days after you arrive in the United States. You may want to apply for a driver’s license or SSN right away, but be patient. The 10-day wait allows time for all the government databases to update with your arrival information.
2. Make sure your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is up-to-date and in Active status. Contact your International Student Advisor to confirm this information.
3. Check your document and forms: passport, visa, I-94, DS-2019, SSN and DDS applications. Check all your forms to make sure your information is correct. This is data integrity which is very important because having different information on different forms may cause delays.
4. Wait two days after your international student advisor activates your record in SEVIS.
5. Collect all required documents for your appointment(s) and head to the Social Security Administration
Scholars leaving the country who plan to return must have a valid and current (within the last 6 months) travel endorsement from the A/RO. Scholars should make an appointment with their A/RO and bring their current/original DS-2019 to receive a travel endorsement. Travel endorsements are only given during working hours, plan accordingly and sure your travel signature prior to the week of travel.
When reentering the U.S. in J-1 status, you should bring and be prepared to show the following documents:
• Valid Passport
• Valid J-1 Visa
• Valid DS-2019
• Valid DS-2019 Travel Endorsement
• Valid at least 6 months into the future
Valid J-1 Visa*
• If the visa is valid for only one entry, or has expired, a new visa must be obtained from the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad in order to reenter the U.S. It is not possible to apply for a visa from within the U.S.
• Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain F-1 or J-1 visas. You will use your immigration documents issued by the Office of International Programs to enter, but do not require a visa. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda MUST ensure that they are admitted to the U.S. in J-1 status, not as tourists.
• Prepare for visa renewal prior to departing the U.S. You will likely need to present financial documentation, official acceptance into the program, and other documents that are issued in the U.S.
o For a complete list of visa renewal requirements at the specific consulate or embassy, visit www.travel.state.gov.
• Correct biographical data
• Correct program information
• Current students: The program end date must be in the future
Valid I-20 Travel Endorsement
• A travel signature issued by a responsible official (international student advisor) is valid for six-months and multiple entries.
• Students must obtain a travel signature prior to departing the U.S.
• If you need a new travel signature, contact your international student advisor as soon as travel plans have been finalized.
Occasional Lectures and/or Short-term Consultations
Exchange visitors sponsored by Mercer University are not permitted to accept employment from other institutions. However, scholars are permitted to work as independent contractors and provide occasional lectures or consultation services with appropriate authorization from the (A)RO. ALL private contracting work must first be recorded in SEVIS and written authorization from the (A)RO must be obtained.
Criteria for eligibility for incidental employment authorization include:
• The contracted services must be directly related to the objectives of the program at Mercer University.
• The employment must be incidental to the primary program and must not delay the scheduled completion of the program.
To apply for authorization contact the (A)RO and provide the following documents:
o An offer letter detailing the terms and conditions of the consultation/lecture, including the duration, number of hours, subject, compensation, and description of activity.
o A letter from the department head or supervisor recommending such activity and explaining how it relates to the current program at Mercer University.
During the spring semester each year, all international students (F-1), exchange students (J-1) and research scholars (J-1) must report to the Internal Revenue Service. Some students will be required to report and file their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service.
• You will report to the U.S. government if you have not earned any income during the previous tax year. Most students will qualify and use Form 8843.
• If you earned income in the U.S., during the previous tax year, you must report and file your taxes with the U.S. government. Most students will qualify and use Form 8843 to report and will use either Form 1040NR or Form 1040NR-EZ to file their taxes with the federal government. In addition, Form 500-EZ or Form 500 will be used to file taxes for the State of Georgia, Department of Revenue.
Current students should check their emails regularly and attend the International Students & U.S. Taxes workshop that will be held in March 2017.
Form 8843, federal and state tax forms will be explained in detail and you will have the opportunity to begin filling in your forms. Please note, the Office of International Programs is not able to advise students with completing their federal or state tax forms.
Filing income tax forms is the personal responsibility of each international student and scholar. Please be aware that you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy and the timely submission of your income tax returns to the U.S Government.
All Exchange Visitors should report the end of their program to the Office of International Programs and complete an exit interview.
All visitors who complete their program objectives are entitled to a 30-day grace period at the end of the program which allows them to remain in the U.S. after the program is deemed “inactive” in SEVIS.
Following the completion of their program, the period defined on the Form DS-2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows participants a 30-day travel period commonly referred to as the "Grace Period." During this 30-day grace period, participants are no longer in J-visa status, and are under the jurisdiction of USCIS. This period is granted to allow participants to settle their affairs and to prepare to return to their home countries.
Program participants may no longer continue and/or complete exchange activities, nor may they work. Although participants may travel in the United States, it is recommended that they do not travel beyond the borders of the United States as they may not be permitted reentry.
Early Completion of Program
Visitors who complete objectives early and who apply to shorten their programs, report the end of the program, and complete the exit interview are entitled to the grace period.
Withdrawal from Program
Exchange visitors withdrawing from the program early are not entitled to the grace period. Visitors withdrawing early must report the date of program termination to the A/RO, who must report the changes to SEVIS
Exchange visitors are permitted to extend their programs if it is deemed necessary to complete the original program objective.
The following criteria must be met for extensions to be granted:
• The total length of the program will not exceed 5 years (or six-months for a Short-Term Scholar program)
• Extensions must be for 12 months or less
• A written request by the department head or supervisor must be submitted to the A/RO
o The request must include an explanation of the need for a program extension
o Dates of the requested extension
o Supervisor name and contact details
• Proof of health insurance and continued financial support must also be submitted
Any person wishing to participate in an Exchange Visitor program in the Professor or Research Scholar category must not have completed a J-1 or J-2 visa in ANY category within the 12 months prior to the program in question.
Any person wishing to participate in an Exchange Visitor program in the Professor or Research Scholar category must not have completed a J-1 or J-2 visa in the Professor or Research category within the 24 months prior to the program in question.
Exchange Visitors may be subject to a two-year home country physical presence requirement, as required under Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations, paragraph 212, section e [22 C.F.R. §212(e)], typically referred to as “212(e)”. This requirement severely restricts an exchange visitor’s ability to change immigration status from within the U.S. and/or apply for a new visa status from the home country.
Exchange Visitors and their dependents may be subject to 212(e) for one or more of the following reasons:
• If the exchange visitor’s field of study is listed on the Exchange Visitor’s Skills List for his or her country of citizenship
• If the exchange visitor is receiving, in whole or in part, governmental funding (either from the U.S. or from the visitor’s home country) to support the exchange
• If the exchange visitor is participating in the ECFMG program to receive graduate medical education or training
Until the two-year physical presence requirement is satisfied, exchange visitors subject to 212(e):
• Are not eligible to apply for H, K or L visas
• Are not eligible for lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
• Are not eligible to apply for a change of status from J to any other nonimmigrant status from within the U.S., including from J-1 to J-2 status, but excluding A (diplomatic) or G (Employee of an International Organization) status.
Waiver of 212(e)
Exchange Visitors who have recently completed a program and who wish to re-enter the U.S. to begin a new Exchange Visitor program or apply for an H, K, or L visa or apply for permanent residency without fulfilling the requirements of 212(e) may apply for a waiver if they satisfy one of the following possible grounds for the granting of a waiver:
• The visitor’s home country government issues a “no-objection” statement
• An interested U.S. government agency supports the candidate’s waiver application
• The exchange visitor can prove that he or she will be subject to persecution due to race, or religious or political beliefs upon return to his/her country
• The exchange visitor had sufficient evidence that his or her departure from the U.S. would cause “exceptional hardship” to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or child
Visiting Scholars wishing to transfer to Mercer University from another program sponsor must:
• Obtain an invitation from a Mercer University hosting department
• Meet all eligibility requirements for the program, including continued pursuit of original program objectives
• Gain approval from the current sponsor to transfer out of the current sponsor’s program
• Ensure that the current sponsor's A/RO contacts Mercer's A/RO to verify the transfer will be accepted
• Complete all application paperwork, receive a DS-2019 from Mercer, and register with the A/RO BEFORE beginning any program activity with Mercer University
Scholars wishing to transfer to another sponsor from a Mercer University program must:
• Verify that the program is a continuation of the Mercer University program objective and that the program category will remain the same
• Obtain written permission to transfer to another sponsor from the hosting department and the supervisor at Mercer University
• Receive written authorization from the A/RO at Mercer before beginning any work with a new sponsor
• Receive a new DS2019 from the new sponsor before beginning any work with a new sponsor