Hudson Hall at Duke University Pratt School of Engineering

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Admitted Master's Students

Congratulations on your admission to Duke Master’s Programs in Engineering!

We are excited for you to join our Duke Engineering master's student community and look forward to assisting you with enrollment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - International Admitted Pratt Master's Students

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


1.       I’m a newly admitted international graduate student, and I’m concerned that I won’t be able to get a visa to travel to Duke in time for Spring 2021. What options do I have?

There are currently two possible options, although not all options are available for all graduate programs at Duke.  Your program’s Director will let you know which option(s) are available to you.

(a)    If available for your degree program, take the necessary Duke coursework remotely for the Spring semester, with a plan to come to Duke for the Fall semester. Note that you cannot begin a course remotely and then physically transfer to Duke in the same semester. You will need to wait and transition at the start of the next semester. In the Pratt School of Engineering, this option is available for Biomedical Engineering (BME), Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Financial Technology (FinTech), Master of Engineering Management (MEMP), and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS MS, MEng ME, and MEng MSE).

(b)     Request a deferral and begin your Duke studies in Fall 2021 or Spring 2022. Programs may differ as to whether they are in a position to grant a deferral, and if so, whether a semester or a full year deferral makes more sense.



2.       I’m an admitted international master’s degree student without a U.S. visa. I have a teaching assistantship (TA) or a research assistantship (RA) as part of my package. Can I start the program remotely? And can I work remotely as a TA or RA and receive funding?


Please see answer to question #1 regarding remote classes.

It is not legally permissible for Duke to pay international students who do not have a valid U.S. visa. You will not receive any payments until you have a valid visa, arrive at Duke, and complete the necessary paperwork. No monies will accrue over the time you are outside of the U.S.


3.       I’m an international student and am wondering about the Immigration paperwork necessary if I begin (or continue, if I am a current student) my coursework online.


(a)    New students: The start date on your I-20 must reflect the start date of the first semester after your arrival in the U.S. If we have already issued an I-20 for Spring 2021 with a Spring 2021 start date, but you cannot arrive into the U.S. until Fall 2021, then we must change the start date and issue a new I-20 with the Fall 2021 start date. If we did not yet issue the I-20 for Spring 2021 and you start in Fall 2021, we will issue the I-20 with the Fall 2021 start date.

(b)    Continuing students: If you have a current I-20, we are not required to issue a new I-20 if you requested a travel signature before departure. If you did not request a travel signature, we will send a letter that can be used with the I-20 so that you can enter the U.S.


4.       Is the tuition less for students who will take classes remotely than for students who will take the classes on the Duke campus?


No, tuition charges are the same.


5.       I’m an international student who will graduate in May. What if I have trouble getting back to my home country? Is it ok if I stay past the allowed grace period? 

Duke cannot approve an overstay of your visa because of COVID-19. We know that SEVP is discussing this issue.


6.       I’m an incoming international student in a Duke two-year master’s program. I am thinking of starting the program online. I hope to be able to get to Durham in Fall 2021 for face-to-face instruction. I very much want to do CPT or OPT in summer 2022. Will this be possible?


Practical training (CPT or OPT) is typically only authorized for F-1 students who have been enrolled in a U.S. institution on a full time basis for one full academic year.


(a)    Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Current information per U.S. visa services indicates that you would not qualify for CPT unless you have completed two full semesters on campus as an F-1 student. For CPT, exceptions to the one academic year requirement as an F-1 student are only provided if you are enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training.

(b)    Optional Practical Training (OPT): Current information per U.S. visa services indicates that you would not qualify for OPT unless you have completed two full semesters on campus as an F-1 student.

Students who start on campus in Fall 2021 and continue through Spring 2022 would meet the above requirements of two full semesters on campus as an F-1 student.


7.       When are international students eligible to return to Durham, or to come to Durham for the first time?


This answer depends on at least three factors: (1) what is the status of the Durham campus, (2) what is the visa status of the student, and (3) where is the student.

(a)    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USDHS) has not made any announcement on this issue. DHS may allow individual schools to make this determination.

(b)    If you are a new international student who will need a visa to enter the U.S., the consulates are closed and have not posted the date they will reopen. Keep in mind there will be a backlog of visa requests when the consulates reopen.

(c)     If you are an international student who is transferring from another school or university in the U.S., and you did not leave the U.S., the current school can transfer the SEVIS files to Duke and you can start classes in Durham when Duke University reopens.

(d)    If you are a continuing international student and you did not leave the U.S., you can start classes when Duke University reopens.

(e)    If you are a continuing international student, and you left the U.S., and your visa is valid for reentry, and you are not subject to the COVID-19 quarantine country policy per the President’s proclamation, you should be able to re-enter the U.S. and start classes when Duke University reopens.

(f)      If you are a continuing international student, and you left the U.S., and you need a new visa to reenter, you will likely face the same problems that a new student with no visa will have. In addition, if you are subject to the COVID-19 quarantine, there will be an additional delay.


8.   Are there international students currently residing in the U.S. who will need their visas renewed in order to stay?

(a)    A valid visa is not required to remain in the U.S., so no one should leave the U.S. just to get a visa renewed. A valid I-20 or DS-2019 is required to stay in the U.S. and is valid based on enrollment in a degree program.

(b)    F-1 students graduating in May have a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. after graduation. These students can also apply for work authorization which will allow them to stay for an additional 90 days to seek employment and 12 months if they find employment before the 90 days end.

(c)     Some students may have received admission from other U.S. schools (for example, to enter graduate school) and can request that their SEVIS file be transferred to the new school so they can stay in the U.S. during the summer.

(d)    J-1 students have a 30-day grace period after graduation and can apply for Academic training before graduation (if they can find employment). The transfer option to a new academic program is also available.

Spring 2021 Orientation for Campus Students

We will be hosting a number of Engineering Master’s Programs New Student Orientation sessions. Most events are scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday, January 14 and 15, and Tuesday, January 19. A complete list of sessions and required pre-work will be communicated in mid-December. All sessions will be delivered virtually in order to accommodate those who will be remote this spring or who will not arrive on campus before this time.

When to Arrive – International Students

International students who can make it to campus should arrive in Durham before January 20.

Please keep this timeline in mind as you start to plan your journey to Duke, so that you have time to adjust to the United States and get settled in Durham before classes begin. You may arrive in the United States up to 30 days before the first day of classes (December 21). Classes start Wednesday, January 20.

When to Arrive – Domestic Students

Domestic students who can make it to campus should arrive in Durham before January 20. We encourage students who plan to study on campus this spring to arrive several days before classes begin in order to get settled in Durham.

Spring 2021 classes start Wednesday, January 20.

* Note: Campus programs only. Online students should follow their program's residency requirements. Back to top

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