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[Venting] The woes of questionable local mail services. Any Indians around?


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Warning: The following may be considered a rant by an unstable and anxious mind of a graduate student on an emotional roller coaster since June 2014. 

 

So, I just got into a great university and as far as the I-20 was concerned, I felt safe in the knowledge that the university sends an email to the international student asking them to choose their preference for sending the I-20. At least, that is what their website said. I wanted to choose, and pay for, express delivery (eshipglobal) that would allow me to bypass the legendary local mail service of India. Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit here, but since I-20 is an important document, I am a little paranoid about using local mail.

 

One fine day, I received an email that my I-20 has been dispatched and I was given no further details germane to what mail system was used. I asked for a tracking number, to which received a strange reply: "..don't think there is any tracking number since it should all be in a normal sized envelope."

 

Huh? Normal sized envelopes don't have tracking number in the US? What? As far as I know, any registered post (even the regular USPS international first class mail) would have a tracking number.

 

Anyway, so no tracking number and now it's been 10 days and I have had it waiting for the postman every day. Any Indians here? How long did it take for your I-20 to arrive from the university? Does it take a month or so?

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Registered mail in the US would have a tracking number. However, the standard method to mail things in North America is "First Class mail" or standard post, which do not have tracking numbers. Registered mail costs about 10x as much as first class mail, I think, so it's not usual for mass-mail documents (like acceptance letters, rejection letters, I-20s, etc.) to be mailed in this way. That is, it is normal for them to just mail standard mail and it will probably take a few weeks to get to you.

 

In general, it's more efficient and economical for schools to just use regular mail as the first step and then use a courier later on if regular mail fails and they need to get it to you ASAP. So I would say, don't worry, the schools are experts at this kind of thing. Just keep an eye on the calendar and contact them if it's a few weeks away from the date you absolutely need the I-20 in order to get your visa on time.

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Thank you TakeruK, your replies are always the most informative and thoughtful.

 

I just wish the university had given the option of letting me pay for express delivery. I will wait a few weeks and post an update here when I receive it.

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Yeah, sometimes bureaucracy is really frustrating. But if you think of it from the other point of view, imagine how difficult it would be to ask the hundreds of new international graduate students how they want their forms mailed and then keep track of all that and collect proper payment! Most programs don't start until August or September so at this point, you still have a couple of months before you need your I-20! Good luck though, hope to hear that you receive it soon :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

UPDATE (or should I say no update): There is nothing to update since the package did not arrive yet. It has been over a month. It seems like I was right to be troubled by the fact that the university dispatched the I-20 via an untraceable, unregistered post. I have my doubts about the Indian Postal Service, and I want to know what would happen if the package is lost. Would the university generate and send a new I-20? Would this require some hassle or is it a routine process?

 

<RANT>

 

#!/usr/bin/python
 
TIME = raw_input("Reader, Do you have the time to listen to me whine? (y/n)")
 
if TIME=='y' or TIME=='Y':
     venting()
 
def venting():
 
    RANT = "Like everyone else here, I worked hard for years, spent a year going through the process of applying while juggling jobs on the side, then waited nervously to hear about what seems like a life-changing opportunity to me. I hear the good news, <insert description of ecstatic family here>, and wait for the I-20 to arrive so I can finally get the VISA thing out of the way. Meanwhile, I learn that the university has sent the most important document of my life in the same manner my father used to post letters to my mom while wooing her in the 70s. Awesome. 'Don't panic, run to GradCafe and ask for advice', I said to myself.
 
    Coming back to the university. I was accepted into PhD at multiple universities and I didn't accept any other offers except for this one, which is where I feel I belong. Meanwhile, I wonder if the university feels the same way about me. Not overreacting, but I'm a little annoyed how the university never asked me whether I would like to pay for express delivery--as they promise on their website to international students. I understand if you're sending such unregistered mail within US, or even to countries like Canada, Germany etc. However, you cannot be sending important documents halfway across the world to a 'developing' country like India, unregistered and untraceable.
 
   Tried writing to the university, their replies are the same: 'deliveries to India usually take 4-6 weeks, we recommend waiting another week'. Oh sure, after a month, I'll wait some more. It's not like there was an easier, safer way to get the documents across...that I would've paid for.
 
   It's funny how I cannot trace a package online the one time that I really need to. Meanwhile, whenever I order a pair of shoes online, the shopping website spams the hell out of my cellphone with precise GPS locations of the deliveryman in the vicinity of my house. One time, I clicked on one of the links given in one such message, and it traced the location of the local delivery guy on his motorcyle--on a freaking Google map. When he arrived, I was already out the door with a creepy count Dracula smile on my face: 'welcome my friend, I've been expecting you.'
 
   Anyway, if there are any other Indian students reading, don't make the same mistake I did. Call the university and explicitly request that your I-20 be sent through express, registered post. It's worth the $40-$50, trust me."
 
     print rant
 
</RANT>
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Sorry to hear about your frustrations!! :(

 

It's routine to print out a new I-20--they're not like transcripts or anything like that. I had to get my school to send me a new DS-2019 (same thing but for J-1) because they spelled my middle name wrong. You will also learn (or maybe you already know) that after you arrive in the US, that you need to get a new "travel signature" from your school on your I-20 or DS-2019 each year if you are traveling outside of the US. The signature indicates that you are still in valid F-1 or J-1 status. One time, I needed a new signature but stupidly left my DS-2019 in my office after walking all the way over to the International Scholar office. It was no problem -- they just printed out a new DS-2019 and signed it for me. 

 

So, once you reach the 6 week mark, contact your school again and ask if they could re-send it! It's still months before you would need to arrive in the US so I would not panic yet, although frustration is definitely understandable!

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Thank you TakeruK. I plan to call them to ask for a new I-20 by registered post if I don't get it by the 6th week.

 

This comic is very accurate in describing the F-1 process; box 5 specially applies in my situation. AND, that character 'Tejal' is from India as well. 

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So, once you reach the 6 week mark, contact your school again and ask if they could re-send it!

 

Alright, the 6th week would be over this week and I sent an email to my department's graduate secretary, that I have been in touch with, asking if she would advise that I request that a new I-20 be sent through express delivery. She didn't reply. :( Awesome.

 

Until now, I have been in touch with her and she contacted "Admissions Office" on my behalf. Would you suggest that I contact the Admissions Office directly now and ask for a new I-20? Or, perhaps my adviser? Although, I don't want to bring my adviser into this yet.

Edited by thegraydude
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You should contact the people that requested the information for the I-20 in the first place. At my school, this is the International Students Office. At my school, the department admin staff does not know anything about international student status. My advisor would know even less. It's just not their job.

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Call them man. Phone calls are way easier.

 

OK, I called the the Admissions Office and explained my situation--

 

Me: It's been 6 weeks and I have not received the I-20.

AO: Wait for some more time; we cannot go ahead and generate a new I-20.

Me: What if it is lost in the mail?

AO: It cannot be lost.

 

End of Story. Now, I have declined the offers from the other universities and I'm REALLY worried. An unregistered, untraceable mail from USA to India cannot be lost? Are you kidding me?

 

Now, I don't even know what to do anymore.

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UPDATE: I spent 1 hour over the phone, and 10 calls later, I'm told by the Office of International Students that it is in fact possible to generate a new I-20 and since many students from India are complaining about the same issue, they will dispatch mine right away if I make the payment at eShipGlobal.

 

THANK. YOU. Finally, I made the payment ($55--FedEx) and eShipGlobal will pick up my new I-20 from the university tomorrow, and mostly importantly, I will be able to track it online.

 

On a separate note, to the heartless a******** who didn't think before saying that the university cannot generate a new I-20 and almost gave me a heart-attack: @$@#%@#%!#@!@#!@ *)*%^$@@  (can't use profane language at GradCafe).

 

Stay tuned folks... for more updates on the drama that is my I-20.

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Glad to hear there is a resolution. I was going to say that you shouldn't be talking to the Admissions Office, talk directly to the International Students Office when I read your first post today but then I saw that's exactly what you did next! Hope your I-20 gets there soon!!

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I was going to say that you shouldn't be talking to the Admissions Office, talk directly to the International Students Office

 

Yes, this university is one of the biggest universities in the US with around 50,000 students. What I learned is that when you're dealing with a university of that size, it is crucial to know exactly whom to talk to about your concern. I cannot overstate the importance of this. The graduate secretary of my department was of zero help in the matter, the guy at Admissions Office actually made the situation worse, and no other office could help in the matter either--except for the right office, that is, office of international students. Ultimately, my issue was resolved when I talked to the person who was responsible for handling I-20s specifically.

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Final Update: I received the I-20 by FedEx 2 days after it was dispatched; still have not received the unregistered I-20 initially sent to me -- most probably lost. Oh well....onward to the next battle: F1 Visa.

 

End Remarks: Students from India (and other 'developing' countries far from the USA) are advised to pay $55 for eShipGlobal (Fedex, USPS, or DHL) lest your I-20 be lost and you wind up waiting, looking towards your door with hopeful eyes of a distressed Bollywood actress waiting for her lover's return. Remember, the person responsible for I-20 at my university told me that I'm not the first one, several students from India are complaining about the same issue.

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