You should keep your immigration documents current, secure and accessible.
Your Certificate of Eligibility or Form I-20
- Provided initially to apply for an F -1 student visa or to change your status.
- Functions as a record of F-1 lawful status throughout your stay in the U.S. and must be valid at all times.
- Do not let it expire if you still plan to continue your program.
Contents of I-20 Form
Current information on your:
- school, program and level of study
- program expiration date
- required financial information
- any dependents here in the U.S.
- financial resources
- Signature signifying that you have read and certify the information.
- Any notations by a DHS official.
"Instructions to Students" which should be followed to maintain your status.
- Any authorizations for curricular practical training
- Any recommendation for optional practical training
- Any endorsement signatures of a Designated School Official (DSO) affirming that the information on the front of your I-20 is correct and you are currently in status for the purpose of re-entering the U.S.
You should keep all of your original I-20s even after a new one has been issued to reflect updated information or transfer of schools. If you lose your current I-20, please contact ISS immediately. Your visa is placed in your passport at a U.S. Department of State Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S.
It is your permit allowing you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and to request entry as a non-immigrant.
- You might think of your visa as an entry key to the door of the U.S.
- Once you have opened the door and entered, you do not need to worry about whether your visa is valid or expired unless you leave and plan to re-enter the U.S. In that case, you must have your key--a valid U.S. visa--to be able to reenter.
- Even though your visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port of entry, it is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector who determines your admission, length of stay and conditions of stay in the U.S.
- Your visa is valid for a specified number of entries to the United States: one, two, or "multiple," i.e., any number, until the expiration date.
- If you are a Canadian citizen entering the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere, you are not required to have a visa, but you must show your Form I-20 and proof of Canadian citizenship.
- If you renew your passport and still have a valid visa in your old one, you may continue to use the visa in your old passport to enter the U.S.
- If you change your status in the U.S. and then travel, you must have a visa corresponding to your new status when you re-enter the U.S.
In order to obtain a new visa, you generally should apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate within your country of citizenship or nationality; it can not be renewed in the U.S.
- Contact the embassy or consulate where you plan to apply in advance to ask about the specific procedures and requirements at that location.
- It is possible to apply for a visa as a "third country national" in a country other than your home country, but you may experience problems not experienced in your home country.
- Is what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to keep track of your arrival to and departure from the U.S.
- Is a small white card usually stapled onto a visa page of your passport, however you can now retrieve it online.
- Contains an eleven-digit identifying number
- Indicates your lawful status
Lists how long you may remain in the U.S.
- Usually you will be admitted for “D/S,” meaning the duration of status for the length of your program of study as indicated on your Form I-20.
- Including any period of post-completion optional practical training.
- Plus 60 days.
- If you finish your program before the completion date indicated on your I-20, you are considered to have competed your program of study and your I-20 is no longer valid.
- Is to be surrendered upon your departure from the U.S.–upon your return to the U.S. you will receive another one.
Your passport is a formal permit to travel from and return to your issuing country.
- All individuals in F and J status, except Canadian citizens entering from the Western Hemisphere, are required to present at their U.S. port of entry a passport valid for a minimum of six months.
- List of countries that the U.S. allows entry up until the date of expiration.
- Your passport should contain a valid F or J visa for you to enter the U.S.
It is your responsibility to extend your passport before it expires or to replace it if lost.