Students should NOT rely on friends, professors or staff in your academic department for advice on immigration matters.
While these people are well-intentioned, they do not know all of the regulations pertaining to a specific student’s immigration status and situation. Following inappropriate advice may jeopardize legal status in the U.S. or may cause students to lose available opportunities.
International students and scholars in the U.S. should be aware of the immigration regulations applicable to their stay here and should be certain to keep all documents appropriately updated and valid. You should be familiar with the following documents:
The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship and must be kept valid at all times. The passport can be renewed through your Embassy or one of your Consulates in the United States. Check with the IA for details.
The U.S. visa is the stamp on a page of your passport, which permits you to enter the U.S. Students will have an F-1 visa. Exchange visitors will have a J-1 visa. The U.S. visa may expire while you are in the U.S.; you cannot and need not renew it while on Duration of Status (D/S) in the United States. A new visa will be required if the original one expires and you travel outside and then reenter the U.S. You must present the I-20 from your school in order to obtain an F-1 visa. A valid visa may not be necessary for reentry from Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands other than Cuba, if you will be staying less than thirty days.
The I-94 is the white card that you complete before passing U.S. border officials upon entrance to the U.S. This is the document that authorizes you to be in the U.S. as a student or scholar for Duration of Status (D/S). Duration of Status (D/S) implies the date of program completion. Keep your I-94 in your passport. The I-94 is a critical document that serves as proof that you entered the U.S. legally after inspection at a port of entry. It will be surrendered to immigration officials when you travel outside the continent and a new I-94 will be issued upon reentry to the U.S. When traveling to Canada and Mexico, the I-94 may not be surrendered but must be valid for 30 days beyond the date you will reenter the U.S. or D/S. Recent changes to this process have created an electronic I-94. Some students may not be given a paper I-94. Use this website to locate and print your I-94.
The I-20 form (for F-1 immigration status) is the document issued by the agency or institution with which you are affiliated (i.e. University of Charleston) which you present to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain a visa and which you present to border officials in order to enter the U.S. each time you travel abroad and come back. A Designated School Official (DSO) endorsement/signature is required after your initial entry. If you travel outside of the U.S. during your “Duration of Status”, you will need to have the signature updated if the date of the most recent endorsement will be more than six months from the date of your reentry. See the Director of International Programs if you have any questions.
The I-20 form is now regarded as the permanent record of your stay in the United States so be careful not to lose it. Keep your I-20 stored with your other important papers (preferably with your passport).
PLEASE NOTE: A change in major field of study or degree objective requires issuance of a new I-20. Discussion with the Director of International Programs is required.
The Department of Homeland Security grants Duration of Status to F-1 students by entering the notation "D/S" (Duration of Status) in the upper right corner of the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (USCIS Form I-20), and the Departure Record (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service/USCIS form I-94).
In order to meet the Duration of Status (D/S) requirements, you must fulfill one of the following:
The "completion of studies" date in item #5 of the USCIS form I-20 is the date by which the USCIS expects you to complete requirements for your current program.
However, if you complete your studies prior to that date, your permission to stay in the United States will end after you have completed your studies, regardless of what the I-20 might indicate, unless practical training authorization has been applied for and granted.
If you are unable to complete your program of study by that date, consult with Director of International Programs at least thirty (30) days before reaching the I-20 completion date. If you are eligible for an extension of your time limit, she will assist you in complying with extension requirements.