ii. Important Immigration Documents




PASSPORT 

You must make sure that your passport remains valid (meaning unexpired) for at least 6 months after you enter the US, and for the duration of your studies, especially when you are out of your home country. If you are in the US, and you need to renew your passport, please contact your nearest consulate/embassy to inquire about the procedures you need to follow to renew your passport.

VISA 
This is your key that allows you to enter the US. For international students, this can be either an F-1 or J-1 visa. Once you have entered the US, you do not have to worry if the visa expires as long as your SEVIS record is still active, or you are within . If you leave the US when your visa has already expired, you will have to visit the US embassy or consulate to apply to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa. Once you have entered the US, you do not have to worry if the visa expires as long as your SEVIS record is still active, or your are in your grace period.

If you leave the US when your visa has already expired, you will have to visit the US embassy or consulate to apply to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa.

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I-94 RECORD
This is your arrival and departure record. Since April 2013, the US Customs and Border Patrol have automated the made the I-94 record process. You will have a new I-94 number each time you re-enter the US. You can always retrieve your own I-94 record by going to the I-94 Retrieval Page.

Image of the I-94 page

  1. Most Recent Date of Entry
    The most recent date you entered the US, at a port of entry (Ex. Atlanta airport).

  2. Class of Admission
    What type of visa you used to gain lawful entry into the US, as an international student, this can be F1 or J1. If your parents entered the US, they would have a designation of B2 (tourist visa).

  3. Admit Until Date: D/S

    The notation D/S (instead of a date) means you are legally and lawfully allowed to stay in the US for the duration of your student visa status. It means that as long as you are maintaining your visa status, you are allowed to stay in the US.

  4. Details provided on the I-94 information form

    This information is based on the information the CBP officer enters at the port of entry, and if it needs to be corrected, please call either the Atlanta CBP or Jacksonville CBP office.

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DS-2019 
This is the form issued to J-1 visa holders (as well as their dependents) to apply for their exchange visitor visas as well as proof of their lawful presence in the US.

Image of a sample DS - 2019

  1. Personal Information 
    Make sure that your name is written here exactly as it is shown on your passport

  2. Visa Status 
    This lets others know what your visa status is, and this is important to know especially when you are applying for a driver’s license for example

  3. Program Start and End Date 
    This shows the length of your program, and this would be important to be aware of.

  4. Travel Endorsement 
    If you are traveling out of the US during approved school breaks, you will need to get a signature from your responsible officer to be able to reenter the US without any issues.

  5. Signature 
    Signing this document marks your agreement to follow the rules of your visa status.

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I-20
This form is also called “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students.” This form is generated by SEVIS through your SEVIS record, and proves that you have been accepted into a school that is allowed to host international students. This form also has the following information: SEVIS ID number, the beginning and end dates of your program of study and current term, requests for benefits and corrections, employment information, current status, etc. 
Throughout your course of study at VSU, you will at least be issued 2 form I-20s, but it is possible to have more. It is always a good practice to keep all these documents in a safe place.

Parts of a Form I-20

Sample I-20Sample I-20: Second page

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  1. SEVIS ID

    This is your record ID #. You will have the same ID # as long as your SEVIS record
    remains active.

  2. Form Issue Reason

    When you first get accepted into VSU, the form will be issued for “Initial Attendance” which
    is what you need to apply for your student visa. If you are transferring from another US
    school, this will say “Transfer Pending” until your record has been activated at VSU. After
    you have reported to VSU, and your SEVIS record has been activated, you will receive a
    new form I-20 with the form issue reason being “Continued Attendance.”

  3. Education Level
    This information will be showing what degree level you are planning on studying at, or are
    currently studying at. This can be: Secondary Language Learning, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or
    Doctorate.

  4. Primary Major/Major 1
    Your primary field of study. If you are an undergraduate/Bachelor’s student, this can
    change multiple times throughout your career at VSU. Please do not forget to let your ISA
    know every time you decide to change your major, even if it has been 5 times!

  5. Secondary Major/Major 2
    Students are allowed to have more than 1 major field of study, and while this is common at
    the undergraduate level, some graduate students might decide to do 2 graduate programs
    at the same time.

  6. Program Start Date
    You are expected to report to the school within 30 days before the date listed here. If you
    are not able to report in time, please inform the ISA immediately, and appropriate offices if
    you need to defer your attendance.

  7. Program End Date
    International students are given an estimated average amount of time needed to complete
    their degree program. However, some students need less or more time than what is listed
    on this page.

    If you need less or more time to complete your program, please let your ISA know as soon
    as possible, and make sure that they are informed before the date listed!

  8. Financials
    This is an estimated cost of attending VSU for one year, and the minimum amount that a
    student must show to the US consulate to meet one of the requirements of getting a
    student visa. Your sources of funding may include funding from family, VSU scholarships
    (ex. Music/Athletics), private scholarships, and any government funding from your home
    country that you are able to obtain.

  9. Student Signature/Agreement
    Your form I-20 requires you to sign your agreement here that you are going to follow the
    rules of your student status.

    If you have been authorized to work off-campus (ex. Internships), then an updated form I-
    20 will be issued to show that you have been authorized to work off-campus, or that you
    are engaged in either Curricular or Optional Practical Training.

  10. Employment Status
    If you have been authorized to work off-campus (ex. Internships), then an updated form I-
    20 will be issued to show that you have been authorized to work off-campus, or that you
    are engaged in either Curricular or Optional Practical Training.

  11. Employment Type
    Depending on the authorization type, it will state here what kind of employment
    authorization you have been given: Curricular or Optional Practical Training.

  12. Employment Start Date
    When you are allowed to start your off-campus employment.

  13. Employment End Date
    When you are allowed to start your off-campus employment.

  14. Comments
    Any comments related to your employment authorization.

  15. Other Authorization
    Any authorizations that are not employment related.
    Example: Reduced Course Loads

  16. Travel Endorsement
    You must have a valid travel endorsement every time you travel out of the US, and plan on
    returning to the US as an international student. Each travel endorsement is valid for one
    year, and it is important that you check this page before you leave the US, or else you may
    be detained by the Customs and Border patrol when you return.

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Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Form I-20s 

Do I need to have a new I-20 every time I travel out of the US?
No. You only need a valid travel signature on the third page of your most recent I-20. A valid travel signature means that it is less than a year old by the time you are planning on re-entering the US.

When do I get a new form I-20?

You get a new form I-20 for the following reasons:

  1. Your initial SEVIS record has been activated/registered
  2. You have changed your major (undergraduate)
  3. You have started a new program or education level
    • Example: Previous educational level/program: Bachelor's/ Business Administration and Management; New educational level/program: Master's/ Accounting
  4. You have been authorized for Curricular Practical Training
    • You will get a new form I-20 for each authorization period
  5. You are applying for Optional Practical Training
    • During Optional Practical Training: You will get a new form I-20 every time you have a new employer
  6. You are applying for STEM OPT Extension
  7. You have requested and have been authorized for a Reduced Course Load
  8. You have requested and been granted a program extension. 

I lost my form I-20! What do I do? 

Contact your International Student Advisor, and let them know. They will provide you with a new I-20, but it is for a good practice, that you keep a copy of all versions of your form I-20s, just in case you end up applying for a change of status or another immigration benefit.

Can I throw away my old form I-20?
It is always a good practice to keep all the form I-20s that you have been issued throughout the years. In the event that you need to change your status from F-1 to another visa status or even apply for permanent residency, you will have to provide copies of all of those form I-20s. Our office only keeps copies of students’ files for a certain number of years after a student has left VSU.

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