General Information

General Information


Visa  Immigration Status  Leaving and Returning to the U.S.  Helpful Websites

Visa and Immigration Status

It is important to clarify two legal terms – “visa” and “immigration status”.  We often hear students say “My visa is expired.  How do I get my visa extended?”  Some of the students mean their visa stamp on their passport has expired, but some really mean their I-20 or    DS-2019 Form is expired.  To answer this question, we must clarify what you mean:  the visa stamp or your I-20, or DS-2019.  If what you mean was your visa stamp in your passport, F-1 and J-1 visa can not be extended within the U.S.   You can only renew it at a U.S. embassy outside the U.S.  It is not necessary to do so if you have no plans to travel overseas.  If you mean your I-20 or DS-2019 is expired, you must come to the International Student Office for a program extension or reinstatement.  The following will help to explain the difference between visa and immigration status. 

Visa
The visa stamp on your passport was obtained at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad and is used for entering the U.S.  The visa shows the latest date on which you can apply to enter this country.  It does not show how long you can stay here.  When arriving at the U.S. “port of entry”, the U.S. Immigration inspector examines your passport, your visa, and your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019), and determines whether you are admissible to the U.S.  The visa functions as a key to enter the U.S.   When you are leaving and need to re-enter the U.S., you must be sure that you have a valid U.S. Visa for return. 

Immigration Status
After the immigration inspector at the port of entry determines you are admissible to the U.S., an immigration status is granted, which is shown on your I-94 card and your I-20 or DS-2019.  In most situations, your visa type and immigration status are the same, unless you have changed your immigration status after entering the U.S.  To maintain your legal status in the U.S., check your immigration documents such as I-20, DS-2019 and I-94 card (not the visa stamp in your passport) and be sure to register full-time.  For F-1 students, check the ending date under item 5 on your I-20 form.  For J-1 students and scholars, check item 3 on your DS-2019 form. 

Leaving and Returning to the U.S.

The following information will clarify what documents you should take when traveling outside the U.S. to ensure your re-entry.

For F-1 visa holders you must have:
• A valid passport
• A valid U.S. Visa (the visa stamp in your passport should be valid beyond the date you return to the U.S. and should have multiple entries)
• A valid Form I-20 (check the expiration date item 5 on your I-20 and check the second page of your I-20 for our signature)

For J-1 visa holders you must have:
• A valid passport
• A valid U.S. Visa (the visa stamp in your passport should be valid beyond the date you return to the U.S. and should have multiple entries)
• A valid Form DS-2019 (check item 3)

If dependents are traveling separately, they must have all of the above documents as well.

Helpful Websites

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (INS)  http://www.uscis.gov/
U.S. Embassy   http://usembassy.state.gov/
U.S. Dept. of State  http://travel.state.gov/index.html 
Consular Services in Canada  http://www.amcits.com/

  







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