1. What is a form I-20?
When the university admits a student, it sends the student an immigration form called the I-20. This form indicates your field of study (major), the length of your course, and the date when you must report to the university. The form I-20 allows a student to apply for a student visa known as the F-1. In some cases the university may issue a form IAP-66, which results in a J-1 student visa. Because the J-1 is not available to most students, only the F-1 visa is discussed in the following questions.
2. What is the next step?
A. Take the I-20 and your admission and financial support documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for the F-1 visa.
B. Please note that the form I-20 does not guarantee receipt of an F-1 visa. The local Consular official makes the final decision on whether or not to issue a student visa.
3. When can I enter the U.S.A.?
The visa will normally allow you to enter the U.S.A. during a period of 90 days before the reporting date shown on the I-20. For example, if the reporting date is January 10, the visa will permit you to enter the United States any time between October 11 and January 10.
4.What happens if I cannot arrive by the reporting date?
You must request a new I-20 from your university. Many universities will admit you for the next available session, but some universities may have restrictions on readmission.
5. If my visa expires, how do I renew it?
The visa is an entry document only. The visa needs to be valid only at the time you enter the U.S.A. It does not need to be renewed if you stay in the U.S.A. However, you may wish to visit Canada, Mexico, or your home country during vacation periods. If y our visa has expired, ask your foreign student advisor to provide complete information about how to renew your visa. You may then apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you are visiting.
6. What will happen when I enter the U.S.A.?
An airline flight attendant will ask you to complete the I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) in the airplane before you land at the U.S. port of entry. You will present the I-94 form and your passport to the immigration inspector when you land. The immigration inspector will stamp the I-94 form with "D/S" (duration of status). "D/S" means that you may stay in the U.S.A. until you complete your studies. You should keep the I-94 form and a copy of your valid I-20 or IAP-66 with your passport at all times.
7. What are my obligations as a student on an F-1 visa?
Students on an F-1 visa must follow the regulations of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). According to these regulations, you must:
- register for classes at the university which issued the I-20
- be enrolled as a full-time student while you are in the U.S.A.
- follow the required procedures before requesting permission to working off-campus.
- request assistance from your foreign student advisor if you wish to transfer from one university to another.
8. Who will help me if I need to contact the INS?
The foreign student advisor at your university will help you take care of all matters relating to immigration regulations. Larger universities have several foreign student advisors to assist students with immigration questions.