Carry Immigration Documents at All Times
Federal law requires you to carry "registration" documents at all times, including your immigration documents. ISS suggests that you keep your original immigration documents in a secure location, and carry copies of your immigration documents for day-to-day purposes. However, if you are traveling within/outside the U.S. you must carry your original immigration documents with you. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.
Your passport must be valid for 6 months into the future at all times while in the U.S. You should contact the consulate of your home country if your passport will be expiring. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police right away, as your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. A list of foreign consulates located in the U.S. is available on our Resource page.
Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility
An I-20 is issued by the U.S. school you attend and allows you to apply for an F-1 visa, enter/re-enter the U.S. to pursue your program of study, and prove you are in the U.S. legally.
The information on your I-20 must remain current at all times throughout your study.
Contact ISS immediately if:
- There are changes to your field of study (major/minor) or legal name.
- You cannot complete your program before the program end date. You must complete and submit the Program Extension Form prior to the end date with ISS.
- You will graduate before the program end date. You must contact ISS in order to change the program end date.
Your F-1 visa is permission to enter the U.S. as a student, and can be expired while you remain in the U.S. to pursue your program of study. A visa can only be secured at a U.S. consulate, and ISS recommends that you apply in your home country. A list of U.S. consulates worldwide are available on our Resource page.
The I-94 card and a current I-20 are what allow you to remain in the United States as an F-1 student. The I-94 card should have a stamp of the date/place you entered the U.S. legally, and have written “F-1 D/S”. “D/S” stands for “duration of status” meaning that you are permitted to stay in the U.S. as long as your I-20 is valid. The I-94 card should be stapled to your passport at all times. Contact ISS immediately if you lose your card. You must apply for a replacement card, which can be expensive and time consuming.