Immigration Status & Documents

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your immigration status during your stay in the United States. Violating immigration regulations could jeopardize your student status. You should always consult with the International Student Services if you have any questions or concerns before taking action.

Tips on How to Maintain Legal F-1 Status

In general, students must remember to:

  • Keep your immigration documents valid and with current information at all times (including information on your I-20, passport, and F-1 visa).
  • Report a change to your U.S. address within 10 days of your move to the ISS by sending an email to
  • Maintain a full credit load and enroll full-time for 3 consecutive quarters before taking a vacation quarter.
  • Do not engage in unlawful employment.
  • Obey U.S. laws and the regulations governing your F-1 student status.

Unlawful Presence in the U.S.

Effective August 9, 2018, USCIS made fundamental changes to its policy on how an immigration status violation might lead to a finding that an F, M, or J nonimmigrant should be subject to the 3 or 10 year reentry bar provisions of INA 212(a)(9)(B).

Under the new policy, USCIS will start counting days of unlawful presence the day after an F, M, or J status violation occurs, unless the student applies for reinstatement or the student is covered by some other exception to the unlawful presence counting rules.

This means that you will start to have days of unlawful presence right after:

  • Your I-20 is terminated
  • Your I-20 is completed (perhaps ending OPT earlier than authorized or you request an Authorized Early Withdrawal, etc.)
  • After your 60-day grace period ends

INA 212(a)(9)(B) and (C) states: “Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence during a single stay, and then depart, may be subject to three-year or 10-year bars to admission, depending on how much unlawful presence they accrued before they departed the United States. Individuals who have accrued a total period of more than one year of unlawful presence, whether in a single stay or during multiple stays in the United States, and who then reenter or attempt to reenter the United States without being admitted or paroled are permanently inadmissible.

Those subject to the three-year, 10-year, or permanent unlawful presence bars to admission are generally not eligible to apply for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status to permanent residence unless they are eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or another form of relief.”


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.


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 our office 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 the International Student Services.
  • You will graduate before the program end date. You must contact the ISS in order to change the program end date.

F-1 Visa and F-1 Visa Renewal

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 obtained at a U.S. consulate, and ISS recommends that you apply in your home country.

If you are returning home or traveling to a country and your current F-1 visa has expired, you must renew your visa at a US Embassy to be able to return to the United States.

Documentation needed:

  • Your most recent I-20, with travel signature signed by your Int’l Advisor in ISS
  • Proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses
  • Evidence showing your intention to return to your home country upon program completion, including evidence of compelling social and economic ties to your home country
  • If you have applied or are already on OPT and it has been approved, bring a copy of your most recent OPT I-20 and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
  • Unofficial Transcript printed from your MyUW page if not graduated.

The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. Visit the Department of State (DoS) website.

You can apply in a third country for a visa, but you will not be able to return to the United States until the DoS issues your visa. In some cases, this could take several weeks if a background check is required. If your visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States. Be sure to check for specific information pertaining to each embassy or consulate.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

The I-94 electronic record documents every time you enter and leave the U.S.. The I-94 record is the only way to prove that you have entered the U.S. legally. A stamp with the date/place you entered the U.S. legally should be placed in your passport at the Port of Entry.