As a foreign student in the United States, you should be aware of the immigration regulations applicable to your stay here and remember to keep all documents appropriately updated and valid. Therefore, you should be familiar with the following documents:
- Passport The passport is the legal document issued by your country that indicates your identity and country of citizenship. Your passport must be kept valid at all times whileyou are in the United States. The passport can usually be renewed through your embassy or one of your consulates in the United States. Some countries have agreements with the U.S. government such that a passport is considered valid for six months beyond its actual expiration date. Bearers of passports from these countries may remain in the United States up to the expiration date shown in the passport as long as no other regulations would prevent such a stay. (NOTE: Citizens of Canada are exempt from passport requirements.)
- Visa The U.S. visa is the stamp on a page of your passport, which permits you to enter the United States. Students will have either an F-1 or a J-1 visa. The U.S. visa may expire while you are in the United States; you cannot and need not renew it while you are here. A new visa will be required if the original one expires and you travel outside and then seek to re-enter the United States. Please note that while the visa does not need to be valid while one is within the United States, visa documents (I-20, DS-2019, H-1B approval, etc.) must be kept valid at all times while within the United States in order to maintain legal status.
- Travel Documents in Lieu of Passport If you have been issued a Travel Document in lieu of a passport by the government of the country of which you are a resident, the information above, regarding passports, applies to Travel Documents.
- I-94 Departure Record The I-94 is the white card, which you complete before passing U.S. border officials when entering the United States. (Some people are being issued a computer-generated card instead.) This is the document that authorizes you to be in the United States as a student or scholar for a specified period of time, in a specified program of study, or in a specific department at a specified institute. Two dates appear on the I-94: the date of entrance into the United States and the date of expiration of your permission to stay. For people in F-1 or J-1 immigration status, the expiration date is D/S (duration of status), which implies the date of program completion. (A more detailed discussion of the expiration of your permission to stay may be found in the upcoming sections dealing specifically with F and J visa matters.) The I-94, like the passport, must be valid at all times. The I-94 should be kept in the passport. It will be surrendered to airline officials when you travel outside the continent and a new I-94 will be issued upon re-entry to the United States. When traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands, the I-94 will usually not be surrendered but should be valid for 30 days beyond the date you will re-enter the United States.
- I-20 & DS-2019 The I-20 form (for F-1 immigration status) or DS-2019 form (for J-1 immigration status) is the document issued by the agency or institution with which you are affiliated (University of Pittsburgh at Bradford), which you present to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain a visa and which you present to border officials in order to enter the United States each time you travel abroad and come back. These documents are important records of your stay in the United States. Take care not to lose them and do not throw them away even if they have expired. If you are traveling outside the United States, you will need these documents signed prior to your trip.
- Important deadlines These are the dates by which the Office of International Services (OIS) must have complete documentation needed to issue the visa documents (Form I-20 or DS-2019)
- Fall semester - June 15th
- Spring semester - November 1st
- Summer semester - March 1st
Requests for visa documents submitted to OIS after these deadlines must be accompanied by a Request for and Exception. OIS will reiew these requests on a case-by-case basis to determine if there is still reasonable time for the student to receive the visa documents, apply for their visa, and arrive in the US prior to the start of the semester.