Understanding Your F-1 Documents
Paying your I-901 SEVIS Fee: Use the Form I-20 from the school you decide to attend to pay the SEVIS fee,
Applying for your nonimmigrant visa at your U.S. embassy or consulate: Read the embassy or consulate’s website for more specific instructions. You can apply for an F-1 visa up to 120 days before the Program Start Date listed on your Form I-20.
Entering the United States: Bring your Form I-20 with you when you enter the United States. You will present it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry when you arrive. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20.
- Maintaining up-to-date records: If you fail to maintain your legal status, your SEVIS record will terminated and you become out of status.
Your first I-20 from SF State is an "Initial I-20". Once you started attending SF State and wish to travel overseas, OIP will issue you a "Continued attendance" I-20 to show that you are a current student in the U.S.
You must have a current, valid Form I-20 from the school that you are attending. If you are currently attending another school in the U.S. and wish to attend SF State, you must notify your current school with the intent to transfer. You should request your SEVIS record to be transferred to SF State. If you have submitted all the financial documents to International Admission Office or Graduate Studies, a transfer I-20 will be issued to you.
You can register for classes (you must clear all the registration holds) and attend orientation while waiting for your transfer I-20 to be issued by SF State. You can also leave the U.S. while waiting for your transfer I-20, but keep in mind that you MUST enter the U.S. with SF State's I-20. Be sure to make an arrangement how you want to receive your I-20 with the International Undergraduate Admissions or Division of Graduate Studies when you plan your travel.
Travel Signature on the I-20
Termination of the I-20
OIP will terminate your I-20 if you failed to maintain legal F-1 status (for example, drop below full-time without getting approval from OIP). Once your I-20 is terminated, you will not be able to use it for travel. You must take action to fix your F-1 status. Speak to an F-1 international student advisor for help.
A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to study in the U.S. must first obtain a F-1 Student visa. F-1 visas are issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside the U.S., and visas cannot be issued inside the U.S.
Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. However, they need to obtain the Form I-20 from SF State and pay the SEVIS fee. They should enter the U.S. with their passports, I-20 issued by SF State, and other supporting documentation.
Here is a list of useful resources:
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Student Process Steps: How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System
- List of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions at http://usembassy.state.gov/
- Education U.S.A - Prepare for the Student Visa
- How to complete an F-1 visa application form (DS160) (YouTube Video)
- Visa Wait Times - for Interview Appointments and Processing
- Check visa application status
Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record is a critical record, which shows that you have been legally admitted to the U.S., the class of admission, and the authorized period of stay. It is very important that the information on the record is correct. If you arrive by a land port, you will receive a paper Form I-94. If you arrive at the port of entry by air or sea, an automated Form I-94 record will automatically be generated for you by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. CBP will provide you with an admission stamp on your passport that is annotated with date of admission, class of admission and admitted-until date. The electronic arrival/departure record can be obtained online. F-1 students may visit this website to print their electronic I-94 number before applying for immigration or public benefits, such as a driver’s license or Social Security Number.
In addition, CBP will provide each student with an admission stamp that is annotated with date of entry, class of entry (F-1) and admitted until date (D/S for F-1 students) in the passport:
Duration of Status (D/S) is defined as:
- The time during which you are pursuing a full course of study (12 units for undergraduates/ 8 units for graduates per semester) and making normal progress toward completing that course.
- The time you may be working in authorized "practical training" after you complete studies (if you qualify and are so authorized).
- 60 days to depart the country after the program completion and 15 days to depart the country after authorized withdrawal from school*(*Please consult with an advisor at OIP).
Those who haven't traveled overseas after April 26, 2013 may still have an I-94 card (a little white card stapled in the passport). If you lost an I-94 card, you need to request to a replacement card by filling out the I-102, Application for Replacement/Initial Non-immigrant Arrival-Departure Document application. You will need to submit the form with the application fee to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).