Important Documents for F-1 Students


Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place, such as a bank safe deposit box. If your passport is lost or stolen, please follow the procedures outlined by the US State Department and notify ISSS. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's embassy or consulate in the US.

F-1 Visa

The visa is the stamp that the US consular officer placed on a page in your passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the US as an F-1 student, and need not remain valid while you are in the US (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa). If your visa expires while you are in the US the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the US. Exceptions to this rule exist for short trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. Visas can only be obtained outside of the US at a US embassy or consulate.

Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility

Issued by your school, this document allows you to apply for an F-1 visa if you are outside the US, apply for F-1 status within the US, enter and reenter the US in F-1 status, and prove your eligibility for various F-1 benefits. The I-20 indicates the institution in which you are permitted to study, your program of study, and the dates of eligibility. The I-20 must remain valid at all times. Request an I-20 extension prior to its expiration date. Allowing the I-20 to expire before you complete your academic program is a violation of F-1 status.

The I-20 is a printout from your SEVIS record. SEVIS is an internet-based database that allows schools and federal immigration agencies to exchange data on the status of international students. Information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the US. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number, which is printed on your I-20 in the top right corner.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

When you enter the US you are issued either an admission stamp in your passport or Form I-94, a small white card usually stapled to the passport opposite the visa stamp. In summer of 2013, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) transitioned to electronic arrival/departure records for air and sea ports of entry. For most travelers arriving by air or sea, a paper I-94 card will not be issued. Instead, the CBP official will issue an admission stamp in the passport. Travelers at land borders will continue to receive paper I-94 cards.

The admission stamp or I-94 card records the date and place you entered the US, your immigration status (for example, F-1 or F-2), and authorized period of stay (indicated by "D/S", meaning "duration of status"). Be sure to check the stamp to make sure it is correct. If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep it stapled in your passport. A $330 fee is required to replace a lost, stolen or damaged paper I-94 card. Consult your ISSS advisor if you lose your I-94 card.

You might need a printout of your electronic I-94 information to apply for various benefits such as a Washington State ID card or a Social Security Number. You can obtain a printout of your I-94 record at the CBP website.

Page Updated 04.17.2018