SEVIS is an acronym for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS creates an interface between institutions of higher education, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), consulates and embassies abroad, and ports of entry. Schools are required to make regular electronic updates in SEVIS throughout each semester on the records of their enrolled students in F-1 and J-1 status, dependents of F-1 and J-1 students, researchers in J-1 status, and faculty in J-1 status.
The Certificate of Visa Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status is commonly known as the I-20. This is the document issued by a school through the internet-based SEVIS. This form is then presented by the student to a United States consulate abroad to apply for an F-1 Student visa. The I-20 must also be presented to an immigration official upon entry into the United States. When traveling outside the United States, students in F-1 status intending to return to the U.S. to continue their education must carry financial documentation and their I-20. The I-20 and its corresponding electronic updates in SEVIS are a permanent record of the one’s activities as a student in the U.S.
It is very important for students to keep all I-20’s issued to them throughout their student status regardless of how long they stay in the United States or how many times they travel abroad. The I-20 is a very important immigration document and students should make a copy of both sides to keep with their records. If you lose your I-20, please report it to the Center for International Students immediately. Under most circumstances, we can provide you with a replacement form within 3-5 working days.
The Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant J-1 Exchange Visitor Status is commonly known as the Form DS-2019. This is the document issued by the program sponsor, through the internet-based SEVIS, for presentation at a United States consulate abroad to obtain a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. Those in J-1 status must also present the DS-2019 to an immigration official upon entry into the United States. The completion date on the DS-2019 must always be in the future. We urge you to make photocopies of both sides of the DS-2019 and store them separately from the original. Retain all DS-2019’s PERMANENTLY. If you were not issued a DS-2019, or if you lose it, please report to the Center for International Students immediately. Under most circumstances, we can provide you with a replacement form within three to five working days.
The visa is a stamp in your passport issued by an American Consulate outside the United States. It authorizes you to apply for admission into the United States at the port of entry. All international students, with the exception of Canadian nationals, requesting F or J immigration status, are required to have a valid visa stamp in their passport at the time of entry into the United States. Your visa specifies the type of immigration status you will hold (F-1, J-1, etc.), the date until which you may make entries into the United States, and the number of entries you may make before you must apply for a new visa stamp. The length of validity of each visa type is determined by an agreement with your own country and the United States government and is not necessarily tied to the length of your program of study. F-1 or J-1 visa stamps cannot be obtained within the United States. Application for a new stamp must be made at a United States consulate outside the United States. The validity period of your visa stamp does not determine the length of time you may remain in the United States after you enter. Your length of stay is determined by the dates on your form I-94 and I-20 or DS-2019. A student’s accompanying spouse or children who do not intend to study full-time is given an F-2 or J-2 visa.
I-94 Departure/Arrival Record
This is a record of nonimmigrant status and permission to stay in the United States. It shows your “immigration status,” the date and port of your arrival in the United States, and the date until which you have permission to stay. The notation D/S, indicating “duration of status,” refers to the completion date on the Certificate of Eligibility (the I-20 or DS-2019) given to those who wish to enter the United States in student status. These I-94’s should be printed and kept with your immigration documents each time you enter the U.S., they can be printed here.
Legal Immigration Status
Your immigration status (F-1, B-2, J-1, etc.) is determined at the time of your entry into the United States by the USCIS official at the port of entry and is noted on your I-94. Your immigration status is generally the same as your entry visa classification. Unlike your entry visa, your immigration status may be changed in the United States. Your legal immigration status must be maintained at all times by obeying the laws governing the status. For F-1 and J-1 students, this means you must attend the school that issued your I-20 or DS-2019, enroll as a full-time student at all times, make normal progress toward your degree, transfer legally, and not work illegally.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Duties of the USCIS include, but are not limited to, immigrant visa petitions, naturalization petitions, asylum and refugee applications. For more information, visit http://www.uscis.gov
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