Immigration Documents and Maintaining Status

International Student Documents and Maintaining Legal Immigration Status

International students are required to abide by United States immigration regulations throughout their stay in the U.S. International students are admitted to the US by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the purpose of being full-time students. Participation by students in any other activity, from employment to vacation, is considered to be a privilege and is only allowable in accordance with strict DHS rules. Penalties for violations of immigration law can be severe and include deportation and 10-year bars from reentry to the US, so it is extremely important for students to understand their responsibilities.

International students are normally admitted to the US for "Duration of Status" (D/S). This means that they are allowed to remain in the U.S. for as long as they "maintain legal student status." Listed below are the documents that F-1 or J-1 students need to keep current while they are residing in the U.S. along with the basic rules that students must follow in order to maintain legal student status in the US.

Remember that it is the student's responsibility to be informed about immigration rules and any rule changes which occur during their stay in the U.S. The International Programs Office (IPO) provides international students at YSU with the necessary information to do this, but it is the student and not the university who is ultimately responsible for abiding by the rules and maintaining legal student status.

Document Type Instructional Use
International Student Documents

The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship. It must be kept valid at all times during your stay in the U.S. and must be valid at least 6 months into the future to re-enter the U.S. or apply for a visa. The passport can usually be renewed through your home country's Embassy or Consulate in the United States.

Certificate of Eligibility

I-20 or DS-2019

The I-20 (for F-1 status) or DS-2019 (for J-1 status) is the document issued by your school or a sponsoring agency. It is specific to the institution and program of study you will attend in the U.S. It must be presented to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain an entry visa and to immigration officials when entering the U.S. in student status. Extensions or updates may be made by contacting IPO or your sponsoring agency. After your initial entry, a travel signature on page 2 less than 12 months old is required in order to re-enter the U.S. in student status. Signatures can be obtained at IPO.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

Upon entry to the U.S., a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer will stamp your passport with your arrival date, classification (F-1, J-1), and expiration date of your status. The expiration should be "D/S" (duration of status) and not an actual date. F-1/J-1 students are permitted to remain in the U.S. as long as they have a valid I-20/DS-2019, are enrolled in the academic program listed on the I-20/DS-2019, and have otherwise maintained their immigration status. After entry to the U.S., it is important to review your I-94 record. Check the website, verify that the information is correct, and print or save a copy of the I-94 for your records. This information must be verified every time you re-enter the U.S. Contact IPO for assistance if the information is not correct. If you enter the U.S. at a land crossing (from Canada or Mexico), you will receive a paper I-94 card stamped with the date and port of your entry. Check this document for accuracy.

Entry Visa

Prior to arrival to the U.S., a student must apply for their F-1/J-1 entry visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. entry visa is a sticker on a page of your passport which permits you to enter the U.S. The visa may expire while you are in the U.S. You cannot renew your visa from within the U.S. A new entry visa will only be required if the original expires and you travel outside the U.S. and then wish to re-enter the U.S. in legal student status.

Maintaining Status

You Must Always:

  • Maintain a valid passport throughout your stay in the U.S..
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the school whose name appears on the I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Be registered as a full-time student (12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 9 credit hours for gradaute students) for 2 out of 3 consecutive semesters in the school year. You cannot drop below full-time student status without receiving Authorization for a Reduced Course Load from IPO.
  • Keep your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019 form) valid at all times. If you cannot finish your program by the end date listed on your I-20/DS-2019, you must apply to IPO for a program extension at least one month before the document expires.
  • Keep local and permanent address information current while in the U.S. If you have a change of address, you must email and IPO will update the immigration database. You must also update your address in the myYSU portal.
  • Maintain valid health insurance coverage.
  • F-1 students have a 60-day grace period in which to do one of the following:
    • Leave the U.S.
    • Change to another immigration status.
    • Obtain a new certificate of eligibility for a new program at YSU, transfer their SEVIS record or apply for Optional Practical Training.
  • J-1 students have a 30-day grace period in which to depart the U.S.
    • J-1 students must apply for Academic Training before their DS-2019 expires.
    • J-1 students cannot use the grace period for SEVIS transfer purposes or to change level but must obtain a new certificate of eligibility for a new program before the end date listed on the DS-2019.