F-1 status is a non-immigrant classification, which means that any F-1 student must demonstrate to the U.S. government at the visa interview that he or she does not intend to reside in the U.S. on a permanent basis.
After being admitted to the university, students are asked to provide a Form I-20/Form DS-2019 at their visa interview. Admissions will only issue Form I-20 for F-1 status once it confirms the following:
- The student has proficiency in the English language;
- The student demonstrates that he or she has funding to cover the cost of attending the University of Idaho; and
- All elements of the student's application for admission are present and authentic.
Citizens of countries with an official language of English are not required to demonstrate English language proficiency. Proficiency in the English language is most often demonstrated through standardized testing. Once an international student receives Form I-20 he or she may apply for an F-1 visa stamp. If residing in the U.S. in an eligible non-immigrant status, a student may also change status in the U.S.
Complete instructions and information for new students who wish to obtain admission and visa documents are available at Admissions.
Applications to change to F-1 status may be filed by matriculating international students who are residing in the U.S. in a qualifying nonimmigrant status. All other students must apply for a visa stamp abroad.
Applicants for change of status should not travel abroad after their application is filed.
Matriculating students in F-2, M-2 or B visa status may not begin studies at the University of Idaho until their application to change status is approved. Changes to F-1 from a B visa status are usually not approved unless the visa or I-94 is stamped with “prospective student.” Students visiting the U.S. as Canadian visitors or on the visa waiver program are not eligible to change status in the U.S. Students in other nonimmigrant classifications who plan to change to F-1 status to attend the University must apply to do so before beginning their studies.
Applications to change to F-1 status may be submitted to the USCIS up to six months in advance of the start date on Form I-20, but may not be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) until 120 days or fewer before the start date. Any dependent family members who wish to remain in the U.S. in a dependent status must submit applications to change to F-2 status.
To receive a form I-20 and enter the U.S. in F-1 visa status, students must first apply for admission to the University of Idaho. The Form I-20 supports applications for F-1 visas, requests to change to F-1 status and entering the U.S. in F-1 status.
It is the responsibility of every student to ensure that Form I-20 remains accurate and complete. In particular, in section 5 the "complete studies no later than" date should always be in the future while a student at the University of Idaho. If this date will expire before completion of your F-1 studies, you must contact the International Student, Scholar and Faculty Services (ISSFS) to apply for a program extension before the expiration date. Students completing their dissertation during optional practical training employment authorization do not need to obtain a program extension, but are only eligible for on-grounds employment up to the program end date on Form I-20 or after receipt of a valid optional practical training employment authorization card (assuming the on-grounds employment is in their field of study).
Page 3 of Form I-20 must be signed by a designated school official (DSO) in the ISSFS during any semester of foreign travel after initial admission. Students should visit the ISSFS about two weeks before planned foreign travel to obtain the requisite signature. Form I-20 must be presented at the port of entry when a student re-enters the U.S.
Page 3 of Form I-20 also includes practical training employment authorization endorsements. A student may engage in authorized curricular practical training (CPT) employment once in possession of a CPT-endorsed I-20. I-20's endorsed with optional practical training (OPT) must be submitted to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) for OPT approval. Only after USCIS approval and receipt of a valid employment authorization card (EAD) are students eligible to begin OPT employment.
Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) documents/proves a lawful admission to the U.S. in a specific visa status and any defined expiration of that status in the U.S. This form is issued to all nonimmigrants upon entry to the United States. Form I-94 is a small white card which is normally stapled in or placed inside his or her passport. The "I-94 card" (as it is commonly referred to) is a very important document. When departing the U.S. an immigration official will often wish to confirm that an individual has maintained status, and will do so by referencing the I-94 card.
For many types of nonimmigrant visa classifications the I-94 card will be issued with a defined expiration. Individuals holding these types of I-94 cards must depart the U.S. or extend or change their status before the expiration on the I-94 card.
For other types of nonimmigrant visa classifications the I-94 card will indicate "D/S" which stands for "Duration of Status". These I-94 cards do not have a defined expiration date, and remain valid provided that all conditions of lawful status in the U.S. are met. F-1 students should be issued an I-94 card indicating "D/S".
When an application to change or extend nonimmigrant status is approved, the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) will issue Form I-797 containing an I-94 card (in the lower right of the form) which should be torn off and stapled into the applicant's passport, exactly as when an I-94 card is received when admitted to the U.S.
It is important to note that loss or defacement of an I-94 card can be an expensive and lengthy replacement process. The replacement cost is $320. If your I-94 is lost or defaced, please contact International Services immediately.
Entering the U.S.
All F-1 and J-1 students (except Canadians) must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in their passports before entering the U.S. When traveling to the U.S., you should present the following documents to the admitting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer:
- Your University of Idaho Form I-20 or DS-2019
- Your passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of admission
- Your valid visa stamp in your passport
The immigration officer will stamp your I-20 or DS-2019 and provide you with a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record (a small white card that should be placed in your passport). Please make sure that the I-94 card remains in your passport throughout your time in the U.S. The I-94 card should be marked "F-1" and "D/S" or "J-1" and "D/S." "D/S" stands for "duration of status."
Using a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp and Form I-20 or DS-2019, you may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 (see section 5 of your I-20 or box 3 of your DS-2019). You may not enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status more than 30 days before your program start date. (Canadians and students from contiguous islands that are traveling without a visa stamp will be required to show the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee payment receipt in addition to their I-20 or DS-2019.)
All nonimmigrants in the U.S. must maintain a valid passport. Your passport is your way to return to your home country. If your passport expires while in the U.S., you are in violation of your nonimmigrant status, as you would be unable to return home. Passports should be valid for at least six months when applying for admission to the U.S. and when applying for a visa stamp. International Services recommends that individuals apply to renew their passports at least six months prior to expiration. Please contact your local embassy for information about the passport renewal process.
The period of admission on Form I-94 may be abbreviated due to passport expiration. Accordingly, please be sure to check any new I-94 card to ensure that a passport expiration date has not shortened your period of admission.
SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a U.S. Government database that maintains and manages data about international students and scholars during their stay in the United States. SEVIS allows designated school officials (DSOs) and responsible officers (ROs) to access and update this information. These officers are obligated to keep SEVIS updated with any changes impacting a student's status in the United States. DSOs and ROs at the University include admissions officers, international student advisers and the director of the International Programs Office (IPO).
Every new F-1 and J-1 student must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Students applying for visas abroad must present the fee payment receipt in order to obtain a visa stamp in their passport. Students changing to F-1 or J-1 student status from another visa status are also required to pay this fee and submit the fee payment receipt with their I-539 application for Change of Status. Canadian and students from adjacent islands (Islands of the West Indies) who are visa-exempt must submit their I-901 fee payment receipt at the time of admission to the United States.
For information on paying the SEVIS fee, please visit http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm.
All non-immigrants require a valid visa stamp in their passports before coming to the U.S. to work or study. Exceptions to this general rule include citizens of Canada or contiguous islands that are considered visa exempt.
In general, a valid visa stamp is also required for non-immigrants returning to the U.S. after travel abroad. An exception to this general rule exists when a student travels to only to Canada or Mexico (and certain contiguous territories) and complies with the automatic visa re-validation standards.
Visa stamps in passports are only for admission to the U.S. in a specific status, or visa "type". After admission, visa stamps do not have any substantive impact on one's status in the U.S. Therefore it is not necessary for non-immigrants maintaining status in the U.S. to possess a valid visa stamp in their passport. An expired visa may only need to be renewed for re-entry into the U.S.
These resources will have specific visa application procedures and information for your area:
- List of embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions
- 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa
Visa application procedures, appointment times and visa issuance times are subject to change without notice.
Visa application appointments must be scheduled in advance. You should plan to schedule your visa application appointment at least one month in advance. In some instances, applications must be scheduled many months in advance. Please note that you should ensure that you schedule your visa application appointment for a date when you will have all required materials. Visa applications will often require a document from the U.S. such as an I-20, DS-2019 or I-797. You should ensure that you will have this document at the time of your application.
F-1 and J-1 applicants (among others) must demonstrate to the U.S. consulate that they do not plan to reside in the U.S. permanently. These applicants should be prepared to provide the consulate with ample documentation that they plan to return to their home country. F-1 and J-1 applicants must also pay the SEVIS fee (SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) prior to their applications.
The spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 of a student in F-1 status are eligible for F-2 status. Only spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for a Form I-20 to support F-2 status. When a student applies to the University of Idaho, they must provide additional funds to receive an I-20 for their F-2 dependent(s).
If a student is already attending the University of Idaho and would like their dependents to apply for an F-1 visa stamp, they must complete the I-20 request form and provide the appropriate financials indicated in the Certificate of Financial Responsibility.
The F-2 status of spouses and children is dependent on the student's F-1 status. If the student is not in status, his or her spouse and children are not in status. F-2 spouses and children must also maintain a valid passport, valid Form I-20 and valid Form I-94.
Dependents eligible for F-2 status may apply for an F-2 visa stamp with their F-1 spouse or parent. Most consulates will schedule F-1 and F-2 visa applications at the same time, but it is important that consulates are informed that there will be accompanying F-2 applicants at the time that a visa application interview is scheduled.
Individuals in F-2 status are not eligible to pursue postsecondary education and are not eligible to engage in any type of employment. Before engaging in any endeavor that is linked to education or some type of work or volunteerism, the student should verify with International Student, Scholar and Faculty Services if it is possible for their spouse or child to do so. If there is any remuneration for services, the endeavor is almost definitely unlawful employment. Unlawful employment can also be unpaid work.
Dependents residing in the U.S. in a qualifying status may also be eligible to change status in the U.S. To do so, the dependents will need to submit a separate Form I-539 with their I-20. The F-2 Form I-539 should indicate that it is based on the F-1 student's change of status application. Both the student and the dependent Form I-539 should be submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the same package. All dependents may apply to change to F-2 status on the same Form I-539.
For purposes of U.S. immigration, students transferring to the University of Idaho from abroad who have not held any student status in the U.S. are treated the same as new students.
Students already in the U.S. in F-1 status who are transferring to the University of Idaho from another U.S. school must provide documentation of continued eligibility for F-1 status, including documentation of adequate funding. Transfer students should apply for admission by completing the International Student Application. Transfer students are required to attend the mandatory check-in before beginning their degree program.
Transfer students must work with their current school's designated school official to have their Student and Exchange Visitor Information Services (SEVIS) record released to the University of Idaho after gaining admission. A new transfer-in I-20 should be issued within the 15 days after school begins for the first semester attended at the University of Idaho.
F-1 students transferring out of the University of Idaho must complete the SEVIS Transfer Release Form and take it to International Services.