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Travel Documents

Please read over the following information to better understand important international student travel documents.
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  • VISA INFORMATION

    • Your visa is placed in your passport at a U.S. Department of State Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S.
    • It is your permit allowing you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and to request entry as a non-immigrant.

      • You might think of your visa as an entry key to the door of the U.S.
      • Once you have opened the door and entered, you do not need to worry about whether your visa is valid or expired unless you leave and plan to re-enter the U.S. In that case, you must have your key--a valid U.S. visa--to be able to reenter.
      • Even though your visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port of entry, it is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector who determines your admission, length of stay and conditions of stay in the U.S.
      • Your visa is valid for a specified number of entries to the United States: one, two, or "multiple," i.e., any number, until the expiration date.
      • If you are a Canadian citizen entering the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere, you are not required to have a visa, but you must show your Form I-20 and proof of Canadian citizenship. more
      • If you renew your passport and still have a valid visa in your old one, you may continue to use the visa in your old passport to enter the U.S.
      • If you change your status in the U.S. and then travel, you must have a visa corresponding to your new status when you re-enter the U.S.
      • Questions and Answers
      • Validity of your visa after a subsequent break in studies
    • Application information

      • In order to obtain a new visa, you generally should apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate within your country of citizenship or nationality; it can not be renewed in the U.S.
    • Contact the embassy or consulate where you plan to apply in advance to ask about the specific procedures and requirements at that location.
    • It is possible to apply for a visa as a "third country national" in a country other than your home country, but you may experience problems not experienced in your home country.
    • Visa Appointment Strategies

    VISA APPOINTMENT STRATEGIES

    General.

    • Check before hand to see if you need a visa to enter the country where you will have your interview.
    • Have a valid passport in your possession.
    • Make sure that you answer all questions in your visa application and any related forms.
    • Business dress is appropriate apparel for the interview.
    • Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak in your own behalf.

    Academics. Be definite and clear about your educational plans. You should be able to explain precisely what you wish to study and why. Be especially prepared to explain reasons for studying in the United States rather than your country.

    Financial documentation. Be prepared to prove financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses. While it is true that when authorized you will be able to work part time during your studies, such employment is considered incidental to your main purpose of completing your education. You must show the consular officer that you have available the annual amount in U.S. dollars listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Your financial evidence should be in the form of bank statements, affidavits of support, scholarship award letters. etc.

    Ties to your home country. Be able to provide convincing reasons for consular officials to believe that you intend to return home after studies in the U.S. Emphasize ties to your home country such as family obligations, property or investments that you own or will inherit and clear explanations of how you plan to use your education to help your country or pursue a career when you return home.

    Dependents remaining at home. If you have a spouse and/or children remaining behind in your home country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular official gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa will almost surely be denied.

    Focus. Because of the volume of visa applications, all consular officials are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision for the most part, on the impression they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Officials try to detect an applicant's intentions that may be different than those of a potential student who is to return to their home country after training. Keep your answers short and to the point.

    VISA VALIDITY AFTER BREAK IN STUDIES

    The Department of State (DOS) issued guidance clarifying whether an F-1 visa remains valid after a student has a break in studies longer than five months.

    The guidance notes that there are two circumstances where a student's visa is automatically invalidated after such a lengthy break, including lengthy breaks by certain students who: (1) are not studying but remain in the United States; and (2) depart the United States while in valid student status.

    Students Who Do Not Resume Studies Within 5 Months. The new guidance states that an individual admitted in F-1 status to study in the United States who is transferring between schools or programs is no longer regarded to be in student status if classes are not resumed: (1) within five months of the date of transferring out of the previous school, or (2) within five months of the date of program completion, whichever is applicable. No formal finding of loss of status needs to be made.

    In order for that student to restore lawful status, he or she must apply for reinstatement of student status with USCIS. A student may pursue studies while reinstatement is pending. If student status is restored, then the student's F-1 visa remains valid (assuming that the visa has not expired). If the student is denied reinstatement, however, the student is held to have lost F-1 status at that point. Any valid student visa that was in the student's possession would be invalidated under INA § 222(g). Because the student is considered to be out-of-status from the time that reinstatement is denied, the student must immediately depart the United States.

    The guidance notes that while there is no bar for a student who was denied reinstatement from applying for and receiving another student visa, consular officers should review the circumstances surrounding why the student ceased full-time study and lost status in the first place, including any actual status violation, in determining whether the applicant is a bona fide student at the time of application.

    Students Who Depart While In Valid Student Status. Students who are enrolled in schools in the United States often take a break from studies and return home for a semester or more. The guidance notes that when a student has been out of the country for more than five months, the student's F-1 visa will be considered to be invalid under current rules. Under DHS regulations, after an absence of more than five months, an alien is no longer admissible as a continuing student. Because a student who has been out longer than five months can be found inadmissible, the guidance states, that student's F-1 visa is subject to cancellation and should not be used, even though it remains valid on its face.

    A student who wishes to resume study in the United States in these cases must obtain a new visa. In order to apply, the student should either obtain a new I-20 from the school or verify that his/her previous I-20 remains valid and SEVIS record is in active status before applying for a new F-1 visa.

    The new guidance also notes that students who have the approval of their schools to take an extended break from study must have their SEVIS record terminated for "Authorized Withdrawal." When the student is ready to resume study, the school must issue the student a new initial Form I-20 with a new SEVIS number. These students must pay a new SEVIS I-901 fee in these cases.

    Finally, some students depart the United States for extended periods of time for activities related to their course of study, such as field research. The DOS guidance observes that schools are expected to maintain those students in an active SEVIS status. Since these students continue to maintain their student status while overseas, their F-1 visas are not considered to be invalid after an absence of more than five months.

  • You should keep your immigration documents current, secure and accessible.

    • Your passport is a formal permit to travel from and return to your issuing country.
    • All individuals in F and J status, except Canadian citizens entering from the Western Hemisphere, are required to present at their U.S. port of entry a passport valid for a minimum of six months.

    • Your passport should contain a valid F or J visa for you to enter the U.S.
    • It is your responsibility to extend your passport before it expires or to replace it if lost.

      • Information on renewing your passport is available from your country's consulate or embassy.
      • As part of your application materials, you may request a certification letter of your status at BYU from International Student and Scholar Services. To obtain a certification letter:

        • Log in to ist.byu.edu
        • Select "F-1 Student Services" from the left menu
        • Click on "Letter of Certification Request"
        • Complete and submit request

        OR

        • You may obtain a Certification Letter Request in our office, complete it there, and leave it for processing.
  • Please click on the following link to view information regarding Form I-20s — Form I-20 Information

  • You, as a J-1 exchange visitor, do not request a DS-2019. Depending upon your category, either your academic department, the Kennedy Center or Graduate Studies will request a DS-2019 for you which will be mailed to you with more information.

    You should keep your immigration documents current, secure and accessible.

    Your government Form DS-2019, issued through BYU, is a certificate of eligibility

    • provided initially for you to apply for a J visa or to change your lawful status,
    • but it functions as a record of J lawful status throughout your stay in the U.S. and must be valid at all times.
    • Do not let it expire if you still plan to continue your program.

    Contents

    • Page 1:
      • Current information on your
        • school and program
        • program expiration date
        • any dependents here in the U.S.
        • financial requirements and resources
      • Your signature signifying that you have read and certify the information
      • Lines for an endorsement by a Designated School Official (DSO) affirming that the information is correct for the purpose of re-entering the U.S.
      • Any notations by a DHS official
    • Page 2: Instructions which should be followed to maintain your status

    You should keep all of your original DS-2019s even after a new one has been issued to reflect updated information or transfer of schools. If you lose your current DS-2019, request a replacement from International Student Services.

  • Your Form I-94, Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record

    • Your I-94 is a Department-of-Homeland-Security-issued document that was created when you entered the US. You should obtain it by either:
      • Printing it after your arrival by air or sea OR
      • Receiving a small white card stapled onto a visa page of your passport when you enter at a land port of entry. A new one is also created if you receive a Form I-515A.
    • The I-94 shows the following information:
      • Your port of entry and date of entry
      • An eleven-digit identifying number
      • Your lawful status
      • Certification of your employment eligibility as part of a Form I-9
      • and the specific time that you may remain in the U.S.
        • Usually you will be admitted for “D/S,” meaning the duration of status for the length of your program of study as indicated on your Form I-20 (Form DS-2019 for Js)
        • including any period of post-completion optional practical training (academic training)
        • plus 60 days (30 days for a J-1)
    • Your I-94 is invalid after leaving the U.S.–upon your return to the U.S. you will receive another one–unless you travel to a continuous country or U.S. territory for less than 30 days; where upon, it remains valid.
    • To print your I-94, click HERE and you will then be directed to the I-94 government website. At that point you will be asked to enter information from your passport. If the correct information is entered your I-94 will appear and you will be given the option to print the document. If your I-94 does not appear please come into our office and we will assist you in locating your I-94.