Important Information for F1 Visa Students
Most international students hold F1 (visa) student status. The F1 visa is a non-immigrant classification which allows individuals to remain in the United States as long as they remain properly registered full-time students. Below is information for F1 students to have on a variety of important topics that affect them.
Visa Stamp, Status, Form I-94
What is referred to as a U.S. visa stamp is actually a sticker that is issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States and then placed in the visitor's passport. The visa indicates that the visitor is eligible for entry and reentry to the United States in a specific immigration category (F1, F2, J1, H1-B, etc.) The validity length of the visa varies greatly based on geopolitical agreements between the U.S. and other countries. To look up how long a specific visa might be issued for please review the U.S. State Department Reciprocity by Country site. Most visas allow for multiple entries.
Immigration status is your legal permission to remain in the U.S. under specific conditions as defined by a visa document. For example, an F1 student would have a Form I-20 as a visa document. In most cases the visa document will be (or will be extended to be) for a longer period than the visa stamp discussed above. For most international travel both the visa document and the visa stamp must be valid.
The Form I-94 is the “Arrival/Departure Record” issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) whenever you enter the United States. This record confirms that you have been legally admitted to the U.S. in a specific visa status, and for duration of time. For F1 visa holders the amount of time is indicated by the notation “D/S” which means you can be in the U.S. for the Duration of Status of your academic program. If you arrive by air the CBP will confirm your immigration status by swiping your passport. Later, you will then need to retrieve your I-94 record, print it, and keep it with your passport. Note: If you arrive by land you may be issued a paper I-94 record. Also, if you have an F1 visa and your I-94 record does not indicate “D/S” you should speak to a Messiah College DSO.
All international students planning to depart temporarily from the U.S. must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S. There are a few exceptions to this passport rule outlined on the government website (look for "Countries with Agreements ...")Except for Canadian citizens, all international students will also need to have a valid U.S. F1 visa stamp in their passport. If your current visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa while outside of the U.S.
Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of work performed for services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, this activity is not generally defined as employment, but can be considered to be volunteer work.
Contact a DSO
You should always consult with a DSO before beginning any employment. This is the only way to be sure that you won't engage in unauthorized employment and experience adverse consequences regarding your future in the United States.
Renewing your F1 visa
A visa in your passport issued by from a U.S. consulate does not determine how long you can remain in the United States. Therefore, you may stay in the U. S. beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the visa document (Form I-20) remains valid. Once the visa expires, it will be necessary to apply for a new visa stamp through the same process as the initial visa application at a U.S. embassy or consulate when traveling outside the United States.
As a service to international students, International Student Programs will provide a confirmation of immigration status letter for the visa renewal process. You can initiate this request using the drop-down in the Request a Letter box on the right.
It is not possible to renew a visa in the United States. Visas are issued only by a U.S. consul in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States.
If your U.S. visa has expired and you travel outside the U.S., you must obtain a new visa before you return. Applying for a new visa usually requires several weeks so you must plan your travel accordingly. If you are from one of the countries now requiring additional name check/security screening or in a high technology or technologically sensitive field, you may be subject to processing delays of four to 12 weeks.
Applying for a visa in a third country
It is possible for most international visitors to apply for a new visa in a country that is not their home country. Be sure to follow all U.S. embassy guidelines for applying, and additional wait time is possible if security checks are needed.
If you plan to visit Canada or Mexico to apply for a U.S. visa, it is particularly important that you check the Web site of the U.S. consulate to which you will submit your application. You will find instructions about how to make the visa appointment. If you are from one of the countries now requiring additional name check/security screening or in a high technology or technologically sensitive field, you will want to think carefully about applying for a U.S. visa in a third country.