|Immigration Information: Immigration Documents|
The I-20 is the document that certifies that you are entering the United States as a student. It carries the name and address of the University you are to attend. The I-20 allows you to enter back into the country after each trip home or to a third country. You need to request it to be signed by a Designated School Officer when you intend to leave the country. Every time you enter back into the country, you need to present it to the immigration officer at the border. You will not be able to enter the U.S. without it and if you don't have it at the border you may be sent back home or detained.
Once you are admitted to University of the West and have submitted your intent to enroll, your I-20 (needed to apply for F-1 visas) will be mailed shortly thereafter. You will then need to present the American Consulate in your country with the I-20 form and any additional documents they request. For current information about the requirements for the consulate in your area, go to http://usembassy.state.gov and find visa services for students. (Due to the increased level of security clearances, it is advisable to begin the visa application process as soon as possible.)
Once you receive your visa, immigration law does not allow you to enter the USA more than 30 days prior to the report date on the I-20. If your visa expires while you are studying in the U.S.A., you still have legal status as long as your I-94 specifies D/S Duration of Status. You only need to renew your visa when you depart the U.S.A. and want to re-enter.
If you wish to go back to your country to visit and your visa is expired but the I-20 is good, you must renew your visa. If you leave the country you will need to renew your visa in order for you to come back. If the visa is not renewed you will be sent back when you attempt to enter the US. You can renew your visa at a US Embassy in your own country or another outside of the US, for example, Canada.
A student can stay in the US with a good I-20 and an expired visa.
If you are a current student at UWEST and your visa reflects another institution in the US, for example Columbia University in New York, you do not need to change the school on your visa so long as the visa is not expired and your I-20 is accurate. The only time you will need to be concerned is when and if it expires.
The passport is the first document you should obtain from your country. It determines your nationality. Your passport must be valid 6 months prior to expiration at all times during your stay in the United States. Do not ever let your passport expire. It is possible to renew your passport while in the United States through your respective consulate.