Maintain Your F-1 Status
Important Immigration Documents
Certificate of eligibility Form I-20
An I-20 form is an official government document that certifies that a person is eligible to be an F-1 non-immigrant student at Mahanaim. This form is not automatically generated for non-immigrants. It is created when students are accepted to a full-time program and show that they have enough financial resources to cover the full length of their studies. It is then sent to the student in order to be used to apply for an F-1 visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
Once you have been issued an I-20 form, you should only sign the I-20 for the school that you will be attending in the United States. Signing the I-20 means that you understand all the rules and regulations that you will have to follow once you are in the United States. You should read the regulations listed on the back of the I-20 before you sign it.
To obtain an F-1 visa from the American Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
To enter the country for the first time.
To re-enter after a short visit outside the U.S.
To transfer to another school.
For entry of family (spouse, children).
To extend the expected program end/activity date.
A visa is a stamp placed in your passport by an official of the United States (or the country you are entering) permitting you entry. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States (unless you are visa-exempt). However, unlike a passport, once you are in the U.S., your visa is allowed to expire. U.S. visas are currently issued only at U.S. Embassies overseas and cannot be obtained or renewed within the U.S.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
The I-94 card is an electronic record of your arrival in the U.S. You have access to Form I-94 online, go to i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
All students should have F-1 written as the visa classification.
The card should also have an indication of “D/S”. It stands for “duration of status” and means the period during which the student is pursuing a full course of study, plus one year for optional practical training.
A passport is your country’s identification of you as a citizen. Your passport must remain valid at all times. It is not allowed to expire. You may renew it by contacting your Embassy/Consulate within the U.S.
Processing Your Frorm I-20
Once you are accepted to Mahanaim, the Department of International Affairs will contact you in regards to processing your I-20.
You are required to provide proof of financial support to cover your expenses in full for the first year and demonstrate the ability to cover your expenses for the entire length of your program. Once your financial paperwork is approved, we will send you Form I-20.
Paying SEVIS -901 Fee
Upon receiving the I-20, you must pay the “SEVIS I-901” fee. This fee must be paid prior to making the student visa appointment. Please do not forget to bring your "SEVIS I-901" fee payment receipt to your student visa appointment. You can pay the fee online at https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html. Once this step is completed, you can set up an appointment to secure an F-1 non-immigrant visa interview at the United States Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Visa Interview Appointment
After paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, to set up the appointment, you will need to complete the DS-160 online, nonimmigrant visa application. The DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State via the internet (ceac.state.gov). The Consular office uses the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and schedule a personal interview. Once you submit Form DS-160, you can make an appointment for your visa interview.
Visa Interview Preparation
There are certain documents you absolutely must bring with you to your student visa interview. If you don’t bring these, you may fail your interview!
Required documents for your student visa interview include:
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
A valid passport; must be valid for at least 6 months after you plan to enter the USA
Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
Receipt of your application payment, if you are required to pay before your interview.
Receipt of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment
Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, Form 1-20 (issued by the school where you will enroll and signed by you).
Additional Documentation May Be Required
A consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa and may request additional documents, such as evidence of:
Your academic preparation, such as:
Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.
Attending Your Visa Interview
A consular officer will interview you to determine whether you are qualified to receive a student visa. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans are taken as part of the application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
After your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing. The consular officer will inform you if this is required.
After the visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable to your nationality) and make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you. Review the visa processing times to learn more.
Initial Admission to the United States
There is no time limit on how soon you can apply for the student visa (although the visa cannot be granted more than 120 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019). The sooner you apply the better. Consular offices get extremely busy during the late summer months (June, July, August). However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the start date on your Certificate of Eligibility, Form I-20.
At the airport or seaport, travel documents such as your passport and visa will be reviewed. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer will ask specific questions regarding your status in the U.S. As a part of enhanced procedures, you will have two fingerprints scanned by an inkless device. You will also have a digital photo taken. All of the data is used to assist border inspectors in determining whether or not to admit you to the U.S. Careful planning and preparation by students and exchange visitors can ensure that your arrival in the U.S. is smooth.
Report To School After U.S. Entry
Report to the Department of International Affairs within 5-6 days of U.S. arrival to validate F-1 Non-Immigrant Status.
This is very important as we will need to activate your record.
Your record cannot be activated unless you report to school.
Bring the following to our office:
Your I-20 Form
Your I-94 arrival/departure record (follow this link to print a copy).
Your current address
Form I-515A (ONLY if you were given this form by an immigration officer at the port of entry)
Maintain Your F-1 Status
It is your responsibility to maintain F-1 status.
If the U.S. Embassy issued you an F-1 student visa or granted a Change of Status to F-1 by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they expect your stay in the United States is "to study". This is the only reason why you applied and why you are in the U.S. The following is a list of "your" major responsibilities and actions "you" need to take in order to properly maintain your F-1 student status in the U.S.
Full Course of Study
Report and attend Mahanaim after entering the U.S.
Report address change within 10 days of the change.
Register for 12 credit hours each semester if you are an undergraduate student
You must be enrolled full time unless your "reduced course load" request has been approved by the Department of International Affairs. You can request permission to drop a course. Please visit the Department of International Affairs or see PDSO or DSO for more information.
Complete your degree program by the date stated on your Form I-20. If you are unable to complete by that date and depending on circumstances, you may need an extension of your Form I-20. If you change major or program level, you must get an updated I-20
Please do not let your Form I-20 expire! To extend your Form I-20, please see the Department of International Affairs 60 days before your I-20 expires.
Exceptions to the full-time course registration requirement
If you plan to enroll less than full-time, you must obtain written approval from the Department of International Affairs before the beginning of the term. Here is the list of exceptions to full-time registration:
During summer or winter break
During your final semester if you need fewer than 12 credits to graduate
One (1) time per degree level due to difficulties with the English language or reading load, unfamiliarity with U.S. teaching methods, or improper course placement
For a medical condition or illness
On-campus employment must be authorized by the Department of International Affairs each semester
Off-campus employment (paid or unpaid) is NOT permitted during the first academic year and it is NOT allowed unless authorized by Immigration (USCIS). Do not work unauthorized.
Working off-campus (paid or unpaid) without specific written authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status.
Have a valid passport. You should renew your passport at least six months before it expires. Contact your home country embassy in New York or Washington, D.C. for instructions on how to renew it
Have a valid, unexpired F-1 Visa
Have a valid Form I-20 (meaning your Form I-20 is not expired and you are current student)
If you are traveling outside the USA, you will need PDSO/DSO signature each time you leave the U.S.
If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico or other countries please find out if you need a travel visa to those countries
Traveling Within and Outside of U.S.
Travel Within the United States
Federal law requires that you carry immigration documentation at all times. This includes your passport, plus your current original Form I-20 and I-94 record.
Immigration checkpoints can be as far as 100 miles inside the U.S., so if you are planning to travel near the northern or southern U.S. borders, you must have your passport, visa, and Form I-20 with you.
Travel outside the United States
Always make sure your Form I-20 is signed "before" you travel outside the U.S. Also, make sure you have an entry visa to the country you are traveling to.
If you are in the U.S. in F-1 status and want to come back to the U.S. after a short trip, listed below are the documents you will need to bring and show to the immigration officer when you return to the U.S.
F-1 students bring with you:
Unexpired visa (Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement)
Unexpired I-20 with travel signature (valid for 12 months)
I-901 SEVIS Fee
I-94 arrival/departure record (I-94 record can be retrieved here)
Letter of employment if you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Please visit the Department of International Affairs before traveling to Canada, Mexico, or overseas.
What is difference between expiration of visa and expiration of status?
Although your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 must remain valid while you are in the U.S., it is okay to remain in the U.S. with an expired student visa. The visa expiration date is separate from your length of authorized stay in the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or if you have changed your nonimmigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa in order to return to the U.S. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa stamp to enter the U.S.)
Can I apply for a visa in a country that is not my country of citizenship or permanent residence?
Applying for visa in a country which is not your home country or the U.S., called a “third” country, can be more difficult than applying at home. You may need to prove that you have continuously maintained lawful non-immigrant status during your time in the U.S. or you may be sent to your home country to apply for the visa. Refusal in a third country is more likely than at home, so you should plan well in advance of your date of travel.
Contact the Department of International Affairs
If you have questions regarding, but not limited to, anything below list, contact us by sending an email to email@example.com
Maintaining F-1 Status
Change Information on your I-20
Request Replacement of I-20
Update Personal information - Addresses, Phone Numbers, and so on.
International Affairs Contact
Department of International Affairs
300 Nassau Rd
Huntington, NY 11743