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Important Immigration Documents

A. Passport


You must keep your passport valid for at least six months into the future at all times. In order to renew your passport, you should contact the Embassy or Consulate of your country. There are many Consulates in the Boston area. If there is no Consulate for your country in the Boston area, you will need to contact one in New York City or Washington, D.C.

B. Visa

An official of a United State Embassy or Consulate will stamp a visa on a page in your passport. The visa stamp identifies the visa classification (F-1, J-1, etc.), expiration date, and number of admissions for which the visa is valid. It is necessary to have a valid visa in order to enter the U.S. Once you arrive in the U.S., your visa is allowed to expire. The validity period of the visa does not indicate how long you may remain in the U.S. after entry; your I-94 and I-20 Form (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 Form (for J-1 students) has that information.

C. I-94 Form

The I-94 form (Entry Permit) is the small white card that was stapled in your passport at your port of entry to the U.S. The I-94 is very important and should be kept in a safe place. It indicates your date and port of entry, visa status, and how long you have been given permission to remain in the United States. If you are a student with F-1 or J-1 visa status, you will not have a specific expiration date written on your I-94 form. Instead you will find the notation “D/S,” which stands for “Duration of Status.” The notation means that your I-94 Form is considered to be valid as long as you are a full-time student at the school you were authorized to attend and your I-20 Form (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students) has not expired yet. (If your I-20 or DS-2019 Form is expiring, please see Section V, “Extensions of Stay.”)

D. I-20 (F students) and DS-2019 (J Students)

Your I-20 or DS-2019 form is to be retained by you at all times and not surrendered upon temporary departure from the U.S. since it will be needed for re-entry. Both forms now have a SEVIS ID number that is unique to the individual student and will be important in transactions with the Immigration Service. It is very important that the form be retained safely for the student’s entire period of study in the U.S. since it is used for all applications and temporary departures.


The I-20 form specifically has a third page which will accumulate a record of all transactions about the student’s status such as extension of stay, transfer of schools, off-campus work permission, and recommendation for practical training.