U.S. law requires foreign citizens to register their presence upon entry to the United States (i.e. provide valid immigration documents at the U.S. port of entry) and to retain their immigration documents in their possession at all times.
For students who may have concerns about losing their original documents, ISSS recommends that they carry at least certified (i.e. notarized) copies. If you choose to carry certified photocopies, please include the following documents:
• Passport identification pages that have your photo and personal information as well as official information (including expiration date). If you have renewed or extended the passport, make sure that you copy the extension page.
• F-1 visa stamp
• Form I-94
• Your current I-20
After you have made the photocopies, you should take your original documents and the photocopies to a notary public so that he or she may certify that your copies are true to the original document. During regular business hours, Emory's Office of Student Financial Services provides notary services free of charge to actively enrolled students, faculty, and employees of the university. Banks usually offer notary services for a fee.
In order to ensure complete documentation in your file, please remember to submit to ISSS copies of any new documents (form I-94, new F-1 visa stamp) received during travel outside the United States during your F-1 program.
The passport is your own government's permit for you to leave and re-enter your home country. You should ensure that your passport is valid six months into the future at all times. To renew from within the United States, contact your local embassy for more information about the process. If you are required to supply a letter affirming that you are a student at Emory University, you can request an official letter from the Office of the Registrar. You may find contact information for your embassy here.
The visa is a color sticker placed in your passport by the U.S. consul abroad and is required to enter the United States (with a few exceptions). It indicates the classification status you will have upon admission to the United States. If your visa has expired and you will travel outside the U.S., you must renew your visa. It is not possible to renew an F-1 visa from within the United States.
The I-94 confirms that you have been admitted to the United States. Prior to April 26, 2013, the I-94 was usually stapled adjacent to the U.S. visa page of your passport. The I-94 is now an electronic document and is no longer issued in paper form (except in special circumstances). Students may download, save, and print a copy of the electronic document by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94. It contains an 11-digit identifying number that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to keep track of your arrival in and departure from the United States.
The I-20 is the immigration document issued for the program (major) and level of study that you are presently pursuing. Page 3 of the I-20 contains lines for an endorsement by a Designated School Official (DSO) for the purpose of re-entering the United States. There are spaces for information about the F-1 student's dependents and for all forms of employment authorization or notations by a DHS official. It is important to note that your I-20 should not expire while you are pursing your program of study.