U.S. law requires foreign citizens living in the United States to register their presence upon entry to the United States (i.e. provide valid immigration documents at the U.S. border) and to retain these registration documents in their possession at all times. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not always strictly enforce the requirement to carry immigration documents at all times. In most cases, the ability to produce documents within a reasonable period of time (from your apartment or dormitory room, for example) has been enough to satisfy this requirement. ISSS has generally recommended that an international student bring the original documents (passport and I-20 form) when traveling an hour or more away from campus so that they are easily accessible if a student is required to demonstrate legal status.
Recent changes to Georgia law indicate that the requirement to consistently possess the immigration documents could be more strictly enforced in the future. Thus, ISSS now recommends that F-1 students carry either the original documents OR certified (i.e. notarized) copies of the original documents – even while they are in the Atlanta area – in light of the potential for increased enforcement. If you choose to carry certified photocopies, please copy the following documents:
Passport identification pages that have your picture and personal information as well as official information (including its date of expiration). If you have renewed/extended the passport, make sure that you copy the extension page
F-1 visa stamp
Pages 1 and 3 of your current I-20 and any subsequent I-20s you receive. If you transferred your F-1 status to Emory, you should also maintain the originals and photocopies of those documents
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 to free of charge to actively enrolled students, faculty and employees of the University. Banks usually offer notary services for a fee. You may also search for notary services through The Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority website.
In order to ensure complete documentation in your file at ISSS, please also remember to submit to ISSS copies of any new documents received during travel outside the United States during your F-1 program.
The sections below describe your immigration documents in detail.
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 Emory University Registrar's Office. You may find contact information for your embassy here.
The visa stamp put in your passport by the U.S. Consul abroad is required to enter the United States, unless you are exempt from visa requirements. 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 North American continent, you must renew your visa. You may renew your visa by visiting the U.S. Consul in the country to which you are traveling. It is important that if the country is not your home country that you consult with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to your departure to find out if is possible for you to obtain an appointment at that location. It is not possible to renew an F-1 visa from within the United States.
Visa procedures may differ from one Embassy or Consulate to another. Before applying, check with the office where you plan to apply to determine exactly what additional supporting documentation is required. Visit the Department of State website to obtain detailed information on the Embassy or Consulate in your area.
If the visa application is approved, a visa stamp will be placed in your passport, noting the period of validity and the name of the school whose I-20 you used to obtain the visa. Please see our section on Obtaining a Visa for more information on the process.
The I-94 confirms that you have been admitted to the United States. The I-94 is usually an electronic record that can be viewed and printed by visiting the Customs and Border Protection website, but may also be (for a small number of students) a small card stapled adjacent to the U.S. visa page of your passport. 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. There may be a date written in the upper right-hand corner of your I-94. You must leave the United States by that date or apply to extend your stay. If there is not a specific date, but rather the inscription "D/S" (duration of status), you are admitted for the length of your program of study as indicated on your form I-20, plus any period of post-completion Optional Practical Training, plus 60 days. If you receive an I-94 with a specific date, consult with your international student advisor in ISSS.
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) affirming that the information on the front of the I-20 is correct 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 current program of study. If your form I-20 is lost, damaged, or stolen, you may request a replacement form by submitting the appropriate e-form via ISSS Link.