SEVIS I-20 Process

In order to apply for a F-1student visa or maintain your F-1 status you must receive a SEVIS I-20 from the school, which you want to attend.

Hostos prospective students will be asked for the following documents in order to receive the SEVIS I-20:

  • Application for the Immigration Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20)
  • Declaration & Certification of Finances
  • Affidavit of Support
  • Room and Board Support Information (To be completed if student will live in the sponsor’s home in the U.S.).


F-1 VISA PROCESS

What a student needs in order to get the F-1:

  1. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee on the USCIS web site
  2. Check the waiting times for student visa appointment make an appointment at the US Embassy of your country
  3. Prepare for the interview

INTERVIEW AT THE US EMBASSY

What to Bring With You to the Visa Interview

  • passport
  • required photo(s)
  • visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
  • Federal SEVIS Fee payment receipt
  • U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms (unless you will completing it at the consulate or embassy)
  • Hostos admission letter
  • Hostos SEVIS I-20
  • proof of financial support
  • evidence of ties to your home country
  • any other documents required by the embassy or consulate

* Strategies for the Visa Appointment
You are well advised to consider the following matters prior to your visa appointment, as you may be asked about each item.

  1. Academics: Be definite and clear about your educational plans.
  2. English: Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English.
  3. Ties to Your Home Country: Demonstrate convincing reasons for consular officials to believe that you intend to return home after finishing your studies in the United States.
  4. Financial Documentation: Be prepared to prove financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses.
  5. Be concise: Because of the volume of visa applications, all consular officials are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview.
  6. Not all countries are the same: Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas.
  7. Dependents Remaining at Home: If you have a spouse and/or children remaining behind in your home country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular official gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa will surely be denied.

* Visa Denial

The vast majority of Hostos Community College students will be successful in obtaining their student visas. Despite this, a small number of students may have their visa applications denied.

The most common reasons for visa denial are:

  • failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country, or
  • failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support

The USCIS officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please send an e-mail message to lsoto@hostos.cuny.edu and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the officer for the denial

AIRPORT

Expect to go through both immigration and customs inspection at the U.S. port of entry. You may also be required to go through a pre-inspection procedure at certain airports abroad. At the immigration booth, present your passport, your  SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, your proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment, and your completed I-94 arrival/departure card (if the card was distributed on the airplane). Expect to have your index fingers scanned for fingerprint purposes and a digital photograph taken, as required by U.S. federal regulations.

DO NOT enter on another school's certificate of eligibility, as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.

DO NOT attempt to enter the United States on a visitor/tourist visa (B-2) unless it is designated "Prospective Student" by a consular officer. The U.S. Immigration Service rarely authorizes a change of status from B-2 to F-1, and you will be prevented from enrolling in school until your change of status application is approved, which could take several months.

DO NOT attempt to enter the United States under the visa waiver program, available to citizens from nearly 30 countries throughout the world. The waiver program is designed for tourists only, and attending school under the waiver program is a clear violation of U.S. immigration law.

TRAVELING WITHIN THE UNITED STATES

If you are planning a trip within the United States by car, bus, train or air plane, to U.S. cities, it is essential that you have your passport and visa documents with you. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been heightened security not only at all border crossings, but also at bus terminals, train terminals, and airports throughout the United States.

Therefore, students are urged to be sure to have their passport, visa documents (I-94 card and SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019), and Hostos Community College student ID card with them for ALL distance travel, even travel within New York State. In addition, be sure that your current I-20 or DS-2019 has an authorizing signature for travel.

If you are applying for a change of non-immigrant status, visa petition or EAD card, be sure to carry your application receipt notice as well, which proves that you have an application pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A person without valid travel documents can be arrested, threatened with deportation and taken into Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody.

TRAVELING ABROAD

* PASSPORTS
In order to re-enter the United States, your passport MUST be valid at least six months into the future. Passports may be renewed at your country's embassy or consulate in the United States.

* SEVIS I-20 OR DS-2019
You should be traveling using your most recently issued SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019. However, be sure to save all of your previous SEVIS I-20s (or DS-2019s - formerly known as IAP-66s), as they represent your immigration “history” in the United States.

The SEVIS I-20 has to be signed for traveling on page 3 by the DSO.

Once your SEVIS I-20 has been signed, it is valid for travel for one year, as long as you are registered full time each semester and all information on your SEVIS I-20 remains the same.

****Lately immigration officers at the airport ask students for their Initial SEVIS I-20, Continuing attendance SEVIS I-20 and also proof of the SEVIS fee payment.****

* SPECIAL REGISTRATION APPLICANTS
If you were required to go through the NSEERS special registration process either at a U.S. port of entry or as part of a “call-in” registration at a district USCIS office, because you are male and/or from one of the 25 designated countries, or a citizen of either gender from Cuba, Liberia, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, or Syria, there is a special exit procedure that you must follow before you can depart the United States. Failure to do so can result in your being permanently barred from entering the United States. Although certain aspects of special registration have been suspended, the exit procedure remains in effect. Generally, this exit procedure will take place at the airport where your overseas flight will depart. The exit procedure can add several hours to your departure schedule, so be certain to allow plenty of extra time so that you do not miss your flight! You should have been given information regarding the exit procedure when you went through your special registration inspection.

* US-VISIT EXIT PROCEDURES (PILOT PROGRAM)
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has implemented a pilot exit procedure under U.S.-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program). This departure procedure requires that foreign nationals go through a process of immigration inspection that includes digital photographs and index prints at the airport prior to leaving the United States. US-VISIT departure programs are currently being tested at approximately twenty U.S. airports, including several that are popular for Hostos students: Detroit, Newark, and Philadelphia. For more information, visit: http://www.dhs.gov

* I-94 ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE CARD
You will need to surrender your I-94 card upon your departure from the United States. You will be issued a new I-94 card with a new admission number upon your re-entry to the United States. However, your SEVIS ID number (printed at the top right of your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019) will not change.

SPECIAL NOTE: F-1 and J-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days , who are not applying for a U.S. visa while there, AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their I-94 card. Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States. Canadian nationals should be sure to carry with them their financial documentation that verifies the information on their I-20 when getting ready to return to the United States.

* U.S. VISA
Check your U.S. visa stamp inside your passport. Has your visa stamp expired? If it is still valid, is it for multiple entry, or has the entry been used up? Finally, is the category for which the visa was issued the status you currently hold (for example, if your visa is F-2, are you currently in F-2 status or did that status change after you entered the United States)? If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and traveling to Canada, Mexico, or islands adjacent to North America, you do not need a valid U.S. visa as long as you have been maintaining your status, have a valid passport and I-20 or DS-2019 and are entering those countries for tourist purposes and your stay will be thirty days or less (you DO need a valid U.S. visa if you are a citizen of Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba). However, travel to all other countries will require that you have a valid U.S. visa before you may re-enter the United States. This is especially true if you changed your non-immigrant status while in the United States (for example, changed from F-2 to F-1). This will mean applying for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the country you will visit.

* HOSTOS ID CARD
Carry your current HOSTOS ID card with you as supporting documentation.

* LETTER OF CERTIFICATION
This is a letter issued by the Registrar’s Office that verifies that you are a student at Hostos Community College and that you are maintaining valid status. It is required for a new visa application. This letter is also required if you will be applying for a Canadian tourist visa. Any international student traveling outside the United States who will be applying for a new F-1 or J-1 visa should request such a letter from the Registrar’s Office at least ten days prior to travel.

* MAINTAINING STATUS
If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, this means maintaining full time registration each semester at the school you are authorized to attend, reporting changes of address to the DSO within ten days, refraining from unauthorized employment, not letting your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 expire, and following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions. J-1s are also required to have health and accident insurance for both themselves and their J-2 dependents, and the insurance must include a medical evacuation and repatriation benefit. If you think you may have violated the conditions of your status, be sure to speak to the DSO BEFORE departing the United States, as you may risk being denied permission to return.

* TRANSCRIPT
Have an official copy of your Hostos transcript with you ONLY if you will be applying for a new student visa abroad, to show the consular official that you have been making satisfactory progress towards your degree. An increasing number of consulates have asked for transcripts when students come to renew their student visas. In addition to the transcript, also have with you a printed copy of your current semester’s course registration, stamped by the Registrar’s Office.

* FOREIGN VISA
If you are visiting a country other than your own, you may need a visitor’s visa to enter. You can find out about entry requirements for other countries by pointing your web browser to http://www.state.gov

If you are “transiting” into a country, meaning that your flight home requires an intermediate stop in a third country, find out if a transit visa is required, and if so, if it needs to be obtained in advance. This is most common for students with flights stopping in the United Kingdom. For information on the requirements for “Visitor in Transit” visas in the UK visit this web link: http://www.britainusa.com/visas

* FINANCIAL DOCUMENTATION
Documented proof of financial support that appears on your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 is only required if you will be applying for a new student visa abroad, OR if you are a national of Canada or Mexico who is traveling home to Canada or Mexico for the summer. However it is recommended that you carry such information with you when returning from a trip abroad, even if your visa is not new.

* STUDENTS ON OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING
If you have completed your studies and have applied for Optional Practical Training, you may travel outside the United States while the OPT application is pending, provided that you can present the USCIS Processing Center Receipt, proving that the OPT application has been filed. However, once the EAD card for OPT is issued, and you decide to travel abroad, you can only re-enter the United States to resume employment. Thus, you must carry with you written documentation from the employer verifying your employment or a job offer, as well as the EAD card. DHS has clarified that the F-1 student does not need to have already begun actual employment before leaving, as long as the student has a job offer to which to return.

You must have your USCIS Processing Center Receipt (if the OPT application is still pending) or your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and written proof of employment with you, as well as your SEVIS I-20 endorsed for practical training, in order to re-enter the United States. The travel signature on Page 3 of the SEVIS OPT I-20 must be less than six months old. If you are on Optional Practical Training and will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the United States, you are advised that visa issuance for individuals on optional practical training can be highly problematic, since you may have a hard time proving that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. Such students are urged to discuss their situation with the International Student Advisor before they travel.

TRAVELING TO CANADA OR MEXICO

For travel to Canada or Mexico, first check with your Embassy to see if a tourist visa will be required to enter either country. You will need to have your passport, visa documents (I-94 card and I-20 or DS-2019), and Hostos Community College student ID card with you when you travel, and be certain that your I-20 or DS-2019 has an authorizing signature for travel no older than six months. Canada now requires tourist visa applications to present a letter from their school's international student office, verifying their status as a student.

In 2002, The U.S. Department of State announced new rules for non-immigrants who use the "automatic revalidation of visa" benefit [22 CFR 41.112(d)] to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to a "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico, and, in the case of F and J non-immigrants, the "adjacent islands other than Cuba") without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry. To qualify for this privilege, you must:

  1. Presently be in valid F-1 student status.
  2. Have a valid SEVIS I-20 in your possession, which has been signed for travel
  3. Have a valid SEVIS I-94 card with you (do NOT surrender it when you leave the U.S.)
  4. Have a valid passport
  5. Be in one of the contiguous territories or adjacent islands for less than thirty (30) days.

Warning/Caution:

If you are planning to travel to any of the adjacent islands listed below please be aware that Hostos Community College students have experienced problems when trying to reenter to the US.

Be sure to check with the INS. The adjacent islands are: the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Trinidad & Tobago, the Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, and the British Virgin Islands), the Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent) and other British, French, or Dutch territories or possessions in, or bordering on, the Caribbean Sea. Note: The special exemptions do NOT apply to students who are citizens of the countries named above. In those cases, students must obtain an F-1 visa to re-enter the United States, except for Canadians.

Under the new rule, ANY non-immigrant who chooses to apply for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico will no longer be eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but will have to wait until the visa is approved in order to re-enter the United States. If the U.S. visa application is denied, that individual will not be permitted to re-enter the United States, and will instead have to return to his or her home country.

Also citizens of "state sponsors of terrorism" (as designated in the State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report) are no longer eligible for the automatic revalidation of visa benefit. Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002 lists the following countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.. This means that a person who is a citizen of Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba in the United States in any non-immigrant classification can only enter Canada and return to the United States IF he or she has an unexpired multiple-entry U.S. visa in the passport for his or her current status.

However, non-immigrants traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than thirty days and returning to the United States (other than citizens of Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba) who do not intend to apply for a new U.S. visa can still make use of the automatic revalidation benefit, and re-enter on their expired U.S. visas, as long as they have a valid, unexpired passport, their I-94 card, and a valid and signed SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT I-94 DEPARTURE CARDS:

F-1 and J-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days, who will not be applying for a new U.S. visa while there, AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their I-94 card. Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States.

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