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F-1 Student Visa Processing and Advising

Pre-Arrival Information

F-1 Student Status Information

The following information will help you maintain legal non-immigrant status in the U.S.

  • Immigration Documents
    • As an international student in the U.S., you have (or should have!) in your possession certain very important papers. You should always keep these documents safe and make photocopies of them just in case they are lost. The Office of Visa and Immigration Services will also take copies of these documents to keep in your file. They are listed as follows:
    • Current passport
    • F-1 student visa — this stamp or sticker in your passport allows you to enter the U.S. for the primary purpose of studying. Canadian citizens note: You are exempt from the visa requirement. It does not matter if it expires while you are in the U.S., but if you leave the country when it has expired, you must get a new one before you return to the U.S. The visa is only used to enter the U.S. — it does not have anything to do with permission to remain in the U.S. You may apply for a new visa either in your home country, or you may make an appointment at one of several consular offices in Canada to apply for a new visa. See the Office of Visa and Immigration Services for details.
    • Form I-94
      • Travel by land — I-94 card — the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the United States port of entry will issue you a white I-94 card and will indicate on the I-94 card your immigration status or classification (F-1, H-1B, etc.).  The CBP officer should also indicate Duration of Status or "D/S" on your I-94 card rather than an expiration date.  "D/S" refers to the length of time a student on F-1 status has permission to remain temporarily in the U.S.  
      • Travel by air or sea — passport admission stamp — this stamp will be given to you by the CBP officer at the port of entry when you arrive in the U.S.  Your passport will be stamped with the date of admission, class of admission and the admitted-until date ("D/S").  Your arrival information, including your admission number, will be processed electronically by CBP.  We strongly recommend that you print and save an electronic Form I-94 for your records after you enter the U.S.  You can access and print your electronic Form I-94 by clicking here
    • Form I-20 — this is the form issued to you by Dartmouth to allow you to apply for an F-1 student visa and enter and remain in the U.S. for as long as you maintain good F-1 student status (see below). You may not remain in the U.S. past the expiration date on the I-20 form that is listed in #5. When you sign the I-20 form before applying for your visa, you are swearing to the U.S. government that you have read and understood all the information on the back of the form. Before leaving the country for a vacation or break, you must receive a travel endorsement from one of five signing officers on campus. See the Office of Visa and Immigration Services for details.
    • D/S endorsement: When you come through customs, the immigration officer should inspect all your documents and endorse your I-20 (top-right corner) and your I-94 card with "F-1; D/S". This means that you may remain in the U.S. for the "Duration of your Status" — for as long as you are maintaining legal student status, and you have a valid I-20. You should always check that your endorsement reads "D/S". If it does not, please contact the Office of Visa and Immigration Services immediately.

Do not lose any of these papers. Please contact the Office of Visa and Immigration Services if you have any questions.

  • Immigration Status
    • Remember, it is very important to maintain your legal non-immigrant F-1 status. Please ensure that you:
      • Maintain a valid (not expired) passport.
      • Maintain a valid (not expired) I-20.
      • Take a full course load each term.
      • Follow correct procedures if transferring, changing academic goals, or extending your program of study.
      • Work no more than 20 hours per week if you work on campus.
      • Do not work off-campus without the required authorization from the Office of Visa and Immigration Services.
      • Keep all your immigration documents in a safe place, including your old I-20 forms. Do not discard old copies. Please feel free to come to us with any questions or concerns you have about your immigration status.
  • Travel to Canada
  • F-1 Visa Applications
    • A valid F-1 visa is only required to enter the U.S. Once you are within the U.S. and are maintaining legal status, your visa may expire without consequence to your immigration status. If you need a new visa, you may either apply for one when you travel to your home country, or you may make an appointment with the American Consulate in Montreal and apply for the visa there. The Office of Visa and Immigration Services has information on how to make the appointment and apply for the visa, or you may click on the following link to access the U.S. State Department website.
  • Additional Notes
    • You may find comprehensive information on the F-1 student visa on the U.S. State Department website, here:
    • Please use the Office of Visa and Immigration Services as your on-campus resource for information concerning your visa status. Do not rely on friends, relations, or other students for information, as they are often mistaken.
    • Although the Office of Visa and Immigration Services will make every effort to keep you informed of pertinent CIS regulations, you are ultimately solely responsible for maintaining legal F-1 status. The results of falling out of legal status, since the passage of recent new immigration laws, can affect your career and your life for years to come. Please be careful in all matters concerning your legal status here as international students.

Last Updated: 2/28/17