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Immigration & Visa Explanation

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Immigration and Visa Definitions


Form DS-2019

The Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant J-1 Exchange Visitor Status is the Form DS-2019. This document is issued by the program sponsor (the university, government agency, or other organization sponsoring the visit) through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) for presentation at a US consulate abroad to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa. It must also be presented to an immigration inspector upon entry into the US. You must keep all DS-2019s issued to you.

The initial DS-2019 that you use when you enter the country is an important immigration document. Copy both sides to keep with your records. If you lose your DS-2019, contact our office for a replacement.

Form I-20

Students who are admitted, require a student visa to enter the US to study at OU (except Canadian citizens), and have documented the ability to pay for educational and living expenses in the US will receive a Certificate of Visa Eligibility, Form I-20. This document certifies eligibility for an F-1 visa. You must apply for the F-1 visa at a US consulate abroad and provide the Form I-20 to the immigration inspector when you enter the US. The I-20 is processed and issued through SEVIS (the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).

The initial I-20 that you used to enter the US is an important immigration document. Copy all pages and keep them with your records. If you lose your I-20, contact our office for a replacement.

Form I-94 / Admission Stamp

Prior to April 30, 2013, you have been issued a white paper I-94 that was completed for you by a US customs official at the port of entry.  There is an 11-digit ID number on the card. If you were admitted on an F-1 or J-1 visa, your I-94 card is marked “D/S” (Duration of Status) Do NOT lose your paper I-94 card.  There is a USCIS fee and a lengthy process to replace it!

If you were admitted in the United States AFTER April 30, 2013, you may NOT have received a white paper I-94, but your passport was stamped with an admission stamp and marked “D/S” for Duration of Status. You can access your electronic I-94 entry record online and print a paper version of your I-94 by visiting

Immigration Status

Often confused with the visa. Your immigration status (F-1 or J-1) is determined when you enter the US by an immigration inspector and is indicated on the I-94 or on the admission stamp in your passport. You may have many visa stamps in your passport, but upon entry into the US, an immigration inspector can admit you in only one immigration status. Verify that the correct status is indicated on your I-94 card or in your passport. Unlike your visa, your immigration status may be changed in the US. The US Department of State provides further clarification on visas and visa status.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

SEVIS is a data-collection and monitoring system that interfaces between institutions of higher education, the Department of Homeland Security, US consulates, and ports of entry. Schools must regularly update student information in SEVIS each semester for each student, such as enrollment status, changes in address, changes in level of study, employment recommendations, and school transfers.


Students in F-1 or J-1 immigration status must maintain passports valid at least six months into the future. You must extend your passport through your embassy or during a trip home.


Your visa is issued by a US Consulate abroad and placed in your passport. A visa permits you to apply for admission to the US. The visa may expire while you are in the US, but your permission to stay in the US remains valid. All international students (with the exception of Canadian nationals) who request F-1 or J-1 immigration status must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in their passport at the time of entry to the US. Your visa specifies the type of immigration status you will hold (F-1 or J-1), the date until which you may enter the US, and the number of times you may enter the US before you must apply for a visa. The length of validity of each visa type is determined by an agreement between your home country and the US government, and is not related to the length of your program of study. Please refer to the US Department of State Visa Reciprocity Tables for more information.

ALTHOUGH F-1 VISAS MAY BE ISSUED BY US CONSULATES UP TO 120 DAYS IN ADVANCE OF THE PROGRAM START DATE, US IMMIGRATION REGULATIONS DO NOT PERMIT F-1 AND J-1 STUDENTS TO ENTER THE US MORE THAN 30 DAYS PRIOR TO THE PROGRAM START DATE. If you currently hold a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, you will not be permitted to apply for a visa renewal until 30 days or less prior to your current visa's expiration date.

F-1 or J-1 visas cannot be obtained in the US. You must apply for a new visa in person at a US consulate abroad. The validity period of your visa does not determine the length of time you may remain in the US.  Your length of stay is determined by the completion date of your program that is indicated on Form I-20 or the DS2019. You are admitted to the US for "duration of status," noted "D/S" on your I-94 card.