Immigration laws are very complex. It is vital that you become familiar with all policies and procedures governing F-1 students in higher education. For information on your specific circumstances, you should contact the The Office of Cross Cultural and Commuter Programs and Services, or make an appointment. Please do not only rely on immigration advice from well-meaning friends, relatives, professors and others.
All foreign nationals who are in the U.S. on a visa should make sure to have these documents at all times:
Valid passport: Your passport must remain valid while you are in the United States. If it will expire during your stay, you need to contact your country's embassy or consulate at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/ in the U.S., so you can find out the passport renewal requirements for your particular country.
Valid I-94 Card: You should staple your I-94 card into your passport, so you do not accidentally lose it. When you depart the U.S., you will need to turn in the I-94 card either to airline personnel or to the INS. This is how the INS keeps track of your presence in the U.S. Should you lose the I-94 card, you must apply for a renewal on form I-102. This costs $85. If your I-94 card has an expiration date, you must not stay in the U.S. beyond that date - unless you have applied for an extension of stay or a change of status. If your I-94 card has the notation "D/S" written on it, you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are pursuing the purpose of your visa status (e.g. studying full time and as long as you hold a valid visa document, such as an I-20. Note: Always check what the INS officer at the airport/border writes on your I-94 card before you leave the immigration inspection area. Mistakes do happen, so if you are an F visa holder, and the INS officer writes an expiration date on your I-94, you should politely ask why he/she did not write "D/S" instead.
Valid visa document: Visa documents issued by CBU are I-20 forms. Approval Notices are issued by the INS. Make sure that your visa document is always valid during your stay in the U.S. We attempt to notify everyone whose documents are about to expire, but it is your responsibility to keep track of your particular expiration date. Now is the time to check I-20's, I-94 cards and Passports, to see when they expire.
Extension: The F-1 visa is for full-time students only. If this is your initial entry into the U.S. in F-1 status, then you must attend the school whose I-20 you used to obtain the F-1 visa for at least one semester. To maintain legal F-1 status, students transferring from another school in the U.S. must register with the Office Of Cross Cultural and Commuter Programs and Services immediately after arrival at CBU.
Your length of stay is indicated on your I-20, item 5. Upon completion of studies (which is the date you complete all work for your degree, not the date of the graduation ceremony), you have a 60-day grace period. During your grace period, you may apply for Optional Practical Training, travel in the U.S., or be accepted into another school or degree program. Once you have completed your studies, you may not go abroad on vacation and return to the U.S. in F-1 status unless you have been admitted to a different degree program or school and are using the new I-20 for reentry. If you have applied for Optional Practical Training, do not travel abroad until you have received the EAD.
Extension of stay: Should you need more time to complete your studies beyond the date shown in item 5 on your I-20, you should request an extension from The Office of Cross Cultural and Commuter Programs and Services 30 days before your I-20 expires.