Immigration Documents 101

Each immigration document serves a specific function. It can be confusing to deal with so many different requirements. Here are a few definitions that may help.

Certificate of Eligibility

The Certificate of Eligibility is the I-20 Form (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students) that our office sent you. You used this document to obtain your visa stamp and also to enter the US. You are required to have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 while in the US. Please note the program ending date on the form. Whenever you travel out of the US and plan to reenter, you will need to get a signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 from the OISS office. 
Enrolled F-1 Students: Travel Signature valid for 1 year
F-1 Students on OPT: Travel Signature valid for 6 months
J-1 Students and Scholars: Travel Signature valid for 6 months

I-94 Form

The I-94 form, also known as the admission/departure record is an electronic record that is updated each time your enter the U.S. You can access your most recent I-94 here: (you will need your passport).
The I-94 is an important document. Your I-94 must show your correct visa type (i.e., F-1, J-1) and should be marked "D/S."D/S means "duration of status" which means your may stay in the US until you complete your academic program, as long as you maintain a legal status. If there are any errors on the I-94 record or you are having difficulty retrieving it, please contact OISS immediately.


Your passport is your certificate of identity and nationality. It allows you to travel in foreign countries and reenter your home country. While in the US you must maintain a valid passport, unless you are exempt from this requirement -- i.e., Canadians, citizens of the Federated Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. You can extend or replace (if lost) your passport through your home country consulate office in the US. Information on foreign country consulate offices (e.g., mailing addresses, contact numbers) can be found on the web at embassies.

Keep your passport in a safe and easily accessible place in case you need it in an emergency. It is a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport and keep it someplace in case you were to lose your original passport. A photocopy of your passport is not a substitute for an original, but it may assist you in obtaining a replacement from your home country consulate office.


The F-1 or J-1 visa is the stamp in your passport granted to you by the US consulate office abroad. The visa stamp is a preliminary entry permit. You are required to present it to the immigration service officer only when you are entering the US unless you are exempt from this requirement -- i.e., Canadians, citizens of the Federated Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. The visa stamp includes information such as the visa classification (e.g.F-1, J-1, F-2, J-2), the number of admissions or times you can use it to enter the US (e.g., one , two, multiple) and the expiration date . You are NOT required to have a valid visa stamp while you are INSIDE the US. That is, the visa stamp can expire while you are inside the US and you are considered in valid status. If you exit and plan to reenter the US, you will need a valid visa stamp to present to the immigration service officer upon your return -- except for short trips of 30 days or less to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands (e.g., Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados). You cannot obtain a visa stamp in the US. You can only get the visa stamp at an American consulate office abroad.