General Immigration Information

Important Documents

Passport:  The passport must be kept valid at all times during your stay in the U.S. It must be valid at least 6 months into the future to reenter the U.S. or to apply for a visa renewal. The passport is usually renewable through your embassy or consulate in the U.S.

I-20:  This 3-page document is issued to students in F-1 status by an educational institution. The Form I-20 must be presented to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain a visa and to immigration officials upon each subsequent reentry to the U.S. Page 3 must contain a valid signature (no more than one year) for authorized reentry in F-1 status. ONLY an International Student Adviser in the International Student Services is authorized to sign Form I-20.

F-1 Visa:  The student visa, which is a stamp or sticker placed in the passport at the American embassy or consulate permits you to enter the U.S.  The expiration date on the visa is the last day you can use it to enter the U.S. Once you enter the U.S., the date does not matter.  The visa may expire while you are in the U.S.  You cannot and need not renew it while you are here. If the original visa expires, a new entry visa is required for subsequent reentries to the U.S. following travel abroad.

I-94 Card: Form I-94 is the Department of Homeland Security Arrival/Departure Record issued to aliens who are admitted to the U.S., who are adjusting status while in the U.S. or extending their stay, among other things. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer generally attaches the I-94 to the non-immigrant visitor’s passport upon U.S. entry. The visitor must exit the U.S. on or before the departure date stamped on the I-94.

I-94 Automation:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer issue a paper Form I-94 to students and scholars upon entry to the U.S., with some exceptions. Instead the I-94 is recorded electronically, and can be downloaded and printed at
  • CBP officer will provide each admitted non-immigrant traveler with an admission stamp on their passport noting the date and class of admission (F-1, J-1), and the expiration of stay in the U.S.
  • You will need a copy of your I-94 information when applying for a driver’s license, social security number or employment authorization document to verify your immigration status.
  • To retrieve your I-94 Admission number, go to enter the information as it appears on the travel document you used to enter the United States. For more information on I-94 automation or any CBP related questions, visit

Maintaining Status


  • Maintain valid passport (for you and your dependents)
  • Attend the school whose name appears on the I-20
  • Register full-time: – Do not drop below full-time without advanced authorization by your International Student Adviser
  • Maintain a valid I-20: – Apply for extension at least one month before your I-20 expiration date
  • Consult your International Student Adviser in order to initiate an academic transfer
  • Obtain a travel signature (on I-20 page 3) from your International Student Adviser before you depart the U.S. (for you and your dependents)
  • Notify ISS within 10 days of a change of address or telephone number
  • Do one of the following within 60 days after program completion:
  • Apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) Employment
  • Depart the U.S.
  • Transfer and obtain a new I-20 from your new school/program, and enroll
  • Change to another immigration status
  • Depart the country within 15 days after academic withdrawal

NOTE:  As an international student, you must submit U.S. tax forms each year whether or not you receive any U.S. income.


  • Work off-campus without authorization from your International Student Adviser
  • Work on-campus more than 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • Take leave of absence without authorization from the International Student Services
  • Drop below full-time without authorization from your International Student Adviser
  • Accept an I-20 signature or advice from anyone other than ISS staff

Full-Time Enrollment Requirement

  • Immigration regulations require all undergraduate students to enroll for at least 12 credit hours per semester, and graduate students must enroll for at least 9 credit hours per semester.
  • Graduate students who have completed all their coursework may enroll in the zero-credit research only course which is considered full-time.

How do I get Authorization to drop below Full-Time?

Reducing course load below full-time can only be approved by the International Student Services based on one of the reasons that are outlined in the Reduced Course Load Authorization (RCL) form.  If one of the reasons applies to your situation then you must complete the Reduced Course Load Authorization form and have the form signed by your academic adviser and then submit the completed form to International Student Services.

Courseload Reduction

The International Student Services must report to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) each semester whether students are enrolled full time or part time. Those who do not maintain a full course of study will be considered out of legal status and must either depart the U.S. immediately or apply for reinstatement.

Reduced course load is recommended based on the following approved reasons:

  • Initial difficulty with the English language or reading requirements
  • Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods
  • Improper course level placement (allowed only once per academic level, and undergraduates must enroll for at least six credit hours);
  • Last semester of study (may be fewer than six credits);
  • Temporary illness or medical condition for a period of time not to exceed an aggregate of 12 months while the student is pursuing a course of study at a particular program level. Documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist is required and must be provided for each new semester that a student is ill.

If any of the above exceptions apply to you, you MUST contact the International Student Services to get permission prior to the start of the semester or as soon as you know you will not be enrolled full time at Fisk University.