Foreign Student Documents and Maintaining Legal Immigration Status


Foreign students are admitted to the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the purpose of being a full-time student.  It is the student's responsibility to keep informed about immigration rules and regulations and any changes that may occur during their stay in the US.  Any participation in activities outside of school from employment to vacation is considered a privilege and is only allowable under strict DHS rules. The penalty for violating any of these immigration laws can be quite severe, including deportation and a bar from reentry to the US for 10 years.  Therefore it is extremely important that students understand their responsibilities.

A number of documents must be kept current while the foreign student is residing in the US.  These include the following:


The passport is the legal document issued by your country of citizenship. It must be kept valid at all times during your stay in the US and must be valid at least 6 months into the future to re-enter the US or apply for a visa. The passport can usually be renewed through your home country's Embassy or Consulate in the United States.

Certificate of Eligibility 


The I-20 (for F-1 status) is the document issued by your school or a sponsoring agency. It is specific to the institution and program of study you will attend in the US. It must be presented to the US Embassy or Consulate abroad to obtain an entry visa and to immigration officials to enter the US in student status. Extensions or updates may be made by contacting the Office of the Registrar or your sponsoring agency. After your initial entry, a travel signature less than 6 months old is required in order to re-enter the US in student status. Signatures may be obtained in the Registrar's office at Marywood. 

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

I-94 Goes Electronic

Foreign visitors to the U.S. arriving via air or sea no longer need to complete paper Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 or I-94W. Those who need to prove their legal-visitor status—to employers, schools/universities or government agencies—can access their CBP arrival/departure record information online.

CBP now gathers travelers’ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Because advance information is only transmitted for air and sea travelers, CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 at land border ports of entry.

If travelers need the information from their Form I-94 admission record to verify immigration status or employment authorization, the record number and other admission information they are encouraged to get their I-94 Number.

Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission, and the date that the traveler is admitted until. If a traveler would like a paper Form I-94, one can be requested during the inspection process. All requests will be accommodated in a secondary setting.

Upon exiting the U.S., travelers previously issued a paper Form I-94 should surrender it to the commercial carrier or to CBP upon departure. Otherwise, CBP will record the departure electronically via manifest information provided by the carrier or by CBP. It is a good idea to print a new I-94 each time you re-enter the U.S.

Entry Visa

The US entry visa is a sticker on a page of your passport which permits you to enter the US. Students will have either an F-1 entry visa. The visa may expire while you are in the US. You cannot and need not renew it while you are here. A new entry visa will be required if the original expires and you travel outside and then wish to re-enter the US. in legal student status.

You Must Always:

  1. Maintain a valid passport throughout your stay in the US.
  2. Attend the school you are authorized to attend by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the school whose name appears on the I-20.
  3. Be registered as a full-time student
  4. Keep your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 valid at all times and apply for extensions of stay one month before the document expires.
  5. The "off campus residence" address must be completed with your current US residential address (except for undergraduate students living on campus). "Permanent address" must be an address in your home country. Students on post-completion work authorization should e-mail address updates directly to the Office of International Affairs. (
  6. Complete necessary immigration transfer procedures when changing from one school to another in the US.  Keep local and permanent address information current while in the US. and inform the foreign student advisor at your current school of your intent to transfer.
  7. Maintain valid health insurance coverage. For students in F-1 status, this is a Marywood requirement.
  8. If you are in F-1 status and intend to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT) after the completion of your program, apply for OPT prior to your program completion.

You Must Never:

  1. WORK OFF CAMPUS unless you have the necessary authorization from the United States government.
  2. WORK ON CAMPUS more than 20 hours per week while school is in session.
  3. Take a leave of absence, withdraw from classes, or drop below 12 credits without receiving advance permission from the Registrar's office.

Note that once you have completed or terminated your program, or have failed to maintain legal student status, you can no longer legally enter the US with your current I-20.