F-1 Student Visa Information

The information provided here is intended to be a convenient summary of essential immigration information for students applying to the Intensive English Language Program. For more personal guidance and help with specific immigration questions, please contact the Office of International Student and Scholar Services:

International Student And Scholar Services Website
Location: Karl Miller Center 660 
E-mail: oia@pdx.edu
Phone: 503-725-4094

Click any topic for details:

SEVIS and Your F-1 Student Visa Record
Immigration Documents
Applying for your F-1 Student Visa
Traveling to the U.S. with your F-1 Student Visa
Transferring to the IELP from Another School
Immigration Check-in
F-2 Dependents
Study in Other Visa Categories
Change of Visa Status

 


 

SEVIS and Your F-1 Student Visa Record

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an Internet-based system allowing universities and other academic programs to exchange data on the visa status of F-1 student visa holders with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). SEVIS improves the speed and accuracy of student application processes. Every student in F-1 visa status has an immigration record in SEVIS. PSU's compliance with U.S. immigration regulations through SEVIS is audited every two years.

How does SEVIS work?

  • The IELP and PSU use SEVIS to notify DHS when it admits a new international student.
  • The IELP and PSU use SEVIS to create the student's Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa.
  • DHS approves the IELP and PSU's request to issue Form I-20 for F-1 students through SEVIS.
  • New F-1 students will pay a SEVIS fee of $350 to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • New F-1 students make a visa interview appointment with a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad, which uses SEVIS to confirm the validity of the student's I-20.
  • At the airport, a DHS officer reports the F-1 visa holder's entry into the U.S. in SEVIS.
  • Students complete their immigration check in during student orientation at the IELP, and we confirm the student's arrival at PSU through SEVIS.
  • PSU is required to provide regular reports to SEVIS throughout the student's academic career.

What data is the IELP/PSU required to report to SEVIS?

  • F-1 student enrollment or failure to enroll for each term of study that the Form I-20 is valid
  • Student's change of legal name or address
  • Early completion of program by a student before the end date listed on the I-20
  • Disciplinary action taken against a student due to criminal conviction
  • Student's unauthorized drop below a full course of study
  • Student immigration record termination date and reason for termination
  • Student's failure to maintain status or complete program of study
  • Other data such as program extensions, school transfers, changes in level of study, employment authorizations, and reinstatement

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Immigration Documents

Passport
Your passport was issued by your country of citizenship. In most cases, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your entry to the U.S. You must continue to maintain a valid passport for the duration of your study and stay in the United States.

Form I-20
Your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa allows you to request an F-1 student visa. Issued by the IELP or PSU, the Form I-20 contains information about your program of study, including the start date and end date of your studies. While you are a student in the United States, you must not let your I-20 expire.

F-1 student visa
This is the visa you will receive in your passport from the American consulate or embassy that only gives you permission to request to enter the United States. After you arrive in the U.S., it is okay for your F-1 visa to expire. The F-1 visa in your passport is the only immigration document that is allowed to expire while you are in the United States.

However, if you leave the United States, you will need to have a valid F-1 visa again in order to return to the U.S. in F-1 status. Exception: When traveling to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for less than 30 days, it may be possible to request automatic visa re-validation. In this case, a student is not required to get a new F-1 visa. Instead, a request is made to re-validate the existing F-1 visa when returning to the United States. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official will make this determination when the student enters the U.S. For more information about automatic visa re-validation, please check with the Office Of International Student and Scholar Services. There are certain situations where automatic visa re-validation will not be possible.

Form I-94 electronic arrival/departure record

Your arrival in the U.S. through an airport or seaport will be recorded electronically by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Your passport will be stamped with your date of arrival, class of visa and duration of stay. Students who enter the U.S. through a land port will receive a paper I-94 arrival/departure card.

If you wish to verify your arrival information, or print a paper copy of your arrival record, you may go to the CBP website to do so. On their website, you will enter the required information and be able to print a paper copy of your I-94 card. Printing your paper I-94 card is not required. 

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Applying for Your F-1 Student Visa

  1. Applying for admission to the IELP
    Students must apply for admission to the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) at Portland State University (PSU) to begin the process of applying for their F-1 student visa. All international students must submit an IELP application for admission and required supporting documents, including financial documents demonstrating proof of financial support to cover their tuition and living expenses for the duration of their study in the IELP.
     
  2. Issuance of Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa
    After you send your application and supporting documents to the IELP (by e-mail, fax, or postal service), we will process the application, which can take up to one month. We will then send you a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa, and a letter of acceptance. When you receive the Form I-20, read it carefully and then sign it. By signing it, you agree to abide by the U.S. immigration regulations for F-1 student visa holders.
     
  3. Bringing family members with you
    In order for you to bring immediate family members (wife, husband, and/or children) to the United States, you must document sufficient financial resources to adequately support their stay. After we receive and review your financial documents, the IELP will send you a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for an F-2 Visa, for your dependents (wife, husband, and/or children). F-2 visa applicants will follow the same visa application procedure as F-1 students. F-2 visa applicants are NOT required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. F-2 dependents are not permitted to work in the United States, and are not permitted to study full time. F-2 dependents may study on a part-time, recreational, avocational basis. Classes taken by an F-2 dependent cannot be part of a formal study plan or program of study (except for minor children enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12).
     
  4. Paying the SEVIS I-901 fee
    After receiving your Form I-20, you must pay the $350 SEVIS fee to the U.S. government. SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is the national database maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Every F-1 student visa holder has a record in SEVIS, and it is this system that is used to create your Form I-20. Payment should be made online with a credit card on the SEVIS website. Print the fee payment receipt and attach it to your I-20. This fee must be paid before you go to your visa appointment. See the U.S. Immigration and Customs website for more detailed information.
     
  5. Applying for your F-1 student visa
    After receiving your Form I-20, you must complete an online application for an F-1 student visa using the Form DS-160. After completing the online visa application form, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your country to make a visa interview appointment. At the time of your visa interview you will be required to show proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (see above).

Take the following items to your visa interview:

  • IELP admission letter
  • Form I-20
  • Your passport
  • Proof of financial responsibility
  • SEVIS I-901 payment receipt

5 Ways to Prepare For Your Visa Interview


Traveling to the U.S. With Your F-1 Student Visa

Travel plans

After your F-1 student visa is approved, you should make your plans to travel to the United States. You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of classes (the program start date on your Form I-20). We recommend that you plan to arrive at least one week before the date of the placement test and New Student Orientation.

Entering the United States

The visa stamp in your passport allows you to enter the United States in a specific immigration category or status. The F-1 visa stamp notifies the U.S. government that you wish to enter the United States as an F-1 student. When you enter the United States and pass through U.S. Immigration and, you will present your I-20, along with your passport and visa, to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection immigration officer. The immigration officer will stamp your Form I-20 with an entry date. Your arrival will be recorded in your electronic I-94 arrival record. If you wish to verify your arrival information, or print a paper copy of your arrival record, you may go to the CBP website to do so.  On the website, you will enter the required information and be able to print a paper copy of your I-94 card. Printing your paper I-94 card is not required.

If you plan to apply for an Oregon ID card, Oregon driver’s license or social security number, you will be required to submit a paper copy of your electronic I-94 record.

Keep all of your immigration documents in a safe place. They are proof of your immigration status. Never throw these documents away; you should keep them permanently.

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Transferring to the IELP from Another School

Students who are currently attending another school in the United States may apply for admission to the IELP. After receiving academic admission to the program, students must complete the following three steps in order to complete the transfer of their SEVIS F-1 student visa record (I-20) to the IELP.

  1. Submit (by e-mail or in person) a bank statement or other financial document showing sufficient money to pay for your studies and living expenses to the IELP office. A scholarship letter or financial guarantee letter from your sponsor is required if you are sponsored by your government or another agency.
     
  2. Submit (by e-mail or in person) the Transfer Clearance Form to the IELP office. This form is part of the IELP application for admission. The Transfer Clearance Form must be completed by an immigration advisor at your current school.
     
  3. Make a request to your current school to transfer your SEVIS immigration record (I-20) to Portland State University. This is an electronic process that begins with your current school.

If you have questions about any of the documents above, please contact ielpadm@pdx.edu or call the IELP office (503-725-4088).

Your transfer will not be completed, and your new I-20 will not be prepared, until the steps above are completed.

Traveling in or outside the U.S. before your first term in the IELP
If you plan to travel outside of the United States before beginning classes in the IELP, please contact ielpadm@pdx.edu or call 503-725-4088. To re-enter the United States, you will need your new I-20 (issued by the IELP). If you do NOT plan to travel outside of the U.S. before the term begins, your new I-20 will be ready within two weeks after the start of the term. You can request a print of your I-20 from the Office of International Student and Scholar Services.

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Immigration Check-in

During New Student Orientation, new students complete an immigration check-in form, and copies are made of all their immigration documents for their student file. An international student advisor reviews each student's documents to confirm their status and make sure all documents are in proper order. At this time, students also provide their local address and emergency contact information.

To complete the immigration requirement to "report to the school that issued your Form I-20," each student must complete immigration check-in, register for classes, and begin attending classes.

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F-2 Dependents

The spouse and/or children of an F-1 student visa holder may accompany the F-1 student to the United States for the duration of the student's studies. In this case, the spouse and/or children are referred to as "dependents." Spouses and children will apply for an F-2 dependent visa. F-2 visa applicants must follow the same visa application procedure as the F-1 student. F-2 visa applicants are not required to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee.

F-2 dependents are not permitted to work in the U.S., and are not permitted to study full time. F-2 dependents may study on a part time, recreational, avocational basis. Classes taken by an F-2 dependent cannot be part of a formal study plan or program of study (except for minor children enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12).

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Study In Other Visa Categories

Part-time or full-time study may be permitted by immigration regulations for certain holders of another visa status. For example, B-1/B-2 visa holders and participants in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are permitted to study part time on a recreational or avocational basis. However, pursuing a program of study cannot be the primary objective or intention for entering the United States.

For information about study options in a specific visa category or status, please contact an International Student Advisor at oia@pdx.edu.

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Changing Your Visa Status

In some cases, it may be possible to change from one visa status to another. To learn about options for changing visa status, please contact oia@pdx.edu or 503-725-4094.

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