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Visa/Travel Documents

A passport is a government's (or other competent authority’s) permit to leave and re-enter the country of issuance. You must have a valid passport to obtain a visa for the United States, and you must maintain a valid passport throughout your entire stay in the United States. Any time you travel to the United States, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you enter the U.S.

For various reasons, some individuals are not able to obtain a Passport and instead are issued a different type of travel document (i.e. Refugee Travel Document, Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card).  If this situation applies to you, please submit a copy of your Travel Document. You may contact an International Student Adviser if you have questions about this.

Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019)
This is proof that you are entering the U.S. as a student or exchange visitor. Please keep this with your passport. You will need to show it at your visa interview and every time you enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. You are required to keep all original copies of form I-20/DS-2019 throughout your stay as an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, longer if you exit and return to the U.S. in any capacity other than as a tourist.

The visa is a paper stamp inside your passport. For F-1 and J-1 students it works like a key: You use it to get into the country but, like the key to your rooms (which lock automatically, by the way), you don’t need it while you are in the country (or in your room).  This means that it must be valid and unexpired every time you enter the United States - just like you’ll need your (valid) key every time you go back into your room, but it is not a problem to be in the United States on an expired visa
as long as you are maintaining status. 

Duration of Status
F-1 and J-1 students (and most teaching assistants) are admitted to the United States for "D/S" or Duration of Status. This should have been marked in your passport at your port of entry. For F-1 students, Duration of Status is defined as the length of time necessary to complete your academic program, a maximum of one year of authorized post-completion optional practical training, plus a 60-day grace period to prepare to depart the U.S. The definition for J-1 visa holders is the time necessary to complete their program, plus a 30-day grace period to prepare to depart the U.S.

The SEVIS I-901 Fee
Persons wishing to enter the U.S. as a student or exchange visitor must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee prior to their visa application appointment ($350 for F-1, $220 for J-1). The fee is nonrefundable, regardless of whether the visa is issued. This fee is your responsibility; Earlham does not pay this fee on your behalf.

There are several options available for paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, including online payment using a credit card, payment by check or money order in U.S. dollars, or payment at a participating Western Union office in local currency. If none of these options is readily available to you, please contact an International Student Adviser. If you do not pay online, the SEVIS fee must be paid in sufficient time for you to receive receipt by mail prior to your visa appointment.  Detailed information on paying the SEVIS I-901 fee can be found at