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Immigration Definitions

The following information is provided as a general introduction to immigration terms that may be helpful to international students at SUNY New Paltz. If you have specific questions about your status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or your eligibility to stay in the United States, please contact the International Student Adviser who will be happy to discuss your concerns.

Passport - Students in F-1 or J-1 immigration status must keep their passports valid at least six months into the future at all times. You may obtain extensions of your passport through the nearest consulate or embassy of your country. The International Student Adviser will provide you with any appropriate documents your government may require.

Certificate of Visa Eligibility - Students who have been admitted to the university and have documented their ability to finance their education may receive a Certificate of Visa Eligibility for F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor status (Form I-20 or DS-2019). This document certifies eligibility for an entry visa and must be shown to an USCIS official at the time of entry into the US in order to enter in a valid status.

Entry Visa - Your entry visa is a machine-readable stamp in your passport issued by an American Consul abroad. It authorizes you to apply for admission to the US at the port of entry. All international students - with the exception of Canadian nationals - requesting F or J immigration status are required to have a valid entry visa stamp in their passport at the time of entry into the US. Your visa specifies the type of immigration status you will hold (F-1, J-1, etc.), the date until which you may enter the US, and the number of entries you may make before you must apply for a new entry visa stamp. The length of validity of each visa type is determined by an agreement between your home country and the US government and is not necessarily tied to the length of your program of study.

F-1 or J-1 visa stamps generally cannot be obtained within the US. An application for an entry visa is made at a US consulate or embassy outside the US. The validity period of your visa does not determine the length of time you may remain in the US. Your length of stay is determined by the date on your form I-94.

Form I-20 - The Certificate of Visa Eligibility for nonimmigrant F-1 Student status is commonly known as the I-20. This is the document issued by a school for presentation at a US consulate abroad to obtain an F-1 Student visa; it must also be presented to an immigration official upon entry into the US. Those in F-1 status, who are entering the US, must carry either an initial I-20 or one with a recent signature on page 3 to verify their continuing attendance at the university. You are required to keep all I-20's issued to you throughout your student status, no matter how long you stay in the US or how many times you travel abroad.

Form DS-2019 – This is the Certificate of Eligibility for nonimmigrant J-1 Exchange Visitor status. This document is issued by the program sponsor which is usually the university but may also be a government agency or other organization sponsoring the visit.  Those applying for J-1 status must also present the DS-2019 at the United States Consulate abroad when applying for a J-1 entry visa and at the port of entry to the US. The DS-2019, when properly signed by the International Student Adviser, serves for the period of its validity as your document to return to the US after short trips abroad. If additional time is required to complete your academic program, you must apply for an extension of stay before the completion date on the DS-2019. You should meet the International Student Adviser if you need to extend your DS-2019.

I-94 - This is a record of your nonimmigrant status and permission to stay in the US. It is an admission number assigned to you by an immigration official when you enter the US.  You can access your I-94 number here.  You must enter information from your Passport to access your I-94, including your Date of Entry, which is stamped into your Passport at the port of entry.  It shows your "immigration status", the date and port of your arrival in the US, and the date until which you have permission to stay.  If traveling across a land border (not an airport), the I-94 is issued as a small white card usually stapled into your passport by an immigration official when you enter the US.

Duration of Status D/S - The notation D/S, indicating "duration of status", refers to the completion date on the certificate of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019).  The I-94 is also called the Arrival/Departure Record because each time you enter the US you receive a new I-94 number.  Only in the case of short trips to Canada, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean do you keep the same number.

Immigration Status - Your immigration status, e.g., F-1, B-2, J-1, etc., is determined at the time of your entry into the US by a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) official and is noted in the I-94 record. Your immigration status is generally the same as your entry visa classification. On arrival in the US, the I-94 number is generated, and the immigration officer stamps your immigration status in your passport.

Practical Training - a privilege of F-1 immigration status is employment in one's field of study. Those in F-1 status may be eligible for "curricular" practical training (which is authorized by the International Student Adviser) during their programs, in addition to one year of "optional" practical training which may take place during or after one's program of study. Permission to engage in practical training may be granted only after you have been in valid student status for one academic year. The International Student Adviser may recommend optional practical training but only the USCIS can authorize it.

Academic Training - a privilege of J-1 immigration status is employment that is integral, not just related, to one's field of study. J-1 students are eligible to apply for permission to engage in academic training after one academic term in valid student status. A total of no more than 18 months of academic training may be possible during or following completion of a program of study. Academic training cannot exceed the length of academic study. An application for academic training is made to the J-1 student's exchange visitor program sponsor.

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