F-1 Students

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

SEVIS is the U.S. Government computer system that UCA is required to use to track international students from when they receive their I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) or their DS 2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status), enter the United States and complete their educational program.

SEVIS requires UCA to know the locations of international students and researchers for the entire time they are in the United States. UCA is required by law to report on all international students each semester.

Important note: There have been and will continue to be major changes in immigration regulations since January 1, 2003. Although friends and others may be well intentioned and offer advice, they may not be updated on the most current regulations and may give you incorrect advice. It is important that you check with a DSO in the Center for Global Learning and Engagement before you make any decisions or take any actions that may affect your immigration status.

Designated School Official (DSO)

A Designated School Official (DSO) is a staff-member recognized by the Department of Homeland Security to verify status of F-1 students. A DSO will issue and maintain I-20s, report changes in course of study, program level or addresses for students. A DSO will advise students regarding immigration benefits and restrictions and verify whether students maintain their immigration status. A PDSO is the Primary Designated School Official who overseas immigration benefits for F-1 students.


Federal law requires you to carry “registration” documents at all times, which include I-20 and I-94 paper. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest that these documents be kept in a secure location such as a bank safe deposit box. However, if you are traveling within the U.S. you should carry these documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location in the event your documents are lost or stolen.  You should also have a copy on file with the Center for Global Learning and Engagement that is made during Orientation.


Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police, as your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country’s consulate in the U.S. While in the U.S., always carry with you a photocopy of the passport’s identity page and photocopies of the other documents listed below.


The visa is the stamp that the U.S. consular officer placed on a page in your passport. The visa permitted you to apply for admission into the U.S. as a F-1 student, and need not remain valid while you are in the U.S.

I-20 – Certificate of Eligibility

Issued by your school, this document allows you to apply for a visa, enter or re-enter the U.S., and make certain other requests to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The I-20 must remain valid at all times. Request a new form prior to its expiration date, when you change program level or major. Keep every I-20 for your permanent record. Do not discard the old ones.

If you transfer to a new university, you must request the DSO at your old institution to transfer your SEVIS record to your new institution. The new institution will accept the I-20 and give you a new original I-20 updated with your new school’s information.

I-94 Departure record

When you entered the U.S. you were issued Form I-94. Except for brief visits to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands, you will be issued a new I-94 each time you enter the U.S. The I-94 records the date and place you entered the U.S., your immigration status (for example, F-1 or F-2) and authorized period of stay (usually written simply as “D/S”, meaning “duration of status”). A fee is required to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged I-94.

Period of authorized stay

Your admission to the U.S. is for “duration of status;” that is, for the time indicated on your I-20. F-1 students have 60 days to begin a new program level, begin OPT or leave the country.

Although your visa may expire while you are in the United States, as long you are within the dates on your I-20, you are still in status. Once you depart the country, you will need a new visa before re-entry.

Learn more about Maintaining Student Status.