• Passport: Your passport is issued by your home country

  • Visa: Your visa is issued by an American consulate or embassy

Your immigration documents are important for travel and for maintaining your status while you are in the US.  Maybe you know which immigration documents you have but do you know what their purpose is?  Here’s basic information about each of your immigration documents.


Your passport is your photo identification.  It helps the agents at the border know who you are.  It also contains the official version of your name.  Generally, your passport must be valid for at least six months when you enter the US.  Be sure to renew your passport with plenty of time before you plan to travel.  In many cases, you can renew your passport with your embassy or consulate in the US.  Contact your embassy or consulate for details.

I-20 or DS-2019

Your I-20 or DS-2019 is what allows you to apply for an F or J visa.  It is also what gives you legal status in the US and allows you to stay in the country.  Your I-20 or DS-2019 must be valid at all times.  Let the OIE know if any of the information on your I-20 or DS-2019 changes and make sure to get your I-20 or DS-2019 signed at least once per year if you are traveling outside the US.


Your visa is for entry to the US.  In most cases, you need a valid visa to enter the US but it’s okay if it expires while you are in the US.  If you have questions about whether or not you need a new visa or if you can travel on an expired visa, please contact the OIE.


Your I-94 is a record of your entry into the US.  It shows what your status is and how long you are allowed to remain in the US.  You should check your I-94 record every time you enter the US to make sure that it is correct.  You can find it on the US Customs and Border Protection website.  Your I-94 should show your correct status (F-1, J-1, etc).  The “Admit Until Date” on your I-94 should be D/S.  D/S means “duration of status”—you are allowed to stay in the US as long as you have F or J status, which is given by a valid I-20 or DS-2019.


Still have questions about your immigration documents?  Contact the OIE!