Important Documents for F-1 Students

F-1 is a visa status for non-immigrants temporarily in the U.S. to study full-time at an academic or language institute. F-1 students receive an I-20 from their academic institution.


Your SEVIS I-20 is a legal document. It is important that you ensure all of the information printed on your I-20 is accurate and up-to-date. If any of the following items were to change, you must submit a report to ISSS and request a new I-20:

  • Name
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Major
  • Degree Program
  • Financial Resources
  • Addition or deletion of F-2 dependent(s)

Completion Date

Another important item on your I-20 is the "Completion Date" list in item 5. This date should be the date you are expected to complete your program. Students are allowed to pursue full-time studies toward the completion of their program reflected on their I-20 up to that date.

  • The completion date does not include the 12 months of Optional Practical Training a student may apply for based on completion of a program of study.
  • If a student completes the program of study prior to the completion date, the I-20 will automatically expire on the date the student completes. A student has an automatic grace period of 60 days upon the completion of studies to:
    • Depart the United States
    • Gain admission to a new program of study
    • Apply for a change of visa status
  • Degree-seeking students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date must apply for a Program Extension before the expiration date.
  • Students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date and who fail to extend their I-20 before it expires will Violate Legal Status and Overstay their visa.
  • You are required to get a new I-20 with a new completion date if you change from one degree program to another (for example, changing from a masters to a PhD or advancing from a bachelors to MEd).


You must always have a passport that will be valid for at least six months into the future when you are in the U.S. Do not allow your passport to expire as federal law does not allow F-1 visa holders to enter the U.S. or be employed if their passport is expired.

You should contact your consulate in the U.S. for passport renewal information.

Entry Visa

The F-1 entry visa stamp for your passport is issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. You must have a valid entry visa stamp in your passport to re-enter the U.S. from overseas.

It is acceptable for your entry stamp to expire while you are in the United States. While you are in the U.S., your legal F-1 status is dependent on your I-20 form being valid.

If you need to renew your F-1 visa, you will need to make a trip outside the U.S. It is not possible to renew from within the U.S.

Canadian citizens: You are not required to have an entry visa to enter the U.S.

Last updated: December 13, 2022