I-94 & I-20
The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure record that is issued to students, scholars, and other visitors to the U.S. At the time of crossing the border, the Customs and Border Patrol officer will inspect your documents. If you crossed through air or sea border, you will receive a stamp in your passport that tells the date and port of entry. If you cross a land border, you will receive a paper I-94 with the same information. If you receive a paper copy, please keep this in your passport and do NOT lose it.
Whether you get a stamp or a paper I-94, the inspecting officer will also make a notation on the stamp: either a D/S for duration of status or a date. If you receive a D/S, you may stay in the United States as long as your student status is valid. If you receive a date, you must exit the country by that date. If this applies to you, please make an appointment with the international student advisor.
Whether an electronic or print version, each I-94 has a number associated with it. This number is very important as it is used in a variety of situations where you must prove your legal status in the U.S. Therefore, it is very important that you either keep you I-94 card or print a copy of the electronic I-94 (if you got a stamp at the border). You can obtain a copy of the electronic version at www.cbp.gov/I94.
The Form I-20 is issued by the Admissions Office of a school or university after a student has met all requirements for admission, including documentation of financial support. When an F-1 student enters the United States for the first time, an immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry will examine the student's Form I-20. This form, pages 1-3, along with the I-94 (see above) is a student's primary proof of legal status and should be kept with the passport in a safe place.
The Form I-20 is also used for re-entering the U.S. after travel outside the United States. Please refer to Re-entry after Temporary Absence for more information about traveling outside the United States and re-entering in F-1 nonimmigrant status.
You may use your I-20 to apply for your visa. Upon approval of your visa you may enter into the U.S. up to 30 days before the expected date of arrival indicated in section 5 of your I 20. You should plan to arrive in the U.S. on or before the date in section 5. If you are delayed and must enter after the date in section 5, you must request a letter authorizing a later entry from the International Student Advisor.
You will be expected to complete your studies by the 2nd date indicated in Section 5. If you do not complete your studies and wish to continue as a full-time student after this date, you must request a new I-20 for extension of your F-1 stay from the International Student Advisor before the completion date passes. Extensions cannot be done after this date.