Forms Before Entering the United States
Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”
When you are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school, the designated school official will issue you one of two forms:
- The Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students."
- The Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status – For Vocational Students."
Except for the name of the form, the information on both forms is the same. A student and the student’s dependents must have a Form I-20 to apply for a student visa, to enter the United States and apply for benefits. For more information about this form, please visit the What is a Form I-20? resource page. If you’re a designated school official with questions about issuing a Form I-20, please visit the DSOs and the Form I-20 resource page.
SEVIS I-901 Form, “Remittance for Certain F, J and M Visa Nonimmigrants”
You use this form to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. You must pay this fee before you can apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To pay this fee visit FMJfee.com. Once you pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee, you must print the receipt as proof of payment and take it with you to your visa appointment and when you travel to the United States.
For more information about this form, please visit the Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee resource page.
Forms While You Are in the United States
Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record"
The Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document issued to nonimmigrant aliens at the time of lawful entry into the United States at an air or sea port of entry. The Form I-94 is evidence of a nonimmigrant’s term of admission and used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay and departure.
On March 27, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published an interim final rule, Definition of Form I-94 To Include Electronic Format in the Federal Register to automate the Form I-94. With the new automated Form I-94 process, the CBP officer will create an electronic automated arrival Form I-94 during the admissions process for nonimmigrants entering the United States at an air or sea port, with information already available in various law enforcement databases.
The new Form I-94 automation process will take effect on April 30, 2013, and will streamline the admissions process for individuals lawfully visiting the United States through an air and sea port.
For more information regarding the Form I-94 automation, please review the resources below:
- I-94 Admission Number Retrieval
- Stakeholder Webinar: Form I-94 Automation
- Form I-94 Fact Sheet
- Form I-94 Quick Reference Guide
- Find more information on our Viewers and Players page
Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor”
If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry without the required documents, a Customs and Border Protection officer may issue you this form. It allows you temporary admittance to the United States for 30 days. During that time you must send the required documents to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Form I-515A processing team or depart the United States. To learn more, visit What is a I-515A?
This is very important: If you do not send the required documents to the SEVP Form I-515A processing team within 30 days, your nonimmigrant status will be terminated, and you must leave the United States immediately.
Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status”
Use this form if you want to request a change to another nonimmigrant visa status (F-2 to F-1, F-1 to H-1B, etc.), or to request reinstatement if you have fallen out of student status. M students must also use this form to extend nonimmigrant status or transfer to another Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school.
You can complete this form on the I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status page of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
For more information about applications to extend or change nonimmigrant status, please visit the Change of Status resource page.
Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization”
Submit this form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for employment authorization, such as optional practical training or off-campus employment. You can complete this form on the I-765, Application for Employment Authorization page of the USCIS website.
For more information about instances when you may need to apply for employment authorization, visit the Training Opportunities in the United States resource page.
Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document”
When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your Form I-765, you will receive a Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD) in the mail. This is your proof that you have authorization to work in the United States. You must carry this card with you when you travel. You may not begin to work until the date listed on your EAD; it also lists the date when your employment authorization ends.
For more information about instances when you may need to apply for an EAD, visit the Working in the United States resource page.
Form I-797A, “Notice of Action”
This form is a notice of approval of an application or of receipt of a submission. You may receive this form while in F or M status in any of these situations:
If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your Form I-539 request to change your nonimmigrant status (e.g., to F-1 from another status or from F-1 to H-1B status).
To notify you of approval of your application for reinstatement of student status or extension of status
When you have submitted a I-901 SEVIS Fee payment, to notify you that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program has received it and that the transaction is complete
As a receipt for a filed Form I-290B, “Notice of Appeal or Motion,” or employment authorization