The U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulates foreign nationals who are studying in the U.S. It is the responsibility of international students to understand the regulations governing their stay. Visa regulation information is subject to change, so please keep yourself up-to-date and seek out the assistance of the Office of International Affairs & Studies if you have any questions.
International Travel Documentation
The following documents are important and should always be kept up today and in a safe place while studying in the U.S.:
Passport: International students’ passports need to be valid while they are studying in the U.S. Six months before a student’s passport expires, the student should begin the renewal process with their home country's consulate or embassy in the United States. Please call the consulate first to inquire as to the specific regulations for renewing a passport from the student's home country.
F-1 visa holders: Form I-20: When international students enter the U.S., they should have their original I-20. Please be sure you have signed your I-20, and do not carry it in checked baggage, as you will need to present this form to U.S. Customs & Border Protection upon entry.
J-1 visa holders: Form DS-2019: This is the certificate of eligibility for an international student or visiting professor participating in an exchange program. When international students enter the U.S., they should have their original DS-2019. Please be sure you have signed your DS-2019, and do not carry it in checked baggage, as you will need to present this form to U.S. Customs & Border Protection upon entry.
I-94: Upon admission, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) will provide students with an electronic admission number, referred to as the “I-94.” This number will note the date of admission, class of admission (visa type), and a date or “D/S” which indicates how long a student is authorized to stay in the U.S. “D/S” stands for Duration of Status. Students arriving on F-1/J-1 visas are generally admitted for Duration of Status. This means that a student or exchange visitor is admitted into the U.S. for as long as the person is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure date. If your record does not have "D/S," please notify the Director of International Affairs & Studies at Heidelberg University. To retrieve your I-94 number, please visit CBP’s website.
Visa: International students cannot enter the U.S. with an expired visa, nor can a visa be renewed from within the U.S. A student’s visa can expire while in the U.S. without penalty, as long as a student is maintaining their visa status and has a valid I-20. If a student leaves the country with an expired visa, he/she must plan to renew their visa before reentry.
SEVIS Fee Requirements
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires F-1 and J-1 visa applicants to pay a one-time fee to supplement the administration and maintenance costs of the Student and Exchange Information System (SEVIS). The fee for F-1 students is $350 and for J-1 students $220. This SEVIS fee is required of all foreign nationals who come to the U.S. for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in institutions such as colleges, universities, and language training programs.
Heidelberg will issue the form I-20 after a student is admitted and a $250 enrollment fee is paid (please note that graduate students do not pay an enrollment fee). To obtain a student visa, the I-20 and a copy of your SEVIS receipt verifying payment should be taken to the American Embassy or Consulate in your area.
Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019. The embassies and consulates often have long wait times. If you have not received your visa by July 15 for the fall semester or December 15 for the spring semester, your I-20 will may need to be deferred to the next available semester.
- Do not enter the U.S. on a visitor/tourist visa (B-2) unless it is designated “Prospective Student” by the Consular Officer.
- The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) department rarely authorizes a change in visa status from a B-2 to an F-1 or J-1 visa.