Frequently Asked Questions
You have questions? We have answers.
Sometimes knowing the right question to ask is the key to understanding. We have tried to provide for you many of the Frequently Asked Questions and the answers to those questions. If you don't find your answer here, please contact us and we will respond as quickly as possible.
- QUESTION: What is a visa?
ANSWER: A visa represents permission from the State Department for the bearer to enter the United States in a particular category. In the past, visas were rubber-stamped on the passport page with multi-colored ink. The transition is nearly complete, however, to a machine-readable, label-type of visa, with a photograph of the bearer.
Many people use the term "visa" to describe certificates of eligibility or some of the other documents issued in connection with one's nonimmigrant stay in the United States, but the word is in fact only used correctly when referring to the State Department document in the passport.
The USA splits responsibility for issues having to do with non-citizens between the State Department and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); once in the United States, "aliens" are under the jurisdiction of the USCIS, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security which is a law enforcement agency.
An unusual feature of this division of responsibilities is that, once admitted to the United States, a nonimmigrant can allow his or her visa to expire. While many other countries specify the length of stay on the visa itself, the USCIS relies upon the I-94 (Admission/Departure Record) for that purpose.
- QUESTION: What's an I-94 card?
ANSWER: In the past, the I-94 was a small (3x4") section of the long form you filled in on the plane. While some land crossings may still issueI-94 cards, student can now retrieve their I-94 Admission/Departure record online via the Customs & Border Protection website. It bears the date and port of entry, the inspector's identification number, the status in which you are admitted, and either the date to which you are allowed to stay, or a reference to your certificate of eligibility as the controlling document in that regard. For anyone in F or J status, the I-94will be marked "D/S" (Duration of Status)s.
- QUESTION: If the visa stamp in my passport expires while I am in the U.S. must I leave
the country to renew it?
ANSWER: The visa stamp in your passport is an "entry permit" only, so you need not be concerned if it expires once you have already entered the US unless you plan to travel out of the US and re-enter, in which case you will need to go to the US Consulate (preferably in your home country) and apply for a new visa. When you go to the Consulate to apply for the new visa, you should bring with you your I-20 (if you are a student on an F-1 visa), which should be endorsed for travel on the back by one of the designated school officials. It is also strongly recommended that you bring proof that you have the funding to cover your tuition and living expenses and a letter from your adviser stating that you are in good standing and making adequate progress toward your degree.
- QUESTION: What are my general responsibilities as an international student in the
ANSWER: The most important contributor to your success is your ability to accept and handle responsibility. Your failure to live up to your responsibilities can drastically jeopardize your status as a student here, as well as your right to remain in the United States.
The following are among the many responsibilities of which you will need to be aware:
- You must know and adhere to the regulations of the Department of Homeland Security regarding your visa status, as specified on page 3 of your I-20.
- You must know and comply with Otero Junior College’s regulations outlined in the OJC Catalog
- You must enroll as a full time student during the Fall and Spring semester. Undergraduates must enroll in at least 12 credit hours each semester. Summer session enrollment is optional. You must take at least 9 of the 12 credit hours per semester in a traditional classroom setting. Hours over this may be taken online if you choose.
- On campus employment is allowed however it is NOT guaranteed and policy restrictions are in place. Any off-campus employment must be pre authorized by Department of Homeland Security, and/or International Relations Office. Unauthorized employment is grounds for deportation.
- If you leave and then re-enter the US, you must present a valid visa and valid I 20 upon re-entry.
- Keep your file with the International Relations Office complete and up to date. You must notify the International Office with any changes in your major, marital status, visa status, contact information, address, e-mail address, phone number, and home country address with 10 days of the change. You also need to notify our office when you withdraw from school and/or if you are planning to transfer to another school.
- Keep your Passport and I-20 valid at all times. You must apply for an extension of stay if you do not complete your studies within the time specified on your I-20. The extension must be completed before expiration date of your current I-20.
- QUESTION: What do I do if my passport expires or I lose it while I am within the United
ANSWER: Contact your local consulate for instructions to renew or replace a lost passport. To find the closest consulate or embassy of your home country, please refer to the listing of local consulates or contact the International Relations Office.
- QUESTION: How often should my visa document be endorsed?
ANSWER: If you are on an F-1 visa, your I-20 should be signed on the part of the document designated "for re-entry of the student..." by one of the "designated school officials" for you to re-enter the US after you travel outside the US. The signature is generally valid for re-entry for up to one year. Because many immigration officials interpret "one year" as meaning one academic year, you should request a travel signature each academic year. Keep in mind if you remain out of the US for more than 5 months, you will need to request a brand new I-20 for re-entry, since the travel endorsement is not valid for an absence from the US of more than 5 months. For students who have graduated and are on post-completion practical training, the signature is valid for six months only. The Director of International Relations, Rochelle and Jeff Paolucci, Vice-President for Student Services are DSOs and can sign these documents for you.
If you are on a J-1 visa, your DS-2019 should be signed by a Responsible Officer to reauthorize your reentry into the US. These signatures are valid for one year. If you travel several times within that year, it is not necessary to have it signed every time you travel. If you need to go to a US Consulate (outside the US) to have the visa in your passport renewed, it is recommended that you have your visa document signed shortly before you plan to travel. You should also plan to present proof of funding and a letter from your adviser stating that you are making good progress toward your degree or a copy of your transcripts to the US Consul if you are applying for a vis.
- QUESTION: I have a newly reissued passport. While I am in the United States, is it
possible to change my unexpired visa stamp from my old passport to my newly reissued
ANSWER: No. However, you may get a new visa in your newly issued passport from the US Consulate/Embassy in your home country. Visas are only granted in U.S. Embassies overseas.
- QUESTION: I have a newly reissued passport. My old expired passport has a valid visa
stamp, but my newly reissued passport does not. Can I re-enter the United States showing
ANSWER: Yes, you should carry both your old expired passport and your new reissued passport, along with a valid I-20 or DS-2019.
- QUESTION: I recently graduated. I would like to travel back to my home country for
a vacation, and then return to the United States to work under Post-Completion Optional
Practical Training. Do I need to have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) prior
to my departure for my home country?
ANSWER: Yes. To re-enter the United States, you will need the following documents:
- Valid passport (passport should be valid for six months into the future at time of entry unless passport agreement exists between your home country and the United States)
- Valid visa
- I-20 with endorsement for Optional Practical Training
- Signature endorsement on page 2 of I-20. Remember: a signature is valid for only six months once you are on post-completion practical training
- Valid EAD card
- Proof of funding
- Job offer letter
Warning: If you are outside the US for longer than 5 months, you will forfeit your F-1 status and the benefit of employment eligibility. It is illegal for you to attempt to enter the US, even with an apparently valid EAD, after an absence of five months from the US.
- QUESTION: I will be graduating this coming June. Do I need a job offer letter in order
to re-enter the United States after conferral of my degree?
ANSWER: Yes, F1 visa holders on Post-Completion Practical Training must now also have evidence of a job offer letter or employer's letter verifying employment.
- QUESTION: What do I need to show the immigration inspector upon re-entry into the
For F-1 Status
- Valid I-20 that has been endorsed for travel. The travel endorsement is valid for one year from the date of the endorsement for absences of less than five months.
- Valid passport (passport should be valid for six months into the future at time of entry unless passport agreement exists between your home country and the United States).
- Valid visa (Canadian citizens do not need visas)
For J-1 Status
- Current DS-2019 (either a new Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status, or an endorsed pink copy.) Endorsement by the program sponsor is necessary before the first departure from the U.S. and annually thereafter.
- Valid passport (passport should be valid for six months into the future at time of entry unless passport agreement exists between your home country and the United States) More information regarding the passport agreement can be found at: http://foia.state.gov/masterdocs/09fam/0941104N.pdf
- Valid visa (Exceptions: See the previous section on Re-entry; Canadian citizens do not need visas)