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Frequently Asked Question

How do I maintain my F-1 Visa?

Follow all the rules and regulations to maintain your F-1 Visa .

My passport is about to expire. What should I do?

It is important to keep a passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future. If your passport will expire within the next 6 months, contact your embassy to renew your passport immediately.

What is a status letter ?

A status letter states a student’s current status and program of study at VIU. The letter may be issued by the Registrar Department.

How do I transfer to another school?

Current and Initial students must inform the ISS Office of their intent to transfer at least 15 days before the new semester start date at VIU, either by email or in-person. If a student intends to transfer once classes are in session, the students SEVIS record will be ‘Terminated’ before the transfer will be issued. In which case, the student will need to verify with the other institution that they will still accept the terminated record. Please note that VIU does not grant any active transfers when school is officially in session. It is the students’ responsibility to make sure they are enrolled in classes.

My friend wants to transfer into VIU from another U.S. school. What should I tell him/her?

Please direct your friend to VIU’s Transfer Student page.

NOTE: F-1 students who transfer from one school to another school in the United States must complete the transfer process within 15 days of the start date on the I-20. You must have your F-1 record released to the new school within 60 days of completing a degree or Optional Practical Training. F-1 students who have not maintained their status at the previous school are not eligible for an immigration transfer.

How do I extend my stay in VIU?

Students who are unable to complete their program by the end date indicated on the I-20 must have a compelling academic or medical reason to apply for an extension of stay. Please submit the Program Extension Form to begin the extension of stay process at least 30 days before your I-20 expires.

What is the SEVIS fee?

A $200.00 fee will be collected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from those individuals seeking an F-1 Visa. The purpose of this fee is to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This fee will apply to the following individuals:

  • Those who will travel to the U.S. for initial attendance as an F or J nonimmigrant (even if the individual is visa-exempt, e.g. Canadians)
  • Those already in the United States that will apply for a change of status to F or J classification
  • Current J-1 non-immigrants who will apply for a J-1 change of category on or after 9/1/2004

You can find more information on SEVIS at the following site: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp

How do I apply for a driver’s license?

In most cases to obtain a driver’s license in Virginia you will need the following documents:

  • A valid Form I-20 from VIU
  • A valid Passport
  • I-94 Record
  • Student status letter from the Registrar's Office
  • Bank statement and/or an official transcript from VIU

To receive a student status letter, please make a request with the Registrar's Office.
For more information on obtaining a Virginia Driver License, please visit www.dmvnow.com.

I want to go back to my country during the break. What should I do?

Find out how to travel outside of the United States as an F-1 student here.

What documents to I need to re-enter the U.S.?

Hand-carry the following documents (do not check them with your luggage):

  1. Your valid passport
  2. All of your Form I-20s  
  3. I-901 SEVIS fee receipt (you can print out your payment history from https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp)
  4. Evidence of financial resources
  5. Evidence of your student status (such as tuition receipts, transcript, or an acceptance letter)

You may not be asked for all of these documents, but it is advised that you have them with you. It is a good idea to have your documents in a folder or some other organizer to present at the port of entry.

What should I pay attention to upon re-entry to the U.S.?

When being admitted to the United States, you will fill out the form I-94 arrival/departure form (this may happen on the airplane). IMPORTANT: Be sure you spell your name the same way it appears on your passport and I-20. Inform the Customs and Border Patrol Officer at the port of entry as soon as possible that you are an initial or returning F-1 student.

I am a new student. What do I need to do when I arrive in the United States for the first time?

You must report to the Admissions Department upon your initial entry (the first time you arrive to start school) so that you can check-in, and enrol in courses. If you fail to report to VIU or you will jeopardize your F-1 status and risk immigration problems. It is extremely important for new students to attend New Student Orientation. If for some reason you are not able to attend New Student Orientation, you must report to VIU before the first day of classes. Maintain contact with the International Student Services Office (ISSO) at VIU throughout your stay to ensure that your I-20 is updated and that you are in good status.

What do I do when leaving the United States?

Turn in your I-94 card to Customs & Border Patrol when you depart to ensure that you are not recorded as overstaying (if applicable). If you have lost your I-94 card, keep your boarding pass and other proof that you have departed and contact the ISSO for instructions.

I have a new U.S. sponsor. Where do I report this information?

If there are any changes in your financial status or sponsorship information (changing your sponsor, receiving financial aid or a scholarship), you must report to the ISSO immediately within 10 days of this change.

My visa is expiring. What should I do?

The visa is located in your passport that allows you to enter the United States. It does not determine your length of stay here; your I-20 and the I-94 record indicate the length of your stay. A student visa can only be obtained at a U.S. Embassy or consulate outside of the United States. If your visa expires and you maintain your F-1 status, there is no need to travel outside of the U.S. for the sole purpose of renewing your visa.

I would like to bring a family member as a dependent to the U.S. What do I need to do?

To bring a family member with you, you must submit these documents.

DISCLAIMER: The information and content available on VIU’s ISS website are not comprehensive and are subject to change at any time in accordance with U.S. regulatory agency policies. Accuracy of the information contained here cannot be guaranteed for any future date. International students are responsible for maintaining their own student visas.