A Division of the International Studies Office

Entering the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 Status

Entering the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 Status

Visa Requirements

All F-1 and J-1 students (except Canadians) must have a valid appropriate F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in their passports before entering the U.S. 

When traveling to the U.S., you should present the following documents to the admitting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer:

  • Your UVA Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Your passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of admission
  • A valid F-1/J-1 visa in your passport
  • Copy of SEVIS fee receipt

Passport Stamping

The Immigration Officer may stamp your passport, usually on the page opposite your visa. The stamp should be marked "F-1" and "D/S" or "J-1" and "D/S."  "D/S" stands for "duration of status," and means you are permitted lawful presence in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining the conditions of your legal status. 

Make sure your passport is stamped appropriately as F or J before departing Immigration. If there is a question about your F-1 or J-1 status, have Immigration contact the ISO before you leave the port of entry.  If the passport is not stamped that is also ok.  CBP is phasing out passport stamping, so be sure to check the I-94 after arrival.

New students

Using a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp and Form I-20 or DS-2019, you may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 (see section 5 of your I-20 or box 3 of your DS-2019).  (Canadians and Bermudians traveling without a visa stamp will be required to show the SEVIS fee payment receipt in addition to their I-20 or DS-2019.)

Students on OPT and STEM OPT

To enter the U.S. after a temporary absence, please have prepared the following to present at the Port of Entry

  • Passport valid at least 6 months beyond date of return
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • OPT/STEM OPT signed for travel (Travel signatures valid for 6 months only while on OPT)
  • EAD card in hand
  • Proof of employment (Make sure this employment also appears on your I-20)

Administrative Processing

Students and scholars in certain academic fields, (typically in the sciences), should be aware of potential delays in visa processing due to possible security checks, which the State Department refers to as "administrative processing."  If you think you may be subject to administrative processing, we suggest you bring the following to your visa appointment:

  • An official transcript
  • Student & Advisor's CV
  • A letter prepared for you on departmental letterhead with your name, degree level or academic appointment title, number of years you have been in your program or position, source of research funding, and expected date of return to the university. The letter should include a non-technical overview of your research and its applications. If the research has no military or defense applications and does not involve export-controlled technology or information, state this.

Plan for the possibility of significant delays and carry supporting materials when you travel. Once the decision to undergo administrative processing is made by the U.S. Consulate, there is nothing the University can do to accelerate the process.

Important for All F&J students

Do NOT enter the U.S. on B-1, B-2, Visa Waiver or a Trusted Traveler Program, as you will not be permitted to enroll under these statuses.

I94/Admission Verification

Verify your proper entry and obtain your admission number here.  Print out the verification for the ISO Document Check as well as for applications to government agencies, if needed.