Students who wish to pursue F-1 status in the U.S. should contact the ISO to demonstrate that they qualify for F-1 status and obtain Form I-20. Form I-20 supports applications for F-1 visas, applications to change to F-1 status and applications for admission into the U.S. in F-1 status.
Validity of the I-20
It is the responsibility of every student to ensure that Form I-20 remains accurate and complete. In particular, in number 5 the "complete studies no later than" date should always be in the future while a student at UVA is in pursuit of their educational objective. If the I-20 will expire before completion of your F-1 studies, you must contact the ISO to apply for a program extension well before the expiration date.
Students completing their dissertation during optional practical training employment authorization do not need to obtain a program extension but are only eligible for on-grounds employment up to the program end date on Form I-20 or after receipt of a valid optional practical training employment authorization card (assuming the on-grounds employment is in their field of study and is not student employment).
Students should inform ISO if they will finish studies prior to the expiration of the I-20 as well. The I-20 will be shortened to reflect the accurate end date. Benefits intrinsic to status, such as on-grounds employment eligibility, would end as of the shortened date.
Travel Outside the U.S.
Page 3 of Form I-20 must be signed by a Designated School Official in the ISO during any semester of foreign travel after initial admission. Students should visit the ISO about two weeks before planned foreign travel to obtain the requisite signature. Form I-20 must be presented when applying for admission into the U.S. with passport valid 6 months beyond date of entry, and a valid F-1 visa (except Canadians).
Page 3 of Form I-20 also includes practical training employment authorization endorsements. A student may pursue authorized curricular practical training once in possession of a CPT-endorsed I-20. I-20s endorsed with optional practical training must be submitted to the USCIS for OPT approval. Only after USCIS approval and receipt of a valid employment authorization card are students eligible to begin OPT employment.
Students enter their 60 day grace period after the end date of the I-20, and/or period of approved OPT ends. F-1 students should use this period to apply for a transfer of F-1 status or to another qualifying status if eligible. Otherwise, students should depart the U.S. prior to the end of the grace period to avoid unlawful presence.
Students should retain copies of all I-20's issued. They will be required as evidence of status. Copies will also be required if you intend to apply for F-1 OPT as well as applications for future visa statuses.