Important Immigration Info for Prospective & Admitted Students
SEVIS and F-1 Visas
What is an F-1 visa?
A majority of matriculating international students at Whitworth hold an F-1 visa. An F-1 is a non-immigrant student visa. A college student with a valid F-1 visa may remain in the United States as long as he or she is enrolled in a full-time degree-seeking program at a U.S. college or university. Students may also attend a U.S. high school on an F-1 visa.
What is SEVIS?
The Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the online system that the U.S. government established to maintain correct and current information on non-immigrant students, exchange visitors, scholars and their dependents. The system helps the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ensure that non-immigrant international students and scholars are in the U.S. legally and are studying or working in the school that has accepted them.
What is the Form I-20 and why do I need it?
The I-20 is a government form issued by schools to certify that a student is eligible to receive an F-1 visa. In order to receive an I-20 from a school, a student must be admitted and must provide evidence that s/he possesses funds sufficient to cover the cost of attendance.
What do I need to provide in order for Whitworth to issue an I-20?
Admitted students at Whitworth must pay the international student deposit of $5,000 before an I-20 is issued. Additionally, they must provide all requested financial documentation, including bank statements, employer verification letters for parents, and sponsor verification of funds. Whitworth reserves the right to ask for additional documentation as proof of financial responsibility.
How do I become an F-1 student?
In order to obtain an F-1 visa, a student must take the following steps:
- Be admitted to a U.S. school
- Give evidence of sufficient funds to attend that school
- Obtain a Form I-20 from the admitting school
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. You may pay online at https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp.
- Apply for a visa (Form DS-160) and pay the visa application fee. You may apply online at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
Make an appointment at your local U.S. consulate. Please note that the time required to obtain a visa interview can range from days to weeks, depending on the country and region, so give yourself sufficient time to obtain the visa. Call the consulate as soon as you have received your I-20. You can make a visa appointment within 120 days of the program start date listed on your I-20.
To find a U.S. consulate or embassy near you, visit www.usembassy.gov.
Go to your visa appointment and bring the following documents:
- Your Form I-20
- Your SEVIS fee receipt
- A valid passport (note: the passport must not be set to expire within six months of your program start date and arrival in the U.S.)
- Two 2x2-inch passport photographs
- Your completed, signed visa application forms
- Copies of your financial documents, including original bank statement that shows you have sufficient funds to study at Whitworth for the upcoming year.
For complete information about applying for a student visa, please visit the U.S. State Department website at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student.html.
If You Are Already an F-1 Student
If you are currently attending a U.S. school as an active F-1 student, your SEVIS record will need to be transferred to Whitworth.
I-20 Transfer Procedures
- Complete the International Student Transfer Form from Whitworth. You will receive this form after you have been admitted and have confirmed your enrollment by paying the international student deposit. One section will be filled out by the Office of International Student Services (OISS), to verify your eligibility to transfer into Whitworth; the other part will be filled out by you.
- Meet with your current school's international services office to request a transfer to Whitworth. Submit the transfer form and any other documents your school requires in order to transfer you out. At that meeting, you will establish a transfer-out date (for example, your date of high school graduation, or the end of the semester at your current college).
- Your current school will transfer your SEVIS record out on the specified date. At that point, your SEVIS record will become available to Whitworth. We will transfer you into our school and create a Whitworth I-20, which will be mailed to you.
You may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the program starting date on your I-20. However, you must arrive in the U.S. by the program start date listed on your I-20. If your arrival will be delayed for any reason such as illness, you must notify the OISS immediately.
U.S. Port of Entry Procedures
1-94 Arrival and Departure Record
You will be given an I-94 Arrival/Departure card to fill out on board the airplane as you approach the United States. A customs agent at the airport will retain part of this card and will stamp the other part, which you keep. The stamp will show your U.S. entry date and place. The I-94 card will usually be stapled into your passport. Do not lose this card, because it is the record that proves you entered the U.S. legally.
Documents you need to show the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer:
- Your valid passport (with an expiration date more than six months from the date of entry)
- Your I-20
- Whitworth University letter of admission
- Completed 1-94 Record
- Financial documents to prove that you have the resources to attend Whitworth
What if I have lost or forgotten one of my documents?
You may be denied entry into the U.S. or the CBP officer may give you a Form I-515A to fill out. The I-515A gives you temporary legal entry into the U.S. It is only valid for 30 days. Within those 30 days, you must send the correct document to USCIS. If you have filled out the I-515A, you should bring this to the OISS within a day or two of your arrival for further instructions.
What are my responsibilities as an F-1 student?
As an F-1 visa holder, you have specific responsibilities that you must fulfill in order to maintain the status of your visa. These responsibilities include:
- Attending the school to which you have been admitted. If you fail to enroll, or if you enroll but fail to attend classes, your F-1 status will be terminated.
- Keeping a valid passport. Renew your passport before it expires. You may renew your passport in the United States by visiting the consulate or embassy of the country where your passport was issued.
- Keeping your I-20 updated and valid. If you add or change a major, change your degree level, name, address or country of citizenship, you must notify the OISS at Whitworth. Your SEVIS record will be changed and you will be issued you an updated I-20.
- You must also notify the OISS if your expected program end date changes.
For complete instructions about your responsibilities and requirements to maintain status, please visit the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/factsheets.
It is the responsibility of the F-1 visa holder to know the requirements and terms of the visa. However, Whitworth University aims to help our international students maintain their visa status.
- We offer an immigration orientation upon arrival, providing basic information about the rights and responsibilities of F-1 students.
- We require students to sign our SEVIS Acknowledgment: The Role and Responsibility of International Students. This form, which must be reviewed and signed by F-1 visa holders at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, is a good reminder of how you can maintain your status.
- The Whitworth International Education Center offers assistance with your immigration-related questions and concerns.