Now that I'm a Gael, what do I need to do as an International Student or Exchange Visitor?
International Student Orientation (ISO)
All new and transfer international students are required to attend International Student Orientation (ISO) and check in with the Center for International Programs office according to the U.S. Immigration Regulations. Students will be checking in to their dorms during the first day of the International Student Orientation. Failure to attend the International Student Orientation may result in termination of student's status and you will have to return home before you could even begin your studies in the U.S. Please visit the ISO link for more information regarding the orientation.
SEVIS I-20 OR DS-2019
The Form I-20, "Certificate of Legibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status," and the form DS-2019, "Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status," are U.S. Federal Government documents that provide supporting information about your status. This document is very important so please contact us if the document is damaged, lost, or stolen. When you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, please make sure that all your information on the I-20 or DS-2019 are correct (correct spelling of the name, date of birth, etc.) and sign the document. All of your information your immigration document (Passport, Visa, I-20/DS-2019, and I-94 need to have consistent information.
You must carry your I-20 or DS-2019 when entering the U.S. as you will be required to show your I-20 or DS-2019 when you are entering or re-entering the U.S. during the customs check point at the ports of entry. You will not need to show your I-20 or DS-2019 when departing the U.S.
If you are a current student departing the U.S., you are required to obtain a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 prior to your departure. Please visit the Center for International Programs located on the first floor of Brother Jerome West Hall. If you have obtained a travel signature in the past, please make sure to check the date that you obtained your last travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019. Please make sure that your last travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 is not older than six months.
Check the expiration date of your passport. You must have your passport with you at all time during your travel including travel within the United States. If you have a valid U.S. State Identification Card or Driver's License, you are not required to carry your passport when traveling within the U.S. If traveling abroad, your passport MUST carry your passport and your passport MUST be valid for at least 6 months into the future initial entry or re-entry to the United States. Students will be able to renew their passport if necessary in the United States. You can obtain up-to-date information regarding passport renewal at http://www.emabassy.org/embassies/.
F-1 or J-1 Visa
Different types of U.S. visas are issued based on the traveler's intent. International students will need to apply for F-1 Student visa and Exchange students will need to apply for J-1 Exchange Visitors visa by visiting the local U.S. Consulate. When you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, please make sure that all your information on the I-20 or DS-2019 is correct (correct spelling of the name, date of birth, etc.). All of your information your immigration document (Passport, Visa, I-20/DS-2019, and I-94 need to have consistent information.
Applying for a visa
If you are newly admitted student, you will receive your I-20 or DS-20291 along with your Admission packet (early decision students will receive their I-20 soon after they receive their Admission packet.) You will need your I-20 to apply for your F-1 student visa. To apply for your visa, you must first pay a $180 (J-1) and $200 (F-1) SEVIS fee. For more information or to pay this fee online, please visit www.fmjfee.com. Note: You will need to wait until your receive your I-20 or DS-2019 to pay your SEVIS fee as you will need your SEVIS ID number which is located on the right side of the first page of your I-20 above the barcode (beginning with the letter “N”). Please make sure to print your SEVIS fee receipt as you will need to provide this receipt at the visa interview. When your SEVIS fee has been paid, you must make an arrangement to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an interview by completing the DS-160 visa application form online. You should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible to make your interview appointment. You should allow at least one month for this process. (If you are a current student wanting to renew your visa, follow same visa application process.)
The U.S. Embassy or Consulate will require the following documents:
- Valid passport
- Original I-20 or DS-2019
- Acceptance Letter from Saint Mary’s College of California
- Welcome Letter from Saint Mary’s College of California.
- SEVIS Fee Receipt (Printout from www.fmjfee.com website)
- Proof of Funding
- Any additional supporting documents as required or necessary.
When entering the U.S.
Please make sure that you receive a correct visa stamp (F-1 or J-1) on your passport when entering the U.S. especially if you still have your B-2 Tourist visa in your passport. If you do not receive a correct visa stamp, you will have to leave and re-enter the U.S. to obtain a correct visa stamp. The purpose of the visa is for you to gain access to the U.S. Ports of Entry and request entry. Therefore, if you are in the U.S. already, you will not need to have a valid visa. However, if you depart the U.S. on an expired visa, you will need to renew your visa prior to re-entering the U.S. (Note: if you are traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than thirty days, you are not required to renew your expired visa. Your visa will be automatically renewed. However, for citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba who are already in the U.S. must have a valid visa.)
Citizens of Canada: Canadian Citizens are not required to apply for a visa.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
As of summer 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has automated the I-94 and I-94W process for all travelers including F-1 International Students and J-1 Exchange Visitors applying for admission at U.S. ports of entry (e.g., airport, seaport, border crossing, etc.). Students entering the U.S. with a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019, and F-1 or J-2 visa will be electronically registered when entering the U.S. at the ports of entry and will be provided an instruction on how to print your I-94 records online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html. Students are required to provide a copy during the International Student Orientation. Please print a copy for yourself as you will need to provide a copy when applying for Driver's License, Social Security Number, and when working on campus. More information regarding I-94 card can be found at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/i-94_instructions/.
If you have been in the U.S. for your High School education, you may still have your white, I-94 card. Please make sure to carry it with you in your passport when you are traveling outside the United States. You will need to surrender your I-94 card if you are departing from the United States. SPECIAL NOTE: F-1 and J-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their I-94 card. Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country. Students will be electronically registered when they are returning to the United States.
SMC Student ID Card
You will be taking a photo and receive your SMC Student ID Card during the International Student Orientation. You should always carry your SMC ID Card for identification purposes. However, SMC ID Card cannot be used as a proof of identity for official use such as opening a bank account. You could use your SMC ID card for meals at Oliver Hall, if you have a meal plan and you will be able to ride the bus for free during the academic year.
Special Registration Applicants
If you were required to go through the special registration process either at a U.S. port of entry or as part of a “call-in” registration at a district USCIS office, there is a special exit procedure that you must follow before you can depart the United States at the airport where your overseas flight will depart. Failure to do so can result in your being permanently barred from entering the United States. For a description of the requirement, and a list of designated exit ports and specific information on their locations and hours of operation, please visit: http://www.ice.gov/graphics/enforce.imm/specreg.WalkawayMaterial.pdf