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Important Terms and Documents for F-1 Students

All of the documents listed below are critical to maintaining your status in the U.S. Keep the originals current and in a safe place at all times. All newly arriving students must bring original documents listed below to the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars for copies within 5 days of arriving at ACU.

Passport – This card is issued to you by the government of your country.

  • Expiration date must always be at least 6 months in the future.
  • If your passport expires while in the U.S., contact your Embassy. You may not re-enter the U.S. with an expired passport.

U.S. Visa
 – Your visa allows you to enter and re-enter the United States within the period of visa validity.

  • You visa shows how many entries you are allowed into the U.S.
  • You are allowed to stay in the U.S. with an expired visa if all your other documents are current and you are still in legal immigration status.
  • You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa.

I-20 –
 This document is issued by the sponsoring school and allows the student to come to the U.S. and study on an F-1 visa.

  • You must show this document when you apply for a visa and upon entry to the U.S.
  • Shows the date when a student is expected to complete his/her studies. A student will be out of status if he/she remains in the U.S. past the completion date.
  • The I-20 must be kept current for a student to be in the U.S. legally.

Designated School Official (DSO)
 – This refers to the school official who is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to issue F-1 immigration documents and benefits at the university.  At ACU, the DSOs to assist you are in the Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars.

I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) – This is the card issued upon arrival to the U.S. and stapled in your passport.

  • This document shows how long you are authorized to stay in the U.S. with your visa status.
  • It shows your admission number
  • If you lose your I-94 or notice wrong information, contact the international office at ACU.

I-901 Fee
 – This fee is required by Congress to support the services and automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors and verifies that they maintain their status while in the U.S. Each student issued an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 is responsible for paying this fee. You must pay this fee or your visa application will not be processed. For information on the I-901 fee, payment instructions and exceptions, go to

I-765 – This is the form needed to complete the application for Employment Authorization. There is a filing fee required with this form.

I-539 – This form is needed to complete the application for reinstatement or change of status. There is a filing fee required with this form.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – This is the U.S government department that enforces immigration laws.

U.S. Department of State (USDOS) – This is the U.S. government agency that operates U.S. embassies around the world. Non U.S. citizens must visit the embassy to receive their visa to enter the U.S.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) – This is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the U.S.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) – This is the government’s web-based records system used by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP, a division of the DHS) to monitor the activities of universities and international students and scholars in the U.S.

Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD) – This is the card issued by DHS to authorize off campus employment.

Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars (OISVS) – This is the department at Abilene Christian University with the major role of providing immigration information, advice and documents for F-1 visa holders. Orientation sessions are offered at the beginning of each semester, and personal appointment times are available all year.

For more information, contact:

Office of International Students and Visiting Scholars
124 Hardin Administration Building
325-674-2710 (phone)
325-674-2966 (fax)