If you're a current student in our International & English Language Programs, our student advisors are available to you by email and personal appointment to answer questions about student visas and related immigration issues. If you're a prospective student or incoming student with questions about visas, visit our student visas page before contacting an advisor.
Our advisors can also offer guidance and suggestions about other issues, such as volunteering, making medical appointments, adjusting to American culture and living in Seattle.
The information below can help answer common questions about visa rules for current IELP students.
- The I-20 Certificate of Eligibility is used to obtain an F-1 visa, to enter the United States in order to begin or resume study, and to document the visa holder's immigration status. The I-20 also allows students to apply for certain F-1 immigration benefits. It is very important to keep your I-20 safe and to make sure it is up-to-date at all times.
- The expiration date of your I-20 is listed on the first page. If your I-20 was issued before June 26, 2015, the expiration date will be in Section 5. Look for the text that says, "The student is expected to report to the school no later than [start date] and complete studies no later than [expiration date]." If your I-20 was issued after June 26, 2015, the expiration date will be listed under "Program End Date."
- If it appears that your I-20 will expire before you can complete your studies, you must apply for an extension. We recommend that you begin this process at least one month before your I-20 will expire so you have enough time to get the proper documentation. Follow these steps:
- Get a new bank statement or financial guarantee. You must prove that you still have sufficient funds to continue studying in the United States. If you are on a scholarship, you must obtain a new scholarship letter or financial guarantee that shows that you still have a scholarship.
- Make an appointment with an International Student Advisor to request an I-20 extension.
- If you have any questions about your I-20, or if you have any trouble getting updated proof of finances, please contact us as early as possible. Note that your I-20 cannot be extended after the expiration date has passed.
Obtaining an I-20 for Dependents
- If you need an I-20 for your dependent spouse or child, immediately email us. We will need a copy of each dependent's passport (the identification page with photo) and the dependent's country of birth. You will also need to show proof that you have sufficient funds to support each dependent – for example, an updated bank statement or letter of sponsorship.
- If your I-20 has been lost or stolen, please contact an advisor to learn how to receive a replacement.
- Your passport should always be valid at least six months into the future. If your passport will expire soon, contact your country's embassy to request a new one.
- If your passport is lost, stolen or damaged, make an appointment with an International Student Advisor as quickly as possible so we can assist you. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also provides instructions on what to do in this situation.
- Your student visa (F-1) is your permission to enter the United States. To keep your F-1 status, you must remain a full-time student in good standing with the institution that issued your I-20. Once you are in the United States, you can stay as long as you have a valid I-20 Certificate of Eligibility and maintain your F-1 status.
- While you are in the United States, it is okay if your visa expires. As long as you have a valid I-20 and are maintaining your F-1 status, you can stay in the country. If you leave the United States after your visa expires, you must apply for a new visa before you can reenter.
- If your visa is lost or stolen, or if you want to change your visa status, contact an International Student Advisor for assistance.
- As of May 2015, F-2 dependent visa holders can study part time in any certified program at a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program must be in the school's SEVP certification and can't include more than 18 hours of class per week for language training/clock-hour programs, or 12 hours per week for credit-bearing programs. F-2 visa holders who want to enroll in full-time study must still apply for and get approval to change their status to an F-1 student visa. Contact an International Student Advisor for more information.
Electronic I-94/Entry Stamp
- The Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) became automated as of April 30, 2013. You will no longer receive a paper I-94 when entering the United States by air or sea. If you would like to print a copy of your Form I-94, you can do so on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website. Read more about I-94 automation on this U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
- The entry stamp from U.S. Customs and Border Protection in your passport indicates how long you are allowed to stay in the country. If you are an F-1 visa holder you should receive an F-1 D/S notation, which stands for F-1 duration of status.
Staying in Status
- In status means that you are following immigration rules and are in the United States legally. If you fall out of status it means that you have violated immigration rules and are not in the country legally. To ensure that you stay in status, make sure you:
- Attend classes. Daily attendance is extremely important; students who do not attend class regularly may be dismissed from the program. Please contact an Academic Advisor if you have questions about the Intensive English Program attendance policy.
- Make satisfactory academic progress. This means that you should be continuing to make progress in our programs. If you repeatedly fail classes or your grades continue to decline, you risk falling out of status.
- Notify the IELP office of any address changes. All F-1 visa holders are required by U.S. law to report address changes within 10 days of moving. If you fail to tell the IELP office that you have changed your address, you may fall out of status.
- To report an address change, notify us via email or come to the IELP office to fill out a change of address form immediately after you move. We will then update your address in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
- Keep your I-20 Certificate of Eligibility up-to-date at all times. Do not let your I-20 expire!
Taking a Break From Your Studies – Annual Vacation Quarter
- After nine months, you may be eligible to take a break from your studies for one quarter. You must meet all of these requirements to be eligible:
- You have been studying continuously in the United States for at least nine months (three academic quarters) with an F-1 status.
- You must be eligible for and intending to enroll in full-time studies in the United States immediately after the break.
- Your I-20 Certificate of Eligibility is not expiring before the end of your vacation quarter.
- You have met with an International Student Advisor in person to obtain permission and to complete the break request form.
- Please contact our office in order to check your eligibility for a break. You must receive approval by the end of the quarter before your break. For example, if you want to take a break during summer quarter, you must get approval before the end of spring quarter.
- As an F-1 visa holder, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week on campus while you are a full-time student. The UW must be your employer. Please be aware that not all campus jobs are open to non-matriculated students who are not enrolled in UW credit courses. You are not eligible for off-campus jobs.
- In the past, IELP students have found work in places such as the on-campus photocopy centers or computer labs. To find an on-campus job, ask to speak to the office supervisor or manager of the place where you would like to work. Find out if there are any part-time jobs available for students. Even if there are no current job openings, the supervisor may contact you later when one becomes available.
- To obtain an on-campus job:
- Apply for the job. You must get a special letter offering you employment and describing the nature of your job. You can get this letter from the supervisor.
- Bring the letter from your employer to the IELP office. An International Student Advisor will give you another letter to use when you apply for a Social Security card.
- Take both letters to the nearest U.S. Social Security Administration office to apply for a Social Security card. See information on your orientation flash drive for more instructions.
- Note: International students are not eligible for "work study" jobs.
Optional Practical Training
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a special employment authorization that provides F-1 students with an opportunity to work in the United States for up to 12 months, earning money in a position related to their academic field of study.
- You may be eligible to apply for OPT if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You are a Global Business Program or Global IT Foundations Program student currently in F-1 status.
- You have not been approved for OPT at an equal or higher education level in the past.
- You have been enrolled as a full-time student in the Global Business Program or Global IT Foundations Program for three consecutive quarters (nine months) and will complete the program by the date the OPT approval begins.
- You are less than 90 days from your completion date for the Global Business Program.
- Contact an International Student Advisor to learn more.
- While you are a UW IELP student, you are free to travel within the United States. You may also travel outside of the United States if you meet all of the following requirements:
- Your I-20 Certificate of Eligibility must be valid (not expired).
- You must have a current travel signature on your I-20. Each signature is valid for six months as long as you are a full-time student in IELP. If your I-20 was issued before June 26, 2015, then the travel signature will be on page 3 of your I-20. If your I-20 was issued after June 26, 2015, then the travel signature will be on page 2 of your I-20.
- Your F-1 visa must still be valid on the date you return to the United States.
Traveling to Canada
- Because Seattle is close to the Canadian border, many students choose to visit Canada during their stay. If you plan to visit Canada, be sure to:
- Find out if you need to obtain a Canadian visa. Citizens of some countries need a visa to visit Canada.
- Bring with you the original copies of all of your important immigration documents, including your I-20.
- Have a current travel signature on your I-20.
When to Travel
- The best time to visit Canada, Mexico or another country is before the end of your studies. (Please remember that Canada and Mexico are not part of the United States.) After you have finished studying in our program, you cannot use your I-20 to reenter the United States once you leave.
- After completing your English program, you have up to 60 days to travel within the United States, as long as you have maintained your F-1status. You must leave the United States or transfer to another SEVP-certified school by the end of that 60-day period.
- If you need a new signature on your I-20 for travel, bring your I-20 to the IELP office a few business days before you plan to leave the U.S. You do not need to make an appointment just to get a travel signature.
Transferring to a Different School
- If you plan to transfer from the UW Continuum College to another school in the United States, you must first apply and get accepted to the new school. Then, follow these steps:
- Turn in a completed Transfer Out Form and written proof of admission to the IELP office. This can be a copy of your acceptance letter or an email from your new school's admissions office confirming your acceptance.
- If you are currently enrolled in an IELP program and do not plan to continue studying through the end of the quarter, you must also turn in a completed IELP Withdrawal Form.
- If you have a transfer-in form from the new school, turn it in with your other transfer documents. We will fill out the form and send it to your new school.
- Your new school cannot issue you a new I-20 until the SEVIS transfer release date. After this date, the UW will no longer have access to your SEVIS record, so you should only request a transfer after you are certain about your plans.
- If you have questions about the transfer process, email an advisor or call to make an appointment. If you only need to turn in transfer paperwork, you do not need an appointment.
- If you need to leave your IELP program before the end of the quarter, you must officially withdraw by completing the IELP Withdrawal Form and returning it to the IELP office as soon as possible. For further information, see the refund policy in your student handbook and consult with an International Student Advisor.