Maintaining Your Immigration Documents and Records
It is your responsibility while you are in F-1 or J-1 status to ensure the accuracy of your immigration documents and to collect and keep all of your immigration history and employment documentation.
Students should keep all Forms I-20 issued to them by UNC and other U.S. schools, even if they are from a previous degree program, as part of their complete immigration history record.
Important Steps when Receiving a New Form I-20*
- Review the document, which you will receive as an email attachment, and make sure you understand any changes and updates.
- Check the entire document to make sure all information is correct.
- Continuing students: Check page 2 for a new travel signature, as all updated I-20 forms will also have been endorsed for travel.
- If all information is correct, print out the I-20 and sign it at the bottom of page 1.
- Do not throw away any previous I-20 forms; keep all of them for your records.
*ISSS issues I-20 forms electronically and students will receive all new I-20 forms via email. Students should print and sign the I-20 to use for any official purposes such as, but not limited to, visa renewal, re-entry to the U.S., presenting proof of employment, driver’s license and/or social security number applications.
Form DS-2019 and Other Documents Specific to J-1 Status
Students should keep all Forms DS-2019 issued to them by UNC and other U.S. schools, even if they are from a previous degree program, as part of their complete immigration history record.
Students will need the original (hard copy) Form DS-2019 since these forms cannot be issued electronically. After receiving the DS-2019 students should review the document to make sure the information is correct before signing at the bottom of page 1. If any information is incorrect, please contact your international scholar advisor immediately.
In addition to the DS-2019, J-1 students should make sure to keep all on-campus employment authorization letters to show they received proper authorization from ISSS to work on-campus.
The Form I-94 (DHS Arrival/Departure Record) is created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you enter the United States and is the official record of your entry date and immigration status. The form is generated electronically and can be accessed on the CBP website.
- If you have traveled and made a new entry to the U.S., retrieve your electronic Form I-94 on the CBP website (click on “Get Most Recent I-94”).
- Check the I-94 to make sure it does not contain errors. NOTE: It is important to ensure the “admit until date” is D/S.
- Always print out and/or save every Form I-94 and store in an organized way.
- Keep the I-94s from previous entries to the U.S. for your records (Important: you will not have online access to the I-94 for a previous entry once you have traveled again).
- Keep other evidence of your travel history for your own records where possible (flight itineraries and tickets, etc.).
- Note that the information noted on the “travel history” section on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website is not always correct and usually cannot be corrected. However, your Form I-94 on the CBP website should always accurately reflect the details of your most recent entry. If this information is not correct, contact ISSS immediately.
Passports, U.S. visas, and EAD cards issued by USCIS
- Keep original documents safe! ISSS recommends that you obtain a NC State ID to use for identification purposes rather than carry your passport as a form of ID.
- Make sure you also have copies or photos of your passport identity page(s) and U.S. visa stamp(s); if a passport is lost or stolen, there may not be a way to recover this information later if you have not made your own copies.
- If you are issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immediately make an electronic copy to store for your records.
- Keep all previous EAD cards, even if already expired, for your records.
Social Security Card
- If you have a Social Security Number (SSN) you will need to keep your Social Security card in a safe, secure place. You should not carry this card with you in your wallet, or together with your passport when traveling, etc., as it is generally unnecessary to have this document on your person.
- You should also be protective of your SSN, and never send it over email or give it out freely. As this number could be used for identity fraud, you should make every effort to protect it.
- Once you are issued a SSN, this will be your number for life, so you should keep the original Social Security card in case you are required to present this document for future employment in the U.S. or for any other legitimate purpose.
- For any authorized period of practical training i.e. CPT or OPT (F-1 students) or academic training (J-1 students), keep a copy of your job offer letter as well as a detailed job description including information about how the employment was directly related to your degree program.
- Obtain an employment verification letter for each position held which verifies the start date and end date of employment job title, job duties and salary, as applicable.
- It may be important in some cases to keep additional records documenting the number of hours worked, especially in unpaid positions.
Where and How to Store Documents and Records
- ISSS recommends that you keep all documents in a binder or similar organizer and store them in a safe place. Also keep electronic copies of all documents, stored and managed on your computer and/or a back-up hard drive in an organized and easily accessible and protected way.
- Keep support documentation related to the maintenance of your student status (admission letters, full-time enrollment certifications, employment letters, etc.) in a similar manner, maintaining both original/hardcopy and electronic documents as applicable, and keeping them together with other immigration documents so they may be easily located.
This information is intended to provide general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Depending on your specific situation and immigration history, additional documents may need to be collected and kept and additional considerations may apply.