Visa Stamp, I-94, and Immigration Status
A visa is the paper glued into a student's passport following a successful visa application at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the U.S. There are many types of visas (F-1, J-1, H-1B, H-4, L-2, etc.). International students at Brown typically have an F-1 or J-1 visa in their passport. Canadian citizens are exempt from applying for a visa.
The visa indicates that the visitor is eligible to request entry and reentry to the United States in the specific immigration category listed on the visa stamp. For F-1 and J-1 students (and their dependents) the visa does not indicate length of stay once the student or his/her family member is admitted to the U.S.
The I-94 "Arrival/Departure" record is issued by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) upon entry to the United States. The I-94 indicates that an individual has been been legally admitted to the U.S. in a specific immigration status and for a specific length of time. F-1 and J-1 students, and their dependents, are admitted to the U.S. by a CBP officer for the "duration of their status" -- or D/S. This means that the student and his/her dependent can remain in the U.S. for the duration of their academic program as indicated on their F or J specific immigration document.
Upon entry to the U.S., a CBP officer will stamp your passport with the date of entry, immigration category you are being admitted in (i.e. F-1, J-1, etc.), and length of stay allowed (i.e. D/S). After arrival, students who arrived by air or at a seaport are responsible for obtaining the official I-94 online. Those students who arrive by a land border crossing will receive a paper I-94 record. Those who receive or have a paper I-94 record in their passport will need to surrender that document upon departure from the U.S.
Immigration status is the legal permission to remain in the U.S. in a particular immigration category and under conditions specific to that immigration category listed on the I-94 record. Typically many of these conditions are a outlined by the immigration document associated with the particular immigration category -- I-20 (F-1) and DS-2019 (J-1).
The Form I-20 is the immigration document associated with the F-1 student visa and immigration status. The I-20 document is issued by the school where the student has been admitted and will pursue an academic program. The document contains the student's biographical information, a brief description of the academic program and the students financial support. This document is also used in conjunction with a student's entry/re-entry into the U.S. in F-1 status, as well as employment authorization. A dependent spouse or child who will accompany the student to the U.S. in F-2 status is issued a Form I-20, as well.
The Form DS-2019 is the immigration document associated with the J-1 exchange visitor visa and immigration status. The DS-2019 document is issued by the school where the student has been admitted and will pursue an academic program. The document contains the student's biographical information, a brief description of the academic program and the students financial support. This document is also used in conjunction with a student's entry/re-entry into the U.S. in J-1 status, as well as employment authorization. A dependent spouse or child who will accompany the student to the U.S. in J-2 status is issued a Form DS-2019, as well.
I-797 Notice of Action
All H-1B and O-1 scholars will be issued an I-797 Notice of Action once their petition has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).