Understanding US Government Offices and Legal Documents

Each international student should become familiar with some government and legal terms in order to navigate the visa regulations to which you must adhere. Below are brief descriptions of some of these important terms. Please see the International Student Advisor for more information.


United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS is a division of the Department of Homeland Security. USCIS is charged with, among other things, processing nonimmigrant applications and issuing Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). When applying for a student visa, requesting a visa renewal or petition for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization, you are applying directly to USCIS. 


Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

This is the web-based database used by University administrators and the Department of State to keep track of visa information for international students and scholars. SEVIS is used to issue I-20s, DS-2019s and to request work authorization, among other things. All international students are required to provide the International Student Advisor with the most up-to-date information about their academic plans and physical address so that their record in SEVIS is always current.



The passport is the booklet issued to a person by his or her country of citizenship. International students must maintain a valid passport during their studies in the US. When students apply for a student visa, students' passports must be valid for six months beyond the start of the academic program. Students' passports must always be valid during their stay in the US.



The visa is the stamp in a passport that allows the passport holder to enter the country. It’s okay to remain in the US after the visa stamp has expired. However, if a student leaves the US with an expired visa, reentry will not be allowed until the visa is renewed.

Some J-1 visa holders have a two-year home residency requirement following their exchange program. This means that the visa holder will not be allowed back into the US for two years following the completion of the program. This is determined on a case-by-case basis by USCIS officials. Please see the International Student Advisor if you have questions about the home residency requirement.


I-20 or DS-2019 (Evidencing Document)

The evidencing document is what allows a visa holder to stay in the US after arrival. For F-1 students, the I-20 is the evidencing document. For J-1 students, the DS-2019 is the evidencing document. International Students must maintain a valid I-20 or DS-2019 during their studies in the US.


I-94 Number

The I-94 number is issued to international students when entering at the US border. Students will need to print out a copy of the I-94 number from the USCIS website. This number is required to get a Social Security number, Oregon Driver's Licence or Oregon ID card, and to submit applications for Optional Practical Training(OPT) to USCIS.


EAD Card

An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is a form of work permit issued by the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). If students apply and are approved for work authorization during their stay in the US, they may be issued an EAD card.