I spent some time thinking about what my first real post should be about and I decided to focus on something that we all need and all have but can be forgotten after you receive your entry visa.
The I-20 form
The first page is pretty self explanatory. It has the school you will be attending; signatures by you or a guardian if you are younger than 18; a summary of fees for the degree program you are enrolled in; ways by which you will be paying for said fees be it by scholarship, grants, or out of pocket (parental support); and in the top right corner there is the blank spot that gets stamped at the airport when you go through immigration.
The interesting thing is when you travel again. In ignorance one assumes that as long as the visa is valid and you have your I-20 in hand there should be no troubles traveling in and out of the country.
NAY, I say. This is not true!
A very important page on the form is PAGE 3. This is the page that usually has extras like if you have an internship on CPT or OPT (<- these would be topics for another post). It is also the page where your DO (Designated Officer) must endorse (sign) before you travel.
This has happened to me. I was unaware about the endorsing thing and unfortunately for me, my school was small and my DO was very new to the job. He had no idea about the endorsing thing either. I went back home and when I was ready to come back I couldn’t because my I-20 was not endorsed. I needed to request a new I-20 to be secure express mailed to me.
This is something you need to be very aware of if you are attending a school that though they have international students do not have a very solid international office. This is especially something to have in mind if you are from a country that has a suspect mail system with the chance of important documents getting “lost in the mail”.
The good thing about the signature is that it is valid for 6 months. So if you came in three months ago and are taking a trip for the winter holidays you should be in the clear. But if you are an “end of school year” traveler, ALWAYS, sign then travel!