Our office will need a copy of all your documents for your individual student file when you first come to orientation. If you update your passport or visa, we will need a copy. if you leave the country and return, we ask for a photocopy of your new I-94. Please contact us if you or anyone you encounter has questions about your documents.
These documents are required to enter and remain in the U.S. They are all legal as long as you maintain your status with us.
The passport shows the bearer’s nationality and is valid for entry into a foreign country and back into the home country. It must be kept valid at least one year from the date of your application for an F-1 visa.
Renew your passport
You must always have at least six months on your passport before expiration. It is best to renew before this.
If your passport is close to expiring — but you can't get home until break — visit your consulate here in the U.S. as soon as possible.
The Form I-20 that Cal Lutheran has sent to you indicates to consular officials that you have been accepted for admission at — and are eligible to attend — Cal Lutheran for the period of time required for your studies.
Traveling with an I-20
You do not need to get your I-20 signed for travel inside the U.S.
Mexico and Canada are not part of the U.S. You must get your I-20 signed to visit them.
Get your I-20 signed every time
It is a good practice to get your I-20 signed every time you leave the U.S.
When you present a recently signed I-20, border guards know they are looking at timely material.
If you forget your I-20
If you forget to bring your I-20 home over break and need to come back to the U.S., you have two options:
- Let us know by email or phone call. We can mail you a new I-20. You will have to reimburse us for the cost of mailing. This is the prefered option! During COVID-19 electronic copies of the I-20 are accepted.
- Try to come back to the U.S. without your I-20. You might have to then spend time in secondary.
The visa is usually a stamped or affixed entry on a page of the passport. It allows a person to apply for entry at a foreign port of entry.
There are various categories of visas, depending upon the purpose and length of the intended stay.
Visas are agreements made with the foreign country on conditions of entry (such as maintaining full-time student status and leaving the U.S. after a specified period).
You must apply for an F-1 visa and enter the country in F-1 student status.
Always be aware of when your visa needs to be renewed.
The U.S. consolates in some countries are very strict about visa renewals. If this is your case, we are happy to write a letter of support for your visa renewal.
Additionally, to demonstrate that you are a serious student, we suggest bringing them copies of:
- Your transcripts
- The courses you plan to take next semester
If your visa is expired, you do not have to travel home just to renew it.
But if you do go home and your visa has expired, then you must renew it to get back into the U.S.
You need to print your I-94 upon arrival to the U.S. Please review the information on your I-94 for accuracy.
Please print your I-94 by going to this website ( copy it in your browser)
- Receive the I-20. Your SEVIS (Student/Exchange Visitor Information System) Form I-20 has either previously been sent to you or you should be receiving it soon. Please contact your admission counselor if you have questions regarding the arrival of your I-20.
- Complete the Form I-901 and pay the SEVIS fee: http://www.ice.gov/sevis
- Apply for your visa with the local U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. A personal interview with a consular official may or may not be required.
What to bring to the embassy or consulate:
- Your passport
- Your I-20 form
- Verification of financial support for at least the first year of studies
- A copy of your letter of admission from Cal Lutheran
Check at the embassy or consulate for fee information and any additional documents required for application for a student visa.
About the F-1 visa
The student (F-1) visa is a non-immigrant visa.
During your interview with the Embassy official, you will be required to articulate why you want to study in the U.S. as opposed to your home country and that you intend to return to your home country at the end of your studies.
Be prepared to proved evidence that:
- There is a permanent residence outside the U.S. that you intend to return to when you graduate
- You are seeking admission to the U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full-time course of study at Cal Lutheran.
If you no longer plan to attend Cal Lutheran, you must notify us and return the I-20.
If you have attended another institution in the U.S. prior to your enrollment at Cal Lutheran, you must have your I-20 transferred to Cal Lutheran.
Speak with your admission counselor to learn more.
If you plan to leave the U.S. after leaving your current school — but before coming to Cal Lutheran — you will be required to use your new Cal Lutheran I-20 to re-enter the U.S.
Use the Cal Lutheran I-20 to apply for a new visa at the consulate or embassy in your home country prior to returning to the U.S.
Please contact the Office of Admission as soon as possible if you are denied a student visa.
We recommend that you request a reason for the denial in writing. Though we cannot guarantee that a visa will be issued to all of our students, it may be possible for us to assist you with a second application or to provide further information that may assist with your visa application.
What to do when...
At the start of each academic term, you need to turn in a completed Current Student Profile form. We use this form to register you with Homeland Security through SEVIS.
Each time you travel outside the U.S., you need to:
- Turn in a completed Intention to Travel form. Download form
- Make sure your most current I-20 is signed for travel.
- Take all your travel documents with you. Keep them in a secure place.
- Have any required visas for the destination country. (If you’re not traveling to your home country.) Check that country’s website for visa requirements between your country and theirs. (This includes Mexico and Canada.)
- Ensure your passport is good for at least another six months from when you plan to return to the U.S.
- Ensure your visa will not expire prior to returning to the U.S. If you need to renew your visa, complete the Visa Renewal Support Letter Request form. Download form
- Check in with our office upon your return. Bring copies of any new travel documents.
- Download your new I-94. Get the form
If the State Department has released a warning about your travel destination, we will tell you.
We realize that you are an adult and can go any place you want. However, we need to make sure that you know about any risks involved with traveling to some countries.
If you need to renew your visa while outside the U.S., you will need to:
- Get a copy of the classes you are scheduled to take next term from WebAdvisor.
- Get your current transcript from WebAdvisor.
- Complete the Visa Renewal Support Letter Request form. Download form
- Print out your new I-94 upon returning to the U.S. Keep a copy for your records. Give a copy to us when you check in. Get the form
If your visa is going to expire, only renew it if you are planning to travel outside the country. Your I-94 is stamped with “D/S,” which means you are okay to remain in U.S. with your current visa for the “Duration of Status” as an F-1 student. This includes OPT. Your visa can only be renewed outside the U.S., and it must be current to re-enter the U.S. Some exceptions apply to Canada and Mexico. See exceptions
Tips to keep in mind
- Keep your passport and Form I-20 in your carry-on bag. You will need them to pass through immigration when you arrive at the airport. During COVID-19, also have a print out of your schedule of classes and the letter OISS will provide for you. (This will be before you can access your checked luggage.)
- During your stay in the U.S., keep all your documents in a safe place. It may be difficult or require a lengthy (and possibly costly) process to replace any of these documents.
- You must notify us of any change in address (permanent overseas address or temporary address in the U.S.) within 10 days of the date the address change takes effect.
- You must notify us prior to traveling outside the U.S. so that your I-20 can be endorsed for travel.
- Remember to be positive and flexible. This information does not cover all possible situations or questions and it may change.
- Attendance at the International Student Seminar at the beginning of the semester will help you learn more about maintaining your F-1 visa status. It will be virtual in fall 2020 and you will receive a link to access it in your callutheran.edu email.