The key differences between the I-20 and the student visa; whether a visa is required to return to a country of origin such as Egypt in order to extend a student visa, even though the student in question is still enrolled at a recognized college (2002-October 2004) [USA43101.E]

According to United States (US) government Websites, the I-20 form is a certificate of eligibility that is obtained from a US college, school or university in order to apply for a student visa (US Apr. 2003; ibid. 12 Oct. 2003). Correspondingly, in order to process a student visa, the applicant must submit the I-20 form only for the school he or she will be attending, duly signed by the applicant and a school official (ibid.; ibid. Apr. 2003).

Stanford University's Bechtel International Center Website defines the I-20 as:

[a] document issued by a school to a nonimmigrant student. Used to obtain an F-1 entry visa, for admission to the US and subsequently for the DSO [Designated School Official] to make recommendations and grant authorizations (26 Apr. 2004).

With regard to whether a student needs a visa to return to his or her country of origin in order to extend the student visa, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Website stated the following: students "do not need to apply to extend [their] stay in the United States as long as [they] are maintaining ... student status and making normal progress toward completing [their] academic course of study" (US 12 Oct. 2003). Consequently, the I-20 form should include the date by which a student's studies should be completed as originally indicated by a DSO (ibid.). However, the USCIS Website also noted that students wishing to extend their stay "for compelling academic or medical reasons" should fill out an I-538 form duly signed by a DSO and send it to the "USCIS student data center at least 30 days before the completion date listed" on the I-20 (ibid.).

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs noted that once a student has completed his or her studies as indicated on his or her I-20, the student is allowed some additional time before he or she leaves the US (ibid. Apr. 2003). For example, an "F-1 student" is allowed an additional 60 days, while an "M-1 student" is granted an additional 30 days (ibid.). Nevertheless, if a student leaves the US "with an expired visa, [the student] will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to America" (ibid.). The Bureau of Consular Affairs stated that, in this situation, a student visa could not "be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad" (ibid.).

The United States government, citing concerns for national security, established in 2002 the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) requiring all temporary foreign visitors from certain countries, including students, to "re-register after 30 days and one year of continuous presence in the United States" (ibid. 1 Dec. 2003). The special registration proposed by the NSEERS was directed towards citizens primarily drawn from a list of countries posing national security concerns such as Egypt (ibid.). However, in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) developed a new process for the NSEERS that suspended the "30-day or one-year re-registration requirement," and instead permits the DHS to advise "individual non-immigrant aliens subject to NSEERS registration to appear for one or more additional continuing registration interviews" in order to monitor the compliance of a non-immigrant to the conditions of their visa (ibid.). Moreover, the NSEERS is linked to the automated Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that is able to track changes of address or other notifications from those registered with the NSEERS (ibid.; see also US n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Stanford University. 26 April 2004. Bechtel International Center. "Glossary of Immigration Terms." [Accessed 25 Oct. 2004]

United States. 1 December 2003. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "Changes to National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS)." [Accessed 25 Oct. 2004]

____. 12 October 2003. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). "How Do I Become an Academic Student in the United States?" [Accessed 25 Oct. 2004]

____. April 2003. Bureau of Consular Affairs. "Student Visas." [Accessed 25 Oct. 2004]

____. n.d. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "SEVP -- Frequently and Previously Asked Questions: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)." [Accessed 25 Oct. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Embassy of the United States - Egypt, Embassy of the United States - Ottawa, United States Department of State, United States Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder.