Most students enter the United States on an F-1 (student) visa to be enrolled in a full-time degree program. To be eligible for this visa, they must obtain a Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” issued by the University where they plan to study. Dependents of an F-1 visa holder are classified as F-2. Spouses in F-2 status may not accept employment in the U.S. or be full time students. Part-time study is allowed but only as avocational or recreational in nature. F-2 children are allowed to study in elementary and secondary schools.
Some students enter the U.S. on a J-1 “Exchange Visitor” visa. This visa is for people who are participating in an Exchange Visitor Program administered by the U.S. Department of State for the purpose of educational and cultural exchange. Participants of this program (such as Reciprocity students) must have the form DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status” issued by the program sponsor in order to apply for a J-1 visa. Dependents of a J-1 visa holder are classified as J-2. These individuals may study and are eligible to work upon obtaining employment authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
International Student Services will mail you the form I-20 (for F-1 visa) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa) after you have been admitted to the university and submitted the required evidence of financial support. The Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) must be presented together with your unexpired passport and evidence of financial support as well as other required documents at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy when you apply for an F-1 student or a J-1 student visa.
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