Immigration Information

As an international student there are certain laws that you must be aware of during your studies at College of the Desert and the Intensive English Academy.  These pages are designed to give you some information that will help you maintain your F-1 status and access some of the benefits you are entitled to.  We are here to help you understand your responsibilities as an F-1 student.  The more you understand the rules regarding the F-1 visa, the easier your stay in the USA will be! 
Please see Cody McCabe in the International Education Program Office for any of your immigration questions.  You can email him at or call 760-776-7270 to schedule an appointment.

Important Immigration Definitions:

This page will provide you with some common terms that you should learn regarding your F-1 visa status: 


SEVIS (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System) is the tracking system that the US Department of Homeland Security (US DHS) uses to monitor international students while you are in the USA.  SEVIS requires all schools in the United States to report on their international students (F- 1 and J- 1) students.  This reporting is done through computer via the internet.  Reporting is done at regularly scheduled times as well as when a new event occurs.
US DHS is very specific about the type of information that schools will need to report on each F-1 student.  Examples include: name; place and date of birth; country of citizenship; current address of the student; verification of enrollment for current term; the start date of the student’s next term or session; failure to enroll; dropping below 12 units without authorization and more!

US Department of Homeland Security:

(US DHS), is the US government department that monitors international students in the United States.  The DHS used to be known as the Immigration & Naturalization Service or “INS”.  As of March 2003, the name and functions were changed to the US DHS.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (US CIS):

This is the adjudication (application review) arm of the DHS.  The US CIS evaluates all requests for benefits for F-1 students, including:  employment applications, reinstatement requests, change of status requests, etc.

US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (US ICE):

This is the enforcement arm of the DHS.  The US ICE is responsible for investigations, deportations and all enforcement issues related to SEVIS.

Student/F- 1 status:

Student or F- 1 status is given to you by the US government because you will be attending a US school or college as a full- time student.  It is the authorized period of stay that you are allowed while in the US.  Student status requires that you maintain your enrollment at specified times:
College students:  12 units each semester (summer and winter enrollment is optional).
IEA students:  Full-time enrollment required for one academic year before vacation granted.


The I-20 is the legal document given to you by the school that you are currently attending.  This is the document that allows you to remain in the United States as a full-time student.  The I- 20 is valid for the period of study indicated in #5 OR until such time when you end your attendance at the particular school.  Make sure your I- 20 has not expired by checking the date in #5.
You must keep this document with you when you are traveling overseas and make sure that you have the necessary signatures when traveling in order to return to the United States.

F- 1 visa:

The F- 1 visa is the stamp in your passport that was issued by the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country.  This visa gives you student (F-1) status for your stay in America.  The F-1 visa is an entry document only.  This means that your visa must be valid in order for you to enter the United States.  Once you have entered the United States, your visa can expire as long as your I- 20 and passport are valid AND you are maintaining student status.
If you are going to travel and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to come to the International Student Office in order to get the necessary paperwork for visa renewal.


The I-94 is the official arrival/departure record noted at the Port of Entry.  The I-94 is often needed when applying for employment, driver's license or social security card and opening bank accounts.  I-94 cards are no longer issued at the Port of Entry.  Instead, students can access their I-94 card online by visiting

60 day “grace period”:

When you successfully complete your studies at one educational institution, you are given a 60 day grace period.  This means that within 60 days you must enroll in another institution, change your status, OR return to your home country.  If you stay longer than 60 day grace period, you are considered an “overstay” and out of status.  Students who drop out of school or who are out of status are not given a 60 day grace period.


If an international student falls out of status, he/she must apply for reinstatement through the US DHS.  DHS will review the application and decide if the student can be given a new I- 20 and remain in the United States.