(A) Documents

First, you will need to obtain (1) a passport from your country of citizenship. Next, you’ll use (2) the SEVIS I-20 that has been mailed to you by Allegheny College to obtain (3) an F-1 visa at the appropriate U.S. Consulate in your home country. 1 Please make sure you have the latest information on visa applications (see section B(4) below).
(1) Passport
Passports provide proof of citizenship and are issued by the appropriate government ministry in a person’s home country; passports enable people to travel internationally and tore-enter their home country. In place of passports, some people hold a certificate of identity. For students, it is best that passports have an expiration date at least six months after the amount of time required to complete the course of study in the United States (this time period is also known as the “duration of status” in the United States). However, students whose passports will expire before their course of study is complete in the U.S. will have to renew their passport either in their home country or at the embassy of their home country (typically) in Washington, D.C. This should be done several months before the passport expires.
(2)SEVIS Form I-20 (for F1 visas)
The I-20 is the form that certifies your eligibility to apply for an F-1 visa and to obtain F-1 student status. You will be issued an I-20 by Allegheny College’s International Office. As soon as you receive your I-20, verify that the following information on your I-20 is valid and correct:
           a. the spelling of your name: make sure that it is in the same form and spelling as on your passport;
           2b. the date and country of birth, degree program, reporting date, completion date,
(1 Note: Canadian students do not need to apply for or receive
an F-1 visa. Instead, F-1 status is granted at the entry point when the student presents an I-20 and other required documents, provided the SEVIS I-901 fee has been paid.
2 However, any special characters or diacritic marks will be changed to their nearest equivalent in the English alphabet.)
28 and financial information. If the reporting date is passed, the I-20 has expired and cannot be used; c. the college “PDSO” or “DSO”, i.e., “Principal Designated School Official
“or “Designated School Official,”has signed the I-20 (at Allegheny, it is Jenny Kawata or Josh Whitson). The I-20 is one of documents necessary to obtain the F-1 visa stamp at the U.S. Consulate, and to enter the U.S. You will also need it to leave and re-enter the U.S., as well as to prove your legal status in the country. When your application to obtain an F-1 visa has been approved by the U.S. Consulate, the I-20 will be placed in a sealed envelope by the consular officials and returned to you. When you arrive at the U.S. port-of-entry, the envelope will be opened and the I-20 will be processed (see below). Item #5 of the I-20 indicates the date by which F-1students are required to enter the U.S.; make sure you enter the U.S. by that date!
 (3) U.S. Visa Stamp
In order to enter the United States, self-sponsored international students who have been accepted for full-time study in academic or language programs are required to apply for and obtain an F-1 non-immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate/embassy in their home country. The F-1 visa is stamped or otherwise affixed in your passport (see more information on obtaining the visa below). The visa DOES NOT determine how long you are allowed to stay in the U.S.; the F-1 visa indicates only the time period during
which you are allowed to enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. It is the I-20 that provides the basis for your length of stay, and the I-94 that confirms your status once you enter the U.S. (for more information about the I-94, see section “C. Arriving in the U.S” below).