Frequently Asked Immigration Questions

How do I obtain an I-20 form?

Portland Community College will issue an I-20 form after the following documents have been submitted and reviewed by the admissions staff in the Office of International Education:

  • PCC international student application
  • Educational records ( language program records, high school records and or college/ university transcripts-if applicable)
  • $50.00 application fee
  • Affidavit of support/ financial statement that proves a minimum of $18,000 is available to support study in the U.S.
  • If you are already in the U.S. you should also submit a copy of your U.S. visa (the stamp in your passport) and I-94 form (the small white departure card given to you on the airplane before you arrived in the U.S.)

After approved, the Office of International Education will then issue the I-20. Please note that you may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date on your I-20.

How do I obtain an F-1 Visa?

Make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is preferable that you go to the Embassy or Consulate in your country of citizenship. During the interview, submit your

  • visa application-form DS-156
  • passport
  • both copies of your I-20 form
  • affidavit of support from your sponsor
  • your financial documentation
  • You should also submit the letter of admission from PCC.

Be prepared to answer questions about your reasons for studying in the U.S. and your plans to return home after you complete your studies. If your documents are in order and your responses to questions meet the interviewers expectations, you will be issued a visa in your passport.

How do I change my J-1 exchange visitor visa or other non-immigrant visa types to an F-1 student visa?

While you are in the U.S., you can change your status by applying to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. You must complete form I-539 and pay a filing fee of $300. You must submit the application form 45 days before your I-94 card expires. It is not necessary to change your visa (the stamp in your passport) while you are in the U.S. If you leave the country, however, you must obtain an F-1 visa to return to the U.S. in student status. To do this, you must apply to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, preferably in your country of citizenship. Consult the Office of International Education for assistance in compiling all necessary documents.

I have a visa waiver. How do I change it to an F-1 Visa?

You can’t. A visa waiver is given to citizens of particular countries so that they do not have to apply for a visa. Therefore, when you have a waiver you have no visa, and you cannot change a visa if you do not have one. There are no alternatives available to you except to leave the U.S. before the expiration date on your I-94 and apply for a student visa abroad.

I need to leave the country suddenly for a family emergency. What should I do?

Talk to one of the International Student Advisors and get a signature on page 3 of your I-20 form. Check whether you need a new F-1 visa to return to the U.S. You may need to fill out some other forms, too, depending on the nature of your emergency and when you plan to return.

I want to travel during the school break. What should I do?

Get a signature on page 3 of your I-20 form. Check whether you F-1 visa in your passport is still valid.

My F-1 Visa stamped in my passport has expired. What do I do?

The visa stamped in your passport is an entry visa, and need only be valid for entry into the U.S. You can remain in the U.S. legally as long as your passport is valid, as long as you are continuing to make good progress toward your degree, and as long as the date indicated on your I-20 as your expected completion date has not passed. However, the next time you choose to leave the U.S., you will need to go to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a new entry visa.

See the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services website for Immigration forms.