What immigration documents should I carry?
The OIS frequently gets questions on what immigration documents should be carried by our international visitors. All international visitors, including those that are permanent residents of the United States, age 18 or older must carry their immigration documentation that shows their lawful status at all times. This is a law from Section 264(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Failure to comply can result in a federal misdemeanor. Any of the applicable documents should be carried at all times: valid state driver’s license or state identification card, valid passport with entry stamp, I-94 arrival record, I-797 approval notice, I-20, DS-2019, and employment authorization document (EAD) card.
Regardless of where you are in the United States, whether you are on the UT Health San Antonio campus, you must carry your physical immigration documents with you (hardcopy), especially if you are traveling close to the border of Texas. The OIS strongly advises our international visitors and U.S. permanent residents to keep copies of their immigration documents. In the event that any or all of your original documents are lost or stolen, you will still have a copy of the document that was issued to you. If you do lose your immigration documents, please contact the OIS immediately for further instructions or for reissuance of a DS-2019/I-20. The most recent I-94 arrival record can be retrieved from the I-94 website.
OIS Tip: Keep all of your immigration documents together in one place. You can purchase a plastic envelope/binder that can keep your documents stored together. As mentioned above, we highly recommend that you make copies of all of your documents. Keep them in a separate place so that in the event you should need them, you will have that second copy.
How long to hold on to your immigration documents?
International visitors should retain all of the immigration documents for several years, especially, if you have changed from one visa category to another. You may be required to present copies of this documentation, including I-94’s, passports, visa stamps, I-20’s and DS-2019’s, I-797 approval notices, among other items, for future petitions/requests to show that you have maintained your immigration status. You should never shred any of your immigration documents even if you have held that status a long time ago, even if it was a couple decades earlier!
For individuals who have ever held J-1/J-2 status, it is critical that you keep all copies of Form DS-2019 that you have and any Form DS-2019 that you may receive in the future. Even after you have returned to your country of legal residence, it is strongly recommended that you keep these documents in a safe place and electronically, if that you are required to present them in the future. Make sure to report to OIS immediately if you lose one or all your immigration documents.
The OIS does keep copies of immigration documents for the required length after an international visitor has complete their program or changed their status. OIS is not responsible for providing you with copies after you have left the University. The OIS recommends that you store your documents in a secure place.