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I'll be joining a fully funded graduate program in the US next fall. However, I had planned to go early (mid June) to do research in the summer for a couple of months. I also received an official offer letter (with guarantee of summer funding) with June 16 as the start date.

So I applied for an F-1 visa with the following dates

  • Coming to the US: 18 June 2016 (acc. to my flight)
  • Leaving the US: 15 August 2021

The leaving date field could not be left blank so I took a period of 5 years (typical PhD completion time at the institution is 5~6 years). My passport expires in October 2021.

However, I just received the I-20 sometime back and the program start date on it is given as 1 August 2016 and the program end date is 1 August 2022.

Will I need an updated I-20 to obtain a visa starting 18 June or is the offer letter + current I-20 sufficient?

Also, can the passport expiration date be an issue? I was planning to renew my passport while re-visiting my home country (India) after 2-3 years.

  • The passport expiration is not an issue. Your travel dates probably are. If your program starts in August I don't think you'll be able to enter in F-1 status before July. – phoog Apr 30 '16 at 14:20
  • I was referring to this page : usavisitorvisa.com/biometrics-fingerprinting-at-ofc.htm . "Your passport that does not expire for minimum 6 months beyond your intended period of stay." – cutculus May 1 '16 at 3:34
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    That requirement applies to short term visas like tourist visas and business visas. Also, that site is not an official site. You should be getting your information directly from the government. – phoog May 1 '16 at 5:55
  • Alright. Afaiu, the university should have sent me an I-20 starting June 16 (as per the summer letter). Do you think getting a new I-20 is my only practical option? – cutculus May 1 '16 at 6:22
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    @theindigamer: That requirement means that the admission period on their I-94 will be limited to 6 months before the passport expires (or for certain countries, including India, to the date the passport expires). However, F-1 people are always admitted for "D/S" on their I-94, not for a specific date, so this does not have any effect on you. Your passport just has to be valid on the day you enter the US. – user102008 May 3 '16 at 0:31
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Will I need an updated I-20 to obtain a visa starting 18 June or is the offer letter + current I-20 sufficient?

The office-in-charge immediately amended the original I-20 and sent it via express post. So it must mean that the incorrectly dated I-20 + letter combination was insufficient for obtaining an early visa. I also received a letter stating the change in the I-20 start date from the admissions office, in case it is needed to explain the situation during the visa interview.

Thankfully, the SEVIS number is unchanged which means the DS-160 does not need to be filled again (which can be quite time-consuming) and the visa appointment (if you've already made one) can proceed normally and you don't need to pay the visa fee of $160 again.

Also, can the passport expiration date be an issue?

I was informed by the Director of the international students office that this will not be an issue and that I can renew the passport some time in 2021.

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