Know your important documents (1)

There is a saying in my language  “rashin sa ni ya fi dare duhu”  which means, ignorance is worse than darkness. Another favorite saying by mom is “Ignorance is not an excuse”. Unfortunately I learned this the HARD way.

After my freshman year of college, I landed a summer job on campus. I was so excited because I was broke also this was my first paid “grown-up” job. I also needed the job to lessen the financial burden on my parents. My job position was as a  summer orientation camp leader.

Before my job started, I decided  to use my last dollars to buy a plane ticket to visit my siblings in DC. It was a great visit. On my way back to start my job, I went through the Dulles International DC airport. The TSA man asked for my I.D. Since I didn’t have a driver’s license, I gave him my passport. In my passport there was this white sheet of paper stapled to one of my passport pages, which he took out and trashed it. I didn’t think much of it because I didn’t even know what it was. Later come to find out it was my  form I-94!!!!!

On getting back to campus I was told to get my SSN (Social Security Number). I went to the SSN office and waited for a couple of hours. When it was my turn I had everything except the I-94. Because I didn’t have it, I could not get the SSN.I ended up losing that job. I lost the free housing and meals included. I felt hopeless, I cried till I had no tears. I was so distraught.  From that day, I learned to ALWAYS pay attention to my documents, no matter how small.

As foreigner in the US, there are so many documents to track and understand. It is exhausting.  All the many forms and documents can be confusing. I want to help break down the documents into understandable portions so hopefully, it can make your transition smoother.


You need this to apply for a visa. This is one form of identification. It has your full name (as seen on your birth certificate), date of birth, country and state of origin. It is a booklet with several empty pages on which a visa is stamped on. DO NOT LOOSE YOUR PASSPORT. If it is stolen or burnt make sure you report it immediately. Also make copies of your passport, just incase.

2) VISA:

 It is the stamp in your passport that proves you have been given access to enter into another country. An American visa is given at the American embassy in your country. Think of it like a permission slip. The process applying for a visa varies depending on the type. The best place to get accurate information on visa types and requirements will be on the embassy’s website. Do not write on your visa, mark it or leave it where kids/dogs can tear it out or play with it. Keep it safe. 

3) Form I-20:

As a student, your Form I-20 is your 2nd best friend. When you apply and get accepted to a college, they will issue you a form I-20. The many uses of your form I-20 include: paying for your SEVIS fee (mandatory), as a supporting document at your visa interview, to apply for driver’s license and SSN (social security number). You also show your form I-20 at the port of entry into the USA. Please note that you will need the original copy of your Form I-20 for all mentioned above. An example of what a form I-20 looks like:


TO be continued…..





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