Everything about I-20: Requirements, Application Process and FAQs

Everything about I-20: Requirements, Application Process and FAQs

The I-20 student visa form is an essential document for international students aspiring to pursue their studies in the US under student visas. This form, issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to accredited US colleges and universities, serves as official proof of your status as a legitimate student enrolled in a recognized institution of higher education in the United States.

Your I-20 form enables you to handle several key steps: paying the I-901 SEVIS fee, applying for your nonimmigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate, and facilitating your travel to the United States.

Let’s explore some common questions international students may have about the I-20.

Q. What is an I-20 Form?

The I-20 form, necessary for obtaining a student visa in the USA, serves as a Certificate of Eligibility issued by accredited colleges or universities in the US to international students on F-1 or M-1 student visas. This crucial document validates your status as a legitimate student pursuing education in the US and is a vital step in securing your student visa. Once you possess your visa, you can proceed to apply for a driver’s license and a Social Security number (pending visa and employment status), and become eligible for on-campus or off-campus employment, depending on the type of US student visa you hold.

Upon acceptance to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified US college or university, you’ll receive an I-20 form from the designated school official (DSO) at the institution where you intend to enroll. The DSO is responsible for the signing and issuance of the I-20 form. Should you need to update your information on the I-20 form, the DSO will make the necessary changes through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).

# Two types of I-20 forms are issued to international students based on the type of visa:

1. Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students

2. Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status – For Vocational Students

While these two forms cater to different academic programs, they contain identical information. Upon receipt of your I-20, the following details will be recorded in SEVIS:

– SEVIS ID number

– Academic program start and end dates

– Intended program of study

– Funding sources

– Cost of attendance at your school of choice

– Other personal information

It is imperative to keep your I-20 form with you throughout your stay in the US as an international student. 

# I-20 Form Requirements:

To acquire the I-20 visa application form, you must meet the following requirements:

– Gain acceptance to an accredited college or university: The institution you apply to must accept your application and be SEVP-certified.

– Ensure your information is accurate and up to date: Your attending college or university must verify the correctness of your personal information and confirm sufficient funds to cover your expenses during your US stay.

Q. How does an I-20 form look like?

Source: DHS.gov 

Q. What is the I-901 SEVIS Fee?

Upon acceptance to an accredited college or university in the US, you’ll be required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee to obtain your F-1 or M-1 student visa. To complete the payment, you’ll need your I-20 form.

You are expected to pay the SEVIS fee if you are:

– An F-1 or M-1 visa student from a country requiring a visa to travel to the US

– An F-1 or M-1 visa student from a visa-waiver country (prior to seeking admission at a US port of entry)

– A non-immigrant in the US seeking to change your nonimmigrant status to F-1 or M-1 status (before applying for a change of nonimmigrant status)

– An F-1 or M-1 student who has been out of status for over five months

– An F-1 or M-1 student who has been absent from the US for over five months and wishes to re-enter the US for higher studies in the same course of study

Refer to DHS.gov for comprehensive details regarding the SEVIS fee.

To pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, provide the following:

– Name, address, date of birth, and email address

– Country of birth and citizenship

– School Code as stated on your I-20 form

– SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the I-20 form

After paying the I-901 SEVIS fee, retain the receipt and present it at your visa interview as proof of payment. It is mandatory to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before entering the US.

Q. How Do I Get My I-20 Form?

If you are applying for an F-1 or M-1 student visa, you must obtain the I-20 form, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, to travel to the US.

Upon acceptance into a SEVP-certified college or university, your designated school official (DSO) will issue your I-20 form. After your application receives approval from the SEVP-approved school, you will be registered in SEVIS and required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee before the OFC appointment. Following registration, your college or university will furnish you with an I-20 form. The form specifies the start date of your program, allowing entry into the US up to 30 days before your academic program begins. F-1 or M-1 student visas may be issued up to 120 days before the program’s start date.

Q. Who Needs an I-20 Form?

As a mandatory document verifying your eligibility for F-1 or M-1 student visa status in the US, the I-20 student visa form must be kept with you throughout your US study program.

You require an I-20 form if you are:

– A non-immigrant who has never attended a US school or university

– A non-immigrant seeking to transfer from a US secondary school, college, or university

– A non-immigrant changing your current visa status to an F-1 visa

– A non-immigrant returning from a leave of absence exceeding five months from the US

Carry your original I-20 form with your signature upon entering the US. A US Customs and Border Protection officer will request your I-20 form at the port of entry. Ensure it remains in your carry-on bag and avoid packing it within your suitcase.

Q. Will I Get a New Form I-20?

Yes, you can request a new I-20 form from your DSO under the following circumstances:

– The physical copy of the I-20 form is damaged, lost, or stolen

– You require it for travel

– Your SEVIS status changes (e.g., from initial to active)

– Your personal information changes (e.g., new program of study, optional practical training, etc.)

To request a new I-20 form, contact your DSO. Remember, your DSO can only reprint an official I-20 form when your SEVIS status is initial or active.

Q. Do I Need the I-20 Form for Travel?

While the I-20 form is not required for travel, you must carry it for re-entry into the US. International students with F-1 or M-1 student visas must keep a hard copy of their I-20 form with original signatures. For instance, if you plan to travel outside the US and return to your US university or college to resume studies, ensure you bring your I-20 form.

We are glad we could help! With this handy guide and a sprinkle of determination, you’re well on your way to securing your US student visa and unlocking a world of academic possibilities. So pack your bags, grab your textbooks, and get ready to chase your American dream – the visa gateway is open! We at KnowMySlots are the OneStopDestination for all visa related services!

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