Everything you need to know about the I-20 Form

I20 form

The Department of Homeland Security in the US keeps track on the influx of international students in the country through SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program), which uses an internet-based system, known as SEVIS (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System) to do so. I-20 form, otherwise known as Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, is a paper-representation of the SEVIS record. It contains school code and SEVIS ID number, which helps to keep a tab on the international students.

I20 document (form) is issued by an SEVP-certified schools, universities and vocational colleges in the USA, to the international students who have been accepted to the program in the US educational institution. A record is created in the SEVIS after its issuance.

What information does an I-20 form have?

The I20 form has the SEVIS ID and –

  • Personal Information – name, country of birth, country of citizenship, and date of birth etc.
  • School Information – name of the college/university, address, contact person, education level, details of major as chosen by the student, length of program, start and end date of course etc.
  • Financial Information – estimated cost of studying and the student’s funding for the same

Who needs I-20 form?

I-20 form is mandatory for foreign students applying for F and M visa status.

F1- visa is for students who wish to pursue academic or language course in the US

F2-visa is for dependants (spouse and children) of an F1-visa holder

M1-visa is for students who wish to undertake vocational studies in the US

M2-visa is for dependants of M1-visa holder

Point to note: International students must apply for the visa (whichever is applicable) 120 days before the date mentioned on your I-20 form. Also, both you and your DSO (Designated School Official) must sign I-20 form. If your age is below 18 years your parents will sign the I-20 form for you. Also, your children and spouse accompanying you need to get a separate I-20 form in order to obtain an F2 or M2 visa status. However, they do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.

Why do you need it?

I-20 form is required for the following purposes-

It is required to get your student visa, i.e. F or M visa.

It is required during your visa interview at the US embassy/consulate in your country

It contains a SEVIS number which is required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee . The I-901 SEVIS fee is compulsory to pay and must be paid before entering the US.

It is required to enter the United States – you’ll need to show an original copy of I-20 (signed) at the port of entry. (Point to note: You’re eligible to enter the US up to 30 days before the start date specified on your I-20 form)

If you’re travelling abroad and you need to re-enter the US, you need I-20

For employment in the US

When applying for a social security number or a driver’s license in the States

I-20 form contains all your biographical details, the student tracking number, your school code and visa status (F or M). For any government-related documentation, the prerequisite is I-20 form. In short, it is a proof of your legitimate stay and study in the States.

How to get it?

After you have been accepted by the SEVP-affiliated university/school in the US, you’ll be given ‘Affidavit of Support’ form, which needs to be filled out completely.  The form essentially requires you to provide details about your financial status, i.e. whether you or your sponsor have adequate amount of funds to cover your study and stay in the US. You need to give an official bank statement in order to demonstrate this!

Upon submission of the ‘Affidavit of Support Form’, the respective university/school will review it. If your support form is approved, you’ll be issued form I-20.

For how long is I-20 form valid?

I-20 form is valid for the entire duration of your study. It contains the date of completion of your program. However, if due to some reason you are not able to complete your course within the completion date as mentioned on I-20, you are required to request for an extension of the same before the expiration date.


Subscribe to our Newsletter
  • Enter your email address