What is the Form I-20?

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What is I-20?

An I-20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a government recognized US educational institute to certify that an international student is admitted to a full-time course and has adequate financial resources to stay and match the cost of living in US. Officially stated as the “Eligibility Certificate”, the I-20 document is required to apply for F-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad. I-20 is not a document to ascertain that a student can legally enter into the US, all it does is help a student to apply for F-1 visa.

How is it created?

Once a student is admitted to a US university, the admission cell uploads all the information about the student into a US government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Upon receiving the details, the SEVIS database processes the information and produces an I-20. The school official (called the Designated School Official or DSO) prints and signs the I-20 and then delivers it to the student. If a student needs to update or change information on the I-20, the DSO does it through SEVIS to produce a new document.

How is I-20 useful?

Once the I-20 document is received, a student needs to make an appointment in order to apply for F-1 visa at the local US consulate. Students must present both the F-1 visa and the I-20 to a US Immigration inspector upon arrival at the port-of-entry.

Travelling with the I-20

Without an I-20 students cannot travel or stay in the US. Before starting for the US the student needs to verify the travel endorsement from an advisor at a recognized university office and its status should not be expired. This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the US. In most cases, a travel endorsement can be done quickly and easily at the same office; however, students should plan ahead and get their travel endorsement several weeks before travelling to avoid the holiday rush.

According to US immigration regulations, the “completion date” is defined as ‘the day final degree requirements are completed.’ The actual completion date may not necessarily be the day of the graduation ceremony or the date on the I-20 (In fact, many students actually finish their degree requirements before the completion date on their I-20).

I-20 completion date

Undergraduate Students:
The completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester degree.
Graduate Students:
The completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing the thesis or dissertation in the Graduate Division. If there is no research component to the degree programme (such as in case of an MBA programme or other professional courses), the completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester degree.

Does everyone need an I-20?

Some international students do not need I-20.
• If a student has another non-immigrant status other than F status in the US, an I-20 is not needed.
• Dependent children in E, H, I, J, L, M, N, 0, P, R, or S status who need to change status after their 21st birthday, won’t need I-20.

Students with I-20 are given a grace period of 60 days after completion of their study programme to:

• Depart from US.
• Request a school transfer
• Change visa status

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