What Is I-20 Form? Find Out I-20 Form Application Process, Required Documents & Cost

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Yocket Editorial Team

Updated on Oct 6, 2021

Student VISA | 13 min read
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Are you one of those students who are on the lookout for authentic yet easy to understand information about form I-20? Are you seeking the complete details about the I-20 document because you intend to procure your student visa soon? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We at Yocket have come up with a simple guide to help you recognise the value of form I-20 along with all the other requisites that you’re expected to know before pursuing education in the US.

What is the I-20 Form?

Form I-20, also known as the Certificate of Eligibility and Nonimmigrant Student Status is an official endorsement by universities that conveys to the U.S. government that you are eligible for a F-1 or a M-1 student status.  The universities that accept Form 1-20 come under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Form I-20 certifies that -

1. You meet all necessary admission requirements of the concerned university.

2. You will pursue a full-time study of a particular programme in the university.

3. You have demonstrated your financial capabilities fully to fund your education at the concerned college/university without having to work illegally.

Important Requisites!

Before a university sends the I-20 document to you, it may ask for the following -

1. A non-refundable deposit amount to secure your admission before sending you form I-20.

2. A bank solvency certificate confirming your financial capability to fund your education OR a bank statement for I-20. Any of these two financial documents for I-20 serve the purpose of cross checking by the authorities.

One of the best ways to understand the I-20 document is by taking a sneak peek at it. Once you scroll through a sample of how the actual I-20 form looks, you will be able to recognise the details required in it a lot better.

What does an I 20 Form Look Like?

Form I 20, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, United States is a document that is full of essential details. 

Right from your imprinted SEVIS ID to your school information, program of study and financials are all mentioned there.

Also, complete policy guidelines for your stay in the US as an overseas student is described in detail. It is highly recommended that you scan through all the points mentioned in the 1-20 document one by one.

Have a look at this sample of the I-20 document:

Source: dhs.gov

Who Requires an I-20 Form?

Form I-20 is a mandatory document for international students who intend to pursue higher education in the United States of America. It is proof that you have been enrolled in a legit study program and have enough financial aid to sustain yourself in the US. It is a must have requisite for all F and M visa holders.

The I-20 Form (different from your own) is also required in case of any eligible dependents who will be entering the United States along with you.

FORM I-20 IS A DOCUMENT THAT YOU CANNOT IGNORE!

No international student is granted a visa in the US without having the requisite I-20 Form. 

ISSUANCE OF THE I 20 STUDENT VISA USA

On acceptance into a SEVP certified school, you will receive any one of the following -

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

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

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN F & M VISA HOLDERS

Any student who wishes to pursue higher education in the US falls under any one of the following non-immigrant visa categories:

F Student Visa

It is granted for academic courses in the US.

M Student Visa

It is granted for non-academic or vocational courses in the US.

Just receiving your F-1 or M-1 visa isn’t Form I-20’s only use. It will prove useful to you in various other ways as well.

What are the Various Uses of Form I-20?

Upon receipt of your I-20 form, you become eligible to apply for an I-20 student visa USA (F & M categories). And on receiving the I 20 student visa, you become eligible for pursuing studies in the US

In addition to procuring your visa, the I-20 document will be of  advantage to you in the subsequent ways as well -

1. It acts as your academic and legal proof.

2. You need this form to procure your social security number and also to get your driving license in the US.

3. If you are leaving the US and visiting another country during the period of your stay in the US you need to carry your I-20 document.

4. It is necessary for re-applying for a visa and re-entering the United States.

The information provided above is proof that form I-20 is indispensable when it comes to your stay as a student in the United States. Therefore, you must understand the step by step process to obtain your legit I-20 document.

How to Apply for I-20 Form?

The I-20 application process and final generation of this integral document is a 5 step process -

STEP 1: The desired college/university collects all your required financial and identity information after completing the admission process.

STEP 2: Once a student is through with the admission process, her/his personal details are fed in the U.S government database known as Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

STEP 3: SEVIS then processes the information and generates an I 20 form.

STEP 4: The I-20 document thus obtained from the government database is signed and stamped by the designated school official (DSO)  and sent out to the applicant. 

STEP 5: After obtaining the I-20 form, you can request any changes in the information (if required) to the DSO. The DSO then gets them amended through SEVIS and a new I-20 form is generated.

Your I-20 includes the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) assigned number that is crucial for your F1 visa application.

Can Changes Be Made in Form I-20?

Yes, whenever any information the form I-20 changes, a new I-20 form can be issued. 

Given below are some instances where you will need  a new I-20 document:

  1. Changes in the personal details mentioned on the form.

  2. Change in program dates.

  3. Change in college or university Major.

  4. Addition of work authorisation

  5. Update on visa status

  6. Reduced Course Load (RCL)- Student not being enrolled as a full-time student due to final quarter/semester, medical condition, and academic difficulties.

  7. Practical Training including Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  8. Leave of absence and withdrawal

You must report changes in any of the data above to the principal designated school official (DSO) within 10 days of the change. This will then be reported to SEVIS and a new I-20 form will be issued. 

You should keep all the old copies of I-20 forms for your record. However, for work, travel, proof of current student status, etc. always use the latest I 20.

Paying the I-901 Fee After Receiving Form I-20

After procuring your I-20 Form, the next thing to do is paying the I -1901 SEVIS fee. This I-20 form USA fees is compulsory for all overseas students and must be paid before entering the United States. 

The I-901 SEVIS fee for all F & M visa applicants is $350.

In case your payment gets stuck or you have additional issues pertaining to it, refer to the official PDF for resolving your query.

Please make sure that you request for the I-20 document through a trusted courier service like DHL or FEDEX. Doesn’t matter if you end up paying $30-40 more because this will safeguard your I-20 form from getting lost on its way.

Do not go about accumulating I-20 forms from different universities to flaunt in front of your friends. Please understand, there are many deserving aspirants waiting and you may be wasting their chance by holding onto an I-20 form that you do not need.

ARRIVAL OF FORM I-20 MARKS THE START OF YOUR I-20 VISA PROCESS!

Since your I-20 document is one of the earliest steps to obtain a student visa, ensure that all information such as your course start date, program and sponsorship details are correct on your I-20 document before you apply for your F-1 or M-1 Visa.

If at all there is any discrepancy w.r.t the information provided on your I-20 form, immediately get in touch with the university advisor and request for a rectification.

Any student who has procured Form I-20 and paid the fee must also have knowledge about the validity of the same. After all, you will need this document throughout your student cycle in the US.

What is the Validity of Form I-20?

Since Form I-20 is the official proof of an individual student’s status in the US, its validity holds as long as you are enrolled in a legit program. Legit program here implies pursuing a discipline from a SEVIS certified school.

A pertinent question that pops here commonly is, “what if I extend the duration of my course?” Well, you still have nothing to worry about. Reason being, the extension of your form I-20 validity along with your course.

All you need to do is to apply for an extension before the last day of your ongoing course. That way, you get your I-20 validity extended just in time.

Did you know that the validity of Form I-20 decides whether your stay in the US is legal or illegal?

As an international student in the US, you must always remember that staying there is legal ONLY till the time your I-20 Form is valid.

This implies that even if your student visa is valid but your I-20 form expires, you will be living in the United States illegally. 

Therefore, save yourself the hassle and ensure that you get an extension on your I-20 form validity if you want an elongation on the duration of your course.

POST YOUR I-20 QUERIES IN YOCKET’S SPECIAL STUDY ABROAD FORUM

International students are granted a 60-day grace period once the ongoing course of study is completed. Within this grace period, a student is allowed to transfer to a new study program. This is important in case you’re looking to extend your Form I-20.

Every overseas student aspiring to study in the US has a long journey to undertake. A crucial part of it is getting admitted to a desired university and procuring form I-20. So, make the most of this wondrous multi-purpose document and always keep it safe throughout your stay in the US. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the I-20 Form

  1. Who issues the I-20 Form?

The I 20 form is issued by the DSO of the educational institute that admits the student.

  1. What is the I-20 form processing time?

The I-20 processing time for schools in general can be anywhere between 5-7 business days. 

  1. Can I receive multiple I-20 forms from different US universities?

Yes, you can receive an I-20 from all the US based universities that give you an admit. It is up to you to choose the best option for you and then select one.

  1. How to know the expiration date of I-20 Form?

The form expires along with the end date of the program. If the student completes the program before the stipulated time, the I-20 will automatically expire on the date the student ends the course of study.

  1. How long can I stay in the US after my I-20 expires?

A student is granted an automatic grace period of 60 days upon the completion of her/his studies.

  1. Can I-20 be issued online?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security in the US has allowed educational institutions to electronically send out I-20 certificates that have been digitally signed. However, it depends from one institute to another. So the best way to ensure whether forms are available online is to check with the concerned university. 

  1. Can I get a New I-20 Form?

Yes, it is possible to get a new I-20 form, if personal or professional information stated on the form changes. 

  1. What if Your I-20 Form goes Missing?

In case of a missing, stolen, lost I-20 Form, contact your DSO or Designated School Official at the earliest and request a replacement. Follow the complete I 20 process for replacement even if you are outside the US at the time of losing your Form I-20. Contact your DSO on immediate priority. 

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