Introduction to the I-20 Form
Getting the I20 Form is a touchstone in students' journey to pursue their higher education in the US on an F-1 visa. A better understanding of Form I-20 ensures that your student visa process is smooth and completed on time. But there are numerous documents and minute details that students applying for the F1 visa need to track along with their preparation for courses. This article will cover the I-20 Form,, the documentation process, eligibility criteria, uses for the I-20, recent updates, and details of the process for the F1 visa.
What is the I-20 Form
The I-20 Form refers to the legal document issued by Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVP) to American Universities . This is sent to students to help with their student visa - the F1 visa or M1 visa. The Form I-20 is also known as the Certificate of Eligibility of Nonimmigrant Student Status. It informs the US government that you have been successfully admitted to a recognised US college, school, or university and are eligible for a student visa.
The I-20 Form carries your key information like name, course details, duration, SEVIS ID Number, understudy validations, and school/school/University code. The moment you step into the US, this Form is used everywhere you go, from airports to colleges; keep it handy and secure.
The I-20 Form has an Employment Authorisation segment for F1 visa and J1 visa understudies who need to work or plan to work in the USA as a component of their course educational program. This segment is not applicable for M1 visa holders.
F, M and J are the different types of visas available for students going to the US. The F visa is for academic and language students, whereas the M visa is for vocational students. Students looking for a short term visit apply for the J type visa.
Eligibility Criteria for I-20 Form
The I-20 Form is mandatory for students who are looking to study in the USA. In other words, it is essential for students applying for F-1 and M-1 visas in particular. To be eligible To receive the I 20 form, one should clear the following mentioned criteria-
- You should have authentic documents to prove admission to a US SEVP-approved educational institution. SEVP manages and makes use of the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) which is an internet-based system that stores data about international students and the institutions they attend.
- You meet the academic requirements criteria of the program that you are applying for. Students must have mark sheets of class X, XII, and the Bachelor's degree (if applicable). Students applying for post graduation require two academic reference letters from the professors who have taught them recently.
- You can demonstrate the required level of English proficiency, both written and verbal. Cutoff scores for IELTS and TOEFL English proficiency exams vary for different universities, with minimum requirements being a score above 70 for TOEFL and an IELTS score above 6.
I-20 visa requirements
There are a plethora of benefits attached to an I-20 Form for the F1 visa. The documents required to avail I-20 for visa are as follows-
- A valid passport
- The non-immigrant visa application, Form DS-160
- The SEVIS application fee payment receipt
- Copy of your F1 visa appointment letter
Students need to submit a financial affidavit that contains financial credibility certification, expected expense report, and bank certification. Some of the other documents include-
While submitting a bank statement, it is necessary to ensure that the bank statement must contain the account holder's name, the account number, type of account, account balance, and issuance date.
Loan Sanction Letters
If the student has applied for a study abroad education loan, the sanction letter stating the loan date, amount of loan, and issuance date is required.
Business sponsors (if any)
If a business organisation is sponsoring any student's education, a letter from the organisation's director is required, expressing that the business's assets can be utilised towards the understudy's schooling.
Evidence that you expect to return to your country
Students need to prove that they will return to their country by showcasing strong ties financially or socially.
- Financial evidence can include estate documents, sale deeds, active bank accounts, business or employment opportunities.
- Social proof can consist of an affidavit from the student, mentioning all the family members details to show that they are all firmly settled in their home country.
Original Evidence of financial reserves
The funds should be liquid, and the bank statement issue date must be within the last six months. Officially any student applying for an F-1 student visa must provide proof of funding greater than or equal to the annual (2 semesters) estimated expense as mentioned in the I-20. However consulates at times require proof for 3 semesters, that accounts for 1.5x the amount mentioned in the I-20 Form.
Verification of one's relationship to the sponsor
Here, the documents include original tax forms, the sponsor's bankbooks, and fixed deposit certificates.
Form I-20 Uses
This document is used throughout the student's academic cycle in the US and while applying for a work visa. I-20 Form allows you to process the following activities
Easy payment of I-901 SEVIS Fee
Every international student looking for a US student visa should get registered with the USCIS. It has a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) portal that manages student data and information. Students are required to pay the fees of around $200 [as of 2021]. Before paying the SEVIS fee, one must have Form I-20 issued from their DSO (Designated School Officials) and submit the following details:
- Name, native country address, date of birth, email address
- Country of birth and current citizenship
- School code as mentioned on Form I-20
- SEVIS ID number as listed on Form I-20
Keep the payment receipt secure; it is required for different applications. You can reach out to DSOs if you have any queries, they can guide you through the entire process of studying in the United States
Applying for a nonimmigrant visa
Form I-20 states the date of when you are allowed to enter the United States. F-1 and M-1 student visas are issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. You are expected to have the original Form I-20 at your visa interview. Further, your student visa category must match the type of the I-20 form that you have!
The I-20 is your Entry pass for the USA-
Keep your Form I-20 handy while entering the US, instead of packing it away in your suitcase. A US Customs and Border Protection officer will ask for your Form I-20 at the port of entry. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20.
The I-20 Facilitates various Amenities
Every US education program offers some benefits and perks. Form- I20 legally states that you are admitted to one of the US universities. Students can use their I-20 Form to avail driver's license and open a US bank account.
Invite your dependents into the US
F1 or M1 student visa holders enjoy the privilege of inviting their dependents to stay with them in the US. In such cases, Form I-20 is required for each of the dependents you are planning on bringing into the US.
Cost of the Form I-20
Usually, students applying for an F1 and J1 visa need to pay a SEVIS fee and then apply for their US visa. The fee amount is $200 for F1 students and $180 for J1 students. It is a one-time fee and applies to all understudies beginning a new academic program. Students are allowed to apply for a US student visa, only after paying the SEVIS fee.
The Structure of the I-20 Form
I-20 Form consists of two pages, and each page is mandatory. Here is the form sample structure for your perusal-
I20 form - Page 1
- The SEVIS ID - Mentioned in the top left corner of your I-20 form.
- The student's detailed information includes name, country of birth and citizenship, and date of birth.
- Program details - Includes both the start and end dates for your study program.
- School Information - Includes university address and details of the university official to be contacted upon arrival.
- Information about the course like program name, duration of the program, the period of the program
- Financial information for the students - Includes estimated expense for the first year (2 semesters) of study.
- School attestation by the DSO
- Student attestation sheet
I20 form -Page 2
- Employment authorisation - This section verifies student’s current employment status, type, employer’s name and location
- Information on change of status
- Event history in table format
- Other required authorisations
- Travel signatures
Changes in I-20 Form
You can change or update your I-20 Form under the following circumstances-
- Critical change to personal data eg. Change in your name
- Change in program/college you are learning at
- Update on the visa status
- Change of program start or end date
- Reasonable Training (OPT and CPT)
If a student gets admission to multiple universities, a separate I-20 form is issued for each university. This practice allows students to take their time in selecting the right colleges for themselves. After making their decision, students must apply for a visa using their selected college's I-20 form.
Latest News:- Redesigned Form I-20
The USCIS has started issuing a new type of Form I-20 document for all F1 visa and M1 visa students. Earlier, Form I-20 used to have a barcode which is now void and not accepted.
DSO is responsible for making the revised hardcopy of Form I-20 available to you with original signatures. You can access the current sample of I-20 Form here.
Getting accepted in one of your dream colleges or universities in the USA brings a sense of pride and gratification. Once you get selected, visa and immigration paperwork are the following challenges you must overcome before starting your studies in the US. Each school that acknowledges you will send you an I-20 Form whenever you've paid the fees. Just complete the I-20 Form from the school that you choose to join.
You should pay close attention to detail while filling the I-20 Form because there's a high chance of rejection. Moreover, the fees are non-refundable. If you have any additional questions, or in the unfortunate case of Non-acceptance due to legitimate reasons eg. injuries, you should get in touch with your DSO or your education consultant.
Zolve is a global neobank aimed at helping immigrants with their financial Journey. While we do not provide help for F1/H1 Visas directly, we engage third parties who can help you with information for your Visa application process.