I-20 Form – Your Complete Guide

Embarking on a journey to study in the USA is an exciting prospect, and being accepted into your dream school is a significant achievement. However, the process doesn’t end there; various formalities, including obtaining the I-20 form, await you. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the I-20 form, shedding light on its significance, application process, and related details.

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What Is the I-20 Form?

The I-20 form, officially known as the Certificate of Eligibility and Nonimmigrant Student Status, is a crucial document issued by U.S. universities. This document signals to the U.S. government that you meet the qualifications for F-1 or M-1 student status. Universities authorized to issue the I-20 fall under the Student and Exchange Visitor Programs (SEVP).

Why Do You Need an I-20 Form?

The Department of Homeland Security underscores the importance of the I-20 form throughout the international student life cycle. Obtaining the I-20 is a significant step in the immigration process, facilitating subsequent procedures. While it is a necessary document for a U.S. student visa application, its possession does not guarantee visa approval. The form is crucial for the visa interview, serving as proof of admission to a U.S. school and providing essential details about the student and the institution.

Who Needs an I-20 Form?

The I-20 form is essential for individuals who:

  • Are non-immigrants who have never attended a U.S. school or university.
  • Wish to transfer from a U.S. secondary school, college, or university.
  • Are changing their current visa status to an F-1 visa.
  • Are returning from a leave of absence of more than five months from the U.S.

Understanding I-20 Fees

The cost of the I-20 form is USD 200, but it’s advisable to check the official website for any updates on the I-20 cost.

Types of I-20 Forms:

There are two types of I-20 forms:

  1. Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1): For academic and language students.
  2. Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1): For vocational students.

I-20 Form Structure for International Students

The I-20 form comprises three pages, covering details necessary for visa processing and study program verification. These pages include information on student and school details, program and courses, proof of finances, and various attestations.

  • Page 1:
    • SEVIS ID
    • Student Information
    • Admissions Class
    • School Information
    • Program & Courses
    • Proof of Finances
    • Attestation of School
    • Student Attestation
  • Page 2:
    • Employment Authorization
    • Status Change Information
    • Event History
    • Other Important Details
  • Page 3:
    • Instructions about Payment & SEVIS Details
    • Other Authentications
    • Travel Signatures

I-20 Document Requirements

To obtain the I-20 form, you’ll need the following set of documents:

  1. Bank statement demonstrating financial stability.
  2. Documentation from business sponsors if applicable.
  3. Intent to return evidence.
  4. Original evidence of financial resources.
  5. Proof of relationship with sponsors if applicable.
  6. Copy of your international passport.

How to Apply for the I-20 Form?

The application process involves several steps:

  1. College gathers financial and identity info post-admission.
  2. Student details entered into SEVIS after completing admission.
  3. SEVIS processes data, generating the I-20 form.
  4. Designated School Official (DSO) signs and stamps the I-20, sending it to the applicant.
  5. Applicant can request changes, and DSO amends via SEVIS, generating a new I-20 if needed.

I-20 Form Signature

Upon receiving the Form I-20, it’s crucial to note:

  1. The student must personally sign the document.
  2. In the case of a minor student, the parent or legal guardian must sign on behalf of the student.

When To Get the I-20 Form?

After submitting your documents to the university, it usually takes one to two weeks to process your I-20 form. You can track the status of your form using the tracking number provided by the university.

Changes In I-20 Form

Yes, changes can be made to the I-20 form in various scenarios, including modifications to personal details, program dates, college or university major, work authorization, visa status, reduced course load, practical training, leave of absence, and withdrawal.

Processing Time of I-20 Form

After completing all required paperwork, it typically takes one to two weeks to process your I-20 form. You will receive a tracking number through email.

Application Process After I-20 Form

Once you receive the I-20 form, the next steps include filling out the DS-160 form, paying SEVIS fees, scheduling visa appointments, providing financial proof, and preparing for the visa interview.

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

After receiving your Form I-20, you’ll need to pay the I-901 fee associated with the SEVIS program online, well before your visa interview or the start of your program.


The I-20 form is not just a piece of paper; it’s your gateway to realizing your dream of studying in the USA. Understanding its intricacies and following the application process diligently will pave the way for a smooth transition into the U.S. education system. This guide aims to empower prospective international students with the knowledge needed to navigate the I-20 process successfully.