I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) Form
The I-20 form is an official U.S. government form for F-1 (student visa) students. A future international student must have an I-20 made by a SEVP certified school in order to become an F-1 (student) visa student. The I-20 form is proof that you have been accepted to a school and it has important information to: apply for a visa, pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and enter the U.S.
Your I-20 form will have a SEVIS identification number on the upper right hand side directly above the barcode. SEVIS ID numbers are an N followed by 9 numbers. When you arrive in the U.S., you will show your I-20 form to the immigration officer at the port of entry.
SEVIS Fee & Payment
DHS (Department of Homeland Security) requires international students to complete an I-901 form (SEVIS fee) and pay its fee. This fee is used to support and manage SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). When you pay your SEVIS fee, it is recorded in the SEVIS system. However, you must give a I-901 (SEVIS) fee receipt when you apply for an F1 student visa. For more information:
F-1 Student (Nonimmigrant) Visa
An F-1 (student) visa is a travel document in a passport which a U.S. embassy or consulate gives to allow a student to enter and study within its country. As an international student, you will need an F-1 (student) visa to enter the United States to study. You should apply for the visa at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country; you should use the I-20 form from the school which you will attend. If you have been accepted by several language programs, you should not apply for an F-1 student visa until you decide which school you will attend. U.S. Immigration requires students to only use the I-20 from the school that they plan to attend to enter the U.S. or to apply for a new F-1 student visa.
How to Apply
To apply for an F-1 visa, you will need to schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. Visa application processes and required documents are different for each U.S. Embassy/Consulate, so it is important to check with the Embassy or Consulate about its requirements. See a list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
Common required documents which are usually required for a student visa application:
- Non-immigrant visa application form (DS-160)
- Current passport, valid for at least six months into the future from the student’s arrival in the U.S.
- I-20 form (for F-1 students)
- Financial documents (bank statements, scholarship/grant/sponsorship letters, sponsor letters, etc.) which show you have enough money to cover the expenses during the student’s U.S.
- Evidence of student’s strong economic, social, family or career ties to home country (proof of permanent residence outside the U.S., preferably in your home country, proof of property, presence of immediate family, future employment offers, etc.)
- Visa application fee receipt
- One passport 2 inches x 2 inches photograph
- The SEVIS (I-901) fee receipt
A brief interview with a consular officer may be required. Be prepared to answer question about:
- Your reasons for coming to the U.S. to attend an Intensive English Program;
- Your ties to your home county;
- Your future plans or goals after completing the English language program.
For more information about F-1 (Student) Visa, see Student Visas.
SEVIS is an electronic system which gives information to the U.S. Government and follows all F-1 student immigration history. Schools are required to use SEVIS for the following reasons:
- Creating I-20 forms for students
- Keeping current information and records on each F-1 international student
For more information: SEVIS website
An I-94 number is your arrival/departure record given by the US DHS (Department of Homeland Security). When you arrive into the US, you will receive a paper with instructions on how to go to US Customs & Border Patrol’s website to complete an online form and receive your I-94 number.
For more information, see I-94 Automation (PDF).
It is your (the student) responsibility to tell your previous school that your are transferring from another school. You will need to show your previous school a copy of the new school’s admission letter. You have 60 days from the last day of your previous school’s program to ask your previous school’s International Student Advisor to release your SEVIS record to your new school. Once your SEVIS transfer is complete, your new school will issue a new I-20 for you. In addition, it will be your responsibility to follow-up with the school to complete your transfer process.
The SEVIS fee is not required when you transfer schools within the U.S., change to another degree program or level, request a program extension, or renew your student visa. If you are in lawful status prior to travelling internationally and have less than a 5 month break in your studies, you will not be required to pay the SEVIS fee.