Form I-20 - Explained
What is a Form I-20?
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What is a Form I-20?
The Form I-20 is a Department of Homeland security form designating a an individuals eligibility for the following visas: M-1, M-2, F-1, and F-2. It is primarily used to designate a foreign students eligibility an F-1 Visa to study in the United States. More specifically, it serves as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students. It is issued byStudent Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) authorized schools. SEVP-certified schools include colleges, vocational schools, and universities. It also contains the school code and student tracking number. The SEVP program is run by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS). The equivalent of Form I-20, which is the Form DS-2019 is the one relevant for J-1 and J-2 status holders. The U.S. Department of State-designated J exchange visitor program issues the Form DS-2019.
How Does the Form I-20 Work?
The Designated School Official (DSO) issues Form I-20 at colleges, universities, or vocational schools. This form can only be issued by institutions that are certified by SEVP. In order for an institution to get this certification, the Form I-17 has to be filed with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This process is done only once. It is important to be aware of the fact that an institution may be SEVP-certified without holding regional or national accreditation. On the other hand, an institution can hold regional or national accreditation but may decide not to get SEVP certification if it has no intention of admitting international students in the J, F, or M status. A big university, by default, has an international office which controls its participation in the SEVP and every DSO works for this office. The function of the international office is to manage updates to the SEVIS record and oversee the issuing of a new paper form. Communication is important when any change occurs. For students who have changed their plan, it is obligatory that they inform their international office of such changes. These changes could include course load, return from a leave of absence, leave of absence, program end date, and much more.
Student SEVIS record and Form I-20
Once the student is issued the first Form I-20, a record is created for such student in the SEVIS system. This form can only be issued to the student upon the students acceptance of the admission offer from the university. At any point in time, the continuous update of the students SEVIS record falls with the institution the student is presently enrolled in. Note that this institution must be SEVP-certified. In a situation where the student moves to a new SEVP-certified institution, the new institution would be responsible for the continuous SEVIS record update. This form can be seen as the paper representation of the most recent SEVIS documented information for the students present enrollment. In a case where there are significant changes to the details, the SEVIS record would be updated. In addition to this update, an entirely new Form I-20 with updated information would be given to the student by the institution. It is mandatory that the student uses the most recent Form I-20 when showing student status.
First Form I-20 Issuing A Form I-20 is issued to the student upon acceptance of the admission offer by the prospective student. Asides biographical details about the student which include students name, citizenship, and date of birth, there are two major pieces of information that are required as well. These details must be inputted into the initial Form I-20 and the students SEVIS record. Whichever way the student intends meeting living and tuition expenses for the students first-year program is indicated in the program. That of the end date is specified on the Form I-20, depending on that which is shorter. In a bid to issue the I-20, each international office is permitted to abide by its rules regarding the documentation type it requires from the student or other departments. The use of jargon for this documentation varies from university to university. For example, both the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago use the terminology Financial Resources Statement for that statement submitted by students on how they will cater for their expenses. Contrary to the term used by the aforementioned universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign makes use of the terminology Declaration and Certification of Finances for I-20 or DS-2019 Application. Once the information has been received from the student, as well as, the institution concerning the end date and the program length, the international office would then begin. First, it would create a SEVIS record of the student, then get a SEVIS number for the student, after which it would issue a Form I-20. A hard copy of the form may be mailed to an overseas student. In a situation where a SEVIS record from past student status is owned by the student, there should be a transfer of the existing SEVIS record. In a case where a student is unable to show how he or she intends covering expenses for the first year, the international office may not issue a Form I-20. While making payment of the SEVIS fee, the SEVIS number on the Form I-20 would be required. It is required when applying for the M visa or F visa, both in the case of filling the application form and also during the interview. It is required when seeking admission to the U.S. During the time of admission, both a valid I-20 and a valid visa are required. At the time of first entry, the officer at the entry port scrutinizes that the resumption date of the program is at most thirty days ahead. In addition to this, the officer checks that there is a valid travel signature on the I-20. It is also important that, at the time of first entry, there is a match between the school the student plans on attending and the actual school on the students I-20 and the students visa. These requirements are not needed in the future. A Form I-94 is issued by the officer at the entry port. This I-94 has an expiry date written as D/S which stands for Duration of Status. This implies that the student is in certified status in the U.S. up until the end date of the program which is stated on the I-20. In addition to the expiration date, the student can remain in the United States for about sixty days after expiration. For those who are not seeking U.S. admission but just changing status, one Form I-20 copy has to be attached to the Form I-539 application in order to change status. For individuals entering the U.S. in student status, the entry date to the U.S. is termed as the start date for students in the M or F status. This is still valid even if this is before the start date of the program. For individuals changing from a different status to student status, the transition date stated on the I-539 is taken as the start date.