The road to education is a long, arduous one. Getting an admit from one of the dream universities is a rewarding feeling in itself and the first step to pursuing education in USA but it is not the end of the process. Although it is safe to say the most difficult aspect of the process is over, another daunting challenge lies ahead in the form of getting the necessary documentation in order to obtain legal permission to studying in the US.
A prospective student at a US university qualifies for either one of F-1 or M-1 visa category. The first step to obtaining the visa is to get the I-20 form. This form is also known as the Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) Student Status and is issued by the educational institute that admits the student.
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
SEVP is responsible for monitoring the M and F student status visa holders in the United States. SEVP works along with other government agencies to make sure that students holding these visas follow the rules and regulations. Thus, for an educational institute to admit an international student, the program should be a full-time, SEVP certified course at an accredited school.
The SEVP maintains an online database of financial and educational credentials of all the international students which is known as Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The university generally requests information about the student’s finances in order to upload the same into the SEVIS database, sometimes as a part of a different application for obtaining the I-20. This can include proof of income, bank statements amongst other information.
After you receive an admit from the university, you can expect the I-20 document along with it or soon after. If the document needs to be updated or some information needs to be changed, you can communicate the same to the Designated School Official (DSO) who signs off on the I-20 form.
Some universities like UT Dallas also require the applicants to complete additional steps before they release the I-20. Students are required to submit information about sources of funding, bank certifications, sponsor certification, bank certification, etc amongst others as a part of a financial affidavit. Students can also provide loan/sanction letters, bank statements, scholarship letters optionally. Post the successful acceptance of these documents, the university proceeds to issue the I-20 to the admitted candidates.
I-20 form uses
As per the Department of Homeland Security, “the Form I-20 is an important document that you should keep safe, as you will need it throughout the international student life cycle.”
Changes in I-20
It is possible to make changes to or update the I-20 form under one or more circumstances:
Since almost all prospective students apply to multiple universities, it is quite likely that you may receive more than one admit to a program of your choice. In such a case, you can proceed to obtain multiple I-20 forms from all the universities thar have admitted you for one of their programs. This can allow you soem extra time to make up your mind to finalize which university or program you wish to attend - you should only apply for a visa with one I-20.
If you have any dependants that are going to be living with you in the US, you will need to obtain an I-20 form for them as well. This will be generated and issued by the university that admits you unless they qualify for a visa category other than F-2 or M-2.
By now, you should have a good idea of what the I-20 is and how to get it – it is one of the most important document to have not only for the visa application but throughout your stay as a student in the USA.
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