I-20 Form to Study in the US - Application Process, Requirements, Cost


Aarushi Jain
Updated on Jan 31, 2023 02:39 PM IST

Planning to study in the USA and apply for an F1 or M1 student visa? Then you should first must get familiar with the I-20 form. Check out this article to know more about form I-20. 

I-20 Form to Study in the US - Application Process, Requirements, Cost

You must have come across the I 20 form while researching the US student visa. International students who want to study at a US university will need an I20 form to obtain a student visa, which represents a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

You will get one of these two forms from your designated school official (DSO) once you have been accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified university, depending on your F or M student visa status.

If you want to learn more about the form I-20, its different types, requirements, usage, the application process, cost, and other details, here is all about it.

What is I 20 Form?

The I 20 form is a vital document issued to international students by government-approved universities in the United States. It is a certificate of eligibility since it confirms that you are a legitimate student accepted into a full-time study programme. As a result, without this document, you will be unable to book appointments with the consulate or apply for the F1/M1 student visa. Furthermore, after you have the paperwork, keep it somewhere safe because you will be required to submit it every time you enter the USA.

The designated school official (DSO) issues two types of I 20 forms based on the type of US student visa Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status for academic and language students, and Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status for vocational students.

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Role of the I20 Form USA

The United States has one of the tightest visa policies, and for good reason. The country's threat level is far higher than that of any other country on the planet. With increased security concerns, every visa application is rigorously reviewed before approval. The Department of Homeland Security specifically stresses the importance of the I20 form and states that international students must not lose it during their whole stay in the United States.

However, students have the idea that the I 20 form is a ticket to a US visa, which is not the case. Having a form I20 merely helps to expedite the next set of steps in the visa issuing procedure. In no way does an I 20 Form guarantee a US visa.

The university checks all of the information and then sends the necessary documentation for admission confirmation and the I20 form. The DSO of the university where the student is admitted to pursue a course sends the essential documentation for a student visa, including the form, through email. Students are expected to contact the DSO, the ultimate authority in issuing this document if they have any questions about the form I20.

Uses of I20 Form

The I 20 form is one of the most important documents to keep safe because it is necessary throughout your foreign student career and can be used for the following purposes:

  • After getting the I 20 Form, proceed to pay the I-1901 SEVIS charge. This fee must be paid before entering the United States. The information from the form is necessary to complete the payment process.

  • When applying for a US visa, the visa officer may request an original copy of the form because it is required for the visa application procedure. Aside from financial information on programme costs and how you plan to reimburse them, the form includes information about the programme you want to pursue.

  • The customs and border protection officer may ask you to display your I 20 form as soon as you land in the United States. You may enter the nation up to 30 days before the start of your course.

  • The form is essential for gaining the benefits of being an overseas student. This form is also used to obtain employment, a driver's licence, or a social security number.

Types of I 20 Form

Depending on the type of visa, international students are issued one of two types of I20 forms:



Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status

For Academic and Language Students

Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status

For Vocational Students

Note: The two I 20 forms contain the same information, even though they are for distinct sorts of academic programmes.

Structure of the I20 Form

The I 20 form is a 3-page long form. The structure of the form is discussed below:

Page 1

The first page of the form contains the following information:

  • The SEVIS ID

  • Name, date of birth, country name, and citizenship information for the student

  • Type of admission/Visa type (F-1 or M-1, F2 or M-2)

  • Information about the university/college (university/college name and address)

  • Information on the programme, including the programme name and duration.

  • Financial data, financing sources, funding costs, and so on.

  • The school attestation was signed and dated by the DSO.

  • Attestation from the student (signed and dated)

Page 2

The second page of the same form includes the following information:

  • Authorisation to work

  • Table form event history

  • Information on status change

  • Signatures on travel documents

  • Other authorisation as per the requirement

Page 3

The I2O form's final page is an instruction page with payment instructions. To enter the United States, the candidate must pay SEVA fees. USCIS collects the fees (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).

The Redesigned I20 Form

The USCIS has revised the new form for F1 and M1 visa applicants. The barcode that was present in previous forms has been removed from the new form. Students may also request a new I 20 form in the following circumstances:

  • If the original copy is lost, stolen, or destroyed.

  • For travel-related requirements.

  • If the status of SEVIS has changed from initial to active.

  • If the student has started a new programme or changed fields of study.

  • Students must speak with the DSO in order to obtain a new I20 form.

  • Students should keep in mind that the DSO can only reprint the I 20 form if the status is active or initial.

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How to Get an I 20 Form?

Form I 20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a government-approved US educational school to confirm that you have been admitted to a full-time study programme and have reported sufficient financial resources to remain in the US. Here is a brief description of the steps involved in applying for a US form I20:

  • Step 1: As part of the F-1 visa procedure, once your institution has completed the admissions process, it will collect the necessary financial support information and identity proof.

  • Step 2: Your name and biographical information will be submitted to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a US government database.

  • Step 3: SEVIS will process the data and generate an I20.

  • Step 4: The university official or DSO will print, sign, and deliver Form I 20 to you.

  • Step 5: If any information has to be changed, the DSO will submit these requests to SEVIS in order to generate a new form.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, SEVP has temporarily relaxed the limitation on shipping physical Form I 20s and is enabling schools to email I 20 forms directly to students. The emailed I 20 Form will now be deemed official by the US embassy when applying for a visa. It also means that students will not have to pay shipping fees until further notice. A form obtained electronically can be:

  • A scanned version of a physically signed form

  • A digitally signed Form I 20 that includes a physically signed digitally reproduced copy

  • An I 20 form digitally signed with electronic signature software

I 20 Form Requirements

To obtain the I 20 form from the university's DSO, check that the following criteria are met:

  • The application for admission must be accepted by the university or educational institution in the United States. SEVP certification is required for the educational institution.

  • The institution must affirm that the student has the financial means to pay the tuition fee as well as the cost of living in the United States for the duration of his or her study. It should also validate that the student's personal information is correct.

Bank Statements

For the I 20 form to be issued, students must transmit a copy of their bank statement. Any details such as bank account number, address, account type, account balance, and all other information must be visible and true to the best of the visa applicant's knowledge.

Loan Sanction Letter from the Lenders

Students must have a loan sanction document from a legitimate lender. It is only required for students who have taken an abroad education letter, and it must include the loan amount, the date of issuance of the loan letter, and all other information.

Evidence to Substantiate of Student Returning to the Native Country

This document is a vital part of obtaining the I20 form since US visa officials demand convincing evidence that the student will return to his or her native country. To substantiate their intent to return, students must provide property documentation, job details for their parents, social proof, or anything else substantial that can persuade authorities that the student has sufficient grounds to return to their home country.

Cost of the I 20 Form

When you are admitted to an accredited college or university in the United States, you must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee to get an F-1 or M-1 student visa. For students seeking F1 or M1 student visas, it is a one-time fee. You must have your I20 form on hand to complete the payment of USD 200. You are expected to pay the SEVIS fee if you are:

  • An F-1 or M-1 visa student from a nation, where a visa is required to enter the United States, must pay the SEVIS fee.

  • A student with an F-1 or M-1 visa from a visa-exempt nation (before you seek admission at a US port of entry).

  • A non-immigrant in the United States who seeks to alter your non-immigrant status to F-1 or M-1 (before applying for a change of nonimmigrant status)

  • A student with F-1 or M-1 visas who have been out of status for longer than five months

  • An F-1 or M-1 student who has been absent from the United States for more than five months and intends to return to the United States for further studies in the same field.

Validity of Form I 20

The completion date on your form I 20 is determined by the major you have chosen and the degree of study you are pursuing (under graduation or postgraduation). Furthermore, this is an estimate given by the university based on the time it may take you to complete all of the degree requirements.

If you are unable to complete your programme by the deadline, an extension can be sought from the university's international office at least one month before the deadline.

It is also worth noting that the duration may vary depending on the degree of study:

Level of Study



The final day of final exams for the semester, when all degree requirements have been met.


If the degree includes a research component, it will be the date when all degree requirements are met.

If there is no research component (as in an MBA), the end day of final exams for the semester is when the degree requirements are met.

What to Do After Getting the I20 Form?

Following the receipt of your Form I 20 form, the following steps must be performed:

Step 1: Complete the DS160 form.

The DS160 form provides all of the information that the visa office may require during your interview. It primarily consists of:

  • Personal information

  • Education information

  • Work specifics details

You must ensure that all of the information on the DS160 form is correct to the best of your ability. All information should match what is on your passport. You will need your SEVIS number, which is inscribed on the right side of the I20 form near the barcode. You must make your application, fill in the required information, and submit it. After submitting, you will receive a confirmation page, which you should save and print.

Step 2: Make an Appointment for Your US Visa.

You must first create an account with Ustraveldocs to schedule your visa appointment. Then you must create an account and fill out all of the essential information. You will be requested to pay USD 160 immediately after completing the registration process. A receipt will be issued instantly as soon as the payment is processed. Then you must select a time slot for the interview. You can also reschedule your visa interview twice for free. Visa interviews are mostly held at the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Step 3: Pay Your Fees (SEVIS)

Before your visa interview, you must pay USD 200 in SEVIS costs and keep the receipt. It has nothing to do with the scheduling of your visa appointment. Before your interview, all you need is a receipt for your SEVIS costs. This step can also be done before step 2. Step 3 is critical since the application cannot be processed unless the payments are paid.

Step 4: Enter the United States

You must have your Form I-20 with you when you enter the country. Do not put it in your suitcase. At the port of entry, a US Customs and Border Protection officer will instruct you to provide your form I20. You may arrive up to 30 days before your forms start date.

Step 5: Apply for Benefits

Your form I20 verifies that you are legally enrolled in a study programme in the United States. As a result, it may be required when applying for F and M student benefits. Remember to bring your Form I 20 with you if you want to apply for a driver's licence or a social security number.

Modify or Change Made to I20 Form

If you need to amend or update the I 20 form, you can do so under the following conditions:

  • Any change in personal information

  • Any changes to the programme or university where you have enrolled

  • Any updates on visa status

  • Any changes to the program's start or finish dates

  • Practical Experience (Optional Practical Training and Curricular Practical Training)

  • Unpaid leave of absence

Assume a student applies to many universities and is accepted to the majority of them. In that instance, the student will be granted time to choose a university. With just one I20 form, you can apply for a visa.

Important Note: If you intend to stay with your dependents, you must also have an I 20 form for them. It is typically offered by the university to which you are admitted. However, the dependent must be eligible for a visa category other than F-2 or M-2.

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Do all students need an I 20 form?

No, all students do not need an I 20 form. It is not required if a student has a status other than F-1 in the United States. Dependent children with E, H, I, J, L, M, N, 0, P, R, or S status must change their status after reaching the age of 21. 

How is an I20 form created?

An I 20 form is created under a long process. Following the completion of the admissions process, a school collects the appropriate financial support and identification papers for admitted international students desiring F-1 status. These students' names and biographic information are recorded into SEVIS, a US government database. SEVIS analyses the data and generates an I-20. The school official (known as the Designated School Official or DSO) processes and signs the I 20 form before handing it over to the student.

Do I need the I 20 form for travel?

Students must bring their I20 form with them when travelling overseas. It is required to reapply for a visa (if necessary) and to re-enter the US. Before leaving the United States, students should ensure that they have a valid travel endorsement on page 2 of their I20 from a Berkeley International Office adviser. This signature is valid for one year for repeated visits outside of the United States.

What happens if I lose my I 20 form?

If you are an F-1 student and you have lost your I 20 form, please send a Replacement Document Request Mail to the university in the United States and ask for a replacement I-20 form. Please keep in mind that if you are currently outside the United States, you must obtain a replacement I-20 before returning to the United States to resume your studies. Allow enough time for processing and email or letter delivery, whichever you desire. 

Do my family members need I 20 forms?

Yes, your dependents travelling with you to the USA will also require an I 20 form. If your spouse and children will accompany you, they will each require their own I-20 to get F-2 dependent visas and to remain in the United States during your programme and for travel purposes. 

How long will It take to get an I20 form?

After the financial documents are submitted, it usually takes 1 to 2 weeks for an I 20 to be processed and received by the applicant. When mailing the acceptance letter and form I 20 abroad, you will be advised of your tracking number by email, and the information and SEVIS number will be included in the email.

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