I-20 Form USA: Importance, Requirements & More


Meridean Overseas

Updated On 08 July 2024 & Read Time 10 minutes


When thinking of pursuing your dreams of studying in the States, a visa is important. Now that you are thinking that, you would also require a US visa to study, which is where the I-20 form comes in.




Did you know that, according to recent statistics, more than 2 lakh Indian students and students from other nations go to the US to pursue their higher education?


If you are also looking for clear information on I-20 form USA, read this blog until the end. This blog will help clarify all your questions about who needs the form, who will provide it, how to obtain it, and much more, so without any further delay, let’s begin!

What is I-20 Form?

The Certificate of Eligibility for overseas students on an F-1 or M-1 student visa is provided by recognised US institutions or universities as the I-20. An essential first step in obtaining your student visa is completing the I-20 form, which certifies that you are a valid student studying in the United States. Depending on your US student visa type, you can work on or off campus upon receiving your visa. You also have the option to apply for a driver's license and Social Security number after you have it, subject to the approval of your visa and working status.


You will get an I-20 form from the designated school official (DSO) at the college or university where you want to enrol after being accepted to a US college or university that has earned certification from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The I-20 form student visa for the USA is signed by the DSO and sent to you. The DSO will update your details on the I-20 form student visa through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Details System) if you choose to do so.


Types of I-20 Form USA

Essentially, there are two kinds of I-20 forms issued to international and Indian students as per the type of visa:

  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant, Form I-20 (F-1) Academic and Language Students' Student Status

  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant, Form I-20 (M-1) Vocational students' status as students.


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Why do I need an I-20 Form?

This section will showcase the I-20 Form Importance and why a student or candidate needs it-

  • "Form I-20 is a pivotal document that you must keep safe, as you would require it throughout the international student life cycle," as per the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Even though the immigration procedure might seem drawn out and taxing, it will get easier after you get the I-20 form. You can ask the official who provided the paperwork if you have any questions.

  • The US embassy requires verification that the candidate has been accepted into a US university. The offer/admission letter and this certificate are mailed to the candidates. An I-20 form is required to apply for a student visa. 

  • This form contains your personal information, including your complete name, date of birth, the specifics of the school you plan to attend, and your SEVIS ID. The I-20 is required for all graduate school-related activities, including obtaining a student visa and applying for internships. To successfully complete the US immigration procedure, an I-20 document is also needed. 

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I-20 Form USA

This section highlights all the essential details, such as who needs an I-20 form, how one can acquire it, and, lastly, the requirements for getting an I-20 form.


Who needs I-20 Form?

The I-20 student visa form is a necessary record that certifies your eligibility for an F-1 or M-1 student visa status in the US and is to be maintained with you for the duration of your study abroad program.


An I-20 form is required if you are an international student and you are:

  • Non-immigrant who has never studied at an American school or institution.

  • Non-immigrants who want to change schools after completing their secondary education in the US.

  • Converting from a non-immigrant visa to an F-1 visa.

  • Non-immigrants leaving the US after a longer than five-month leave of absence.


How do I get an I-20 Form?

To fly to the US, you must first get the I-20 form and Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, whether you are asking for an F-1 or M-1 student visa.


Your designated school official (DSO) will provide you with your I-20 form when you are admitted into a college or institution that has earned SEVP certification. You will be enrolled in SEVIS and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee once the institution authorised by SEVP accepts your application. The college or institution will provide you with an I-20 form after registering. You are allowed entry into the United States up to 30 days before the commencement of your academic program, as stated on the I-20 form. Your program start date might be 120 days before your F-1 or M-1 student visas are approved.


I-20 Form Requirements

You must fulfil the following prerequisites to get the I-20 visa application form:

  • Accreditation of a college or university is the first step toward acceptance; the institution or university must accept the application you wish to attend. The organisation has to hold SEVP certification.

  • Verify that the information you have provided is accurate and up to date. The college or university you attend needs to attest to the accuracy of your personal data and your ability to pay for your expenses while in the US.


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Uses of I-20 Form USA

If you are applying to USCIS to alter your status to F or M and you are currently in the country as another kind of nonimmigrant, you must submit an I-20 Form.


Pay I-901 SEVIS Fee

You are required to get the Form I-20 from a DSO at the institution you intend to attend before you can pay for the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee. To pay the cost, you will need to provide details from form I-20. Before entering the country, you must pay the required I-901 SEVIS Fee.


To cover the I-901 SEVIS cost, all aspiring F and M students must present their:

  • Name, address, date of birth and Email address.

  • Country of birth and country of citizenship.

  • The school code is listed on Form I-20, which is the “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”

  • SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the Form I-20.


Apply for Non-Immigrant Visa

Your program start date, 30 days before the day you are permitted to enter the country, is listed on Form I-20. Student visas for F-1 and M-1 can be granted up to 365 days before the commencement of your term of study. Your Form I-20 must be the same as your student visa (e.g., F-1 or M-1). You will probably have the original Form I-20 for your visa interview. In some situations where obtaining a visa before receiving the original Form I-20 is necessary, the consular official may accept a copy of the Form I-20.


Changing the Status of the I-20 Form

If you are applying to USCIS to alter your status to F or M and you are currently in the country as another kind of nonimmigrant, you must submit a Form I-20.


Also, read: F1 Visa Slots for Fall

When to Get a New I-20 Form

Students may obtain a fresh Form I-20 from their DSO under the following conditions after obtaining the first one upon program acceptance:

  • In the event that the form's physical copy is lost or destroyed.

  • For travel authorisation.

  • When a student's SEVIS status shifts (from Initial to Active, for example).

  • Regarding any significant modifications to a student's personal data, course of study, optional practical training, etc.


To conclude, the I-20 Forms are a gateway to getting a US visa without hassles. The blog has included all the possible details required to get the said forms and to make the entire process of getting your visa easy.


We hope you enjoyed reading the blog and gained insights into I-20 Form USA for Indian Students in 2024-25. However, if you have doubts about the same or want to study in USA, contact our expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). You can also take free online counselling through our website. Our expert counsellors will provide you with the best support and guidance you need for admission and visa. In addition, they will help you shortlist the universities according to your profile. For more information or any queries, contact application02@meridean.org or 1800-1230-00011.


Question- How long is my I-20 valid for?

Answer- The I-20 will immediately expire on the day the student completes the program of study if they finish before the completion date. Upon the conclusion of their studies, students are automatically granted a grace period of sixty days.


Question- How many days does it take to get an I-20?

Answer- It takes one to two weeks for the institution to process your I-20 form after appropriately submitting your papers. However, you may also use the tracking number the institution issued to see how your form is progressing. The SEVIS number is also provided on your form.


Question- How long can you stay in the US after I-20 expires?

Answer- When the validity term on your I-20 ends, you have to perform one of the following: Within sixty days after the end of your present program, transfer to a new school. Within sixty days of the end of your current program, depart the United States.


Question- Can my I-20 get rejected?

Answer- You will not be reimbursed for the $4,000 you paid for an I-20 if your visa is denied. However, you will receive your money back after subtracting some expenses, such as the international postal charge, program registration fee, and I-20 processing fee, in the event that your visa is refused or you decide to cancel your admission.


Question- Does the I-20 need to be signed?

Answer- According to federal requirements, a DSO must give a Form I-20 with the DSO's genuine signature to an accepted student upon admission to a school with SEVP certification. The student has to sign the Form I-20 after receiving it.


Question- How many times can I extend my I-20?

Answer- To avoid having to apply for reinstatement to Immigration, which entails a charge and might prevent you from receiving future job authorisation, your I-20 must be extended before the program's end date. I-20 extensions are given in maximum increments of twelve months.


Question- How do I know if my I-20 is active?

Answer- You can check the status of I-20 by using your nine-digit student ID. Your acceptance letter contains your student ID. Please be aware that status updates for this I-20 tracker will only be available once you have applied for your I-20 and completed all required financial paperwork.


Question- How much are I-20 USA fees?

Answer- You can pay the $350 charge by mail. Send a completed Form I-901 with a cheque or money order payable drawn on a US bank in US dollars. A sponsor may also be used to pay the charge.


Question- What does the SEVIS fee mean?

Answer- Other options are available from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for paying the SEVIS charge. The prospective F or M student or J exchange visitor must pay this cost before the visa interview.


Question- Does the visa officer know about I-20?

Answer- During your interview, they will review your I-20 form, DS-160 form, and any background checks. At that point, they will become aware of your details. 

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