How to Get Your Form I-20

How to Get Your Form I-20 | Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status

IMPORTANT: This information carefully explains how to get your Form I-20. Please read it and follow the directions completely to avoid delays in getting your I-20.

What is a Form I-20 and why do you need one?

A Form I-20 is a government form that tells the U.S. government that you are eligible for F-l student status. It certifies that

  1. You are or expect to be a "bona fide" student.
  2. You meet our admissions requirements.
  3. You will pursue a full course of study (you must be full-time for each semester enrolled).
  4. You proved to us that you have enough money to study and live in the U.S. without working illegally or suffering from poverty.

You need a Form I-20 to obtain an F-l student visa or status or to keep lawful F-l status when transferring or changing schools within the U.S. To apply for an F-1 student visa, you must make an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. consulate/embassy in your home country.

Does everybody need a Form I-20?

No, some international students do not need a Form I-20. F-2 dependents who want to study full-time must obtain an I-20 and apply for a change of status to an F-1 student. If you are maintaining another non-immigrant status in the U.S., you do not have to have an I-20 and may attend school full or part-time. Dependent children in E, H. I, J, L, M, N, 0, P, R, or S status need to change status after their 21st birthday or if they marry. If you have no legal status, you may attend school but you are not eligible to change status and do not need an I-20.

Now that you are planning to be a student, there are 2 things you cannot do!

1. Do not enter the U.S. with a B-1, B-2, OR B-1/2 visa.
If you use a B visa to enter the U.S., you are indicating “I’m here as a visitor” only. Since you contacted our school about study, this would be viewed as a “fraudulent entry” and you could be refused permission to stay longer than six months or to extend or change your status. Do not listen to people who say it is easy to enter the country as a visitor and change your status. It is not true! B visitors are prohibited by U.S. law from pursuing a course of study prior to obtaining a change of status to F-1 student.

2. Do not enter the U.S. without a visa (unless you are Canadian).
If you are from a country from which you can enter the U.S. as a visitor by showing a round trip airline ticket, do not do this. If you enter without a visa, you will be permitted to stay for only 90 days. You will not be given more time or allowed to change to student status.

If your study plans are not certain and you want to enter the U.S. to visit schools, you must explain this on your visa application and ask the visa officer for a B-2 visa with the words “prospective student" noted on it or have the words added to your B visa if you already have one.

How do you get a Form I-20?

1. You must be a "bonafide" student, admitted to a full-time program of study.
2. You must prove to us that you can support the costs of living and studying in the U.S. for every year of your program of study. U.S. law requires this.

Do not expect to be able to work in the U.S. to help meet your annual costs! On-campus employment is limited and competitive; off-campus employment is strictly controlled by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Carefully review our school’s 2023-2024 Annual Estimate of Expenses for International Students (located inside the I-20 application). This is the amount that you must prove that you can support for every year in your program of study. (Estimate 4-5 years for a Bachelor's degree and 2-3 years for a Master's degree). If you will be bringing your spouse and/or dependent children, additional funding will be required. Complete the Spouse and/or Dependent Children Information for I-20 Applicants form, provide all required documents and submit along with the I-20 application.

The financial requirements are not negotiable. They represent a modest average budget that does not include luxuries of any kind. We strongly recommend that you budget at least 10% more if possible. Too little money causes pain and distress. We insist that students and their families look closely at the costs of living and studying in the U.S. and make careful plans to be sure your needs will be met. Expect annual increases in tuition and living costs of approximately 10%.

Read and follow the instructions very carefully. You cannot complete this process without following them step-by-step. Sometimes we may have to ask you to give us more evidence of your financial ability; perhaps more than once. The U.S. government requires that we be absolutely sure, to the best of our ability, that you will have enough financial support to cover the full costs of your stay in the U.S.

Contact us

Inga Mezale
Deputy Director of International Student & Scholar Services, Designated School Official & Responsible Officer