I-20 Certificate of Eligibility

The I-20 Certificate of Eligibility is issued by the institution where the student will be enrolling. This document allows a student to apply for an F-1 visa and related benefits. The I-20 lists the institution where the student is permitted to study, the program of study and eligibility dates. It must remain valid at all times. Extensions of an I-20 must be made prior to its expiration date; otherwise it is a violation of F-1 status.

The I-20 contains the information that is in your SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) record. SEVIS is the database which is accessed via the internet that allows schools and US immigration agencies to share information on international student status. Each student has a unique SEVIS ID number and it is printed on the I-20.

I-94 Record of Arrival and Departure

Upon entry into the US, either an admission stamp will be placed in your passport or an Form I-94 will be affixed opposite your visa stamp. This is a small white card which would be stapled into the passport opposite the visa stamp.

The stamp or I-94 card records the date and place of entry into the US, the immigration status (for example, F-1 or F-2) and notates the authorized period of stay. Make sure the stamp is correct before leaving the immigration officials station. The paper I-94 card should be stapled into your passport so it does not get lost. If lost, stolen or damaged a $330 USD fee is required to replace it.

A copy of your I-94 can be printout of at CBP.gov/I94.

Update your I-20

If there are any change in circumstances during your studies your I-20 will need to be updated. The local school official in charge of issuing I-20’s would be contacted to make the change and report the update to the Department of Homeland Security through SEVIS and issue a new I-20. Keep the old one in a file in case future reference is necessary.

Extending your Program

Should a student be unable to complete their course of study before the completion date noted in item 5 on the I-20, an extension to the I-20 must be completed before the current I-20 expires.

Changes Requiring a New Form I-20

Change Level of Study

If a student completes their current program of study and plans to continue at their current school their I-20 must be updated. If they are continuing their students at another institution they must follow the I-20 status transfer process.

Change of Major

If a student is accepted into a new major or if they change majors (for example, General Studies to Biology or Business), they must request a new I-20.

Funding Change

Should a student’s source or amount of funding significantly change it must be reported and a new I-20 issued. For example: if a student was initially self-funded and has now been awarded a scholarship or obtains on-campus work a new I-20 will need to be issued because their funding source has changed and the initial I-20 indicates they will be using personal funds to pay for expenses.

Change of Name

The name on the I-20 should match the name on their passport. Any type of name change — given name, middle name, or family name — on their passport, must be changed on the I-20. Should any change in a new passport result in a name change, then a new I-20 must be issued too.