Understanding an I-20 Form

The Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, is a multi-purpose document certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and the student has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S.

The Form I-20 is an important document that should be kept safe, as you will need it throughout the international student life cycle.Any questions about the Form I-20 should be directed to the Designated School Official (DSO) that issued the I-20.

When the student’s admission file is complete with all required documents, the student will be provided an official acceptance letter and the DSO will issue an I-20 form from the University of Pikeville.


Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee

Before you pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee, you must receive the Form I-20 from a DSO at the University of Pikeville. You will need information from the Form I-20 to pay the fee. The I-901 SEVIS Fee is mandatory and must be paid before you enter the United States.


Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

The Form I-20 lists your program start date, 30 days before which you are allowed to enter the United States. F-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. Your type of student visa must match the type of Form I-20 you have. Important – you are expected to have the original Form I-20 at your visa interview.


After a student is accepted to UPIKE, what is the next step?

  • Students are strongly advised to check with the Office of International Student and Scholar Services before purchasing an airline ticket or making any travel arrangements to campus.
  • The DSO at the University of Pikeville issues an I-20 form to the student for a specific course of study.

Receiving the I-20 Form

eShipGlobal is a university shipping solution that helps international students and scholars send and receive critical documents such as I-20s, transcripts, diplomas, financial affidavits and so much more. UPIKE International Student and Scholar Services strongly recommends using https://study.eshipglobal.com.

The student creates an account, provides the addresses and pays for the express mailing service to receive the I-20 form and original admission packet within three to five days by FedEx or UPS.

You must use the website provided above – do not go through FedEx or UPS websites directly. eShipGlobal has a substantial discount for students, which is why it is used. All communication about the mailing will go through the eShipGlobal service, who will notify us that you are requesting your admission packet and I-20 form to be sent by express mail.

When you use this service, you will be required to create your own user name and password in order to create an account. It is free to create an account. To request shipment, you will need your name, mailing address, email address, phone number, credit card information and the school’s address information.

Please pay close attention to the information submitted, as errors in the credit card information or submitting incorrect or incomplete address information will result in a delay in the mailing of your I-20.

If you experience any difficulty in registering and processing the shipment, please use the “Help” link in the site for step-by-step instructions. If you have additional questions about how to use this service, please e-mail support@eshipglobal.com.


Paying the SEVIS Fees and Scheduling an Embassy Interview

  • When you have received the original admission packet and I-20 form, you are ready to apply to the United States Embassy for an F-1 Visa. Depending on the country of origin, a separate visa fee may be required.
  • Pay the U.S. government fee of $200 to SEVIS through the government website: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/. All initial F-1 students MUST pay the SEVIS fee prior to the visa interview. Print the receipt to take to the embassy or consulate for your scheduled interview. 
  • Schedule an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at another U.S. embassy or consulate, but be aware that it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside of the country where you live. Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early.
  • Complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa ApplicationForm DS-160
  • Bring the following documents to the embassy interview: Form I-20, documentation of financial support, bank statements, UPIKE admission letter, SEVIS fee receipt, completed form DS-160 and evidence that you intend to return to your home country at the conclusion of your studies.

After your Visa Interview

After your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires further administrative processing. The consular officer will inform you if this is required.

After the visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable to your nationality) and make arrangements for the return of the passport and visa to you. Review the visa processing times to learn more.


Entering the United States

  • When you travel to the U.S., you must enter a U.S. port of entry, and present several documents to a U.S. Customs Officer. For more information visit, http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/.
  • You are expected to have the original Form I-20, with ink signature on the form, as you enter the country. Do not pack it away in your suitcase. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will instruct you to present your Form I-20 at the port of entry. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20.
  • A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa only allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.
  • F-1 students are not allowed to enter or travel to the U.S. until 30 days before the program start date listed on the I-20 form.

After you present your passport, visa, and Form I-20 at the port of entry, a CBP official will determine if you are allowed admission. Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

Learn about admissions and entry requirements, restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products and other restricted/prohibited goods by reviewing the CBP website.


After Arrival in the U.S.

Your Form I-20 proves that you are legally enrolled in a program of study in the United States. Therefore, it may be needed when you apply for the benefits available.

When to Get a New Form I-20

After receiving the initial Form I-20 upon program acceptance, students may receive a new Form I-20 from their DSO in the following circumstances:

  • If the physical copy of the form is destroyed or misplaced
  • For travel endorsement
  • When the student’s SEVIS status changes (e.g., from initial to active)
  • For any substantive change to student information, such as changes to a student’s personal information, program of study, optional practical training, etc.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

No. If a student is maintaining a status other than F-1 in the U.S., an 1-20 is not needed. Some students in visa status must change status after their twenty-first birthday. It depends on specific situations.

After a school completes the admissions process, the school collects necessary financial support and identification documentation for admitted international students requesting F-1 status. Those student names and biographic information are entered into a U.S. government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The SEVIS database processes the information and produces an I-20. The school official (called the Designated School Official or DSO) prints and signs the I-20 and delivers it to the student. If a student needs to update or change information on the I-20, the DSO makes these requests through SEVIS to produce a new document.

Outside the U.S.: After receiving an I-20 from a school, an international student must make an appointment to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate (the visa is needed to be allowed entry into the U.S. in F-1 status). Students must present both the F-1 visa and the I-20 to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry.

Inside the U.S.: Once a student has arrived in the U.S. and passes through the border inspections process (either at an airport, seaport or land border), the I-20 is used as identification and proof of legal and academic status. Typically, students must show their I-20 at government agencies (for example, to request a driver’s license).

If traveling abroad, students must take their I-20 with them. The I-20 is required to reapply for a visa (if needed) and for re-entering the U.S. Before departure from the U.S., students should verify that they have a valid travel endorsement on page two of the I-20 from the DSO at the : UPIKE Office of International Student and Scholar Services. This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the U.S. Students should plan ahead and get their travel endorsement several weeks before departing the U.S.

The “completion date” is entered on item number five of the I-20 based on a student’s particular major and degree level. This is an estimate of the time the university feels it may take to fulfill all degree requirements. However, if a student is not able to finish the program on that date, an extension must be requested from the : UPIKE Office of International Student and Scholar Services at least one month before the completion date expires.

According to U.S. immigration regulations, the “completion date” is defined as the day final degree requirements are completed. The actual completion date may not necessarily be the day of the graduation ceremony or the date on the I-20. In fact, many students actually finish degree requirements before the completion date on the I-20.

Undergraduate Students:

The completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester degree requirements are fulfilled.

Graduate Students:

The completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled. The completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester degree requirements are fulfilled.

The 60-day grace period

When students complete a study program, they are allowed a 60-day grace period to either 1) depart the U.S., 2) request a school transfer, or 3) change visa status.

Note: Students who are interested in working in the U.S. following their program completion must apply for Optional Practical Training work authorization before the expiration of the 60-day grace period.

Please contact the UPIKE Office of International Student and Scholar Services immediately for a replacement I-20. Please note that if you are outside the U.S., you must obtain the replacement I-20 before entering the U.S. to resume your studies. Allow sufficient time for processing and mail delivery. Do not attempt to enter the U.S. without an I-20.

Yes. You may obtain several different versions of your I-20 while you are in the U.S. if there are changes to your program or other information. Keep all copies for future reference. Always use the most recently issued I-20 for travel, work or other purposes.

Yes. If you will be accompanied by your spouse and children, they will each need their own I-20 to obtain the F-2 dependent visas and to remain in the U.S. during your program and for travel purposes. Contact the UPIKE Office of International Student and Scholar Services as soon as possible about these arrangements.