I-20 Form - Application Process, Requirements and Processing Time

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  • By:CANAM Group
  • Updated On:Aug 04,2023 03:10 PM IST

An I-20 form is an official document which states that the student is enrolled in a program in the United States. Read more to know about the benefits of the I-20 form, application process, processing time and much more.

I-20 Form – Application Process .webp
Every international student must have an I-20 form to study in the US. It is an official document issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). An I-20 form proves that the individual is a legit student enrolled with an accredited university or college. This blog will give detailed information about the I-20 form, its application process, requirements, samples, processing time etc.

What is an I-20 form?

An I-20 form is an important document for individuals who want to study in the US as it tells that they are legitimate students of an accredited college or university. It is issued on an F-1 or M-1 student visa. It is only after having the I-20 form that the individual can apply for a driving license and social security number and become further eligible to work on campus or off campus.

There are two types of I-20 forms an international student can get which are as follows:

• Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status- This form is issued to those international students who have enrolled in academic and language programs.
• Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status – This form is issued to those who are enrolled in vocational programs.

I-20 Form Details

Even though there are two different I-20 forms, the details contained in both forms is same :

• SEVIS ID number
• Funding sources
• Starting and end date of academic program
• Intended program of study
• Cost of attendance at student’s school of choice
• Other personal information
Tip: International students should always carry their I-20 form as it proves their legitimacy.

Also read : Study in USA for indian students after 12th

I-20 Form: Requirements

To get the I-20 form a student must meet the following two requirements:

Acceptance from an accredited university or college: First is that the college must accept the student's application and the institution should be SEVP-certified.
The information must be up to date: The college to which the students are applying must confirm that the students' information is correct and they have enough funds to cover the living expenses in the US.

What Is the I-901 SEVIS Fee?

After getting accepted to a recognized college or university in the US, students will be asked to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee to get their M-1 or F-1 student visa.

One needs to pay the SEVIS fee in the following circumstances:

• M-1 or F-1 visa student from a country where a visa is required to travel to the US.
• M-1 or F-1 visa student from a visa-waiver country (before seeking admission at a US port of entry).
• M-1 or F-1 student who has been out of status for more than five months.
• M-1 or F-1 student who has been away from the US for more than five months and wishes to re-enter the US for higher studies in the same course of study.

To pay the I-901 SEVIS fee one needs to provide the following information:

• Name, address, date of birth, and email address
• Country of birth and country of citizenship
• School Code as stated on the I-20 form
• SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the I-20 form

After paying the I-901 SEVIS fee, the student needs to keep the I-901 SEVIS fee receipt and bring it to the visa interview. Before entering the US it's mandatory to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee.

Also read: Higher studies prospects in the USA

Application Process for I-20 Form

A student must have an I-20 form to apply for an F-1 or an M-1 student visa and a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status to travel to the US. Let's see what is the application process for the I-20 form:

Step 1:Acceptance from a US educational institution

First of all, the student must be accepted into a SEVP-certified university or college. For this, the student must provide documents including transcripts, proof of English proficiency, and test scores.

Step 2:Receiving of acceptance letter

After getting accepted, the student will receive an acceptance letter from the college or university. The letter will contain program starting and ending date, tuition fee and academic level.

Step 3:Show Financial documents

Next step is submitting the financial documents to prove that the students can cover their living expenses in the US. This can include scholarship letters, bank statements and other financial documents. 

Step 4:Fill out the I-20 Form

After receiving the financial documents, the institution will issue an I-20 form through Student and Exchange Visitor Information System which the student has to fill with the personal and program information.

Step 5:Pay the SEVIS Fee

Before applying for a student visa, the individual needs to pay the SEVIS fee. The student can pay the fee online or by mail whichever is comfortable.

Step 6:Receive the I-20 Form

After completing the information, the institution will mail the I-20 form to the student. Before moving further, a student must review it and check if all the information is correct.

Step 7:Pay the I-901 Fee

After receiving the I-20 form, international students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. The fee is mandatory for the students to get F-1 and M-1 visas. The fee can be paid online.

Step 8:Schedule a Visa Interview

The last step is to apply for Visa Interview at the US embassy. The students must take all the required documents like the I-20 form, financial documents and passport.

Also read: How to get a scholarship to study in USA?

Who Needs an I-20 Form?

The students need an I-20 form if they are:

• A nonimmigrant who never attended a school or university in the US.
• A nonimmigrant who wishes to transfer from a school or college in the US.
• A nonimmigrant who wants to change their visa status to a F-1 visa.

The students must carry their original I-20 form as they enter the US. Before entering the US, one US Customs and Border Protection Officer at the airport, as they will ask them to present the I-20 form.

When to get a new I-20 Form?

The students can request a new I-20 form in the following circumstances.

• When the physical copy of the I-20 form is destroyed, stolen or lost
• For travelling purposes
• When their SEVIS status changes
• Any personal information changes (optional practical training, program of study)

One has to contact the Designated School Official (DSO) to request a new I-20 form. To get a new I-20 form the SELVIS status of the student must be active.


The I-20 form is an important document for any international student as it proves that the individual is actually a student of an accredited university or college. The students can get their I-20 form by following the process that is mentioned above. For more information about the I-20 form students can connect with Canam consultants.

Also read: Everything you need to know about international student visa


An I-20 form is valid till the end date of the program. 
It takes around one to two weeks to process the I-20 form.
After getting the I-20 form, the student needs to pay the I-901 fee.
The documents required for the I-20 form are financial documents and a passport.
The I-20 form is a crucial document proving that the individual is a legit college or university student.

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