Last year, nearly 950,000 students from more than 200 countries studied at schools in the United States. If you’re eager to join that number, you may be overwhelmed by all of the steps and paperwork that the U.S. government requires for international students.
One of the most critical documents is the I-20. It’s a document you need to have to obtain a student visa and enter the U.S. But what is an I-20, and how do you get one? Here is what you need to know.
If you are an international student planning to attend college or graduate school in the U.S., you’ll need to get a Form I-20 first. It’s one of the first steps you have to complete before you can enter the country.
When a qualifying U.S.-based college or university accepts you into its program, a designated school official (DSO) will issue you a Form I-20. There are two versions:
The forms are the same other than the name, and which you receive is dependent on the program you’re entering. You can view a sample I-20 form through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website.
The I-20 is necessary for any student attending college or university in the U.S. that are residents of other countries.
An I-20 is also necessary for any eligible dependents you plan to bring to the U.S. with you while you attend school.
Obtaining the I-20 is vital for the following reasons:
The process to get an I-20 form is straightforward:
If your spouse or children will be living in the United States with you while you’re in school, they must also register with SEVIS, obtain Form I-20s and apply for visas. However, they do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.
In some cases, you may need to get a new I-20 form. For example, if the physical version of the original form is damaged or lost, you’ll need to get a replacement. If your information changes, such as your program of study or your name after marriage, you’ll need to obtain a new I-20. Contact the college or university’s registrar office to get an updated form.
[Tip: When you take out a loan through MPOWER Financing, MPOWER will issue you a visa support letter — at no cost — upon final credit approval, which you can use to obtain your I-20 if studying in the U.S.]
Bottomline, before you can attend classes in the United States, you must obtain Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. The I-20 form is essential; without it, you cannot get a student visa or enter the country.
Once you have the I-20 and pay your SEVIS fee, you can move forward with your student visa application and interview. With all these documents in hand, you can begin studying at a college or university in the U.S., launching your U.S. educational journey.
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