The I-20 is a document issued by a U.S. government-approved educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and that the student has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. The I-20 is officially titled “Certificate of Eligibility” because it makes a prospective student eligible to apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
- Do all students need I-20s?
Only students who will apply for an F-1 visa.
- How is an I-20 created?
After a student completes the admissions process, the school collects the necessary financial support and identification documentation for admitted international students requesting F-1 status. Those student’s 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 Designate School Official (DSO) prints and signs the I-20 and then 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 I-20 document.
- How is the I-20 used?
Outside the U.S.: After receiving an initial 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, the I-20 is used as identification and proof of legal and academic status. Typically, students must show their I-20 at the Social Security Office when requesting a Social Security Number and the Department of Motor Vehicles when requesting a driver’s license. The I-20 is also shown to employers in the hiring process for employment. Off-campus employment information and/or authorization will be printed on page 2 of the I-20.
- Do I need the I-20 for travel?
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 (signature) on page 2 of the I-20 from the International Student Resource Center at NSU. This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the U.S. In most cases, a travel endorsement can be done quickly and easily at the ISRC; however, students should plan ahead and get their travel endorsement several weeks before departing the U.S. to avoid rush.
- Why do I have multiple I-20s?
New I-20s are issued to continuing students whenever there is a significant update to a student’s record. This includes changes in biographical data, program dates, change of major, the addition of a work authorization, etc. These types of changes are typically prompted by student request.
- What is the I-20 completion date?
The “completion date” is entered on item #5 of the I-20 based on a student’s particular major and degree level. This is an estimated time for completion of all degree requirements. However, if a student is not able to finish the program on that date, an extension must be requested to the ISRC 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.
Typically, the completion date is considered to be the last day of final exams of the semester when degree requirements are fulfilled.
Typically, the completion date is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing the thesis or dissertation in the Graduate Division. If there is no research component to the degree program, the completion date would be the last day of final exams of the semester when 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, 3) apply for OPT, 4) change of degree level, or 5) change visa status.
- What happens if I lose my I-20?
Please contact our office 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.
- Should I keep all copies of my I-20s?
Yes. You may obtain several different versions of your I-20s 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.
- Do my family members need I-20s?
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.
The DS-2019 is a multi-purpose document issued by a U.S. government-approved institution (or organization) certifying that your admission into a program has been accepted and that you have demonstrated enough financial resources to stay in the U.S. for the length of the DS-2019 form. The DS-2019 is officially titled “Certificate of Eligibility” because with it you are “eligible” to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
- How the DS-2019 is created?
Once your admission into a program is finalized, your name and other 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 a “PDF” file of the DS-2019 that is sent back to the Designate School Official (DSO) via the internet. The DSO prints and signs the DS-2019 and then it is prepared for delivery to you. If an update or change needs to be made on the DS-2019, the DSO makes these requests through SEVIS and a new document is produced.
- How is the DS-2019 used outside the U.S.?
The DS-2019 form is used by the prospective visitor to apply for a J-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The DS-2019 must be presented along with the J-1 visa to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent upon arrival at a U.S. port-of-entry.
- How is the DS-2019 used inside the U.S.?
Once the visitor has arrived in the U.S. and passed through the border inspections process, the DS-2019 is used for identification purposes and proof of legal status. For those J visitors who are eligible for employment, the DS-2019 will be shown to the employer as part of the hiring process.
- Transfer of Programs
The DS-2019 is also needed for a transfer of programs. If a visitor transfers from one J-1 program to another, a new DS-2019 is issued by the new school or program before the current DS-2019 has expired.
- Traveling with the DS-2019
If you will be traveling abroad and then returning to the U.S. to resume your J-1 program, you must take your DS-2019 with you. The DS-2019 is required to apply for a new visa, if you need one, and for re-entering the U.S. Before your departure from the U.S., make sure that you have an unexpired travel validation (signature). This signature is valid for one year for multiple visits outside the U.S. or until the DS-2019 expires, whichever is first.
- Important Information on the DS-2019
Some immigration regulations governing the J-1 status are listed on page 2 of the document. It is important that J-1 visitors read this page to understand the rules that apply to their stay in the U.S.
- DS-2019 End Date
An “end date” was entered into item #3 on page 1 of your DS-2019 based on your particular program. If you are not able to finish your program on that date, you must request an extension from your program sponsor BEFORE the DS-2019 expires. In all cases, a proof of sufficient funds will be required to extend your stay in the U.S.
J-1 students who are interested in working in the U.S. following their program completion must apply for Academic Training work authorization before their actual program completion date.
- The 30-day Grace Period
After completing your program, you are allowed a 30-day grace period to depart the U.S. During the grace period, you cannot re-enter the US from abroad in J status.
- Maintaining Your Records
The J-1 visitor is responsible for maintaining copies of all DS-2019s that he or she receives during their program. It is important that you save the copies in a secure location as you may be asked to present them when applying for future immigration benefits.