Form I-20 Information for International Applicants
When you arrive in the United States, you should receive a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) that will include your admission number to the United States. An Immigration inspector will write this admission number on your USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ ID. The Immigration Inspector will then send pages one and two of this form, known as I-20 A-B, to your school as a record of your legal admission to the United States. You are expected to keep pages three and four, known as the I-20 ID. This document is your proof that you are allowed to study in the United States as an F-1 student. You should see your designated school official (DSO) if you need a replacement copy of your I-20 ID. You should also keep safe your Form I-94, because it proves that you legally entered the United States.
How Can I Change My Nonimmigrant Status to Become a Student If I Am Already in the United States?
You first must apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States*. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should send you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/IID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). You must submit this form and a USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to the USCIS. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States.
*Please be aware that if you have been admitted as a B-1 (Temporary Visitor for Business) or B-2 (Temporary Visitor for Pleasure) visa holder, you may not begin your program studies until your application for these studies is approved.
Can I Bring My Spouse and Children with Me to the United States?
Your spouse and children may come with you to the United States in F-2 status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student (F-1) visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) and proof of their relationship to you. The F-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the F-1 academic student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status.
How Long Can I Stay in the United States?
You are allowed to stay in the United States for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in an educational program and making normal progress toward completing your course of study. If approved, you also will be allowed to stay in the country up to twelve additional months beyond the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. At the end of your studies or practical training, you will be given sixty days to prepare to leave the country.
How Can I Extend My Stay as a Student in the United States?
You do not need to apply to extend your stay in the United States as long as you are maintaining your student status and making normal progress toward completing your academic course of study. The designated school official (DSO) from your school will write down a completion date on your USCIS Form I-20 A-B (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). Under normal circumstances, you should be able to complete your studies by this date. If you need to extend your stay for compelling academic or medical reasons, then you and the designated school official (DSO) should fill out USCIS Form I-538 (Certification By Designated School Official) and send it to the USCIS student data center at least 30 days before the completion date listed on USCIS Form I-20 A-B.
Will I Get a Work Permit?
Can I Travel Outside the United States?
Students may leave the United States and be readmitted after absences of five months or less. Upon your return to the United States, you should provide immigration inspectors with:
- A valid passport.
- A valid F-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary).
- A current USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) signed by your appropriate school official (you should have the appropriate school official sign your USCIS Form I-20 each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the United States).
- A new USCIS Form I-20 A-B/I-20 ID if there have been any substantive changes in your course of study or place of study.
- Proof of your financial support.
How Can I Get USCIS Forms?
Your should be able to pick up immigration-related forms from your designated school official (DSO). Only your designated school official (DSO) can give you a USCIS Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) or a USCIS Form I-538 (Certification By Designated School Official).
Can Anyone Help Me?
Your school will have a designated school official (DSO) to help you with immigration issues. Please note that you (the F-1 student) are solely responsible for following U.S. immigration laws.
Note: Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. immigration official will inspect your papers either at a preinspection site in Canada or upon entry into the United States.
You must have with you proof of Canadian citizenship, your admission letter to the university you plan to attend, your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019), and proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your Certificate of Eligibility. It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status, so be sure to have complete documentation with you.