Understanding Your I-20

The I-20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a U.S. government-approved educational institution certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time study program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the United States. The I-20 is officially titled the “Certificate of Eligibility” because it allows an individual to apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

I-20s: Electronic or Original

As of October 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  allows I-20s to be signed and distributed electronically by Designated School Officials (DSOs). Berkeley International Office Advisors are DSOs. When you receive an I-20 from BIO, you can either choose to receive the I-20 electronically with a digital signature or as a printed and signed physical paper I-20. If you receive an electronically signed I-20, you must print out the I-20 and carry a physical copy when using it for travel or other official purposes. As always- be sure to keep all old I-20s for your records, but use the newest version for travel or other purposes.

Do all students need I-20s?

No. If a student is maintaining a status in the United States other than F-1, an I-20 is not needed. Dependent children in E, H, I, J, L, M, N, 0, P, R, or S status must change status after their 21st birthday. Students who are at UC Berkeley in a dependent child status and approaching their 21st birthday should see an International Student Adviser at Berkeley International Office for information about changing their nonimmigrant status to F-1.

How is an I-20 created?

After a school completes the admissions process, it 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). SEVIS processes the information and produces an I-20. The school official (called the Designated School Official or DSO) processes and signs the I-20 and then delivers it to the student. If a student needs to update or change information on their I-20, the DSO makes these requests through SEVIS to produce a new document.