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 that the student has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the U.S. 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.

 New Form I-20I-20 Form

Effective June 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has introduced an updated version of the Form I-20. All UCB F-1 international students must obtain their new I-20 from Berkeley International Office before July 1, 2016. (Click image to enlarge)

Currently, the new I-20 is not required for travel or at local California Social Security or Department of Motor Vehicles offices. However, it may become required in the near future and for travel after July 1, 2016. If you do not have the new I-20, you may be denied entry after this time.

Do all students need I-20s?

No. If a student is maintaining a status other than F-1 in the U.S., an 1-20 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 at UC Berkeley who are in a dependent child status and are approaching the 21st birthday should see an International Student Advisor in Berkeley International Office for information about changing nonimmigrant status to F-1.

How is an I-20 is created?

After a school completes the admissions process, the school 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). The SEVIS database processes the information and produces an I-20. The school official (called the Designated School Official or 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 document.