According to the US Department of Homeland Security, if you seek to study in the United States on the basis of an F or M visa, you need to seek approval through Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”
When you are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school, the designated school official (DSO) will issue you one of two forms:
- The Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students.”
- The Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status – For Vocational Students.”
You need to complete this form and have it approved by USCIS “to apply for a student visa (F-1 or M-1), to enter the United States and apply for benefits.”
If you have any dependents, you’ll also need Form I-20 for each eligible dependent. Both the foreign applicant and the Designated School Official (DSO) must sign Form I-20. Parents should sign for anyone under 18-years-of-age.
You’ll need Form I-20 throughout the course of your study program.
Form I-20 is also used to determine your I-901 SEVIS Fee which is mandatory and must be paid before you enter the United States.