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F and M students need a Form I-20 to study in the United States.

Do I Need a Form I-20 or a Form DS-2019?

November 7, 2013

As an F or M student studying in the United States, it is very important to understand the different types of forms you need while here.

One of the most important forms is the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status.” A designated school official (DSO) issues this form to an F or M nonimmigrant after the student receives acceptance to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school. This form allows an F or M student to pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee and apply for a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States. Any accompanying F-2 or M-2 dependent also must have a Form I-20. A Form I-20 identifies the F or M nonimmigrant (student or dependent) and the DSO, as well as other important information, such as the school and the program of study. The F or M nonimmigrant must keep all copies of the Form I-20 received during a program of study.

An F or M student does not need a Form DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status.” The Form DS-2019 allows a J exchange visitor to apply for a visa. The Department of State-designated sponsor issues this form. The Form DS-2019 identifies the exchange visitor (or J-2 dependent) and the designated sponsor and provides a brief description of the exchange visitor’s program, including the start and end date, category of exchange and an estimate of the cost of the exchange program. For more information about exchange visitor programs, visit

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