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Create Initial COE (Form I-20)

Last updated 21-May-2018

General Information

To study in the United States, an international student must:

  • Apply to an SEVP-certified school in the United States.
  • Be accepted by that school.
  • Be issued a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), also known as a Form I-20.
  • Obtain F-1 or M-1 status by using the COE to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee and obtain legal status in the United States as a student. 

Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students

Designated school officials (DSO) issue the COE directly to the student who uses it either to enter the United States or to apply for a change of his or her nonimmigrant status. PDSOs and DSOs are responsible for creating and updating F-1 and M-1 student records in SEVIS. The first step is to create and issue a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20), in accordance with the regulations located at 8 CFR 214.3(k), 8 CFR 214.2(f)(7)(ii), and 8 CFR 214. Once the Form I-20 is issued, the student may use the document to obtain F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant status.

Icon - Pay attention to an important point

  • Determine if your prospective student needs a SEVIS record transfer or a new SEVIS record. Use the record transfer when an international student transfers from another SEVP-certified school in one of the following conditions:

    • In the middle of a program and continuing the same program at your school.

    • At the end of a program and beginning a new program at your school.

  • If your new international student is transferring to your school from another SEVP-certified school, work with the other school and the student to use the SEVIS record transfer function.

  • For more information, see the SEVIS Help Hub Transfers section.

F-1 or M-1 Student Entry Overview

Students outside the United States must follow the basic process below to obtain F-1 or M-1 status at the U.S. port of entry (POE):

Step Action
1 Get the Certificate of Eligibility from the school.
2 Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
3 Obtain an F-1 or M-1 visa from a U.S. consulate.
Note: Students from Canada and Bermuda are exempt from this requirement.
4 Present all documents required for F-1 student immigration status at the U.S. port of entry no more than 30 days before the Program Start Date, which is listed on the COE.
5 The student must report to the school.
6

F-1 or M-1 Student Change of Status Application Overview

Students inside the United States must either leave the U.S. and re-enter following the process above or follow the basic process below to change their status legally to F-1 or M-1:

Step Action
1 Get the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), from the school.
2 Pay the SEVIS fee (I-901 fee).
3 File Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and supporting evidence with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
Note: Follow USCIS’ filing instructions.
4
  • DSOs must carefully monitor these applications to keep the SEVIS records in Initial status for the entire time the application is pending with USCIS.
  • If USCIS has not approved the change of status before the program start date, a DSO must defer the program start date in SEVIS
  • For detailed information, see Help Hub Manage Initial Program and Session Dates.
    Note: If the student is in a nonimmigrant status that allows for study, the student’s start date at the school and the start date in SEVIS will be different. The start date in SEVIS should reflect the date the student begins studies at the school once in F-1 or M-1 status.
5

To cancel a change of status that has not been sent to USCIS, follow the directions for canceling a SEVIS record in the Cancel a SEVIS Record Help Hub article, under the Manage Program Dates, Registration and Course Load section.

Note: Do not cancel a change of status request that has already been sent to USCIS. Requests pending with USCIS must be formally withdrawn using USCIS procedures.
 

Applicable Regulations and Policies

DSOs must comply with all regulations and policies that govern the admission of international students, the issuance of COEs, and the applicable reporting requirements.

The following federal regulations apply to:

  • Admission and fee payment of F-1 and M-1 students into the United States:
  • Form I-20 issuance, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and denial of recertification or withdrawal on notice for improper Form I-20 issuance:

    • 8 CFR 214.3(g) – Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

    • 8 CFR 214.3(k) – Issuance of Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

    • 8 CFR 214.4(a)(2)(x-xix) – Withdrawal of School Approval (related to improper COE issuance)

SEVP Policy Guidance related to the Form I-20:

See the Create COE Demonstration on the SEVIS Help Hub.

Create Initial Form I-20

DSOs enter information on four pages in SEVIS to create a student record and issue a Form I‑20:

  • Class of Admission and Personal Information
  • Contact and Program Information
  • Dependents
  • Financial Information

To begin creating the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20):

1. Select the appropriate campus from the Listing of Schools page.

2. Click New Student. The first page of the Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20), Class of Admission and Personal Information opens.

Class of Admission and Personal Information Page

The Class of Admission and Personal Information page has three sections:

  • Class of Admission
  • Name
  • Demographics

Class of Admission and Personal Information page

Class of Admission

Complete the fields in the Class of Admission section:

Class of Admission Section on Class of Admission and Personal Information Page

  • Class of Admission*
    • Select either F-1 for academic students or M-1 for vocational students.
    • Dependent spouses and children of F-1 and M-1 students are F-2 and M-2 dependents respectively, and are added to a student’s record later in the Form I-20 creation process.
    • This is a required field.

Note: This field is restricted to the classes of admission for which your school is certified to issue forms.

  • Issue Reason* 
    • Select either Initial Attendance or Initial Attendance – Change of Status Requested, as the reason for issuing the Form I-20 to the student:
      • Initial Attendance: Select this reason for any F/M student who plans to enter the United States to begin study at your school, if he/she:

−    Is NOT transferring a SEVIS record to your school from another U.S. school.
−    Is NOT applying for a change of status in the United States.
These students generally reside overseas and use the Form I-20 for visa issuance and initial entry though a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) port of entry.
Note: If the Initial Attendance option is selected, SEVIS will look for interface data from the Department of State (visa information).

  • Initial AttendanceChange of Status Requested: Select this reason if the student is currently in the United States and needs to change nonimmigrant status to F or M student to study at your school. 

The student must file an Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). 
Note: If the Initial AttendanceChange of Status Requested option is selected, SEVIS will look for interface data from USCIS (benefit application information).

  • This is a required field.

Icon - Pay attention to an important point

  • SEVIS does not provide a field for entering the student’s current class of admission when choosing this option as an issue reason. You can add details concerning the change of status and class of admission in the Remarks field.
  • ​Comments entered in any Remarks field throughout the electronic Form I-20 will overwrite any existing remarks and will print on page one of the printed Form I-20

Name

Complete the fields in the Name section:

Name Section on Class of Admission and Personal Information Page

  • Surname/Primary Name*
    • Enter the surname or primary name of the student. If the student has only one name, enter it in this field.
    • This field has a 40-character limit.
    • This is a required field.
    • DSOs must use the SEVIS Names Standards when creating records in SEVIS.

Icon - Additional information is availableSee the SEVIS Help Hub article on SEVIS Names Standards for detailed names information.

  • Given Name
    • Enter the given name of the student. If desired, include middle name of the student with the given name.
    • This field has an 80-character limit.
  • Suffix – If applicable, select a title from the drop-down list, such as Junior, which may display at the end of a person’s name.
  • Passport Name
    • Enter the passport name of the student, as written in the Machine-readable Zone (MRZ). 
    • This field has a 39-character limit.
  • Preferred Name – Enter the preferred name of the student, in accordance with SEVIS Name Standards

Demographics

Complete the fields in the Demographics section:

Demographics Section on Class of Admission and Personal Information Page.]

  • Birth Date*
    • Enter the student’s date of birth in MM/DD/YYYY format.
    • This is a required field.

Birth Date field in Demographics Section on Class of Admission and Personal Information Page

Note: When entering the Birth Date, SEVIS shows the age of the student, as entered.

  • Gender*
    • Select the student’s gender: Male, Female, or Unknown/Other.
    • This is a required field.
  • Country of Birth*
    • Select the name of the student’s country of birth from the drop-down list.
    • This is a required field.

Country of Birth field in Demographics Section on Class of Admission and Personal Information Page.]

Note: For Country of Birth/Citizenship, searching by any word in country names field will filter the list.
Note: For Country of Birth, selecting the United States or any of its territories requires clicking a radio button indicating the nonimmigrant is not a U.S. citizen or national.

Country of Birth Selection Confirmation Radio Buttons

Note: A Validation error occurs if the Is a United States citizen or national radio button is selected. The error states that this person is not eligible for F or M status. The DSO must correct the country of birth or delete the draft.

Country of Birth Validation Error Message.]

  • Country of Citizenship*
    • Select the name of the student’s country of citizenship from the drop-down list.
    • This is a required field.
  • Review the information on Page 1 and click Next. The second page of the Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20), Contact and Program Information opens.

Contact and Program Information Page

There are four sections on the Contact and Program Information page:

  • Contact
  • Telephone
  • Program
  • English Proficiency

Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20) – Contact and Program Information Page

Contact

Complete the fields in the Contact section:

Contact Section on Contact and Program Information Page

  • Foreign Address*
    • Enter the student’s foreign address. All nonimmigrant students must have a foreign address, even if they are currently in the United States.
    • The Address and Country are required fields.
  • U.S. Physical Address
    • Click Add Address to enter a U.S. address for the student, if they have one. 
  • U.S Addresses are subject to validation. 
  • The U.S. Physical Address is required at the time of registration. It is not required when creating a record.
    • If the student is a commuter student whose Country of Citizenship is Mexico or Canada, click the Border Commuter checkbox. The U.S. address is not required for these students.

Icon - Additional information is availableSee the SEVIS Help Hub article on SEVIS Address Standards for detailed information.

  • U.S. Mailing Address
    • Click Add Mailing Address to enter a mailing address for the student, if they have one.

Note: U.S Addresses are subject to validation.

  • If the U.S. Mailing Address is the same as the U.S. Physical Address, click the Same as Physical Address checkbox to use the U.S. Physical Address.

Icon - Additional information is availableSee the SEVIS Help Hub article on SEVIS Address Standards for detailed information.

  • Email Address – Enter a valid email address for the student.

Icon - Additional information is availableSee the SEVIS Help Hub for detailed SEVIS Email Standards.

Telephone

Complete one of the three fields in the Telephone section:

Telephone Section on Contact and Program Information Page

Note: DSOs are required to provide information in only one of these fields:

  • Student does not have a telephone number – Click checkbox, if the student has told you they do not have a telephone number.
  • Foreign Telephone – Enter the country code and the phone number, if the student uses an international telephone number.
  • U.S. Telephone – Enter the area code and the phone number, if the student uses a U.S. telephone number.

Note: Telephone is not required for F-1 students in K-12 or M-1 Students under the age of 14.

Program

Complete the fields in the Program section:

Program Section on Contact and Program Information Page

 

  • Program Start Date*
    • Enter the date on which the student will begin his/her program. 
    • This may be the date of any required orientations or other activities before the start of classes. 
    • This is a required field.

Note: Schools can choose to enter the Program Start Date and the Initial Session Start Date as the same date. If the dates differ, the Program Start Date cannot be more than 30 days before the Initial Session Start Date.

  • Program End Date*
    • Enter the expected date of completion of the academic or vocational program. 
    • Do not consider grace periods or any future employment authorizations. 
    • This is a required field.
  • Initial Session Start Date*
    • Enter the date that the student will begin classes. 
    • This date cannot be more than 30 days from the Program Start Date.
    • This is a required field.

Note: Registration deadlines and alerts are tied to this date.

  • Education Level*
    • Select the level of education pursued by the student from the drop-down list. The options include:
    • Primary: Primary indicates the student is in grades K-8 at a private school, or its equivalent.
    • Note: If you select Primary, SEVIS will enter a code for “Primary School” (90.0101) into the Major Code 1 field automatically. This cannot be edited. 

Icon - Additional information is availableClassification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes are a list of numbers assigned to specific fields of study. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) manages this list to better track and report fields of study completion in the United States.

  • Secondary: Secondary indicates a student is in grades 9-12 at a private or public school, or their equivalent.

Note: If you select Secondary, there are ten acceptable CIP codes. 

  • Click Select under the Major Code 1 field to display the acceptable CIP codes.
  • Select the CIP code number link for the desired code. Secondary: Secondary indicates a student is in grades 9-12 at a private or public school, or their equivalent.
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s

  • Master’s

  • Doctorate

  • Language Training

Note: If you select Language Training, SEVIS will enter the “Second Language Learning” CIP code (32.0109) into the Major Code 1 field automatically. This cannot be edited.

  • Other

Note: If you select Other, an If Other, enter here field appears. You must describe the education level here. This is a required field.

  • Level of education must be selected before entering the Major codes. 
  • This is a required field. 

Icon - Best PracticeMost post-secondary schools have a set list of CIP codes approved by ED for their particular programs. Contact the CIP code coordinator (often called the (IPEDS Keyholder/Coordinator, and often someone in the Registrar’s Office) for the list of CIP codes approved for programs at your school. For more information about CIP codes see the National Center for Education Statistics site.

  • Major Code 1*
    • Enter the CIP code of the student’s primary major, or use the search tool by clicking Select. The Acceptable CIP Codes window opens. 

Acceptable CIP Codes portal

  • Search for the CIP code by either:
    • Entering search terms to find the appropriate CIP code, for example, Communications, Business, Engineering, etc.

    • Searching for a program family by code number followed by a period, for example, “14.” for the Engineering programs.

  • After selecting a code, SEVIS will enter the CIP code in the Major Code 1 field.

  • This is a required field.

Note: You must select an Education Level before you can enter the Major code.

  • Major Code 2*

Note: Some students have a secondary major, usually in a related field. Use this field for the secondary major CIP code. 

  • Enter the CIP code of the student’s secondary major, or use the search tool by clicking Select. The Acceptable CIP Codes window opens. 

Acceptable CIP Codes portal

  • Search for the CIP code by either:

    • Entering search terms to find the appropriate CIP code, for example, Communications, Business, Engineering, etc.

    • Searching for a program family by code number followed by a period, for example, “14.” for the Engineering programs.

  • After selecting a code, SEVIS will enter the CIP code in the Major Code 2 field.

  • If there is no second major, click the No Major 2 checkbox.

  • This is a required field.

  • Minor Code*

Note: This field is used to select the CIP code for the student’s minor field of study. 

  • Enter the CIP code of the student’s minor, or use the search tool by clicking Select. The Acceptable CIP Codes window opens. 

Acceptable CIP Codes portal

  • Search for the CIP code by either:

    • Entering search terms to find the appropriate CIP code, for example, Communications, Business, Engineering, etc.

    • Searching for a program family by code number followed by a period, for example, “14.” for the Engineering programs.

  • After selecting a code, SEVIS will enter the CIP code in the Minor Code field.

  • If there is no minor, click the No Minor checkbox.

  • This is a required field.

English Proficiency

Icon - Regulatory or policy resourcesReview final guidance documents on the SEVP Guidance for Comment page:

1. In the English Proficiency section, answer the question “Is English proficiency required by the school?” Click either the Yes or No radio button:

  • Yes: Requires a further Yes or No confirmation that the student has the required English skills. 

English Proficiency Section of Contact and Program Information Page with Yes Response

Icon - Pay attention to an important pointIf the school requires English proficiency and the DSO selects No for Does the student have the required English Proficiency, SEVIS will prevent the DSO from completing the Form I-20. 

English Proficiency section with yellow error message prohibiting further I-20 creation.

  • No: Requires an explanation on why the school does not require the student to be proficient in English.

English Proficiency Section of Contact and Program Information Page with No Response.]

2. Click Next. The third page of the Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20), Dependents opens. 

Dependents Page

If the F-1 or M-1 student is bringing a spouse or any dependents to the United States under F-2 or M-2 status, PDSOs and DSOs must issue a Form I-20 for the dependents as well. On this page, officials can add dependents to the primary student’s record. When dependents are added, SEVIS will generate Forms I-20 for the student and their dependents.

To add a dependent on the Add Dependent page, or go to the next COE page:

Add Dependent and Next Buttons on Dependents page

  • If the prospective F-1 or M-1 student has dependents travelling with him/her to the United States, click Add Dependent. The Add Dependent page opens. 

The Add Dependent page has two sections:

  • Add Dependent
    • Demographics
  • If the prospective F-1 or M-1 student does not have any dependents travelling with him/her to the United States, click Next. The Financial Information page opens.

Add Dependent page

Add Dependent

Complete the fields in the Add Dependent for [student’s name] section:

Add Dependent for [student’s name] section on the Add Dependent page

  • Relationship* 
    • Click the appropriate radio button for either Child or Spouse to specify the dependent’s relationship to the primary F-1 or M-1 student.
    • This is a required field.

Note: You may add only one spouse. Dependent children must be under 21 years of age.

  • Surname/Primary Name* 
    • Enter the Surname/Primary Name of the F-2 or M-2 dependent, in accordance with SEVIS Name Standards
    • This is a required field.

See the SEVIS Help Hub article on SEVIS Name Standards for detailed names information.

  • Given Name – Enter the given name of the F-2 or M-2 dependent. If desired, include middle name of the dependent with the given name.
  • Suffix – If applicable, select a title from the drop-down list, such as Junior, which may display at the end of a person’s name.
  • Passport Name – Enter the passport name of the F-2 or M-2 dependent, as written in the Machine-readable Zone (MRZ).
  • Preferred Name – Enter the preferred name of the F-2 or M-2 dependent, in accordance with SEVIS Name Standards.
  • Email Address – Enter an email address where the dependent can be reached. 

Demographics

Complete the fields in the Demographics section:

Demographics Section of the Add Dependent Page

  • Birth Date* 
    • Enter the dependent’s Birth Date. 
    • For verification purposes, SEVIS will display the age of the dependent, as entered. 
    • If Child is selected as the relationship, the dependent must be under 21 years old. 
  • Gender* – Click the radio button to select the dependent’s gender:
    • Female
    • Male
    • Unknown/Other
  • Country of Birth*
    • Use the drop-down list to select the dependent’s Country of Birth. 
    • Selecting the United States, or any of its territories, will require confirmation that the dependent is not a U.S. Citizen.
  • Country of Citizenship* – Select the dependent’s Country of Citizenship from the drop-down list.
  • Click Add Dependent to add the F-2 to the primary record and return to the Dependents page. A confirmation message opens.

Dependents Page with Added Dependent Information.]

 

  • Other Dependent actions:
    • Click Add Dependent to add another dependent.
    • Click Update to edit the dependent.
    • Click Delete to remove the dependent.
  • Click Next. The fourth and final page of the Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20), Financial Information opens

Financial Information Page

Prospective F-1 or M-1 students must provide proof that they have the financial resources to live and study in the United States. On the Financial Information page, enter information about the student’s expenses and funding for an academic year or the length of the program, whichever is shorter.

There are four sections on the Financial Information page:

  • Financial
  • Expenses
  • Funding
  • Remarks about the Student

Financial Information Page

Financial

Enter the number of months (up to 12 months) for the estimated costs and funding in the Financial section.

Financial Section on the Financial Information Page

  • Use the drop-down list in the Estimated costs and funding for*__ months field to select the number of months for estimating expenses and sources of funding. 
  • Estimates should be for the length of the program or for an academic year.
  • This is a required field.

Expenses

Complete the fields in the Expenses section:

Expenses Section on Financial Information Page

  • Tuition and Fees
    • Enter the amount for the student’s tuition and fees. 
    • This is a required field.
  • Living Expenses
    • Enter the amount for the student’s living expenses. 
    • This is a required field.
  • Expenses for Dependents
    • Enter the amount of expenses for any dependents. 
    • The number of dependents currently associated with the student displays by the field name. 
    • This is a required field.
  • Other Costs – Enter any other costs for the months of estimated expenses.
  • Specify Other Costs – Enter the reason for any other costs.
  • Total Expenses – SEVIS calculates the costs and displays the total expenses at the bottom of the Expenses section.

Funding

Complete the fields in the Funding section:

Funding Section on Financial Information Page

  • Student’s Personal Funds* 
    • Enter the amount of the student’s personal funds.
    • This is a required field.
  • Funds from this School – Enter the amount of any funding offered by your school.
  • School Fund Type – Enter the type of school fund offered by your school, for example, an academic scholarship.
  • Funds from Other Sources – Enter the amount of any funding from any other sources. 
  • Other Source Type – Enter the type of funding from any other sources, for example, a private grant.
  • On-Campus Employment – Enter the amount of the student’s on-campus employment.
  • Total Funding – SEVIS calculates and displays the student’s total funds at the bottom of the Funding section.

Note: The student’s total funds must meet or exceed the expenses, before the DSO may issue the student’s Initial Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20).

Remarks about the Student

Enter any comments about the student in the Remarks about the Student field:

Remarks about the Student Section on Financial Information Page.]

 

  • These remarks will print on the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20). 
  • This field has a 1000-character limit.

Save Draft I-20

To save a draft copy of the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20), click Save Draft I-20 at the bottom of the page. 
Note: The Save Draft I-20 button is available at the bottom of each of the four COE pages, Class of Admission and Personal Information, Contact and Program Information, Dependents, and Financial Information.
Note: Other buttons available at the bottom of the COE pages:

  • Back
    • Returns the user to the previous COE page.
    • If entries are not saved on the current page before clicking the Back button, any information entered will need to be re-entered.
  • Delete Draft – Deletes the draft Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20).

 

Print Draft I-20

To print a draft copy of the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20), click Print Draft I-20 at the bottom of the page.

Note: The Print Draft I-20 button is available at the bottom of each of the four COE pages, Class of Admission and Personal Information, Contact and Program Information, Dependents, and Financial Information.

Issue and Print the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20)

To issue and print the Initial Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20):

Submit I-20 Button on Financial Information Page.]

  1. Click Submit I-20 at the bottom of the Financial Information page to submit the student’s initial Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20). The Submission page opens.

Create Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students (Form I-20) Submission Page

  2. Click Print I-20 to print the initial Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) for the F-1 or M-1 student and his/her dependents. 
Note: Other buttons available at the bottom of the Submission page:

  • Click Review Student Information to go to the Student Information page to review the student’s newly entered information. 
  • Click Create New Student to create another student record and issue another initial Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20). 

Once the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) has been issued, the DSO must sign page one of the form. The original document is given to the student.

SEVIS Record Follow-up

You must act on all SEVIS records in initial status no later than 30 days after their Program Start Date. See the Manage Program Dates, Registration and Course Load section of the SEVIS Help Hub for more information.

Icon Guide

See the SEVIS Help Icons on the SEVIS Help Hub for a quick-reference of the icons used in this user guide.