Breadcrumb

  1. Home
  2. Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about international student process in the United States. To skip to a specific section, use the anchored links below. To read an answer, click expand button next to the question.

Getting Started

Studying in the United States

Traveling to the United States

Student Benefits

Status Changes

SEVP Certification


Getting Started

What is SEVP certification and do schools need it?

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification authorizes schools to issue Forms I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, " to prospective international students after admitting them for a course of study. If certified, the school will gain access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and may begin issuing Forms I-20. To maintain certification, the school must comply with SEVP policies as well as record keeping and reporting requirements stipulated in 8 CFR 214.3.

Schools only need SEVP certification if they wish to enroll F and M students, and SEVP is the only government entity that can certify a school to issue Forms I-20.

For more information about SEVP certification, visit the Getting Started with SEVP Certification page.

How does an international student know if a school is SEVP certified?

Use the School Search in Tools section of Study in the States to find Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools and programs eligible to enroll F-1 and M-1 students. Use the tool to search by school name, location, education or visa type.

How does an international student receive a Form I-20 and why do they need one?

After prospective students are accepted to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, a designated school official from that school will send them a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” Students will receive a Form I-20 from every SEVP-certified school that accepts them. It is important that they only use the Form I-20 from the school they plan to attend when following the steps in the international student life cycle and entering the country.

The Form I-20 is an important document that international students will need to complete the following actions:

  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
  • Apply for a nonimmigrant visa from the U.S. Department of State.
  • Seek admission at a port of entry from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Change or extend status through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Apply for student benefits (e.g., driver's license, employment authorization, Social Security number).

For more information about the Form I-20 and its uses, visit the What is the Form I-20? page.

What is the difference between a Form I-20, a visa and student's status?

A student's Form I-20 is a document issued to accepted students by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools that indicates a student's primary purpose for coming to the United States. A student visa is a travel document you receive from a U.S. consulate or embassy before entering the United States. A student's status is what a person must maintain after they are granted entrance into the United States.

Both a visa and a status reflect someone's primary purpose for coming to the United States. As an F-1 or M-1 student, this purpose is to complete a full course of study at an SEVP certified school.

Where can international students find financial aid and scholarship information?

International students can use EducationUSA's Find Financial Aid tool and visit their local EducationUSA advising center for more information about the options available to them.

Students can also refer questions to their school's financial aid office.

Can international students attend a K-12 school in the United States?

Yes, international students can attend a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) school. Regulations place no limit on the length of time an F-1 student may attend a private, SEVP-certified K-12 school.

However, international students cannot attend public elementary or middle schools and may only enroll in a public high school for a maximum of one year. SEVP does not certify programs of study below the kindergarten level, thus schools cannot issue Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” for that level. Download the K-12 Public & Private Schools: Know the Difference infographic to learn more.

Note that minor F-2 and M-2 students (dependent children of F-1 or M-1 students) may attend school at the appropriate grade level without becoming F-1s or M-1s, or any additional permission or documentation from SEVP. State education laws may require that F-2 and M-2 students attend the appropriate grade level until a certain age. The elementary or secondary school an F-2 or M-2 student attends does not need to be SEVP certified.

For more information, visit the Kindergarten to Grade 12 Students page.

Can international students bring their family members to the United States while they study?

F-1 and M-1 students may bring their spouses and children under the age of 21 with them to the United States for the duration of their course of study. These individuals are the only dependent family members eligible for admission into United States under the F-2 or M-2 nonimmigrant status.

Students must tell their designated school official about any dependents they will bring to the United States, as each dependent will need their own Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” The status of F-2 or M-2 individuals depends on the status of their F-1 or M-1 spouse or parent. This means the United States cannot admit a person into the United States under an F-2 or M-2 category unless their parent or spouse is an F-1 or M-1 student.

Dependents are not allowed to work in the United States but under certain circumstances can enroll in school. State education laws may require that minor F-2 and M-2 dependents (i.e., children under the age of 18) attend the appropriate grade level until a certain age. The elementary or secondary school an F-2 or M-2 student attends does not need to be Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified.

For more information, visit the Dependents page.

What is accreditation and how does the Accreditation Act apply to SEVP-certified schools?

Accreditation is the recognition from an accrediting agency that an institution maintains a certain level of educational standards. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accrediting agencies it recognizes.

On Dec. 14, 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act (commonly referred to as the "Accreditation Act"), which amended Section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to state that F-1 nonimmigrant students intending to pursue an English language training course of study must enroll in an English language training program that has been accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency recognized by the Department of Education.

This means that while accreditation is not a requirement for most schools seeking Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification, it is a requirement for all English language training programs and stand-alone English language training schools seeking certification. Note that schools seeking SEVP certification that are not accredited must submit specific evidence in lieu of accreditation (read more about this requirement on ICE.gov).

For more information, visit the Basics to Accreditation page and the Accreditation of English Training Programs Act section on ICE.gov.

Studying in the United States

What is the difference between a vocational school and an academic school?

Vocational schools are institutions of learning that provide training and education for a particular skillset or occupation (culinary schools, cosmetology schools, flight training schools, etc.).

Academic schools are institutions of learning that provide scholarly courses like mathematics, sciences and the humanities (colleges, universities, seminaries, high schools, etc.).

Both academic and vocational schools are eligible for Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification. For more information about the different options available, visit the Programs of Study page.
 

Can international students study at both public and private schools in the United States?

Yes. F-1 and M-1 students may study at both public and private schools in the United States. The only requirement is that the school has and properly maintains its Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification.

However, there are some limitations for how long an international student can study at certain public institutions. Specifically, nonimmigrant students cannot attend public elementary or middle schools and may only enroll in a public high school (grades ninth through 12th) for a maximum of one year. download the K-12 Public & Private Schools: Know the Difference infographic to learn more.

Can international students enroll in online courses?

Only one online or distance learning class can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student during each term or semester.

No online or distance learning classes may count toward an M-1 or ESL student's full course of study requirement.

For more information about online courses, please visit the Full Course of Study page. 

Do different rules apply to international students depending on what type of school they attend?

Yes. Students who receive a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” to enroll in a vocational school must maintain M-1 status, while students who receive a Form I-20 to attend an academic school must maintain F-1 status.

Specifically, M-1 and F-1 students:

Download the F&M Student Status: Know the Difference infographic to learn more about the specific differences.

Additionally, F-1 students attending an English language training program must follow a unique set of rules. For more information about these rules, visit the English Language Training page.

For more general information about the rules F-1 and M-1 students must follow while they are in the United States, visit the Maintaining Status page.

How many classes make up a full course of study?

The definition of a full course of study varies depending on both a student's status (F-1 or M-1) and their program of study. For instance, U.S. government regulations define a full course of study at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified kindergarten to grade 12 school differently than at an SEVP-certified college or university.

For a complete breakdown of the full course of study requirements based on a student's status and programs of study, visit the Full Course of Study page.

What does it mean to maintain status?

Maintaining status means:

  • Fulfilling the purpose for why the U.S. Department of State issued a visa.
  • Following the regulations associated with that purpose.

This means if a student gains entry into the United States on an F-1 or M-1 visa, they are coming to the United States to study and cannot take any action that detracts from that purpose. It is the responsibility of the designated school official to ensure that a student properly understands and complies with the rules that apply to their student status. For more information, visit the Maintaining Status page.

Do international students get vacation time?

F-1 students are eligible to take an annual vacation after they complete one full academic year at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. M-1 students are not eligible for annual vacation.

However, some SEVP-certified schools may close for a short period of time, normally during a U.S. holiday or break from classes such as spring or winter break. Because classes are not in session during these breaks, these breaks do not adversely impact a student’s status. If a student has questions about breaks at school, they should talk to their designated school official.

For more information about the annual vacation requirements for F-1 students, please visit the Maintaining Status page.

Are international students allowed to transfer schools?

Yes, international students may be eligible to transfer to another Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. Students must consistently maintain F or M status and follow the correct transfer procedures. In most cases, M-1 students may only transfer within the first six months of their program. For more detailed information about the transfer requirements and the procedures to follow, please visit the Transferring to Another School page.

Please note that since Student and Exchange Visitor Information System records are government property, federal rules and regulations govern how designated school officials (DSOs) must maintain and transfer them. These regulations explain that DSOs must transfer a SEVIS record to another SEVP-certified institution upon a student’s request, even if this request comes at the beginning of a student’s initial term.

If an international student needs more time to finish their program of study, what should they do?

A student who needs more time to finish their program of study should speak with their designated school official (DSO) as soon as possible to discuss their options. A student’s options for extending their stay and the process for doing so depends on whether that student is in F-1 or M-1 status.

M-1 students must work closely with their DSO to apply for an extension of stay with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the designated time frame. For more information about this process, please visit the M-1 Extension of Stay page.

F-1 students must speak with their DSO prior to the program end date listed on their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” The DSO will determine if the F-1 student qualifies for a program extension and can update SEVIS accordingly. 

When does withdrawing from a class become a violation of status?

Students must enroll in a full course of study in order to maintain their status. Under certain circumstances, a student may be eligible for a reduced course load. However, a student must talk to their designated school official (DSO) and have their DSO authorize a reduced course load prior to dropping below a full course study.

If a student drops below a full course of study without their DSO’s authorization, that student is in violation of their status.

For more information about eligibility for enrolling in a reduced course load, please visit the Full Course of Study page.

Traveling to the United States

What is the I-901 SEVIS Fee and how much does it cost?

Regulation requires all prospective F and M students pay the I-h2 before the U.S. Department of State issues them a visa. The congressionally mandated I-901 SEVIS Fee supports the maintenance and continued modifications of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and other Student and Exchange Visitor Program priorities to fulfill its national security mission.

How do international students pay and receive a receipt for their I-901 SEVIS Fee?

Prospective international students h2 the Form I-901, “Fee Remittance for Certain F, J and M Nonimmigrants, ” with information from their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” and pay the required fee with their submission. Students must present proof of their I-901 SEVIS Fee payment at their visa interview.

How do international students pay and receive a receipt for their I-901 SEVIS Fee?
Prospective international students h2 the Form I-901, “Fee Remittance for Certain F, J and M Nonimmigrants, ” with information from their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” and pay the required fee with their submission. Students must present proof of their I-901 SEVIS Fee payment at their visa interview.

How do international students who have not begun studying transfer their I-901 SEVIS Fee to a different school?

International students may request to transfer their I-901 SEVIS Fee directly from FMJFee.com or request it via email or postal service.

If a student requests a transfer online, they will receive an automated email confirming their submission within two business days. Once the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) adjudicates a request, the student will receive a second email indicating SEVP's decision, with instructions on next steps if approved or an explanation if rejected.

If a student wants to email or mail their transfer request, they must provide their name, date of birth, the SEVIS ID number associated with their original payment, the new SEVIS ID number to transfer the payment to and an explanation for the request. If emailing the request

When can international students enter the United States to start studying?

Prospective F and M students, other than border commuters, may enter the country up to 30 days before their official program start date, as listed on their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” Students must report to their school by their program start date. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recommends that students contact their designated school official (DSO) immediately upon entering the country so that there is no question of their arrival.

If a student cannot enter the United States for the term listed on their Form I-20 or if they will be late, the student must immediately contact their DSO so that their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record can be updated to accurately reflect this information.

For more information about entering the country,   visit the Getting to the United States page.

What can international students expect at a U.S. port of entry?

Every international student who arrives in the United h2 to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will verify the student's information and ask them a few questions to determine the purpose of their visit.

What documents do international students need to enter or re-enter the United States?

Students must hand-carry and present the following original documents to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a U.S. port of entry:

  • Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”
  • Passport.
  • Student visa.

Students should also have the contact information of their designated school official (DSO) available at ports of entry.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recommends having other documentation readily available to help answer any of the CBP officer's questions, including proof of financial ability and the acceptance letter to the SEVP-certified school. If a student is re-entering the United States and has a U.S. driver's license, Social Security number or employment authorization document, the student may want to have those on hand as well.

For more information about entering the country,   visit the Getting to the United States page.

When and why are international students issued Forms I-515A?

If a student does not have all the proper documentation to enter the country and/or the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer cannot verify the student's information after taking them to secondary inspection, the officer may either deny a student's admission into the United States or issue them a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.”

If a student receives a Form I-515A, they must contact their designated school official immediately in order to properly respond to the notice. For more information about how to properly respond, visit the What is the Form I-515A? page.

Failure to comply and address a Form I-515A will result in the termination of a student's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System record. For more information, download the Form I-515A Termination Procedure document on ICE.gov.

When do international students receive a Form I-94 and where can they find their Form I-94 number?

The Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record, ” is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security document issued by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer to nonimmigrants at the time of lawful entry into the United States. The form is evidence of a nonimmigrant's term of admission and used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay and departure.

To find your Form I-94 record and number, visit CBP's Form I-94 website. For more information, also visit the Form I-94 frequently asked questions page.

What do international students do if their visa, passport or Form I-94 is lost or stolen?

If one of these documents goes missing while in the United States, a student should first go to their local police station to report the documents lost or stolen. If a student has original copies of these documents, they should bring them to the police station. The student then needs to contact their home country's local embassy or consulate in the United States to report missing travel documents and find information on what to do next. If a visa or passport goes missing while abroad, report it to the consulate or embassy that issued it for next steps.

If a student needs to replace their Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record, ” they must file a Form I-102, “Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document, ” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If a student needs to replace their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” they must talk with their designated school official.

Note that a visa is a travel document and students may remain in the United States if their original visa expires as long as they maintain status. However, if the student departs the United States, they will need a valid visa to re-enter the country.

Student Benefits

Can international students obtain a Social Security number?

Every F-1 and M-1 student who U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services grants employment authorization to needs a Social Security number. For more information about the process, visit the Obtaining a Social Security Number page.
 

Can international students drive in the United States?

F-1 and M-1 students and their dependents may be eligible to drive a motor vehicle while residing in the United States. However, those who wish to operate a vehicle must successfully apply for and receive a driver's license. Driving a car without a driver's license is illegal. To acquire a driver's license, you must apply for one at your local Department of Motor Vehicles, which can have a different name in some states.

For more information, visit the Driving in the United States page.

What are SAVE and E-Verify?

The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program can be used to verify a nonimmigrant's eligibility to receive a certain benefit. E-Verify is an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify is fast, free and easy to use—and provides a way for employers to ensure a legal workforce.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers both verification programs. For more information, visit the SAVE Case Check and Understanding E-Verify pages.

Can international students work while in the United States?

The U.S. government takes working illegally very seriously. There are limited work opportunities available in the United States for F-1 students. For this reason, before coming to the United States, F-1 students must prove they have the financial ability (e.g., present bank statements) to pay for tuition and living expenses while studying. If an F-1 student decides to work, the first step is always to talk with their designated school official. M-1 students are ineligible to work.

For more information, visit the Working in the United States page.

What is the difference between working and training in the United States?

The United States allows eligible students and new graduates the opportunity to gain on-the-job learning that supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies. These training opportunities differ from “working in the United States” because the training must relate to the student's program of study.

To participate in one of these training opportunities, an international student does not need to change their nonimmigrant status. Instead, the student must work with their designated school official to ensure eligibility as well as apply for and receive proper authorization.

For more information about training opportunities, visit the Training in the United States page.

Do international students need to pay income taxes in the United States?

F-1 or M-1 students must pay taxes if they have:

  • Income from wages, unless the income earned does not exceed the personal exemption amount.
  • A taxable scholarship or fellowship.
  • Income from stock options.
  • Lottery or gambling winnings.
  • Other types of non-wage income.

For F-1 or M-1 students, some income in the United States is not taxable, including any income from:

  • Foreign sources.
  • Interest income from a U.S. bank, savings and loan institution, credit union or insurance company.
  • A tax-free scholarship or fellowship.
  • Certain types of tax-free investments.

For more information about taxes in the United States, visit the Foreign Students and Scholars page on the IRS' website.

Can dependents work and study in the United States?

Dependents are not allowed to work in the United States but under certain circumstances adult dependents can enroll part time in school. However, state education laws may require that minor F-2 and M-2 dependents (i.e., children under the age of 18) attend the appropriate grade level until a certain age. The elementary or secondary school an F-2 or M-2 student attends does not need to be SEVP certified.

For more information, visit the Dependents page.

What is the STEM OPT extension?

The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) extension is a 24-month period of temporary training that directly relates to an F-1 student's program of study in an approved STEM field. Eligible F-1 students with STEM degrees who finish their program of study and participate in an initial period of regular post-completion OPT (for up to 12 months) have the option to apply for a STEM OPT extension.

For more information about the STEM OPT extension, including eligibility and reporting requirements, visit the STEM OPT Hub and the frequently asked questions page.

Do international students need health insurance while studying in the United States?

F-1 and M-1 students have the responsibility to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families while they study in the United States. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school a student attends may provide health care during studies; however, requirements and fees associated with health coverage differ from school to school. Students should speak with their designated school officials to find out what health insurance fees to expect and options to consider.

What is the SEVP Portal?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Portal is an important tool that allows F-1 students on post-completion optional practical training and M-1 students participating in practical training to report their personal and employer information directly to SEVP. The SEVP Portal helps these international students meet their legal reporting requirements without relying on their designated school official (DSO) to update their information. To set up an SEVP Portal account, students must confirm with their DSO that their email address is accurately saved in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.

Visit the SEVP Portal Help section for resources on how to use the SEVP Portal. To read the top questions about the SEVP Portal from DSOs and students, visit the SEVP Special Report Webinar: SEVP Portal page.

Status Changes

When do international students need to fill out the Form I-539?

If an international student wants to change the purpose of their visit while in the United States, the student (or in some cases a student’s employer) must file a request with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services using the Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status,” before a student’s authorized stay expires. Not all nonimmigrant classifications may change status. Read the instructions on the Form I-539 carefully to ensure eligibility.

For more information, visit the Change of Status page.

What is the cap gap and when does it apply?

The cap refers to the limit on the number of individuals who can receive H-1B status every fiscal year. The gap is the period between the end of an individual's F-1 status and the beginning of the individual's H-1B status. The cap gap extension allows for some F-1 students to extend their F-1 status and/or authorized period of post-completion optional practical training (OPT) until they transition to the H-1B status on Oct. 1 of a fiscal year.

The cap gap only applies to F-1 students seeking to switch nonimmigrant classification from F-1 student status to H-1B temporary employment status after completing a program of study or post-completion OPT.

For more information, visit the H-1B and the Cap Gap Extension page.

Where can international students refer their H-1B questions?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) manages the H-1B program and is best equipped to answer students' questions.

If a student is seeking the status of their H-1B petition, they can use their petition's receipt number and contact USCIS at 1-800-375-5283, or log onto the USCIS website and click “Check Your Case Status.”

If a student does not have their receipt number, they should contact the employer who filed the H-1B petition and ask their employer if they have received any information about their application.

For more information about the H-1B program, visit the USCIS website to understand the H-1B requirements.

Can a nonimmigrant in the United States change their status to an F or M student without leaving the country?

Depending on a nonimmigrant's current status in the United States, they may be eligible to change their status to F or M without leaving the country. For more information, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Change My Nonimmigrant Status page for more information.

Can B-1/B-2 nonimmigrants study in the United States?

A B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant cannot enroll in a program of study at a U.S. school. The nonimmigrant must successfully petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change their status to and obtain F-1 or M-1 student status prior to doing so. A B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant may study in coursework that is avocational or recreational in nature.

For more information, visit the Change of Status page.

Can M-1 students change to F-1 status while in the United States?

No, an M-1 student may not change to F-1 status while they are in the United States.

For more information, visit the Change of Status page.

Can dependents change status while in the United States?

Yes, dependents may change their status while they are in the United States if their purpose for visiting the United States changes. Specifically, if an adult dependent wishes to enroll in a full course of study at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school, they must successfully petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change their status from F-2 or M-2 to and obtain F-1 or M-1 student status.

SEVP Certification

How does a U.S. school apply for and maintain SEVP certification?

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification is the result of an adjudication process that includes a review of the Form I-17, "Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student, " application, submission of supporting documentation, payment of the application fee, site visits, research and federal adjudication. Schools maintain their SEVP certification by complying with federal reporting and record keeping requirements and filing for recertification every two years.

For more information about SEVP certification, visit the SEVP Certification Life Cycle tool as well as the Getting Started with SEVP Certification, Getting Started with SEVP Recertification and Updates to the Form I-17 pages.

What is the difference between a DSO and a PDSO?

Both designated school officials (DSOs) and principal designated school officials (PDSOs) are dedicated employees who have the responsibility to manage F and M students at Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified schools.

Each instructional site location must have at least one PDSO who also serves as the main point of contact for issues related to SEVP certification. SEVP-certified schools can nominate an appropriate number of DSOs based on the school's specific needs. For more information, visit the What is a Designated School Official? page.

What are the requirements to be a DSO or PDSO?

The school's president, owner or head of a school or school system must nominate designated school officials (DSOs) by signing a Form I-17A, “Record of Designated School Officials.” A DSO or principal designated school official must be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States.

For more information, visit the What is a Designated School Official? page.

When do PDSOs need to make updates to their school's Form I-17 and how do they do it?

Regulations require Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified institutions report any changes to the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student, ” within 21 days of the change. SEVP-certified institutions are required to keep all Form I-17 sections up to date in order to ensure the Form I-17 reflects the institution's current operating status.

Failure to follow this regulation may result in withdrawal of a school's SEVP certification. SEVP recommends principal designated school officials (PDSOs) review the institution's Form I-17 on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the school's most up-to-date information. PDSOs use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to update their school's Form I-17.

For more information, visit the Updates to the Form I-17 page and the Schools Record section of the SEVIS Help Hub.

What evidence is needed to submit an initial Form I-17, make an update to the form or file for recertification?

The evidence needed for filing an initial certification, recertification or an update to the Form I-17 depends on the update being made, school type and school's accreditation status. Specifically, school officials can find evidence filing guides in the Schools section of ICE.gov:

Why do schools receive out-of-cycle reviews from SEVP?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) issues out-of-cycle reviews for certified schools to ensure and validate school compliance with SEVP regulations.

How do DSOs issue and address mistakes on a student's Form I-20?

Designated school officials (DSOs) issue Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, ” through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). If there is a mistake on a student's Form I-20, a DSO must correct the student's record and issue an updated Form I-20.

For more information, visit the DSOs and the Form I-20 page as well as the Student's Record section of the SEVIS Help Hub (specifically, the Corrections and Corrections Request page).

Are there age limits to who a DSO can issue a Form I-20?

There are no age limits to who a designated school official can issue a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status;” however, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program does not certify schools below the kindergarten level. This means that pre-kindergarten children are ineligible to receive a Form I-20 to be F-1 students as the schools that would enroll them cannot obtain SEVP certification.

Pre-kindergarten children of F-1 and M-1 students can obtain a Form I-20 to be F-2 or M-2 dependents. However, only children under the age of 21 are eligible to receive a Form I-20 for F-2 or M-2 status.

What are examples of financial support that a DSO needs to collect to issue Forms I-20?

F and M students accepted to Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified schools must send their designated school official (DSO) evidence of financial support before receiving a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” This evidence is to prove that students can finance their stay in the United States, from tuition to books to living expenses. There are no regulations on this type of evidence but examples include:

  • Family bank statements.
  • Documentation from a sponsor.
  • Financial aid letters.
  • cholarship letters.

Schools should have clear policies on what documentation they require for students to submit.

Visit the SEVIS Help Hub for a step-by-step guide on creating an initial Form I-20.

What are a DSO's responsibilities if an F-1 or M-1 student is not maintaining status?

If an F-1 or M-1 student is not maintaining status, it is the designated school official (DSO)'s responsibility to terminate that student's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record. visit the Termination Reasons guide on the SEVIS Help Hub for more information.

Was This Helpful?
Please provide feedback on this page.