Form I-20 Required Steps and Documentation

IMPORTANT: The information on this page carefully explains how to get your Form I-20. Please read it and follow the directions to avoid delays in getting your I-20.

Now that you are planning to be a student, there are two things you cannot do:

  1. Do not enter the U.S. with a B-1, B-2, or B-1/2 visa
    • If you use a B visa to enter the U.S. you are saying “I’m here as a visitor” only. Since you contacted our school about study, this could be viewed as misrepresenting your purpose for entering the U.S. and you might be refused permission to extend or to change your status. Do not listen to people who say it is easy to enter the country as a visitor and change your status to F-1 Student. It is not true. U.S. federal regulations prohibit B Visitors from pursuing a course of study prior to obtaining a change of status to F-1 Student.
    • If your study plans are not certain and you want to enter the U.S. to visit schools, you must explain this on your visa application and ask the visa officer for a B-2 visa with the words “Prospective student” noted on it or have the words added to your B visa if you already have one.
  2. Do not enter the U.S. on a Visa Waiver Program (WT or WB)
    • If you are from a country from which you can enter the U.S. as a visitor by registering for ESTA, do not do this. You will be permitted to stay for only 90 days. You will not be given more time or allowed to change to F-1 Student status.

What is a form I-20 and why do you need one?

A Form I-20 is a government form that certifies that you are eligible for F-1 Student Status. That means that (1) you are or expect to be a “bona fide” student; (2) you meet our admissions requirements; (3) you will pursue a full course of study; (4) you proved to us that you have enough money to study and live in the U.S. without working illegally or suffering from poverty.

You need a Form I-20 to obtain an F-1 Student visa or status, or to keep lawful F-1 status when transferring or changing schools within the U.S.

Does everybody need a form I-20?

No, some international students do not need I-20’s. J-1 students need a Form DS-2019. B visitors and F-2 dependents must obtain an I-20 and apply for a change of status for F-1 student to pursue a course of study that is not avocational or recreational in nature. If you are maintaining another nonimmigrant status in the U.S., you do not have to have an I-20 and may attend school full- or part-time. Dependent children in E, H, I, J, L, M, N, O, P, R, or S status need to change status after their 21st birthday or if they marry. If you have no legal status, you may attend school but you are not eligible to change status and do not need an I-20.

Rules for getting your form I-20

  1. You must be a “bona fide” (real) student, accepted to a full-time program of study.
  2. You must prove to us that you can support the costs of living and studying in the U.S. for every year of your program of study at SUNY Oneonta. This is required by the U.S. government in order to issue to form I-20.
  3. Do not assume you will be able to work in the U.S. to help meet your annual costs. On-campus employment is limited and competitive, you will need to be proactive; off-campus employment is strictly controlled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  4. Carefully review our schools “Estimated Annual Costs for International Students” to figure out your annual costs. This is the amount that you must prove that you can support for every year in your program of study. (Estimate that it will take two years for an Associate’s degree; 2 years for a Master’s; four for a Bachelor’s; five for a Doctorate.)
  5. Expect annual increases in tuition and living costs of approximately 5%
  6. Sometimes, we may have to ask you to give us more proof of your funding- perhaps more than once. The U.S. government requires that we be sure, to the best of our ability, that you will have enough financial support during your stay.
  7. Complete the international financial statement, all necessary affidavits and the required evidence as you are applying for admission. You can submit electronically (scan or fax) or mail us copies. Do not send us originals. Keep the originals to take to your visa interview.
  8. If you follow these instructions, once you are accepted, your form I-20 will be issued quickly.

Funding Sources

Your funding can come from any combination of sources in the U.S. or abroad.

  1. Funds from "Sponsors" (parents, relatives, friends, organizations). You may have as many sponsors as you need. Sponsors may provide you with support in the form of money and/or housing and meals. Free housing and meals is when you live with someone and don’t have to pay for your room or food.
    • WARNING #1 It is highly recommended that at least part of your financial support come from your home country. This helps when you apply for your student visa.
    • WARNING # 2 A sponsor should promise only as much money as he or she is capable of giving you. A sponsor should promise only what he or she intends to give and only as much as can be afforded.
  2. Personal Funds come from your own resources, not those of anyone else. If your parents put money in your bank account, we will ask you to submit the evidence required of sponsors. Unless you have enough cash to support yourself for your entire program of study or can prove other sources of personal income, you will need a sponsor with an income sufficient to support you.
  3. Funds from this school such as, a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship. Not all university support covers the entire program of study or all expenses, so you may need additional support to meet your minimum annual costs.

Evidence Requirements

Complete the application for the form I-20 (attached) and submit it with all the required evidence of funding directly to the admissions office, electronically, fax or mail (do not mail us the originals; keep them for your visa interview).

All documents you give us must be:

  1. Less than three months old
  2. In English. (We cannot review documents that are not in English!)

Evidence Required

Sponsors of Cash Support:

  1. Sponsor's Affidavit and proof of annual cash support. This form may be copied for each sponsor. All questions must be answered.
  2. Proof of Income:
    1. Individual Sponsor: Any of the following with most recent pay stub: Income tax returns or receipts; Pay stubs for the last six months; Bank/Investment statements for the last six months
    2. Company Sponsor: Business registration, licenses and profit and loss statement.
  3. Bank statement in the name of the sponsor only. A monthly statement of balances and deposits. Letters from bank officials will not be accepted.
    • WARNING #3 The income of a company is not the personal income of the owner of the business and will not be accepted as proof of income. The owner/sponsor must still provide proof of personal income.
    • WARNING #4 If a bank statement is in the name of more than one person, each individual must submit an affidavit of support.
    • WARNING #5 We cannot accept bank statements that do not specify monthly balances and deposits.

Sponsors of Free Housing and Meals:

  1. Sponsor's Affidavit and proof of free housing and meals
  2. Proof of Income: Any of the following with most recent pay stub: Income tax returns or receipts; Pay stubs for the last six months; Bank/Investment statements for the last six months
  3. Copy of property lease, deed, rent receipts, or utility bill
    • WARNING #6 If you are presently in the U.S., you must be living with the sponsor at the time of filing this application for this to be counted towards your means of support.

Personal Funds:

Bank/asset statement in your name: monthly statement of balances and deposits.

School Funds:

Copy of your award letter or contract stating exactly what you will be receiving and for how long.

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