SEVIS and Form I-20

Form I-20

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

What is SEVIS?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a web-based reporting system that provides the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with information on international students on F, J, and M visas in the United States. The system also tracks F, J, and M visa holder departures from and entries into the U.S. Every school, college and university that admits students on F, J or M visas is required to use SEVIS for reporting on its students. Reporting in the SEVIS system is done by a Designated School Official (DSO).

What is Reported in SEVIS?

In addition to the information reported on I-20’s and DS-2019’s, other information is reported, including but not limited to: academic status, employment, and residential address.


New F and J students are required to pay a SEVIS fee before applying for a U.S. entry visa. The one-time fee only applies to new students who are receiving an “Initial” I-20 or “Begin a new program” DS-2019. Canadian citizens must pay the fee before going to the U.S. port of entry.

Failure to pay the SEVIS fee can result in denial of entry at the U.S. border. For more information about the requirements and how to pay the fee, please go to the SEVIS I-901 Fee website.

Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20

The SEVIS Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20 is a legal document and must always reflect accurate, up-to-date information. Changes in any of the following categories should be reported to a DSO and a new I-20 should be requested within 10 days of the change:

  • Name
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Major
  • Financial Resources

The I-20 is a legal document and will be requested for identification purposes when entering the U.S., opening a bank account, applying for employment authorization, or other such instances when proof of your non-immigrant student status is required. Always keep all copies of your original I-20 in a safe place and never throw it away. If you are issued a new I-20 due to updates/changes, make sure to continue to hold on to old versions, as they may be required for submission in the future.

IMPORTANT: Never carry your original I-20 or passport on you when traveling locally, to reduce the risk of loss. When traveling domestically within the U.S., carry a photocopy of the I-20 or apply for a Minnesota State ID in place of the passport.

How is an I-20 Created?

After an international student is admitted to an institution, the school collects necessary financial and identification documentation, which is entered into SEVIS by a St. Olaf Designated School Official (DSO). SEVIS processes the information to produce the I-20, which is printed and signed by a DSO, then delivered to the incoming student.

Multiple I-20s

New I-20s are issued to continuing students whenever there is a significant update to a student’s record. This includes changes in biographical data, program dates, change of major, the addition of a work authorization, etc. Any changes of this type must be reported by the student to the PDSO within 10 days of the change.

Anytime a new I-20 is issued, make sure to keep old copies in a safe location for future reference. Always use the most recently issued I-20 for travel, work or other purposes. Do not give or lend your original I-20 to anyone. This is a legal document and should always remain with the person to whom it is assigned.

Program Start Date

Students can enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to start date listed on the I-20. However, keep in mind that housing and meal plans are not available prior to the start date.

Program End Date

The I-20 reflects an expected completion date in item 5. Students are allowed to pursue full-time studies toward the completion of the program reflected on their I-20 up to that date.

  • The completion date is defined as the day final degree requirements are completed and does not include the 12 months of Optional Practical Training a student may apply for based on completion of a program of study.
  • If a student completes the program of study prior to the completion date, the I-20 will automatically expire on the date the student completes. A student has an automatic grace period of 60 days upon the completion of studies.
  • Degree-seeking students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date must apply for a Program Extension before the expiration date.
  • Students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date and who fail to extend their I-20 before it expires will Violate Legal Status and Overstay their visa.

Grace Period

A student has an automatic grace period of 60 days upon the completion of studies, in order to:

  • Depart the United States
  • Gain admission to a new program of study
  • Apply for a change of visa status

60-Day Grace Period: DHS regulations automatically provide a 60-day grace period for F-1 students who complete a program of study. The 60-day grace period should be calculated from the date of completion. Students authorized for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) have a 60-day grace period beginning from the date the OPT expires (as noted on the Employment Authorization Card). Students who do not complete a program of study are not eligible for a 60-day grace period.

15-Day Grace Period: Students who elect to discontinue their program of study are not eligible for a 60-day grace period. Prior approval by the PDSO is required before a student cancels classes or discontinues the program. Based on obtaining prior approval, a student has a 15-day grace period in which to depart the U.S.

Involuntary Program Withdrawal: If a student is involuntarily withdrawn from St. Olaf (i.e. suspension), no Grace Period is granted and the student must leave the U.S. immediately.

Visa Overstay

Visa Overstay occurs in the following situations:

  • A student has not yet completed a program of study and has allowed the I-20 to expire.
  • A student interrupts/ceases a program of study and fails to depart the U.S. immediately (break periods and summer vacation are not considered to be an interruption of studies).
  • A student has allowed the 60-day grace period to expire without having received a new I-20 to begin a new program of study or having submitted an application to DHS for a change of visa status.

Consequences of Visa Overstay

  • Student is considered to have Violated Legal Status
  • The F-1 entry visa stamp is automatically void
  • All future U.S. entry visa applications must be made in the individual’s home country
  • It may be extremely difficult to obtain future entry visas to enter the U.S.

Regaining F-1 Legal Status

It is important that students discuss legal status issues with the PDSO. There are two ways in which a student may be able to regain legal F-1 status:

  • Reinstatement of Legal Status Application to DHS
  • Re-entry into the U.S. with a new “initial admit” I-20

Students who are Reinstated by DHS or who re-enter with an “initial admit” I-20, will be required to enroll as a full-time student for at least one academic year before becoming eligible to apply for off-campus work (CPT/OPT)

DHS Declaration of Unlawful Presence

If a DHS official or an immigration judge declares an individual to be unlawfully present in the United States as a result of the Visa Overstay, the unlawful presence will begin on the date of the DHS decision – not necessarily the date the individual violated his/her status.

Unlawful presence will have an effect on future eligibility for entry into the United States:

  • Individuals who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 continuous days but less than one year are barred from admission to the U.S. (under any visa type) for a period of 3 years from the date of departure.
  • Individuals who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for one year or longer are barred from admission to the U.S. (under any visa type) for a period of 10 years.