I-20 Document Basics: A Comprehensive Guide for Bangladeshi Students

Safayat Hossain

For Bangladeshi students, traveling to pursue higher education in the U.S. is an exciting and transformative opportunity. But there are many important procedures to follow on the way to studying in the U.S., and one of them is acquiring an I-20 document. In this blog, we will examine the I-20’s fundamentals, key components, and the necessity for Bangladeshi students to carefully prepare their academic, financial, and other areas of higher education.

Understanding the I-20 Document

The I-20 form, also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, is a vital document issued by U.S. educational institutions to the accepted international students in their programs. It verifies that the student has been admitted and intends to pursue a full-time course of study in the U.S. The I-20 is necessary for obtaining a student visa (F-1 or M-1) at the U.S. embassy or consulate in Bangladesh.

Critical Factors of the I-20 Document: 

Student Information: The I-20 contains important personal details about the student, including their name, date of birth, nationality, and SEVIS ID (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). It is crucial to review this information carefully for accuracy.

Program Details: The I-20 specifies the degree program or course of study the student has been admitted to, including the major, program duration, and expected start and end dates. It is vital to ensure that the program details align with the student’s academic aspirations.

Financial Information: The I-20 highlights the estimated cost of attendance, including tuition fees, living expenses, and other miscellaneous costs. It also indicates the financial resources available to the student, such as scholarships, grants, personal funds, or sponsorships. Demonstrating sufficient financial support is essential for visa approval.

SEVIS Fee: According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official website, you can pay the SEVIS fee after applying for a student visa. But you have to pay the fee before you go to your visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

NOTE: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a web-based system used to maintain accurate and up-to-date information on international students in the U.S.

The Importance of Planning Academics, Finance, and Other Aspects

Academic Planning: The I-20 serves as a roadmap for the student’s academic journey in the U.S. By carefully reviewing the program details, students can ensure that they have chosen a course that aligns with their career goals and interests. Additionally, understanding the academic requirements and prerequisites mentioned in the I-20 can help students plan their coursework effectively.

Financial Planning: The I-20 provides a comprehensive overview of the estimated expenses associated with studying in the U.S. This information is crucial for financial planning, allowing students to assess their affordability and explore various funding options. Adequate financial planning helps students avoid financial hardships during their stay in the U.S. and ensures a smoother transition.

Visa Application: The I-20 is a vital component of the student visa application process. The U.S. embassy or consulate will carefully review the information on the I-20 when considering the student’s eligibility for a visa. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that all information on the I-20 is accurate and matches the documents provided during the visa interview.

Maintaining Status: Once you are in the U.S., the I-20 plays a crucial role in maintaining legal status. Students must adhere to the program start and end dates mentioned on the I-20 and fulfill the academic requirements to maintain their student status.

Do All Students Need I-20s?

No, an I-20 is not required if a student is continuing to hold a status other than F-1 in the country. Dependent children with a status of E, H, I, J, L, M, N, 0, P, R, or S must alter their status after turning 21.

What is the I-20 Completion Date?

The “Completion Date” on the I-20 is an estimate of the time the University feels it may take to fulfill all degree requirements. It is the day on which all degree requirements are fulfilled, such as filing the thesis or dissertation if there is no research component to the degree program.

Do My Family Members Need I-20s?

If your spouse and children will be traveling with you, they will each require their I-20 to apply for the F-2 dependent visas, stay in the country during the program, and travel.

Should I Keep All Copies of My I-20s?

Yes. If there are changes to your program or other information while you are in the United States, you may be able to get multiple different copies of your I-20s. For reference in the future, keep all copies. Always utilize the I-20 that was given most recently for business or personal travel. Which one is the most recent? Under the School Attestation area, look at the “Date Issued”. Use the I-20 that was issued most recently if you have more than one.

Do I Need the I-20 for Travel?

When traveling abroad, students must take their I-20 with them. The I-20 is required to reapply for a visa (if needed) and to re-enter the United States.

Carrying a copy of your I-20 with you at all times is a MUST.

When Do I Receive My I-20?

You will receive one or two letters, depending on the university, once you receive confirmation of admission and funding from your chosen institution. After that, you must head to the International Student’s Office of the relevant university with the funding details so that they can create your I-20 on your behalf.

What Does Deficit or Surplus Mean on My I-20?

There is no need for a surplus on your I-20 if the finances of the individual state and university match the funds provided by the university. There is a deficit if funding is lower than the financials. And if your funding exceeds your financials, you have a surplus.

When Will My Bank Statement Become Important? 

It is important to have a bank statement only if there is a deficit.

Who Should Be My Primary Sponsor for I-20?

Your parents or siblings are the obvious choice for this response, as they are members of your immediate family. Having a sponsor in the aforementioned range is beneficial.

NOTE: The entire content written above may be subject to slight changes over time. Therefore, it is necessary to verify the information on the respective websites.



Safayat Hossain 

Department of Chemistry

University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi, Bangladesh