Your Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility is a document issued by the Tufts International Center to show that you have been admitted to a full-time program of study at Tufts, and that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your educational and living expenses.
How Do I Obtain My I-20?
Once you are admitted to your program, you will need to apply to the International Center for your I-20. Once the International Center receives your complete application, an advisor create a record for you in the US government's SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) database. Once your SEVIS record is created, the International Center will be able to create and print a Form I-20 for you. With your I-20, you can then apply for an F-1 student visa at a US consulate and later travel to the US as an F-1 student. Note: the International Center is responsible for issuing all Form I-20s to F-1 students (and their F-2 dependents) studying at Tufts University.
Main Points about Form I-20
Basic information on an I-20: Your I-20 contains your biographical information. It also includes information about your degree or educational objective, the school's address and contact information, the program start and end date, the estimated expenses associated with your program, your financial resources, and other details including employment and practical training authorizations. Click on the image to the right and read the information about the main sections of the I-20.
Your I-20 has a unique SEVIS ID number: The SEVIS ID number can be found at the top of the form. In general, you will keep the same SEVIS ID number throughout your program, even if you transfer your F-1 status to another school. You will get a new SEVIS ID only if you stop your studies for any reason and more than five months passes before you come back to the US to re-start your studies (or start a new program).
The I-20 can be updated multiple times as your information changes: Your initial I-20 reflects your initial program information. As your academic situation changes, you may need to get an updated I-20. For example, you may need to get a new I-20 if you change your major or degree objective, or get an extension if you need more time to complete your program. You will also need to get a new I-20 if you decide to transfer from one school to another. Consequently, you may end up receiving multiple I-20s during your time as an F-1 student. We recommend that you keep all I-20 copies in your personal records.
Your Form I-20 is not a visa: You need an I-20 to apply for an F-1 student visa and enter the US as an F-1 student. However, it is not the same thing as a visa; the I-20 is produced by your school, but visas are issued only by US consulates outside of the US. Note: Canadian citizens do not need to apply for visas, but still must have an I-20 in order to enter the US as F-1 students.
The program start and end dates are extremely important: Your I-20 reflects your expected program start date (usually the first day of classes) and program end date (usually the last day of your final semester). Understanding these dates is critical, as they determine how long you can stay in the US or when you need to do certain things, like applying for an extension. The program start and end dates reflects an estimate of the amount of time an average student in your program would need to complete the requirements for the program. See the "Program of Study" tab on this page.
The I-20 is used during travel: During your studies, and as long as you are an F-1 student, you will need to carry your I-20 and use it with your passport and F-1 visa when traveling internationally and re-entering the US. Your I-20 needs to be signed by an International Center advisor at least once a year if you plan to travel outside of the US. See the "Travel Endorsement Signatures" tab on this page.
The I-20 can be replaced: If your I-20 is lost, stolen, or damaged, contact the International Center. We can issue a replacement.
Dependent I-20s: Your dependents (legal spouse or unmarried children under 21) must have their own individual I-20s. They will need to have their own I-20s to apply for and enter the US using F-2 visas.
The I-20 is also often needed for other official purposes such as when applying for a Social Security Number, driver's license, or doing employment verification paperwork when starting an on-campus or off-campus job.
Click on the image above to look at a sample I-20. Note: Form I-20 is updated with minor revisions periodically. Your actual I-20 may differ slightly from the sample above, but the main sections should be the same.
Your SEVIS ID number is printed at the top of the form and has the format "N000xxxxxxx". It is a unique identifier that matches your SEVIS database record.
You should make sure that your personal and biographical information are correct.
Your surname and given name should match your name as printed in your passport
Your country of birth, country of citizenship, and date of birth should be correct
The passport name field does not need to be filled out and may be blank
The admission number is no longer filled out and will be blank
Form Issuance Reasons:
The form issuance reason will usually be "initial attendance" for your first I-20, and "continued attendance" after you arrive in the US, and only if your I-20 is later updated with new information
It may also indicate "transfer pending" if you have finished your studies at one school and are waiting to start your program at another school
There may be other reasons indicated - contact the International Center if you have any questions
The school information section indicates your school's name, reporting address, the name of the international student advisor ("Designated School Official") who issued the I-20, and your school's SEVP School Code.
The Program of Study section includes:
Your degree objective (e.g., bachelor's, master's, doctorate, etc.)
Your major(s) - note that the major listed on the I-20 may not be exactly the same as your official Tufts major. This is because the I-20 reflects a list of majors drawn from the US government, not from Tufts. The US government's major listed on your I-20 is the "closest match" to your actual Tufts major.
Your program start and end dates - the program start and end dates reflect the anticipated start to your program (usually the first day of classes) and the end date to your program (the last day of your final semester or term)
Program Start / End Date
It is important to understand your program start and end date information. Every I-20 includes an average estimate of the amount of time it takes to complete the program.
Under F-1 visa rules, you are permitted to arrive in the US no earlier than 30 days before the program start date on your I-20.
Once the program end date is reached, and you have finished your program, you have 60 days to depart the US. Once the program end date is passed and you leave the US, your grace period automatically expires.
If you need more time to complete your program requirements, you must submit a request to the International Center for an F-1 program extension BEFORE the I-20 program end date is reached.
If you complete your program (or stop studying) before the program end date, contact the International Center as we may need to update your SEVIS record.
The financials section of the I-20 includes the estimate of expenses for your program and a description of the financial resources you showed when applying for your I-20. Your financial resources can include a combination of personal or family funds, scholarships, fellowships, employment, or other resources.
The financial information on an I-20 is always an estimate of your educational expenses. Actual expenses may vary from student to student and program to program. However, the information on the I-20 should provide a reasonable indication of the likely costs for a full-time student in your program.
At the bottom of page 1 of your I-20, your international student advisor will sign the School Attestation section of the form. You are also required to read the Student Attestation section and should sign the form to indicate your agreement to the terms outlined on the I-20.
Later in your program, if you choose to pursue employment options such as curricular practical training or optional practical training, your SEVIS record will be updated and a new I-20 issued to you. The updated I-20 will have the type of employment authorization (e.g., curricular practical training or CPT) and information such as the name and location of your employer (if required).
The travel endorsement section of the I-20 is signed by your international student advisor, usually once a year. By signing the form, the advisor is confirming that you are attending school, maintaining valid F-1 status, and are eligible to return to Tufts after a trip abroad. When you return, the US Customs and Border Protection officer will look to see that your I-20 has been signed by an international advisor.
The travel endorsement section only needs to be signed after you arrive in the US and register with your school as an F-1 student. After that point, the travel endorsement confirms your arrival and status as an F-1 student in good standing.
Only International Center advisors can sign Form I-20 for Tufts students - do not request travel signatures from your academic advisors or professors / instructors.
The travel signature should be no more than one year old at the time of your return to the US. You do not need a travel signature if you are not traveling outside the US or if you have completed your program and are simply leaving the US for good.
If you are on post-completion Optional Practical Training, the travel signature should be no more than six months old on the date of your return.
To learn more about obtaining a travel signature, refer to these instructions.