Reference : Wikipedia
Issuance of student status – I 20
Issuance of first Form I-20 FORM ( Acquiring Student Status)
Once the prospective student has accepted the institution’s offer of admission, the institution issues a Form I-20 to the student.
Apart from biographical information about the student (including the student’s name, date of birth, citizenship, etc.), there are two main pieces of information that must be entered in the student’s SEVIS record and the initial Form I-20.
How the student intends to meet tuition and living expenses for the first year the student is in the program, or until the end date indicated on the I-20, whichever is shorter.
Each international office may follow its own rules or guidelines regarding the type of documentation it requests from the student or from other departments in order to be able to issue the I-20. The jargon used for this documentation will also vary by institution. For instance, the University of Chicago and University of Michigan uses the term “Financial Resources Statement” for the statement that students need to submit to it regarding how they will meet their expenses, while the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign uses the term “Declaration & Certification of Finances for I-20/DS-2019 Application”.
After receiving information from the student and institution regarding the program length and end date, the international office creates the student’s SEVIS record, gets a SEVIS number for the student, and issues a Form I-20. A physical copy of the form may be mailed to the student overseas. In the case that the student has a SEVIS record from previous student status, the existing SEVIS record should be transferred.
In order to transition to student status, the prospective student must pay a one-time SEVIS fee using Form I-901. This fee applies both to people who are not currently in the United States (and need a visa) and to those who plan to change status using Form I-539.
For students outside the United States: the student applies for a visa and then enters the United States
If the student is outside the United States, then he/she must apply for a student visa (F or M). The visa interview must be scheduled fewer than 120 days prior to the start date indicated on the Form I-20.
At the time of initial entry, the officer at the port of entry checks that the program start date is at most 30 days ahead, and that the I-20 has a valid travel signature. It is also necessary that, at the time of initial entry, the school the student intends to attend matches the school on the student’s visa and the student’s I-20, though this is not a requirement in the future.
The officer at the port of entry also issues a Form I-94 with expiration date indicated as “D/S” (Duration of Status), which means that the student is in authorized status in the United States until the program end date indicated on the I-20 (and can stay in the United States for up to 60 days after that.
For students in the United States in a different status: the student can (under some conditions) apply to change status.
If the student is already in the United States in another status, it may be possible to change status using Form I-539.
However, there are many limitations. For instance, the process generally takes 3–6 months, which can be considerably longer than traveling outside the United States and getting a new visa.
For those who entered the United States using a B visa, having an annotation on the visa saying that the entrant is a “Prospective Student” is generally a prerequisite for the Form I-539 application to be accepted.
In general, the USCIS does not approve transition to student status with a start date more than 30 days prior to the program start date. Therefore, applications where the applicant’s current status expires more than 30 days before the start date of their program are likely to be rejected.
For students transferring from one educational institution to another
Transfer students do not need to file Form I-539 or pay the SEVIS fee again. They can also re-enter on a student visa for a previous institution as long as the visa is still valid.