Forms I-20 and DS-2019

What is an I-20 or DS-2019?

  • Form I-20s are “Certificates of Eligibility” for the F (student) visa status;
  • Form DS-2019s are “Certificates of Eligibility” for the J (exchange) visa status;

The form is not a guarantee that you will receive a visa, instead the form shows the U.S. government that you are considered eligible to apply for an F-1 Student Visa (I-20) or J-1 Exchange Visa (DS-2019) based on your documented funds and academic record.

Please note: You cannot begin the visa application process until you have received the proper immigration form.

Step 1: Requirements To Receive Form I-20 or DS-2019

For Illinois Tech to create your Form I-20 or DS-2019, you must complete the following procedure:

  1. Receive an official admission/acceptance from Illinois Institute of Technology;
  2. Paid the non-refundable admission deposit fee;
  3. Submitted a valid passport and acceptable financials within the ISSS Portal.

Once the final step has been completed, an OGS Application Processor will review your I-20 or DS-2019 request and create the immigration form within 5 business days. You will receive an email from with the form as an attachment and next steps for immigration purposes.

Step 2: After Receiving Form I-20 or DS-2019

If the "Form Issue Reason" listed on your I-20 is Initial Attendance, then please follow these general immigration next steps:

  1. Print out the Form I-20 or DS-2019, and sign at the bottom of Page 1. The form will be downloadable as a PDF sent by email from OGS. The physical paper form is required for the visa application process and traveling to the U.S.
  2. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.
  3. Apply for the F-1 Student Visa (I-20) or J-1 Exchange Visa (DS-2019).
  4. Prepare your travels to the U.S. You may arrive as early as 30 days prior to the listed Program Start Date on your Form I-20 or DS-2019.
  5. After successfully arriving in the U.S., complete the International Student Check-In process at Illinois Tech.

Below are special cases depending on the "Form Issue Reason" listed on your I-20 (found on Page 1):

  • Initial Attendance - Change of Status Requested - Please follow the general immigration next steps to Apply for a Change of Status within the U.S. (Option 1).
  • Transfer Pending - As a current F-1 international student, you may travel internationally with a valid visa and the transfer I-20. Please complete the International Student Check-In process at Illinois Tech within 30 days of your intended semester start.
  • Change of Education - As a current Illinois Tech student, you do not complete Check-In again since you are continuing to study at the same U.S. university.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We have compiled a list of common questions and answers for your quick reference below. Please also refer to the official government websites for additional information about the Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1).

  • After a student has been admitted into Illinois Tech, paid the deposit fee and submitted all required immigration documents, then an OGS staff member will enter your information into the U.S. government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.) The SEVIS database processes your information and generates a Form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) in the form of a “PDF” file.
  • For F-1 students, only a DSO (Designated School Official) can generate and update a Form I-20. For J-1 exchange visitors, only an ARO (Alternate Responsible Officer) can generate and update a Form DS-2019. All staff members within the Office of Global Services are DSOs and AROs. Therefore, if there are any errors or questions related to your Form I-20 or DS-2019, then please contact for assistance.
  • No. If a student is maintaining a U.S. legal status which allows study, that is not F-1 or J-1, then a Form I-20 or DS-2019 is not needed. The Form I-20 is only required for students who wish to be in F-1 status, and the Form DS-2019 is only required for students who wish to be in J-1 status. If you are thinking about changing your current U.S. legal status to F-1 or J-1, please read more here or contact for assistance.
  • As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor’s Program (SEVP) and U.S. Department of State have authorized all U.S. institutions, including Illinois Tech, the ability to permanently issue “Electronic” Form I-20s and DS-2019s indefinitely. As a result, Illinois Tech will no longer mail/ship "Original" Form I-20s or DS-2019s to students.
  • Please note that this means U.S. local, state, and federal agencies no longer require the “Original” copy of your Form I-20 or DS-2019 but instead accept a "Printed" copy of your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Therefore, it is the student’s responsibility to download, print and sign their Form I-20 or DS-2019.
  • After receiving a Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Illinois Tech, an international student must make an appointment to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate (the visa is required to request entry into the United States). Students must present both the F-1/J-1 visa and the I-20/DS-2019 to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival at the U.S. port-of-entry.
  • Each time a student arrives in the United States and passes through the border inspections process (either at an airport, seaport, or land border), the Form I-20 or DS-2019 is used as identification and proof of legal and academic status. Typically, students must show their I-20 or DS-2019 at the Social Security Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The I-20 or DS-2019 is also shown to employers in the hiring process for employment. Off-campus employment information and authorization will be printed on page 2 of the I-20 or page 1 of the DS-2019.
  • The length of time given on the Form I-20 or DS-2019 is based on the student’s intended degree and educational level. This is an estimate of time determined by Illinois Tech for the average student to complete all their degree requirements. The following standards are used to determine Form I-20 or DS-2019 program lengths:
    • Bachelor’s Degree - 5 years
    • Master/Master of Science/MBA Degree - 2 years
    • PhD - 6 years
    • Visiting/Exchange - Varies, but typically one or two semesters
  • If a student completes their program earlier than the original Program End Date listed on the Form I-20 or DS-2019, then their Form will be shortened to reflect the degree conferral date of the awarded degree.
  • If a student is not able to finish the program by the Program End Date listed on the Form I-20 or DS-2019, then a Program Extension request is required to be submitted within the ISSS Portal prior to the Form's expiration.
  • The SEVIS database requires institutions to use a standard code for all programs developed by the U.S. Department of Education, called CIP codes. The name of the program as it appears on the Form I-20 or DS-2019 is the CIP code for your program. This is the official government code used to identify your Illinois Tech program. There are a handful of degree names at Illinois Tech which don’t exactly match the code name listed on the Form I-20 or DS-2019. Typically, the reason for the difference is because for STEM-eligible CIP codes, these are very specific code names in order to qualify you for certain immigration benefits in the future.
  • Yes! For your personal records, you should keep all copies of old I-20s or DS-2019s for reference. These may be requested from government agencies like USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), so it is best to keep them stored either digitally or in a secured location at home. Please note, you will only need your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 for travel entry, work authorization or other related legal purposes.
  • New Form I-20s or Ds-2019s are issued whenever there is a significant update to a student's SEVIS record. This includes changes in biographical data, program dates, change of major, the addition of a work authorization, etc. These types of changes are typically prompted by student request. When OGS processes I-20 or DS-2019 requests, we will provide to you the updated Form. When you receive an updated Form I-20 or DS-2019, that is the most current version, which should be used for travel purposes and related U.S. government matters.