Know Your Forms

This information is official government provided information from: Study in the States.

Before You Enter the United States

You use this form to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. You must pay this fee before you can apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. To pay this fee visit Once you pay your I-901 SEVIS fee, you must print the receipt as proof of payment and take it with you to your visa appointment and when you travel to the United States. Access SEVIS I-901 Fee Form or see a sample

When you are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school, the designated school official will issue you the Form I-20 – “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students”.

A student and the student’s dependents must have a Form I-20 to apply for a student visa, to enter the United States, and to apply for benefits.

You will need the Form I-20 for any of the following:

  • Paying your I-901 SEVIS fee: You will receive a Form I-20 from a designated school official from every school that accepts you. Use the Form I-20 from the school you decide to attend to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee.
  • Entering the United States: Bring your Form I-20 with you when you enter the United States. You will present it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the port of entry when you arrive. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20.

See a sample I-20 form. 


While you are in the United States

The Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document issued to nonimmigrant aliens at the time of lawful entry the United States at an air or sea port of entry. The Form I-94 is evidence of a nonimmigrant’s term of admission and used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay and departure.

With the automated Form I-94 process, the Customs and Border Patrol officer will create an electronic automated arrival Form I-94 during the admissions process.


See a sample I-94 form. 

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry without the required documents, a Customs and Border Protection officer may issue you this form. It allows you temporary admittance to the United States for 30 days. During that time you must send the required documents to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Form I-515A processing team or depart the United States. You will work with your DSO in the International Student Services office to meet these requirements.

This is very important: If you do not send the required documents to the SEVP Form I-515A processing team within 30 days, your nonimmigrant status will be terminated, and you must leave the United States immediately.

Use this form if you want to request a change to another nonimmigrant visa status (F-2 to F-1, F-1 to H-1B, etc.), or to request reinstatement if you have fallen out of student status. You can access and fill out this form here.

Submit this form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for employment authorization, such as optional practical training or off-campus employment. You can access and fill out this form here. Never begin any kind of employment without first checking with your DSO.

When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your Form I-765, you will receive a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD) in the mail. This is your proof that you have authorization to work in the United States. You must carry this card with you when you travel. You may not begin to work until the date listed on your EAD; it also lists the date when your employment authorization ends.

This form is a notice of approval of an application or of receipt of a submission. You may receive this form while in F status in any of these situations:

  • If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services  approves your Form I-539 request to change your nonimmigrant status (e.g., to F-1 from another status or from F-1 to H-1B status).
  • To notify you of approval of your application for reinstatement of student status or extension of status
  • When you have submitted a I-901 SEVIS Fee payment, to notify you that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program has received it and that the transaction is complete
  • As a receipt for a filed Form I-290B, “Notice of Appeal or Motion,” or employment authorization