I-20 FAQs

Get Your New Student I-20 Webinar: A Session on the I-20 Issuance and Visa Process 

In this webinar incoming initial and transfer students learned about the I-20 issuance and visa process and had theirquestions answered live. Our team discussed the following topics: the I-20 issuance timeline, which forms to fill out on ISSS Link, acceptable and unacceptable financial documents, paying the I-901 fee, applying for a visa, when to defer or cancel admission, new student check-in and more!

Note: The information presented here was accurate as of February 8, 2024. Check our website for frequent updates.

DS-2019 Questions

If you are a J-1 Exchange or Degree-Seeking Student requiring a DS-2019, please read our FAQ here

The I-20

Requesting and Receiving an I-20


I have my I-20. Now what?

Transferring Your SEVIS Record

Changing Your Immigration Status to F-1

I-20 for Dependents

Returning after Leave of Absence

Deferring/Cancelling Admission

The I-20

What is an I-20 and do I need one?

The I-20 is a document issued by a US government-approved educational institution, such as Emory University, certifying that a student has been admitted to a full-time academic program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to study in the United States. The I-20 is officially titled the “Certificate of Eligibility” because it allows an individual to apply for an F-1 student visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad. More details and a sample I-20 can be found on our website.

What is the I-20 used for?

Outside the US: After receiving an I-20 from Emory University, you can make an appointment to apply for an F-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate. Please note that citizens of Canada and Bermuda are visa-exempt but still need the I-20 and other supporting documents to enter the US.

Entering the US: You must present the F-1 visa stamp (inside your passport), I-20 and other supporting documents to a US Customs and Border Protection officer upon arrival at the U.S. port-of-entry (such as an airport, seaport, or land border).

Inside the US: Once you are admitted into the US in F-1 status, the I-20 has multiple functions. As an F-1 student, you will need the I-20 when completing international student check-in (International Student Check-In form) and when completing on-campus employment paperwork (if applicable). You must also show your I-20 at the Social Security Administration office and the Georgia Department of Driver Services when applying for a Social Security Number (SSN), driver’s license or state identification. The I-20 will also be updated in the future if you make changes to your program (such as declaring a major), adding off-campus employment, etc.

Do all international students need an I-20?

Most international students at Emory hold F-1 or J-1 status while in their academic program, with F-1 status being the appropriate status for most international students. If you are currently outside the US and require a student visa OR if you are already in the US in F-1 status at another school, you can submit the New Student I-20 Request in ISSS Link to request your Emory I-20. If you are in the US in another immigration status that permits study at the post-secondary level, then you are not required to change to F-1 status. Students who would like to change their immigration status to F-1 can find more information about the change of status process here.

Requesting and Receiving an I-20

How is an I-20 created? 

The I-20 is generated from the US government system called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Once you complete the I-20 request process, Emory ISSS will create your F-1 SEVIS record and issue your I-20. The I-20 is essentially a paper print out of your SEVIS record. If you need to update or change information on your I-20, ISSS makes these updates through SEVIS to produce an updated I-20 document. 

What is the process for requesting an I-20?  

Once you have formally accepted your admission to your academic program (by paying a deposit or other method indicated by the program), ISSS will email you instructions for requesting an I-20 through ISSS Link, our online international student and scholar portal. In ISSS Link, you will provide information and documents needed for ISSS to issue you and if applicable, any dependents requiring F-2 status, an I-20.  Once the I-20(s) is ready, we will send you the I-20(s) along with instructions for paying the SEVIS fee and applying for your visa (except citizens of Canada and Bermuda who are visa exempt). 

What documents do I need to prepare/upload to receive my I-20?   

In ISSS Link, you will upload a copy of your passport biographical page and financial documents showing you have resources to cover estimated expenses for the first year of study. Even if you will be fully funded by Emory, provide a copy of your funding letter(s) in the I-20 request e-form and when applying for the visa. See our financial section for financial document requirements and a list of acceptable documents.  

If you are currently in the US in F-1 status, please also have the following documents/information available prior to completing the request in ISSS Link:

  • Current non-Emory I-20(s) 
  • F-1 visa stamp copy (unless a citizen of Canada or Bermuda) 
  • Most recent I-94 
  • EAD Card (if you are on Post-Completion OPT or STEM OPT) 
  • Information about your current F-1 institution:
    • Name and contact information of your international student advisor
    • SEVIS transfer release date 

If you are currently in the US in an immigration status other than F-1, please have the following documents available before completing the request: 

  • Current eligibility document (such as H-1B I-797 Approval Notice, F-2 I-20, J-1/J-2 DS-2019, etc.) 
  • Visa stamp used for most recent entry to the US (unless a citizen of Canada or Bermuda) 
  • Most recent I-94
If you have any dependents (spouse or child) who will accompany you to the US in F-2 status, please have available a copy of their passport biographical page(s). 

When uploading scanned documents, please be sure that they are as clear as possible in order to avoid delays in processing your request and issuing your I-20. Documents may be in either JPG or PDF format. If you receive an error message in ISSS Link when uploading your files, please see the “I’m getting an error message when submitting my New Student I-20 Request form through ISSS Link. What should I do?” FAQ for help.

How do I access ISSS Link and what are my ISSS Link login credentials?  

Click the “Login” icon on the ISSS Link homepage. You will be taken to Emory’s single sign on page where you will enter in your Emory NetID and password; the same credentials you have used to access other Emory online services. Your NetID is different from your 7-digit student ID number. If you are unsure of your NetID or password please click here

When can I expect to receive my I-20?  

Barring any unforeseen or extenuating circumstances, your I-20 request will be reviewed by ISSS within three business days of submission. If the request is complete, the I-20 will be issued within three business days.  If additional information, documentation or clarification is required, ISSS will email you and ask you to provide what is needed. If ISSS needs additional information or clarification from your academic program, we will email you to let you know there will be a delay in I-20 issuance while we work directly with your academic program. Upon receiving the new information or documentation, ISSS will issue the I-20 within three business days. 

How will ISSS send the I-20 to me?

The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently released new policy guidance that permits ISSS to electronically sign all signature fields and electronically transmit I-20s. Once your I-20 has been issued, ISSS will share a digital, password protected version with you via email. Once available, please print, sign, and date the I-20 on page one.  

You will then bring the I-20 with you to a US embassy or consulate for your visa appointment, unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, as you are visa exempt. You will also present a printed version of this electronically sent I-20 to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when entering the US. 


I am unable to log into ISSS Link 

To log into ISSS Link, you will use your Emory NetID and password, which also gives access to other Emory websites and systems. 

  1. Confirm that you are using the correct Emory NetID and password: Go to https://mypassword.emory.edu and confirm you have the correct credentials. If you need to reset or change your Emory password, please follow these steps.  If that doesn’t work, you can contact the Office of Information Technology which has additional resources including a phone number for the Service Desk.
  2. After confirming your credentials are correct, if you are unable to log into ISSS Link, please email newfjstudent@emory.edu. In your email, please be sure to include your full name (as it appears on your passport), student ID number (if you know it), and your date of birth. ISSS will be in touch with you soon after receiving your email to resolve the issue. 

After logging into ISSS Link, I cannot find the “New Student I-20 Request” form.  

Please make sure you are checking the right place: 

  1. After logging into ISSS Link, select "New Students" on the left side of your screen. 
  2. Under 'Tasks', you should see a link to the form "New Student I-20 Request.” 

If you do not see that link, please email newfjstudent@emory.edu. In your email, include your full name (as it appears on your passport) and student ID number (if you know it), and your date of birth. ISSS will be in touch with you soon after receiving your email to resolve the issue. 

I’m getting an error message when submitting my New Student I-20 Request form through ISSS Link. What should I do? 

An issue with uploaded documents (file format, size, or corruption) is the most common reason why students get an error upon submitting an e-form in ISSS Link. If you can complete the request form but get an error upon submission, please try re-saving the documents that you want to upload in a different format (PDF preferred) and be sure the combined file size is less than 25MB.  

If the problem is not resolved, email newfjstudent@emory.edu and include your full name (as it appears on your passport) and student ID number (if you know it), and your date of birth. In your email, please explain the issue and include a screenshot of the error message if possible. ISSS will be in touch with you soon after receiving your email to help. 

I Have Received My I-20. Now What?

I have received my I-20. Now what?

Please visit our "I Have My I-20. Now What?" page.

Where can I find my SEVIS number?

Your SEVIS ID is at the top of page 1 of your I-20 and begins with N00.

How early can I enter the US after receiving my I-20?

New F-1 students may enter the US up to 30 days before the program start date listed on the I-20. The program start date may differ from the “Start of Classes” date listed on the I-20 as the program start date considers any orientations or other program requirements that take place prior to the start of classes.

Page 2 of my I-20 has space for a “Travel Endorsement." What is that, and do I need it to enter the US?

No, you do not a travel endorsement (also called a travel signature) on your initial I-20. A travel signature is provided on page 2 of the I-20 by a Designated School Official (ISSS staff) to indicate that the student has been maintaining F-1 status, and is eligible for re-entry to the US. The Travel Endorsement section on page 2 of an initial I-20 is intentionally left blank. However, after entering the US for the first time as an F-1 student, you will need to request a travel signature prior to traveling abroad in order to return to the US as an F-1 student.

How long does it take to get a visa after receiving my I-20?

Visa processing times vary by Consulate. We encourage you to schedule an appointment as soon as you receive your I-20 from Emory because there could be long appointment wait and processing times, depending on the US Consulate.

A general estimate of appointment and processing times can be found on the US Department of State’s website.

You may be eligible for an expedited interview appointment based on your I-20 start date. The process to request an expedited nonimmigrant visa interview varies by Consulate. Refer to the instructions on the US Embassy/Consulate’s website where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. For more information, explore our Getting Your Visa webpage.

How do I update my information if something has changed since I requested my I-20, or I believe my I-20 contains an error?

Please email newfjstudent@emory.edu and explain the change or error. If there is a change that requires a SEVIS update, you may be asked to submit additional documentation via ISSS Link.

If you believe there is an error on the issued I-20, ISSS will review it and make changes accordingly. Depending on the nature of the change or error, a new I-20 may or may not be needed.

My name on my I-20 is not correct. What should I do?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a set of standards for all nonimmigrant names entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Per these standards, when issuing an I-20, ISSS enters a student’s name into SEVIS as it appears in the machine-readable zone (MRZ) of the passport. For more information visit the Study in the States Name Standards webpage.

If your name on your I-20 does not match these standards or your name has changed and you have received a new passport, please email newfjstudent@emory.edu. If there is a change that requires a SEVIS update, you may be asked to submit additional documentation via ISSS Link (such as a new passport showing a different name, etc.). If you believe that there is an error on the issued I-20, ISSS staff will review it and advise you accordingly.

The major on my I-20 is not correct. What do I do?

Sometimes the program name/major listed on the I-20 does not match the name of the academic program to which you have been admitted or your declared major. The reason for this difference is due to the US government’s system for tracking fields of study in the US called the Classification of Instructional Program (CIP).

Each program of study at Emory is assigned a CIP code which appears next to your program/major’s name on the I-20. Sometimes, the Emory program name and the CIP code description are the same, and sometimes they differ. However, if the CIP code is correct for your academic program, this indicates to the US government that the program content is the same even if the names are different.

All first-year undergraduate students admitted to the College will have a major code of “Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies” and a CIP code of 24.0101. Once a major is declared, the I-20 will be updated.

If you believe an error was made and not the result of a difference in CIP code names, please email newfjstudent@emory.edu and explain the error. ISSS staff will review it and advise you accordingly.

I received my I-20, but it has been lost or damaged. How can I get a replacement?  

Please email newfjstudent@emory.edu to inform ISSS that your I-20 was lost or damaged. 

Transferring Your SEVIS Record

I am already in the US on a different institution’s I-20. What steps do I need to take and by when?

If you are currently attending another F-1 institution or on OPT on another institution’s I-20, your school will need to transfer your SEVIS record to Emory. Read the Transfer Students section on our Getting My Emory I-20 page to understand the transfer process.

Please note that Emory does not require a "transfer clearance" form signed by the transfer-out institution’s DSO

Emory will only accept SEVIS transfers of records in Active SEVIS status. If you have a non-Active SEVIS record, you must request an Initial I-20 from Emory.

What is Emory's School Code?

Emory University Atlanta and Oxford Campus: ATL214F00135000

Changing Your Immigration Status to F-1

I am currently in the US in a different immigration status. What should I do?

If you are already in the US in another immigration status that will allow you to enroll in your academic program, Emory does not require you to change to F-1 status.

However, if you would like to change your immigration status to F-1, we are more than happy to assist you. In order to transition to F-1 status, you will first need to request an I-20 using the New Student I-20 Request process. Once you have an Emory I-20, there are two ways that you can transition to F-1 status. You can either:

Option 1: Travel outside the US, apply for the F-1 visa stamp, and re-enter the US in F-1 status

Option 2: File a Change of Status application from within the US, if eligible. Contact your ISSS Advisor if you wish to apply for a Change of Status within the US.

For more information on these options, visit the ISSS Changing Your Status webpage.

I-20 for Dependent(s)

Do my family members need an I-20 if they will join me? If so, what should I do?

You can bring your spouse or unmarried children under the age of 21 with you to the United States as F-2 dependents.

If they will arrive with you initially, you should request F-2 I-20s for them when completing the I-20 Request form in ISSS Link. However, you can also request immigration documents for them at any point during your program if they will not join you from the beginning.

If you have already been issued an Emory I-20, but would like to obtain I-20s for your dependent(s), log in to ISSS Link and complete the “Add a Dependent” e-form found under the F-1 Student Services tab. Your family members will need to apply for F-2 dependent visas before they come to the US. They will each need an I-20 and a valid visa in their passport in order to enter the country. Please note that citizens of Canada and Bermuda are visa exempt but still need their own F-2 I-20.

Returning after Leave of Absence

I am returning to Emory University from a leave of absence. What steps do I need to take to get an I-20 and F-1 visa?

After you have been readmitted by your academic program, ISSS will send you an email with a link to the “Returning from Leave of Absence” e-form in ISSS Link. Your ISSS Advisor will work with you to issue your new I-20 and provide additional instructions on the visa process. More information can be found on ISSS’ Leave of Absence webpage.

Deferring/Cancelling Admission

What if I have changed my mind about studying at Emory University?

If you have decided not to attend Emory University, please contact your Emory admissions office.

If you have already accepted admission and begun/completed the I-20 process, please contact your school/academic program as well as ISSS.

If you have already been issued an Emory I-20, ISSS can work with you to cancel your SEVIS record or, if possible, transfer it to another US academic institution.

What if I need to defer my admission to a future semester?

If you are an undergraduate applicant, read more about Emory’s gap year (deferral) policy on the Admissions website. If you are a graduate applicant, you must request a deferral from the program/school to which you applied.

If you have already been issued an Emory I-20 and later your admission is deferred, ISSS will update your SEVIS record accordingly and provide you with an updated I-20.