After you have received a letter of admittance and have paid your deposit and confirmed your intent to enroll, then the Director of International Student Services will begin the next phase of the process; to get you an I-20 so that you may apply for an F-1 visa to enter the US to study.
What is an I-20?
The I-20 is a multi-purpose document issued by a government approved, US educational institution certifying that you have been admitted to a full-time study program and that you have demonstrated sufficient financial resources to stay in the US. The I-20 is officially titled the "Certificate of Eligibility" because with it, you are "eligible" to apply for an F-1 student visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad. Your spouse or children will also each need their own I-20 to obtain F-2 dependent status, if desired.
Getting the I-20 from a US school is not enough to become a legal F-1 student; you must also be allowed entry to the US as an F-1, or be approved for a change of status from another type of nonimmigrant visa.
How the I-20 is Created
After Gettysburg completes the admissions process, the admitted students' names and other biographic information are entered into a US government database called SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The SEVIS database processes the information and produces a "PDF" file of the I-20 that is sent back to the school via the internet. The school official (called the Designated School Official or DSO) prints and signs the I-20 and then delivers it to the student. If a student needs to update or change information on the I-20, the DSO makes these requests through SEVIS and the document can be easily reproduced.
How the I-20 is used by the student outside the US
After receiving an I-20 from their school, an international student must make an appointment to apply for the F-1 visa at the local US embassy or consulate in their country). The visa is the document needed to be allowed entry into the US. The student must present both the F-1 visa and the I-20 to a US Immigration inspector upon arrival at the port-of-entry.
How the I-20 is used by a student inside the US
Once you have arrived in the US and passed through the border inspections process, it is used for identification purposes and as proof of your legal status. Off-campus employment information will be printed on page 3 of your I-20.
Traveling with the I-20
If you will be traveling abroad and then returning to the US to resume your studies, you must take your I-20 with you. The I-20 is required to reapply for a visa if you need one and for re-entering the US. Before your departure from the US, make sure that you have an unexpired travel endorsement from the International Student Adviser at on page 3 of your I-20, at the bottom. In most cases, a travel endorsement can be done quickly and easily; however, be sure to plan ahead and get your travel endorsement several weeks before you depart the US.
Page 2 of the I-20 = F-1 Regulations
Immigration regulations governing the F-1 status are listed on page 2 of the I-20. It is important that F-1 students read this page to understand the rules that apply to their stay in the US.
When Should My I-20 Arrive?
Early Decision Students - During April
Regular Decision Students - During May
Students Who Studied High School in the US - After your high school graduation.
Transfers - Review the process.