The Office of Graduate Admission issues, administers, and advises on all I-20s for incoming undergraduate and graduate students
Last updated 4/29/2021
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that schools will be permitted to electronically send Form I-20 documents that have been digitally signed. International students who have been admitted, submitted their statement of intent, and paid their commitment deposit (if applicable) will now receive digital I-20s.
Beginning January 26 2021, all air passengers (foreign nationals and U.S. citizens) will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days before flight departure in order to enter the United States. More information from the US Centers for Disease Control can be found here. Additional testing is recommended within 3-5 days and plan for a mandatory 10-day quarantine after arrival in Los Angeles. More information about travel restrictions can be found below in the Traveling to the US section.
On April 26, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) clarified that for the 2021-2022 academic year, F-1 students should abide by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) guidance originally issued in March 2020, which was also applied to the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters. This guidance allows distance learning in excess of regulatory limits due to the public health emergency generated by COVID-19. To review the details of the SEVP guidance and how it affects USC admits and continuing students, please click here.
Beginning the I-20 Process
Committed/Certified Graduate Students:
Your I-20 will be issued to you approximately seven business days after you submit your Statement of Intent (certifying) or transfer your SEVIS record from your current U.S. institution to USC. USC does not have an application to request an I-20 -- your documents will automatically be issued to your USC email.
I-20 issuance for summer 2021 will begin in late January. I-20 issuance for fall 2021 will begin in early February. I-20 issuance for spring 2022 will begin in mid-September.
Committed Undergraduate Students:
USC will begin issuing I-20s to committed undergraduate fall admits beginning in mid-March. Spring admits will receive their I-20 beginning in mid-September. USC does not have an application to request an I-20 -- your documents will automatically be issued to your USC email when I-20 processing begins.
Your I-20 will be issued to you only after receipt and review of sufficient financial documents, statement of personal or family support dated after August 2020, and a copy of your passport. Undergraduate students will be contacted directly if submitted documents are missing or insufficient upon review.
Guidelines for acceptable financial support can be found here. Dual citizens should choose one citizenship and corresponding passport to submit to appear on your I-20.
Please confirm that your birth city is correct on your application to USC. If you require a correction to your birth city, please contact the Office of Admission.
Committed undergraduate students currently attending US high schools or colleges will receive instructions to transfer their SEVIS record to USC. Students transferring from a US high school or college must also submit financial documents and a passport copy to receive an I-20 from USC.
Note for Graduate and Undergraduate Spring Admits:
Students graduating or ending enrollment at another US school after the spring term will not be able to transfer their SEVIS record immediately for spring enrollment due to the five month rule. If spring admits wish to maintain F1 status and remain in the US during the fall term before beginning their studies at USC, consider enrolling in another US institution during the fall term to maintain your SEVIS record and transfer after your fall term is complete. Students enrolling in a graduate program may also maintain their status through post-completion OPT, if recommended by the graduating institution and approved by USCIS. If your 60 day grace period ends without transferring to another school for fall or participating in OPT, spring admits will receive an Initial Attendance I-20 and will need to repay the SEVIS fee. Visa renewal is not necessary if your visa will be valid for your return to the United States.
Accessing Your Electronic I-20
Your I-20 will be "shared" to your USC email from a unique folder administered by USC I-20 Processing. It cannot be shared to your personal email due to security concerns as well as email reporting compliance standards with the US Department of Homeland Security. Access will not be granted to any email other than your USC email.
All committed students must claim their NetID/email within one to three business days after certifying/paying any applicable commitment deposit. Once your NetID is activated, please log into your email at https://google.usc.edu with your @usc.edu email. If you have another USC email (e.g. @marshall.usc.edu, @lawmail.usc.edu, etc) you must use your standard @usc.edu email to retrieve your I-20. Students can access their I-20 through the shared link to their email, or through USC Google Apps by logging into Google Drive and clicking "Shared with me".
Please print a hard copy of your 4-page I-20 and sign the second page before appearing for your F-1 interview and/or attempting to enter the U.S. Electronic versions of your I-20 (for example, showing your I-20 on your mobile device to a visa or Customs officer) will not be accepted under any circumstances. Do not leave your I-20 in your checked luggage when traveling.
For security purposes, your I-20 will be removed from Google Drive 60 days after the start of the semester. Please download your I-20 from Google Drive to your personal computer or copy your I-20 to your personal Google Drive.
International students enrolled online for summer 2021:
If you received an I-20 for summer 2021 and will remain enrolled online while outside of the U.S. for summer 2021, you must request an updated I-20 with an updated program start date in order to apply for a visa or enter the US. Any I-20 with a date earlier than your entry to the US (August 2020, January 2021, or March 2021) is now invalid and cannot be used. Please request your updated I-20 here: http://admission.usc.edu/summer-fall-2021-i20-request
If you were admitted to summer/fall 2020 and updated your admission start term to summer/fall 2021, your I-20 will be issued after you have certified. If you have been informed that you must resubmit financial documents, please upload your updated documents here. As a reminder, documents must be dated within 1 year of your intended start term in the U.S. (for example, August 2020 for a fall 2021 start). Documents submitted for summer or fall 2020 admission are now outdated. Your SEVIS ID will likely be different due to the amount of time that has passed since your previous SEVIS ID was generated.
Printing Your Electronic I-20
After receiving your digitally signed I-20, you will need to print a hard copy to apply for your F1 visa and travel with it in hand when you enter the U.S. Presenting your electronic I-20 on your phone, tablet or laptop will not be acceptable for any official purpose.
Because electronic I-20s are a new option for students, we strongly recommend printing the DHS guidance as well and keeping it with your printed electronic I-20 when you travel to the U.S. The guidance can be found here. (Link last updated 3/26/2020)
Applying for Your Visa
Please review our website for instructions and guidelines for applying for your F-1 or J-1 visa. You should use your printed electronic I-20 to apply for your F1 visa. At this time, USC is not mailing I-20 documents to students. (Last updated 1/15/2021)
Currently, U.S. Embassies and consulates worldwide are reopening in phases. Please confirm that your country's embassy or consulate is reopen for student visa processing here: https://www.usembassy.gov/ (Last updated 1/15/2021)
Note: Students arriving in tourist, visa waiver, or ESTA status are not permitted to study.
Transferring Your SEVIS Record to USC
Please review our website for instructions and guidelines regarding transferring your SEVIS record. Once your record is released to USC, you will receive your I-20 electronically to your USC email.
Note: If you leave the United States during your transfer period, you are required to enroll in at least one hybrid course if you return to the United States. Students who remain in the U.S. during their transfer period do not need to maintain hybrid coursework.
Renewing Your Visa
If you are outside the United States and your visa is not expired, you will be able to use your current, unexpired F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S., even if it has your previous school’s name printed on it. If you are receiving a new I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number, you will need to repay the SEVIS fee for your new document and keep the receipt with you.
If you are inside the United States and your visa has expired, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you have received your transfer I-20 from USC and have no plans to travel outside the U.S. within the five-month transfer period. However, you will need a new F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S. the next time you leave the country.
If you are outside the United States or are planning to leave the United States, and your visa has expired or will expire shortly after the start of your program at USC, you must use your USC I-20 to apply for a new F-1 visa.
Traveling to the US (updated 4/29/2021)
Beginning January 26 2021, all air passengers (foreign nationals and U.S. citizens) will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days before departure in order to enter the United States. More information from the US Centers for Disease Control can be found here. Students should also plan to quarantine for 10 days after arriving in southern California.
Students attempting to enter the US for summer term and have been in China, Iran, Brazil, or South Africa during the past 14 days may not enter the United States directly and should plan to spend at least 14 days in a third country and follow all local quarantine and safety guidelines before attempting to enter the U.S. Students who have been physically present in those countries within 14 days before entering the US and whose programs begin after August 1, 2021 are qualified to enter the U.S. under national interest exception (please see below) without needing to spend time in a third country before attempting entry.
Students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, Ireland with valid F-1 visas are qualified to enter the U.S. under national interest exceptions for summer and fall 2021 semesters. Students do not need to contact an embassy or consulate to seek an individual national interest exception to travel. Students seeking to apply for new F-1 visas should check the status of visa services at the nearest embassy or consulate; those applicants who are found to be otherwise qualified for an F-1 visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception to travel.
After arriving in Los Angeles, students must complete passport verification with the Office of International Services. Completing PPV will remove your STU50/STU60 holds.
Hybrid Course Enrollment Requirement
Students entering the United States in possession of an initial attendance or transfer pending I-20 must be enrolled full time and in at least one hybrid course to maintain your status. Students entering the U.S. with an Initial Attendance or Transfer Pending I-20 may not be enrolled in 100% online course load.
- If classes lose their hybrid designation on the USC Schedule of Classes due to orders from LA County Public Health, you should not attempt to enter the U.S., as OIS will not be able to activate your SEVIS record upon arrival. If you are not enrolled in a hybrid class on the first day of your first semester, you will have to depart the U.S. or work with your department to find an alternate hybrid enrollment solution to maintain your status.
- In addition to a hybrid course, you must register for a full time course load during your first semester of classes.
FAQs Regarding the New DHS Guidance for Electronic I-20s (Last Updated 1/15/2020)
Can DSOs electronically send signed Forms I-20 to students instead of physically mailing the forms?
Yes, due to COVID-19, DSOs may electronically send Forms I-20 to student email addresses listed in SEVIS. In the case of minor students (17 years old or younger), the email address may belong to their parent or legal guardian.
Can I use my electronic I-20 to apply for my F1 visa? Should I expect to receive a paper hard copy I-20 in the mail?
You should use your electronic I-20 to apply for your F1 visa. Students should not expect to receive a paper I-20 as mailing services at USC have halted in compliance with state and local "stay at home" orders. Forms I-20 issued electronically or with electronic signatures—as permitted during the COVID-19 emergency—will remain valid until students have a need for an updated Form I-20 after arriving in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has been in contact with other governmental stakeholders, including the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, to notify them of procedural changes. We encourage students to print the new SEVP guidance and bring it with them to the visa interview and when entering the U.S.