I-20 Processing

The Office of Graduate Admission issues, administers, and advises on all I-20s for incoming undergraduate and graduate students

Last updated 3/4/2022

Students arriving in the US for Summer and Fall 2022 must be fully vaccinated to travel to the United States by plane if you are a non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa). Only limited exceptions apply. You are also required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when you travel to the United States by air. Please review details from the US Centers for Disease Control here.

I-20 issuance for fall 2022 will begin in March. I-20 issuance for summer will begin at the end of January. I-20 issuance for spring will begin in late September.

Beginning the I-20 Process Transfer Your SEVIS Record to USC
Accessing Your Electronic I-20 Traveling to the US
Spring 2022 Enrollment Applying for Your Visa
Hybrid Course Enrollment Requirement Renewing Your Visa
Printing Your I-20 Frequently Asked Questions

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. But please also note that I-20 issuance is seasonal. I-20 issuance for fall will begin in March. I-20 issuance for summer will begin at the end of January. I-20 issuance for spring will begin in late September. USC does not have an application to request an I-20; I-20s are automatically issued to those students who are certified. Note: Certain graduate programs may coordinate with the Admissions I-20 Processing Office to request an I-20 on your behalf; your department will let you know if this is applicable to your situation.

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 2021, 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.

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

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. This is a permanent change, and no hard copies of I-20s will be mailed to students.

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.

Note: Special requests for initial I-20s, such as adding a dependent, must be finalized no later than 30 days prior to the start of the term.

J-1 Students: Please note that a DS-2019 cannot be distributed digitally unlike an I-20. The DS-2019 will be sent to you by mail.

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 this document for instructions and guidelines for applying for your F-1 visa (This document is also included with all initial I-20s for Summer and Fall 2022).  You should use your printed electronic I-20 to apply for your F1 visa. USC is no longer mailing I-20 documents to students. (Last updated 3/4/2022)

Please confirm that your country's embassy or consulate is reopen for student visa processing here: https://www.usembassy.gov/ (Last updated 3/4/2022)

Note: Students arriving in tourist, visa waiver, or ESTA status are not permitted to study.

J-1 Students: If you have received a DS-2019, please visit the following link for instructions on how to apply for your visa. Exchange Visitor Visa

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.

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 11/3/2021)

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.

In addition to a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days of departure, students arriving via air travel must also be fully vaccinated or will not be permitted to board a flight to the U.S. For details on acceptable vaccines and proof of vaccination, please visit the CDC website here.

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.

J-1 Students: Please note that a DS-2019 cannot be distributed digitally unlike an I-20. The DS-2019 will be sent to you by mail.