Your Initial I-20


Now that you have received your digital Initial I-20, please carefully read the following instructions to continue the process. We strongly recommend bookmarking this page.


Print your I-20

After receiving your I-20 PDF file, you must print a paper copy in order to apply for your F-1 visa and travel to the U.S. The PDF is not meant to be digitally signed. Students must sign their printed copy with a pen. The PDF password will also not be provided.

Presenting your I-20 PDF on your phone, tablet, or laptop will not be acceptable for any official purpose. You must always use the printed copy. Do not leave your I-20 in your checked luggage.

Some Things to Note About Your USC I-20:

  • Personal Information: Make sure the name and date of birth on your I-20 match your passport information. The Passport Name and the Admission Number is blank by default and cannot be changed.
  • Major Information: SEVIS has a fixed list of major codes. Sometimes, the SEVIS major will not match the exact name of the degree program. When your program was created, USC selected the major code that most closely matched the program’s content. U.S. consular and immigration officers are aware of this, and it will not be an issue.
  • English Proficiency Notes: The notes regarding English proficiency are solely for the purpose of explaining USC’s English test policy to U.S. consular and immigration officials. They do not reflect your English proficiency status with the university. No other I-20 can be issued, and these notes will not impact your ability to apply for a visa.
  • Estimated Average Costs: The I-20 Tuition and Living Expenses are calculated for immigration purposes only and cannot be changed. Your actual costs will vary depending on your enrollment and unique living situation.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships will be included on your I-20 if we receive a notice from your department before your I-20 is issued. If you are awarded a scholarship after your I-20 has already been delivered, your I-20 will not be amended. The absence of your scholarship will not affect your ability to obtain a U.S. visa.
  • SEVIS ID: If a previous SEVIS record has expired (has been Canceled, Auto-Canceled, Completed, Deactivated, or Terminated) for any reason, it cannot be reused. A new SEVIS ID will be created for you by USC.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

You will need to pay the SEVIS fee to activate your new I-20.

Print your payment receipt and keep it in a safe place. You will need this document for your visa interview and to enter the United States. Students are responsible for all SEVIS and visa fees. Separate fees are not required for F-2 dependents (children and spouses).

If you paid a SEVIS fee for another school’s I-20, email to see if that payment can be transferred to the new SEVIS record. Your request may not be granted, so be prepared to pay a new SEVIS fee.

Apply for the F-1 Student Visa

  1. Complete the DS-160 visa application at the U.S. Department of State website. Click on the “FAQS: DS-160” button in the right-hand column.
  2. Pay the visa application fee. This is separate from the I-901 fee.
  3. Print the confirmation page with barcode. This is required for your visa interview.

Note for Citizens of Canada: Although Canadian citizens are not required to apply for an F-1 visa or appear for an F-1 visa interview, you must still pay the SEVIS fee and present the payment receipt together with the I-20 at the Port of Entry.

If you would like to apply for the F-1 visa outside of your home country, we recommend you first contact the embassy or consulate in that country to see if they conduct visa interviews for third-country nationals. Policies can vary by location.

Previous F-1 Visa Holders: If you previously attended school in the U.S. and still have a valid F-1 visa, you may use that visa together with your USC I-20 to enter the U.S., even if the SEVIS numbers do not match. You must still pay the SEVIS fee to activate the new USC I-20.

Schedule Your Visa Interview

Visit your embassy or consulate’s website and follow the instructions for scheduling a visa interview. Visit for a complete list of U.S. embassies and consulates. Please also confirm that your country’s embassy or consulate is open for student visa processing. Please visit the Office of International Services for their interview tips.

Take the following to your visa interview:

  1. Passport (must be valid for at least 6 months after your U.S. arrival date).
  2. USC I-20 (do not use a cancelled I-20 or an I-20 from another school).
  3. I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt.
  4. DS-160 confirmation page.
  5. Financial documents submitted to USC.
  6. If you are bringing dependents, bring the F-2 dependent I-20s.
  7. Proof of relationships to any dependents (marriage certificates, birth certificates).
  8. Any additional documents required by the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Arrival in the U.S.

Entering the United States

Students with an initial I-20 may enter the U.S. as soon as 30 days prior to the start date on their I-20. Check the “Earliest Admission Date” in the third section of the I-20 for the earliest date you may enter the U.S.

If you are unable to enter the U.S. by the start of classes listed on your I-20, please speak with the admission office of your degree program. At their discretion, they may provide a late arrival letter to allow you one extra week of flexibility to enter the U.S.

Entry is not guaranteed and is at the customs officer’s discretion at the port of entry. Students who may be more than one week late will need to work with their department to discuss other admission options.

USC Student Health

Please read the Student Health Requirements page for information on health insurance and vaccination requirements.

Required Items at the U.S. Port of Entry

Do not pack any of these items in checked luggage. You will need to present them to U.S. Customs officials when entering the U.S. If you do not have all the items in hand, you may be subject to secondary inspection.

  • Passport (must be valid for at least six months after your U.S. arrival date).
  • USC I-20.
  • I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt.
  • Valid F-1 visa.


Complete Immigration Status Verification

All newly admitted international students are required to complete Immigration Status Verification (ISV) with the USC Office of International Services (OIS). This will confirm your immigration status and ensure that you are eligible to start an academic program at USC. You will need to provide your I-20 and complete ISV before you can enroll in classes.

Once you successfully complete ISV, your registration hold (STU50 or STU60) will be removed.

Now that you have arrived at USC, the Office of International Services (OIS) will manage your immigration record moving forward. Please contact them if you need assistance.

Congratulations on embarking on your new academic program!