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International Programs

Application procedures for obtaining Form I-20

To be able to enter the United States to study you will need a F-1 visa United States.

What is the I-20AB Form?

This is the certificate of Eligibility for F-1 (Student) Status. The Form I-20AB may be issued only to students:

  • who have been admitted to Elizabeth City State University for a full-time program,
  • who plan to register for a full-time course of study each semester at ECSU and
  • provide sufficient financial support to live and study in the United States for one semester (or a year?) without employment

Who needs to obtain the I-20AB Form?

Students who are outside the United States must have the Form I-20AB in order to obtain the F-1 visa to enter the U.S. and attend school.


Students who are currently in the United States may be eligible to receive the Form I-20AB. Although some students are not eligible to receive this form, this does not mean that they cannot attend ECSU. If you are not sure whether or not you are eligible to receive this form, please ask your International Student representative.

If you are an F-1 student at another school, you do not need the Form I-20AB before coming to ECSU. Immigration regulations state that you must submit your financial documentation to ECSU and sign your new I-20AB form no later than the 15th day of classes at ECSU.

DO NOT TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE U.S. ON YOUR FORMER SCHOOL'S I-20. You will lose your legal status if you use the I-20AB of your old school and then do not return to classes there. Students will not be permitted to travel until they are registered for classes at ECSU. If it is imperative that you travel, you must first get the required financial papers to the International Student Services so that at ECSU I-20AB travel form can be issued.

If you are an international student OUTSIDE of the United States, here is how you can get an F-1 visa at your U.S. embassy or consulate.

You cannot be issued an F-1 visa without the Form I-20AB. Do not worry about the visa at this time. The most important thing to do is to send the ECSU Office of International Programs acceptable proof of financial ability. When the financial papers are approved, ECSU will send you the Form I-20AB and your original financial papers, which you must have to apply for your visa.

What is the F-1 visa?

Your visa is only your travel document. It does not give you permission to enter the United States. When your visa is issued, the embassy or consulate will return the Form I-20AB to you in a sealed envelope, which is to be presented to the United States Immigration at the port of entry. The permission to enter the United States is given at the port of entry on a document known as the I-94, a small white card, which will be stapled inside your passport. The Immigration Inspector will stamp your I-20AB, take pages one and two, and return pages three and four to you.

DO NOT LOSE YOUR PORTION OF THE FORM I-20AB. It is a very important document. If you have an F-1 visa from a previous visit to the U.S. and it has not expired, you may travel directly to the United States with a new ECSU Form I-20AB without visiting a United States embassy or consulate.

How to obtain the I-20AB form?

To receive the I-20 form, you must complete the attached forms accurately and return them to the International Programs Office with the required documents supporting the financial ability of yourself and /or your sponsors.

Acceptable documents must be submitted two weeks in advance of issuance of an I-20AB form.


Overseas applicants - Spring semester November 30?Fall semester June 30,

Unacceptable documents will be rejected and returned. Documents must be completed exactly as indicated below. Please read thes instructions carefully

Why you need to prove financial ability?

  • There is rigorous U.S. government regulations set to decide who may receive the I-20AB form.
  • Consequently, ECSU's International Programs Office must be strict about financial documentation.
  • U.S. embassies and consulates are very demanding and we want to ensure that prospective students are not denied visas because financial standards are not fully met.
  • The ECSU International Programs Office strongly encourages families to think carefully about the real costs of studying and living in NC and make sure that students' needs are provided for. An unrealistic budget could result in pain and suffering for prospective students.

Rules that students and sponsors should follow before an I-20AB form is issued

Submit proof of sponsor's income.

Only the College can decide how much is enough and this is based on federal guidelines.Financial papers must state actual dollar amounts in U.S. currency. However, ECSU will accept documents which indicate that the income or savings are "in the high five figures (or low six figures, etc.) in U.S. dollars".

Do not send papers separately.

  • All financial papers must be submitted together.
  • Partial documentation will be considered incomplete and will be returned.
  • A designated family member should submit papers.
  • Each sponsor must submit an affidavit stating exactly what is to be provided.

All questions on affidavit forms must be answered.

  • The sponsor in the presence of a notary public must sign all affidavits.
  • The notary public must sign and the official seal of the notary public must be on the affidavit.
  • Affidavits, which have been changed in any way, must have the signature of both the sponsor and the notary public on each change. It is a crime to change a sworn statement.
  • It is usually easier to get an F-1 visa when at least part of a student's support comes from outside the U.S.

Scholarships may be used to qualify for the Form I-20AB.

  • We must have an award letter from the private or government scholarship board stating how much money is to be given and for how many years.

Free Room and Board can be used to support a student.

  • When a family member in Elizabeth City provides free room and board, the student needs far less in cash from other sponsors.
  • Affidavits of free room and board must be sent with a copy of the property deed or rental lease. Such affidavits will not be accepted if the place to live is too small or too far away from the college.

All supporting financial documents must be in English.

  • In order to make sure that we approve your financial documents as quickly as possible, we request that you officially translate the documents and that U.S. currency is used.


  • The issuance of an I-20AB Form does not guarantee the approval of the F-1 (student) status by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Office or the approval of the F-1 student visa by the U.S. embassy or consulate office in your home country.

Unacceptable financial documents will be rejected and returned to you.

  • Documents must be completed exactly as indicated. Please read instructions carefully. Almost half of received documents are unsatisfactory because students or sponsors do not follow the indicated instructions.

What should you do if you have not received your I-20 yet?

The embassy will give you an envelope containing your Form I- 20 A-B and financial documents to present to the Immigration Inspector at the U.S. port of entry. During your air travel to the U.S., you will be given an Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) to fill out. The number on the Form I-94 will become your "admission number" a special immigration identification number which you will use as long as you are a non-immigrant in the U.S.

When you arrive at U.S. Immigration inspection, give your passport, envelope from the embassy, and completed I-94 to the inspector.

The inspector will:

  1. Write your admission number on your Form I-20 A-B and visa page of your passport.
  2. Stamp both pages of your Form I-20 A-B and visa page of your passport.
  3. Separate the Form I-20 A-B and I-94, sending the I-20 "school" portion and I-94 "Arrival" record to the Immigration Service where information is recorded about your entry into the U.S.
  4. Give you the Form I-20 ID (Student Copy) and staple the I-94 "Departure" record onto the page of your passport opposite the visa stamp.

Important: If you notice that the inspector does not do all of these things, please bring this to his or her attention, or report it to ECSU as soon as you arrive.

Your I-20 ID, passport, and Form I-94 are legal documents and must be kept in a safe place. It is wise to make photocopies of them in case they are lost or stolen. Never throw away any I-20 ID, even if you transfer schools. It is your legal record of your stay in the U.S. as an F-1 student.