How to Obtain a Form I-20/F1 Visa Certificate

How to Obtain a Form I-20/F1 Visa Certificate
The Application for I-20/Visa Certificate
If you plan to enroll at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary as a full-time student with an F-1 student visa, you must
receive a Form I-20 Visa Certificate. This process includes completing the Form I-20/Visa Certificate Application. A document
called a Form I-20 Visa Certificate will be issued to you upon satisfactory completion of this application process. The Form I20 is then used to apply for an F-1 Visa. If you are already in the United States, you must still apply for an I-20 for use in
support of an application for change of nonimmigrant status or to follow the procedure for an F-1 student transfer. Transfer
students must also complete the Transfer-In Request Form.
When completing the I-20 Application, carefully complete all sections related to personal information and financial
certification. To ensure that you have sufficient time to receive your F1 student visa, plan to submit a completed I-20
Application along with all required financial documents 2- 3 months prior to your degree program start date. Be sure to check
the current visa processing times at the embassy or consulate you plan to visit to ensure adequate lead time. Submit your
completed I-20 Application along with all required documents to the Assistant Director of Student Life Services at GordonConwell.
The Form I-20
The Form I-20 is an official government document that certifies that a person is eligible to be an F-1 non-immigrant student
at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The I-20 document confirms to the United States Government that the person
carrying it (the student) has been accepted to an educational institution in the United States and has proved to this institution
(and the U.S. Government) that he or she has sufficient funds to support themselves (and their families, if applicable) for at
least one academic year. The school the student plans to attend is the institution that issues the I-20. The I-20 is sent to the
student in order to apply for an F-1 visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate in their home country. The completed I-20
will include all the information the U.S. Government needs to know about a student’s term of study, level of study, field of
study, dates the student is expected to begin and complete studies, and the student’s ability to pay for his or her education.
Students will need to have this document with them any time they modify their program or travel to and from the U.S.
Other Immigration-Related
There are two other immigration-related terms you will encounter frequently throughout this process. The first term, entry
visa, refers to the visa stamp in your passport that permits you to enter the United States. This stamp is obtained at a U.S.
Embassy or Consulate. An entry visa is used for entry into the U.S. and may expire during your stay. The second term,
immigration status, reflects the most recent notation on your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (issued electronically, passport
stamped). Immigration status is generally the same as entry visa classification, e.g. F-1, B-2, R-1, etc. This classification
indicates the length of time you are permitted to stay in the country.
F-1 Student Classification and “Duration of Status”
Students holding F-1 visas are normally admitted to the United States for a “Duration of Status” (also designated D/S) by
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the U.S. government agency responsible for administering regulations
related to the stay of non-U.S. citizens. Under the terms of an F-1 student visa, you are required to pursue a full-time course
of study during the academic year, which at Gordon-Conwell is September-May. For immigration purposes, Gordon-Conwell
considers full-time study as formal registration for 7 or more credit hours each semester (typically 3 or more courses).
Federal regulations permit F-1 students to be employed on-campus; however, the regulations limit the number of hours an F1
student is permitted to work during a regular semester (Fall and Spring) to 20 hours per week. F1 students are permitted to
work up to 40 hours per week during times when school is not in session (summers and January term). Although it is possible
for students to work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, because each F1 student is required to maintain a full
course load of 7 hours per semester in the Fall and Spring, many find they can only maintain a work load of 8-10 hours. Once
you arrive on campus, you are able to contact individual departments to find out if on-campus student work is available.
Because of the limitations on employment, employment during either the academic year or the summer months should not be
considered a primary means of support while at Gordon-Conwell. Also, you are not permitted to consider potential on-campus
Updated: 04/27/2016
employment as part of your “Available Funds” on your Application for I-20/Visa Certificate. Dependents in F-2 status may
not work under any circumstances, including on-campus employment.
Applying for an F-1 Visa
To obtain a visa, you must apply at an U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Bring your passport, Form I-20(s), and all financial
documents, plus passports and financial documents for each dependent that will accompany you to the U.S. You will also need
two passport-size (37mm x 37mm) photographs of each visa applicant. If your family name is different from your dependents,
be prepared to show documents that prove your relationship (e.g. marriage certificate or family registry). When you apply,
you will complete DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form) along with any supplementary forms required by the
particular embassy or consulate. You will also need to present a paper receipt indicating a SEVIS fee payment. The SEVIS fee
can be paid online at Only the primary applicant is required to pay the SEVIS fee. Some
embassies or consulates will accept the online generated SEVIS fee receipt, others may require the official receipt generated
by SEVIS and sent via mail to the student. On occasion, a Visa Officer may even require evidence (in addition to the
certification on your Form I-20) of English proficiency sufficient to pursue your proposed program of study as well as proof of
economic/social ties to your home country. In most cases applications must be made in person. The length of visa validity,
number of entries permitted and application fee are based on reciprocity and generally reflect your country’s policies for
granting visa privileges for full-time study in the U.S. Remember, the Visa Officer has the final word on your application; his
or her judgment is not subject to review. Standards for visa eligibility may be considerably more rigorous than the standards
you must meet to qualify for a Form I-20. Use good judgment as to whether to submit additional information with your entry
visa application.
Financial Documentation and Support
When you submit the I-20 Application, you must also submit a completed Financial Affidavit form along with financial
documentation that proves coverage of all expenses for one academic year (you must also demonstrate reasonable means of
support for future years). Various documents are required, depending on the source of financial support. If you have more
than one source of funding, please provide the required documentation corresponding to each source listed on page 2 of the I20 Application. Potential income, i.e. income you have not yet received or financial support not yet available to you may not be
considered as part of your “Available Funds” on page 2 of your Financial Affidavit.
 If you are using personal funds, please submit a copy/scan of a bank statement in your own name, or letter from a bank
official, prepared within the past three months showing available balances sufficient to meet your expenses.
 If your parents or family are supporting you, please submit a signed Sponsor Affidavit of Support from your parent or
family member guaranteeing the support. You must also submit a copy of your parent’s or relative’s bank statement or
letter from a bank official indicating the amount of money (U.S. $) available to your parent or relative for financial
 If you are receiving support from a private sponsor, please follow the same requirements as under Parents or Family
(above). **Please note that U.S. Consular officials subject private sponsor guarantees to careful review. Be prepared to
submit additional documentation when applying for your visa. **
 If you are receiving support from an international organization, government agency, foundation, church or other
ministry, please submit a signed Sponsor Affidavit of Support along with the official sponsorship letter (on letterhead),
stating the conditions of the award. This letter must specify the name and address of the sponsor, total amount of money
(U.S. $) available to you for one academic year, seminary you will be attending (i.e. Gordon-Conwell), your degree
program, and period of time funding is guaranteed. This letter must also indicate whether funding is renewable annually,
for how many years, and any conditions of the award that you as the recipient must fulfill.
 If you received a scholarship from Gordon-Conwell, we have your scholarship letter on file. You do not need to
submit it with your I-20 application but you will need to take it to your visa appointment.
Please bring all ORIGINAL documents to the embassy or consulate as they require ORIGINAL documents. Remember that
all documents must be presented in English using U.S. dollar conversion. Include any conversion rates used in determining
U.S. dollar equivalency. The I-20 Application and all applicable documents may be mailed to Gordon-Conwell or
Refer to the Following Websites for More Information
 Websites of U. S. Embassies and Consulates:
 Study in the States:
 US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs:
 SEVIS I-901 Fee Processing Site:
Updated: 04/27/2016