On August 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued a cable regarding an update to the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) in connection with the recent release of the new Forms I-20 and DS-2019 for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Form I-20, the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, is required for F-1 and M-1 visa holders to study in the United States. Designated School Officials (DSOs) provide foreign national students with the Form I-20 after their acceptance into an SEVP-certified school; the form is required for the student to be able to pay his or her I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, to apply for the F or M nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, to enter the United States as an F or M nonimmigrant, and more.
The new Form I-20 released on June 26, 2015 has been modified primarily in the labeling of mandatory name fields and display, including making the visa class, SEVIS ID number, and school and program of study more visible, and more clearly reflecting information related to dependents and employment authorization. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offers a Fact Sheet (with sample) on the Redesigned Form I-20.
Form DS-2019, the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, is required for J-1 visa holders (their dependents receive Forms DS-2019 for J-2 Status) to participate in the exchange visitor program in the United States. Designated sponsors issue the Form DS-2019 to J-1 candidates after they have been selected for participation in the program. Like the Form I-20 for students, the Form DS-2019 is required for J visa holders to pay the SEVIS fee, to apply for the J nonimmigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, to enter the United States, and more (for example, spouses of J-1 visa holders with J-2 visas should submit copies of their and the J-1 holder’s Forms DS-2019 when applying for an Employment Authorization Document).
The new DS-2019 released on June 26, 2015 contains minor changes compared to its previous version. Modifications were made regarding the way the J program participant’s names are labeled (e.g. now “Surname/Primary Names” is requested rather than “Family Name”) and signature instructions for J-2 beneficiaries.
According to the DOS cable, 9 FAM was updated on June 24, 2015 to include a sample new Form I-20 as Exhibit I in 9 FAM 41.61 and a sample new Form DS-2019 as Exhibit I in 9 FAM 41.62. Consular officers adjudicating F, M, and J visa applications can still accept the previous versions of the forms if issued on or before June 26, 2015. However, beginning July 1, 2016, only the new forms will be valid for such visa applications.
Students and exchange visitor program participants should remain in close contact with their DSOs and sponsors respectively to ensure they have the correct versions of the forms they need.