New policy guidance issued last month by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that Form I-20 must be issued directly to a student, not a recruiter or agent.
The form—which serves as an individual’s Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status—is supplied to international students who have been accepted for enrollment at a US educational institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
International students need the form when applying for a F or M nonimmigrant visa, entering into the United States, traveling, or applying for nonimmigrant benefits, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.
The statement from ICE notes that a Form I-20 “must be issued by a designated school official (DSO) at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school and sent directly to a nonimmigrant student, his or her dependents, or, for minors, to the parent or guardian of the nonimmigrant student.”
The guidance—which affirms the federal government’s longstanding policy—comes following questions about whether recruiters or agents could receive the Form I-20 directly from a DSO, in turn controlling the distribution to the student. According to the policy guidance, SEVP officials are aware of instances where recruiters had obtained a student’s Form I-20 and requested additional payment in exchange for releasing the form to the student, prior to the student obtaining a visa or traveling to the US.
In order to address concerns of privacy and security, and to prevent fraud, the latest statement alongside other ICE resources reaffirms that US educational institutions should issue the forms directly to students and not recruiters.
Gustavo Lara is NACAC’s project coordinator of educational content and policy. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.