F-1 Glossary


The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) better monitor schools and exchange programs sponsoring F, M, and J visa holders.


The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa holders), exchange visitors (J visa holders), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2 visa holders).


A Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) or Designate School Official (DSO) is authorized to sign and process F-1 paperwork and SEVIS data entry on behalf of the institution. Contact ISS to find out who are the current PDSO/DSOs.


The I-20 is the ‘Certificate of Eligibility’ for non-immigrant F-1 student status. It is issued after a prospective student has made a commitment to attend a specific school in the U.S., has documented their ability to fund their studies, and articulated their reason for applying for an F-1 visa to enter and study full-time in the U.S.

The I-20 is a ‘print’ version of the electronic date in SEVIS – including biographical, academic, and financial details. It is an essential travel document and must have a valid P/DSO endorsement within any 12-month period in order for the holder to exit and re-enter the U.S.

Material on this website is general and for informational purposes only. It does not constitute or replace professional legal advice, and you should not rely on it solely when making decisions about your immigration status or reporting requirements.