Important International Student Documents

The information provided on this page is intended to help you understand the different documents and forms you will have as an M-1 student. Any information provided on the IHOPU Hub is only a guide and is not exhaustive.

For detailed information on all aspects of studying in the U.S. as an international student, please visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website.

For questions, please contact


Before applying for your student visa, it is highly recommended you ensure that your passport is valid at least six months longer than your intended stay. For example, if you plan to study from August 2019-May 2020, your passport should be valid at least through November 2020.

If your passport will be expiring during or shortly after your studies, it is best that you renew it prior to applying for your visa. A passport without at least six months validity beyond your program could jeopardize your ability to obtain your visa or prevent you from being admitted to the U.S. at the Port of Entry.

Important Information for Dual Citizens

If you are a dual citizen, please be sure to interview for your visa and travel to the U.S. all on the same passport. In other words, if you are a citizen of both the United Kingdom and Panama you will need to choose one passport with which to interview and travel on. It is recommended that you obtain your visa in the passport that corresponds to the country you are actually living in; e.g. if you’re living in Panama, to use your Panama passport.

Form I-20

After you are accepted to your program IHOPU will issue you an “I-20,” sometimes called a Certificate of Eligibility or “COE.” Your I-20 will be sent to you via DHL, an international express carrier.

When you receive your I-20, please read it carefully to be sure your name is spelled correctly on each line, your citizenship and country of birth are accurate, and the program dates correspond to the program you will be attending.

Your I-20 should arrive signed on both the first and second pages by a Designated School Official (DSO) from IHOPU. In order to validate the I-20, you will need to sign and date the bottom of the first page also. It is recommended that you sign in blue ink.

If you are under 18, your parent/guardian will also need to sign the bottom of the first page.

If you have any questions or notice any errors on your I-20, please email right away.

Understanding your Form I-20

There are several sections of information on your I-20. Below is a summary of some of the key information you should be aware of.

IHOPU recommends that you take time to read your entire I-20 carefully. If you have any questions that are not addressed in this summary, please do not hesitate to contact at any time.

SEVIS ID: This 11-digit ID, beginning with the letter “N,” is the unique ID assigned to your I-20. You will need your SEVIS number in order to pay your I-901 “SEVIS Fee” and to schedule your visa interview.

Surname/Primary Name: Your last name(s) or family name

Given Name: Your first and middle name(s)

Passport Name: Your name written as it appears in the barcode (Machine Readable Zone, or MRZ) of your passport

Preferred Name: Your full name, written in the following order: first, middle, and last

Date of Birth: Day/month/year

Form Issue Reason: “Initial Attendance,” if you are receiving a brand-new I-20; “Continued Attendance,” if you have arrived on campus and begun your program

Earliest Admission Date: The earliest day you can enter the US

Program Start/End Date: The date by which you must arrive on campus, as well as the date your program will end

Estimated Average Costs: This section (under “Financials”) will have the total cost of your program as well as information about the proof of financial resource you provided to International Admissions (in other words, how you will be paying for your program).

School Attestation: This section should be signed by one of IHOPU’s Designated School Officials (DSO’s). If for any reason this line is unsigned, please contact International Admissions right away.

Student Attestation: In order to validate your I-20, you must sign the student attestation line. It is recommended that you sign in blue ink and, if you are under 18, a parent or legal guardian will need to sign as well.

M-1 Visa

After you receive your I-20 and have paid your SEVIS fee, you will need to schedule a visa interview at a US embassy. If you are a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, you are not required to apply for a visa at an embassy but must still have an M-1 I-20 from IHOPU, which must be presented upon entry to the US.

IHOPU can only accept international students and interns who have an M-1 vocational student visa. When you are completing your DS-160 visa application, please be sure to apply for an M-1 visa.

If you are from a country that normally allows you to enter the US as a tourist through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP; or “ESTA”), it is important for you to know that you are still required to obtain an I-20 and M-1 visa in order to attend IHOPU.

View detailed information about applying for your M-1 visa »

I-94 Arrival/Departure Card

When you enter the US, you will be issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. If you are traveling by car, you will receive a paper I-94 card. If you are traveling by plane, you will receive a stamp in your passport with a corresponding online record.

It is recommended that you print a copy of your online I-94 record each time you receive a new stamp. IHOPU International Services will also take a copy of each of your cards/stamps.

Access your online I-94 record »

As an M-1 international, your I-94 expiration date should be 30 days after the program end date on your I-20. If for any reason your I-94 date expires more than 30 days after your program ends, please be aware that you must still exit the U.S. within 30 days of your program end date.