Getting a Visa: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the Form I-20 and DS-160 visa application. If you have a question that is not answered here, please email [email protected].

Additional frequently asked questions can be found on the U.S. Department of State website

I-20 Frequently Asked Questions

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My name on my I-20 is incorrect. Can you fix it?

According to the SEVIS Name Standards, the name on your I-20 must match your name as it appears in the machine-readable zone (MRZ) of your passport. 

If the name on your I-20 does not match the MRZ of your passport or there are issues with your name order, please contact the office that issued your I-20 for assistance.

Please note that both the Preferred Name and Passport Name fields are optional fields on the I-20. 

  • The Preferred Name field is pre-populated in SEVIS, which means it will default to your legal name. For students who are transferring from another U.S. institution, it may default to the preferred name from your previous school I-20. The University of Minnesota does not modify this field for initial I-20 processing, and it does not impact a visa application. 
  • The Passport Name field is not pre-populated in SEVIS, meaning it will be blank by default. This also does not impact a visa application.

The major listed on my I-20 is incorrect. Can you fix it?

There are two common reasons for your major being listed differently on your I-20. 

Undergraduate degree-seeking students: You may have a pre-major.

Most undergraduate students begin their UMN academic program with a “pre-major” designation. This means that you have additional coursework or some extra steps to take before you can officially declare your major. Having a pre-major designation in your term of admission impacts the major that is listed on your I-20. For example:

  • CSE pre-major “Lower Division” students have a major of “Engineering, General” on the I-20
  • CLA pre-major students have a major of “Liberal Arts and Sciences/Liberal Studies” on the I-20

The name of your major at the University of Minnesota may be different from the U.S. Department of Education’s designated name for your major. The major listed on your I-20 is based on the U.S. Department of Education name for the major (also known as a CIP code). Sometimes this is different from the UMN name for the major. 

Example 1: CIP code 11.0401 is interpreted two different ways:

  • To the UMN it means "Data Science"
  • To the U.S. Department of Education it means "Information Science/Studies"

Example 2: CIP code 23.1304 is interpreted two different ways:

  • To the UMN it means “Communication Studies”
  • To the U.S. Department of Education it means “Rhetoric and Composition”

If you believe an error was made and is not the result of the difference in CIP code names, please contact the office that issued your I-20 for assistance.

Why is the program length on my I-20 longer than I expect to need to complete my degree?

The University of Minnesota uses standard program lengths for each degree level when creating I-20s. We hope that you will complete your degree on time, but some students experience unexpected delays. Using a standard I-20 program length helps ensure that all F-1 students are provided with a sufficient amount of time to complete their degree without needing to request an I-20 program extension. Upon completion of your degree your I-20 program end date will be modified to your actual date of degree completion.

The following standard program lengths are used for all new UMN student I-20s, regardless of whether you are starting a new degree at the UMN or transferring from another U.S. institution to complete a degree:

  • Bachelor’s degree: 5 years (60 months)
  • Master of Education (MEd): 2 years (24 months)
  • All other master’s degrees: 3 years (36 months)
  • Doctorate: 7 years (80 months)
  • Graduate Certificate: 1.5 years (16 months)
  • Professional School: Varies by program

Please note that the I-20 program length reflects only the amount of time you may need to complete your degree. It does not reflect any amount of time that you may remain in the U.S. in F-1 visa status after degree completion to participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) or the 24-month STEM OPT Extension

The Admission Number field is empty. Is that ok?

Yes, this is normal for an initial I-20. An Admission Number is generated upon your entry to the United States. Since you have not yet used this I-20 to enter or re-enter the United States, there is no admission number associated with the record at this time. 

Can I change the financial information on my I-20?

If your estimated expenses and/or funding have changed by more than 25%, or your funding source changes prior to your visa interview, you should request an updated I-20. Otherwise, you do not need to change the funding on your I-20.

DS-160 Frequently Asked Questions

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Who should I put as the U.S. point of contact?

If you have a close family member or friend in the U.S., enter that person as your U.S. point of contact. If not, enter the name of the person who signed your I-20 along with the ISSS contact information and email address ([email protected]).

What is the address and phone number of the University?

The ISSS address and phone number can be found on our website. The address is also in the School Information box of your I-20.

What should I put as my intended field of study? The major as it’s written on my I-20, or the major as it’s written in my decision letter?

It is best to list your major as it is written on your I-20, as that is your official university and government document.

What should I put for my intended length of stay in the US? The length of my program (e.g. 1 year) or the length of my I-20 (e.g. 3 years)?

The information you enter on the DS-160 should match what is on your I-20.

I don’t have an apartment yet. What should I put for my U.S. address?

If you have identified the place you would like to live, or have applied for housing, you may enter that address on the DS-160, even if the housing is not confirmed yet. If you have not started researching housing yet, you may enter the school address listed on your I-20.

Last updated: November 29, 2022