An F-1 Visa is for international students who intend to pursue an academic degree at an accredited U.S. college or university, or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute.
Are you interested in continuing your education in the United States? Do you plan on pursuing an academic degree such as a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s Degree? If so, you might be eligible for the F-1 Visa.
Why an F-1 Visa Lawyer
- Completing the F-1 Visa Petition and Immigrant Visa Application;
- Submission of a complete packet with all supporting affidavits and evidence demonstrating eligibility for the visa; and
- Guidance throughout the process until arrival in the U.S.
Requirements for F-1 Visa Application
To be granted this visa, a person must meet the following requirements:
Residency – An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa and as such, does not grant permanent residency in the US. Since the student needs to return to their home country after their academic program ends, the F-1 visa applicant must have official residency in a foreign country.
Admission – Prior admission to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved school is necessary to qualify for an F-1 visa. The admission to the school must be done before you submit your visa application. Many of the visa application steps require forms submitted by the program, so without prior admission, you will be unable to complete many of the visa application steps.
Financial Support – the F-1 visa requires proof of sufficient financial support of a visa applicant who plans to study in the U.S.. Some documents that can demonstrate proof include scholarship notifications, bank statements, tax returns, and affidavits of support from parents or other family members.
Ties to Home Country – One of the most important qualifications for an F-1 visa is proving strong ties to the student’s home country. This validates that the student plans to return to their home country after their academic program ends, as an F-1 visa only allows temporary residency.
Benefits of F-1 Visa
- Right to study in the U.S.;
- Right to work on campus after the first year;
- Ability to apply for and transition to a work visa after graduation;
- Can bring dependents (spouse and children under 21) to the US in F-2 dependent status; and
- Have a 60 day grace period to leave the country after the visa expires.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Student visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date for a course of study. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States on your student visa more than 30 days before the start date.
Student visas for continuing students may be issued at any time, as long as the student is currently enrolled at a SEVP-approved school or institution and in SEVIS. Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before classes start.
For those applying from outside the U.S., once a student is admitted to an approved course of study or academic program, they will need to complete a Nonimmigrant Visa Application, pay visa fees, and submit the required documentation. The student will then be scheduled for an interview where they will answer questions related to their visa. They will then be issued a visa to enter the U.S.
For those applying from within the U.S. and doing a change of status to an F-1 visa, the process is similar but slightly different.
Interviews are required for those in between the ages of 14 and 79. If you are younger or older than that range, an interview is generally not required.
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Each individual who needs a visa must submit a separate application, including any family members listed in your passport.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
- Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students, Form I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students, Form I-20
F-1 students may bring dependents (spouse and children under 21) to the US in F-2 dependent status. The legal status of the dependent(s) in the US depends entirely on the legal status of the F-1 student. If the F-1 student falls out of status, the dependent(s) will also fall out of status.
F-2 dependent spouses are not allowed to study full-time in a degree program. They may take non-academic, avocational courses. They may also study part-time in a degree program. F-2 dependent children may attend elementary, middle, and secondary school. If F-2 dependents want to study full-time, they must change their status to a F-1, J-1 or M-1 Visa.
F-2 dependents cannot pursue paid employment. They may do volunteer work as long as there is no compensation of any kind and the volunteer position is a job usually done by volunteers.
- Keep in mind that if your visa interviewer believes you do not plan to return to your home country once your academic program ends, they may deny your visa application. You can prove ties to your home country by showing that in your home country, you have family or relatives that you need to take care of, a job offer waiting, a home where you plan to reside after your program, or a family business you want to take over. If none of these apply, you can demonstrate how you plan to use your U.S. education in your home country instead. We will work with you to demonstrate strong ties to your home country.
F-1 students do have the option of working on campus subject to certain requirements. They may not work off-campus during the first academic year. After the first academic year, F-1 students can pursue three types of off-campus employment and obtain work authorization (EAD):
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT);
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion); and
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension.
For F-1 students, any off-campus training employment must be related to the student’s area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS. A F-1 visa does not automatically grant the student the option to pursue off-campus employment but instead the student must fall into one of the three above work authorization categories.
Please read our post on working on a F-1 student visa.
While on an F-1 visa, you are able to travel outside the U.S. and re-enter provided you present the required documentation:
- Passport valid for at least six months into the future.
- Unexpired F-1 visa valid for further entries.
- I-20 re-certified within twelve months of the date on which you will return to the U.S..
- Proof of full time enrollment.
- Current financial documentation (last three months).
Foreign students in the United States with F visas must depart the United States within 60 days after the program end date listed on Form I-20, including any authorized practical training.
Foreign students may request an extension through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website. You can also learn more on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement SEVP website under Maintaining Your Immigration Status While a Student or Exchange Visitor here.
Failure to depart the United States on time will result in being out of status. Under U.S. immigration law, visas of individuals who are out of status are automatically voided. Any multiple entry visa that was voided due to being out of status will not be valid for future entries into the United States.