What is the F-1 Student Visa?

The F-1 Visa is a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education (language training programs and/or academic studies) in the United States.
Any non-US citizen who wants to study in the USA must apply for the F-1 Student Visa.
F-1 students must maintain a fullcourse of study.

F-1 Students Visa Requirements
and Application

F-1 Student Visa Requirements

Students must:

  • Attend an SEVP approved language training program or academic institution
  • Maintain full-time status
  • Demonstrate financial ability to pay for their cost of living and studying in the United States
  • Maintain a foreign residence and demonstrate intent to return upon course completion

F-1 Student Visa Application

These are the steps to apply for the F-1 Student Visa:

  1. Decide where and what you want to study
  2. Complete the application process at your chosen school
  3. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee
  4. Schedule a Visa Interview
  5. Complete the Online Visa Application
    1. Attend the Visa Interview

F-1 Visa Interview – How to prepare

Documents and payments

You should take complete and concise supporting documentation to the appointment. Some of the supporting documents include:

  1. Certified Form I-20
  2. SEVIS I-901 Payment Confirmation
  3. Documentation of ties to your home country (if applicable)
  4. Original identification documents and two recent passport-style photos
  5. Your Letter of Acceptance and if applicable other educational supporting documents
  6. Financial supporting documents
  7. Health records (if applicable)
Interview Questions

These are some of the topics that you need to prepare to answer in your F-1 Student Visa Interview:

  • Study Plans
  • School Choice
  • Academic Studies (past and future)
  • Financial Status
  • Post-Course Plans

F-1 Students Visa Validity

How long is the F-1 visa valid for?

F-1 visas may be valid for entry to the United States for up to 10 years, but F-1 status (the ability to legally remain in the United States while enrolled in a full course of study) typically lasts for the duration of the student’s approved course.

How to maintain your F-1 status

All F-1 students must maintain status.
To maintain status, a student must follow the rules and regulations associated with being a student on an F-1 visa.

Students must maintain a full course of study, which includes faithful attendance if enrolled in a clock hour program (such as an English language training program), comply with all F-1 requirements, and obey all federal, state and local laws.

  • Arrival: You must arrive within 30 days of your program start date and report to school on time.
  • Maintain Full Time Status: You must study full time and attend class regularly.
  • Annual vacation: You must follow the rules regarding annual vacations.
  • Departure: Upon successful completion of your program, you will have 60 days to leave the United States or transfer to another SEVP approved program or institution.

How long can I stay in the US after graduation or course completion?

After successfully completing their course, F-1 students have 60 days to leave the United States or to transfer out to another SEVP-certified institution.
Once an F-1 student departs the United States after completing his or her course, the student’s grace period ends and the student may not reenter the country in F status.

Can I leave the US while I am studying with an F-1 Student Visa?

While F-1 students have the legal right to leave the United States at any time, they may only return to the United States in F-1 status if they receive written permission from an authorized designated school official (DSO) at their school.
In order to legally reenter the United States, a DSO must complete the travel endorsement section of the student’s form I-20, which is found on page 2 of the I-20.

F-1 Students Visa Rules

Can I travel with my family?

Under U.S. immigration law, only the legal spouse and minor children (in this case, those under the age of 21) of F-1 students qualify for F-2 status.
The spouse and children of F-1 students are known as “dependents.”
Dependents over the age 14 must usually be present for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to be granted an F-2 visa.

I’m already in the USA as a tourist. Can I change my tourist visa (B-1/B-2) to a student visa (F-1)?

Provided that you are lawfully present in the United States with a tourist visa (B-1/B-2) and have at least 30 days remaining in your stay (based on the date stamped in your passport), you may apply to change your status from B-1/B-2 to F-1.

However, it often takes many months for USCIS to adjudicate change of status applications, so if starting your studies soon is a priority for you, you may want to consider returning to your home country to apply for initial attendance from abroad.

This typically takes only a few weeks.
Note that tourists in the United States on a visa waiver through the ESTA system are not eligible to apply for F-1 status while in the United States.

I’m already studying at a school in the USA.
Can I transfer to a different school?

If you are already an F-1 student in the United States, you may transfer to another school certified by SEVP to enroll F-1 students.

However, you may not transfer to a vocational training program that enrolls foreign students on M-1 visas without applying for a change of status (if eligible) or returning home to apply for the M-1 visa from abroad.
Note that M-1 students may not apply for a change of status to F-1 under U.S. immigration law.

F-1 students may transfer to another SEVP-certified school at any time during their program or during their 60 day grace period, which begins upon the student’s successful completion of his or her program.

F-1 Students Visa: Work

Can I work with an F-1 Student Visa?

F-1 visa students may legally work in the United States under certain conditions, but only if they receive prior authorization from a designated school official.

F-1 students enrolled in a college or university degree program may work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session.
Such students may on work off campus only if they experience unexpected financial hardship that occurs after they enroll.

F-1 language students may only work on campus and only if the language institution or program offers on-campus employment, which most do not.

Learn more >

What is OPT?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a one-year period during which undergraduate students may legally work in order to obtain practical job training to complement or complete their educational program.
Only undergraduate degree-seeking F-1 students are eligible for OPT.
F-1 language students are not eligible for OPT under U.S. immigration law.

Can an F-1 student apply for a green card?

No – unless the individual is otherwise qualified, such as due to being married to a United States citizen.
F-1 visa students must return to their home country within 60 days of the completion of their program.

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