F-1: Academic Student Visa

What is an F-1 Visa?

F-1 Visas are for students looking to enter a school for academic study with the intent of obtaining a degree, diploma, or certificate. These schools must be authorized by the United States government to enroll foreign or international students. Schools that qualify are listed below:

  • elementary/junior high school
  • high school
  • language programs in an academic institution
  • accredited college or university
  • seminary school
  • conservatory

In order to enter as an academic student and qualify for a F-1 Visa, you must also adhere to the following requirements:

  • You must maintain a foreign residence which you do not intend on giving up
  • You must have sufficient financial support to finish the entire duration of the program
  • You must be accepted by an academic institution or a language learning program
  • You must be enrolled as a full time student in the academic institution
  • You must show proficiency in English or be enrolled in a program that will lead to English proficiency
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Working on the F1 Visa

F-1 Visa holders are limited to on-campus jobs during their first academic year but have several other options during their second year and onward:

  • Curricular Practical Training
    • CPT is temporary employment authorization that must be done before graduation
    • I can be done part time or full time but if completed full time for more than 12 months, you will be ineligible for OPT
  • Optional Practical Training
    • OPT is temporary employment authorization that is directly related to the F-1 visa holder’s field of study
    • Students can apply for an OPT for up to 12 months and can be completed before or after graduation
    • OPT can be completed full time or part time
  • STEM Optional Practical Training
    • STEM OPT is designated for degrees within the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields
    • STEM OPT grants a 24 month extension to stay within the U.S. to work in a related field

Duration of the F-1 Visa

In addition to the CPT or OPT, F1 Visa holders may remain the U.S. for up to 60 days afterwards before returning to their home country.

Related Forms:

I-765 Employment Authorization

DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application