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
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.
Who Qualifies for F-1 Visa?
To qualify for an F-1 visa, an individual must be a full-time student at an accredited academic institution in the United States. The individual must also have a valid Form I-20, which is issued by the school, and must be able to demonstrate that they have enough financial resources to cover the cost of their education and living expenses while in the United States. Additionally, the individual must have a valid passport, and must be able to demonstrate that they have ties to their home country that will ensure their return after completing their studies.
How to Apply for F-1 Visa?
To apply for an F-1 visa, an individual must follow these steps:
- Obtain a Form I-20 from the academic institution in the United States that the individual will be attending.
- Pay the SEVIS fee, which is required for all F-1 visa applicants.
- Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Some countries may also require you to schedule a biometrics appointment.
- Prepare all required documents, including a valid passport, Form I-20, proof of financial support, and any other required documents as per the U.S. embassy or consulate instructions.
- Attend the visa interview and provide all required documents. The consular officer will determine whether the individual is eligible for an F-1 visa.
- If the visa is approved, pay the visa fee and wait for the visa to be issued.
- Once the visa is issued, the individual can use it to enter the United States.
What is the F-1 Visa Interview Process?
The F-1 visa interview process is a face-to-face meeting between the applicant and a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The purpose of the interview is to determine whether the applicant is eligible for an F-1 visa, and to verify the information provided in the visa application.
During the interview, the consular officer will ask the applicant questions about their educational background, financial situation, and plans for studying in the United States. The officer may also ask about the applicant’s ties to their home country and their intent to return after completing their studies.
The consular officer may also verify the authenticity of the documents provided in the application such as the Form I-20, financial support documents, and other required documents.
It’s important for the applicant to be prepared for the interview and to be able to answer the questions and provide any additional documentation if asked. It’s also important to be honest and provide complete and accurate information throughout the interview.
The interview process usually takes around 20-30 minutes, but it can vary depending on the individual case. After the interview, the consular officer will inform the applicant whether the visa has been approved, denied, or if further administrative processing is needed.
What are the Required Documents for F-1 Visa?
The required documents for an F-1 visa application typically include:
- A valid passport with at least six months validity beyond the intended stay in the United States.
- Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. This form is issued by the school the applicant will be attending, and must be signed by the applicant and the school official.
- A completed and signed Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
- A passport-style photograph that meets the requirements of the U.S. Department of State.
- Payment of the SEVIS fee and visa application fee.
- Proof of financial support, such as bank statements, scholarship or sponsor letters, and tax returns.
- Academic transcripts, diplomas, and test scores (TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc) as applicable.
- Evidence of ties to home country, such as property ownership, family ties, and a job offer.
- Any additional documents that the U.S. embassy or consulate may require, such as proof of language proficiency, or evidence of your intent to return to your home country after completing your studies.
What is the F-1 Visa Fee?
The F-1 visa fee is $160. This fee must be paid by all applicants seeking an F-1 student visa, regardless of the applicant’s country of origin or the length of their program. This fee is non-refundable, even if the visa application is denied. Additionally, there is a $35 fee for the I-901 SEVIS fee which is required for all students on F-1 and J-1 visa.
What is the F-1 Visa Processing Time?
The F-1 visa processing time can vary depending on several factors such as the location of the embassy or consulate where the application is being processed and the time of year. Typically, the processing time for an F-1 visa application is around 4-6 weeks, but it can take longer during peak travel seasons or if additional security clearance is required. Some embassies and consulates may also offer expedited processing for an additional fee. It’s always best to check with the specific embassy or consulate where the application is being submitted for the most up-to-date processing times.
F-1 Visa Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an F-1 visa?
A: An F-1 visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa for individuals who wish to pursue academic studies in the United States at a college, university, or other academic institution.
- What documents do I need to apply for an F-1 visa?
A: To apply for an F-1 visa, you will need to provide:
- A valid passport
- A completed Form I-20, which is issued by the school you plan to attend
- A completed Form DS-160, which is the online visa application form
- A photograph that meets the requirements for visa photos
- A receipt for the visa fee and SEVIS fee
- How long is an F-1 visa valid for?
A: An F-1 visa is generally valid for the length of your academic program, plus a 60-day grace period.
- Can I work while on an F-1 visa?
A: International students on an F-1 visa are allowed to work on campus. With permission from the school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), they may also be able to work off-campus under certain conditions.
- Can I bring my family with me to the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
A: Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible to join you in the U.S. on an F-2 dependent visa. They will not be allowed to study or work while in the U.S. on an F-2 visa.
- Can I change my status to a different visa while in the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
A: It is possible to change your visa status while in the U.S. on an F-1 visa, however, you should consult with an immigration lawyer before doing so as it is a complex process and you must meet certain requirements.