Visit our Student Center to learn more about how to navigate the US education system - assistance with academic institution and student visa applications!
F-1 Student Visas
In order to study as a full-time student in the United States, you must possess a visa. The F status is a nonimmigrant category specifically designed for international students who wish to study at a US institution. The Law Office of Keshab Raj Seadie, PC, has a long history of helping foreign students by providing information on the visas and on how to obtain degrees in the US. If you are looking to study in the US as a foreign citizen, please contact our office so that we may help you through the process.
To qualify for an F-1 visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be enrolled in an academic educational program or language training program
- Your school must be approved by USCIS
- You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
- You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses designed to lead to English proficiency
- You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
- You must maintain a residence abroad which you have no intention of giving up
The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other academic institution, or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate, and your school must be authorized by the US government to accept international students.
F-1 students may not work off-campus during their first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students who wish to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment after they have studied for at least one academic year. These three types of employment are:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
Any off-campus employment must be related to the student's area of study, and the employment must be authorized by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System - SEVIS) and USCIS.
The first step toward studying in the US is being accepted by a US academic institution. Only after you have been accepted by a SEVP-certified institution can you apply for a student visa. The school will issue you a Form I-20 enrollment document. Visit our Student Center for more information about choosing and applying to schools.
- Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they have been accepted by a SEVP-certified US institution.
- Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue a student visa no more than 120 days in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing.
- Initial or beginning students may enter the US no more than 30 days in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on Form I-120. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the US.
- A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the US (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa, and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the US immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he/she must obtain approval for a change to Student or Exchange Visitor status, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status and pay the fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. You may not begin your studies until the change of classification is approved.
- Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the US at any time before their classes start.
What is SEVIS/SEVP? What should you know about it?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M, and J category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20 issued by an educational institution approved by DHS, which they submit when they are applying for their student visa. Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. The consular officer will need to verify your I-20 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your student visa application. Unless otherwise exempt, all F-1 principal applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the DHS for each individual program. See the SEVP Fact Sheet for a fee list.
Each applicant for a student visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:
- Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form I-20 which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States
One (1) 2x2 photograph.
See the US Department of State's required photo format.
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
All applicants should be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc;
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study.
Spouses and Children
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
- Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (marriage and birth certificates).
- It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Items Do Returning Students Need?
All applicants applying for renewals must submit:
- All items listed in the Required Documentation section and;
- A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.
Students Away from Classes More Than Five Months
Students in or outside the US who have been away from classes for more than five months will likely need a new visa to enter the US.
How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20 and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the US before departure:
- F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the US or to transfer to another school.
As an example regarding duration of status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2009, and you are admitted into the US for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as "D/S"), you may stay in the US as long as you are a full-time student. Even if January 1, 2009 passes and your visa expires while in America, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart the US with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one, applying at an Embassy abroad, before being able to return to America and resume your studies.
Optional Practical Training
Students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must have an I-20 endorsed for OPT and provide a USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD). When authorized, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to the eligible F-1 student's area of study. To learn more about OPT, please visit US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
ICE International Students.