If you are a foreign student, chasing an opportunity to study in the United States or looking for a way to attend an academic program or English language program at one of the U.S colleges or universities then look no further this article is what you need!
Everything you must know about F1 visas for international students, starting from all the requirements, rules, conditions and status is mentioned here in this simplified step-by-step guide.
Keep reading to know more! You can also check the process of obtaining a student visa to have a much more comprehensive idea about student visas.
What is an F-1 Visa?
The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits foreign students to enter and live in the United States temporarily, for a defined period and to study at institutions such as schools, colleges, seminaries, or conservatories.
Keep in mind that those institutions have to be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and certified under the (SEVP) which refers to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. To do that and apply for an F-1 visa you must be accepted into one of those accredited institutions. This is completely different to the J1 visa route which involves internship and is quite popular in the hospitality industry.
If you manage to obtain an F-1 visa, the duration of your stay in the United States will depend mainly on the duration of the program in which you enrolled.
Therefore, you must obtain your degree before the expiration date since that will allow you to apply for an (OPT) which is an optional practical training. Therefore, having the possibility of extending your stay within the U.S. for an additional 12 months.
Keep in mind that, if you do come to the U.S. through an F-1 visa you may be able to work but since it is a non-immigration visa, the nature of your work and its place will be restricted. Moreover, if you are married and have children, your spouse will unfortunately not be able to work in the U.S. but your children will have the chance to study at a U.S. school after joining you through an F-2 visa tied to your current visa status.
STEM graduates can exceptionally request two additional years of work in a field related to their studies otherwise you must be ready to leave the U.S. within 60 days of your graduation.
F-1 Visa Requirements
If you are planning to apply for an F-1 visa, certain requirements must be met to make sure that your application gets accepted:
- A valid passport: you must have a valid passport for at least six months after the date of your program completion to travel to the U.S
- Residency status in your home country: you must have a valid residency status in your home country after the completion of your study program in the U.S.
- Sufficient funding: you must have enough funds to finance your study and living expenses during your stay in the U.S.
- English language proficiency: you must meet the required English language proficiency score at the institution that you are planning to enrol in, or simply enrol in an English language course that will help you improve your proficiency.
- Certification of the institution: the institution that you are considering must be certified by the (SEVP) Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.
- Full-time enrollment at a certified institution: you must be enrolled in a study program as a full-time student.
F-1 Visa Application Process
Certain measures must be taken before applying for an F-1 visa, which includes the following:
3.1 As mentioned on multiple occasions above, it is clear that you need to be accepted by a SEVP-certified institution before submitting your application, which proves that your institution is accredited with the necessary resources to provide you with an education. Next and after being accepted, you will get an I-20 form, since it provides supporting information about your stay and study plans and it is mandatory to apply for the F1 visa.
When your I-20 is issued, it will provide the following information and record it in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS):
- The SEVIS ID number.
- The study program start and end dates.
- The intended program of study.
- The sources of funding.
- The Cost of attendance at your school of choice
- Additional personal information
Before signing the bottom of your I-20’s first page, make sure to carefully read everything and make the necessary verifications to avoid getting denied access to the country.
1. Paying your SEVIS fees
The average cost of an F-1 visa is around 510$, including maintenance and processing fees which you can apply for at the payment portal of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s official website. Do not forget to save your payment receipt, as you will need it later at the visa interview.
2. Completing the DS-160 visa application
The DS-160 visa application requires your I-20 form, your passport, your travel itinerary and a photo for your F-1 visa. In addition to that, you will need to pay an estimated fee of 160$ at the application portal of the U.S. Department of State. If you succeed in correctly submitting your DS-160 application, you will shortly receive a confirmation containing a barcode, which you must save and use later on during your interview.
3. Scheduling the visa interview date
As waiting time can take long and up to several months, you should set up your appointment at the nearest consulate or embassy to you as soon as possible to avoid wasting time. Remember: the sooner the better!
4. Attending the visa interview
Attending the visa interview is an essential step in obtaining your F1 visa, and being there in person is mandatory except in a few cases (such as if you are younger than 14 years old or older than 80 years old or again if you meet certain visa renewal requirements).
Your DS-160 payment covers the cost of the interview, which you can schedule at the portal of the Department of State’s official website. Right after successfully attending your interview, you will be granted an F1 visa and finally be able to study in the United States!