Are you a foreign student?
Would to you like to pursue your education in the U.S.?
If you’re responding “Yes” to the above questions, then the F-1 visa is likely the best choice for you! Every year, the United States attracts many students from all over the world who intend to enhance their education. A 2010 First Quarter Summary from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reports that over 750,000 nonimmigrant students are actively involved in educational studies in the U.S this year, with nearly 400,000 of those in university bachelor’s and master’s degree programs!
The F-1, or student visa, allows students to enter the U.S. to accomplish this mission. In order for a person to qualify for an F-1 student visa, he or she should be accepted for enrollment in an established SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified school in the United States. These SEVP schools are designated as legitimate schools approved to issue visas to foreign nationals. With an F-1 visa, a student can study at an accredited institution in the United States and is also eligible to work on campus. Upon completion of most educational programs, the student is allowed to obtain an optional practical training, where he or she is allowed to work with an employer for approximately one additional year. For more information regarding the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), please refer to this link.
What are the qualifications for an F-1 visa?
To qualify for an F-1 visa, an applicant must demonstrate that he or she:
- Has a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
- Intends to depart from the United States upon completion of his or her course of study;
- Possesses sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study;
- Must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency. Most students from non-English speaking countries are required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language Exam) and the TSE (Test of Speaking English Exam); and,
- Has met the basic qualifications to enroll in a university in the United States; for example, if a student has completed his or her bachelor’s degree in a foreign country, he or she then applies for a master’s degree program in the United States
What are the first steps in obtaining an F-1 visa?
The first step in obtaining an F-1 visa is being accepted for enrollment in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school in the U.S. For a list of SEVP approved schools, please visit the official U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
Please note: Each respective school’s application provides detailed information about the requirements necessary to apply for their program of study. For example, if you are applying for a graduate program, most schools will require that the student complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) examinations. If a student is applying for an undergraduate program, most schools will require the SAT exam. The GMAT is required when a foreign student intends to apply for an MBA program in the United States, and the GMAT is generally required when a student intends to pursue a master’s degree in other fields. If the student is considering applying for a law degree, he will be required to take the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) if he or she intends to pursue medical school.
After a student has provided the school with any required test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, fees, etc., the student will be informed whether or not he or she has been admitted. If the student has been admitted, the school will provide the student with a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status form, commonly referred to as the I-20 form, which the student will need to bring along with their acceptance letter from the school, educational certificates, proof of funds, etc. to the U.S. Consulate. Upon review, the Consular Officer will either accept or deny the student’s application. Upon arrival to the school, the student should contact their International Student Advisor for further information as soon as possible.
What are the requirements for obtaining an F-1 visa?
A prospective F-1 visa applicant must provide the completed Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students or I-20 form. As previously mentioned, this form must be completed on behalf of the student by their approved school. A prospective F-1 visa applicant should also be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from prior schools attended by the student;
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution, e.g., TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
- Financial evidence that shows that the prospective student or parents who are sponsoring the student have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of the student’s intended study in the United States.
Note that an interview is required as a part of the F-1 visa process for applicants between the ages of 14 and 79. A fingerprint scan will also be taken. A Consular Officer will make the final decision about whether the student has demonstrated a nonimmigrant intent and qualifies for an F-1 visa. Nonimmigrant intent refers to the student’s objective (which must be documented) to return to his home country after he completes his educational program in the United States.
Can I work on an F-1 Visa?
As mentioned in the introduction, students may participate in work-study programs on campus at their respective schools, after consulting their International Student Advisor. Upon completion of their studies, the student can apply to obtain optional practical training. The optional training program in valid for one year. The duration for the optional training program is usually 12 months but in the science or engineering field it is extended to 17 months.
How long can I stay in the U.S. on my F-1 student visa?
Usually on an F-1 student visa, you may stay as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa authorization date in your passport expires while you are in the U.S. upon completion of your studies, you may remain for approximately one additional year, if you are approved to pursue optional practical training in the U.S. upon completion of your program or optional practical training, you have 60 days to depart from the U.S. or change your status.
Can my wife and children accompany me to the U.S. on an F-1 visa?
Yes, you can.
Eg: Your spouse and children under twenty- one (21) years of age can accompany you to the United States. However, your spouse and children are not allowed to work, unless they change their status to another visa category.