F1 Student Visa
An F1 visa is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university. F-1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. They can remain in the US up to 60 days beyond the length of time it takes to complete their academic program, unless they have applied and been approved to stay and work for a period of time under the OPT program, as described below. F1 students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date on their I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) which is provided by the US college or university that the student has been accepted to and will attend.
In order to qualify, applicants need to satisfy and prove several strict criteria during an F1 visa interview:
- Must have a foreign residence and must intend to return there upon completion of studies;
- Can only study at the academic institution through which the visa was granted;
- Must have sufficient financial support;
- Must have strong ties to home country (e.g. job offer letter upon completion of studies, assets, bank accounts, and family).
An F-1 student is generally entitled up to one year of post-completion optional practical training, or OPT. Authorization for this type of practical training may be granted for a maximum of 12 months and only starts once you have graduated or completed your course of study. Students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can extend their OPT authorization for up to 29 months. Please visit our Working in the USA section for complete information regarding OPT and other permitted employment for F1 students.
Speak to the international students department of your university to get the necessary forms to apply. They will inform you of the different practical training options available to you. Find out about your practical training options when you start to study so you can adequately prepare for the future.
Applying for an F1 Visa
Different universities have different admission policies. Your university will inform you what they need from you in order to determine that you are academically eligible. Amongst other requirements, you will need to show the school that you have enough money to support yourself while studying without having to work and you may have to show health insurance in order to cover any medical expenses should you need any medical assistance. Always protect yourself by keeping a copy of everything that you fill out and send off.
Once the university has determined that your application is complete and you are academically eligible, they will issue an I-20 form to enable you to apply for your student visa.
Applicants for student visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. This will normally be your home country, the country in which you live. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.
Although the process may vary or require additional steps, depending on your country and embassy or consulate, you will need the following when applying for your student visa:
- You will have to pay a non-refundable application fee. This means that if your visa does not get approved, you will not get your money back.
- All applicants will need to complete and submit DS-160 , the online application for a non-immigrant visa.
- A DS-157 form for all males aged 16-45.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
- Photos. You can upload a digital photo that is:
- In color
- Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image's total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
- Taken in front of a plain white or off-white background
- Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
- With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
- Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
F1 Visa Interview
A F1 visa interview will be required to determine whether or not you are qualified to receive an F1 student visa. You should arrive at the interview with all of the required documents and receipts, and you should be prepared ahead of time to answer personal questions about your decision to study in the US.
F1 visa interview questions often include inquiries about your academic qualifications and choice of university. You may be required to prove that you have ties and obligations that would guarantee your return to your home country after your international studies. Most importantly, you will be required to prove that you have the means to finance your education. Education in the US is higher than most countries and being able to present a solid financial plan for the duration of your studies is crucial to pass your F1 visa interview.
If approved, you may be required to pay a visa issuance fee. Digital fingerprint scans will be taken for records. Your passport will be taken so that you can get your visa and you will be informed when you can get it back, either by pick-up or in the mail.
Keep in mind that visa issuance is not guaranteed. Never make final travel plans until you have your visa approved. If your visa is denied, you will be given a reason based on the section of law which applies to your ineligibility. Filing a waiver of ineligibility is possible in some cases.