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.
F1 students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date on their I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status) which is provided by the US college or university that the student has been accepted to and will attend.
F1 Visa Qualifications
In order to qualify, applicants need to satisfy and prove several strict criteria during an F1 visa interview, including the following:
- Foreign Residence
- F-1 applicants must have a foreign residence and must intend to return there upon the completion of their studies.
- Sponsoring Institution
- While on your F-1 visa, you may only study at the academic institution through which the visa was granted.
- Financial Support
- Applicants must demonstrate sufficient financial support — the Study USA Financing Guide can help you prepare for this aspect of your time abroad.
- Ties to Home Country
- All applicants must demonstrate that they have strong ties to their home country.
Strong ties consist of, but are not limited to, the following:
- A job offer letter upon completion of studies
- Assets (i.e., house, land, vehicle, etc.)
- Bank accounts
Applying for an F1 Visa
Different universities have different admission policies. Your university will tell you what they need to determine if you are academically eligible. Among 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. 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.
Where to Apply for Your F1 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.
Always protect yourself by keeping a copy of everything that you fill out and send off.
Items to Provide With Your Application
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:
- Application Fee
- 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.
- Form DS-160
- All applicants will need to complete and submit DS-160 , the online application for a non-immigrant visa.
- Form DS-157
- A DS-157 form for all males aged 16-45.
- Valid Passport
- 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.
- 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
If you are looking to get your F-1 student visa, then you won't want to miss our application timeline on what steps you should take and when. View the Application Timeline
F1 Visa Interview
An 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 expenses in the US are 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.
Examples of F1 Visa Interview Questions
- Why did you choose to study in the US instead of joining the workforce in your home country?
- Why did you choose this school and why is it the best school for you?
- What are your test scores ( GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, IELTS ), your GPA, and your overall performance as a student in the past?
- How are you funding the entire duration of your education, including tuition, room and board, transportation, and all other expenses?
- After you graduate, will you return home or will you stay in the United States?
Your consular officer may ask these questions in different ways, but they are all asked for the same purpose - to be sure that you qualify for the F-1 visa, as stated above. If these questions are answered in a satisfactory manner, the consular officer can approve your application.
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.
F-1 Visa Denials
If your F1 visa application is denied, it is based on US immigration law. If you are denied, the reason and section of law you are denied under will be given to you in your paperwork. Some applications are denied because the applicant failed to provide necessary information or supporting documentation as required. Sometimes, however, you can be found ineligible for other reasons.
Of course, if you do not meet the F-1 Visa Qualifications as stated above, you can expect to be found ineligible. For example, if you do not sufficiently demonstrate that the strong ties to your home country will influence you to return home after your stay in the US, you will be denied under INA section 214(b), Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent.
Other common reasons for denial include Fraud or Misrepresentation, Unlawful Presence in the United States, Health-related grounds, Criminal-related grounds, or Security-related grounds. To learn more about visa denials and to see if you are eligible for a waiver or to reapply, the US Department of State website is a great resource.
Maintaining Valid F-1 Status After You Arrive
After you are approved for your F1 visa, you are able to enter the United States as an international student. However, after you arrive, you will need to stay aware of your obligations as an F1 visa holder. If you do not maintain your valid F-1 visa status, you will not be allowed to return to re-enter the US if you leave and you will not be eligible for practical training (OPT or CPT) or on-campus employment. Here are some tips to assure you’re in good standing during your study abroad:
Make sure you arrive in the US no more than 30 days prior to the first day of classes. Check in with your international advisor as soon as possible before your program begins.
During Your Program
You must remain enrolled full time. Go to class and maintain passing grades. If you are having difficulty in your classes, notify your international advisor. If you are unable to complete your program by the date listed on your Form I-20, your international advisor can help you request a program extension.
Your passport should be valid for at least 6-months in the future. Your country’s consulate or embassy can help you extend your passport if needed. Carry a copy of your passport with you along with your I-94 card for identification purposes.
Always notify your international advisor or office if you make changes to your address, study plans, or visa status.
F1 visa students are not allowed to work off-campus. However, you may have some on-campus work or curricular practical training options if you qualify. Check with your international advisor to see if this is a possibility for you. If you choose to work without proper authorization, your visa will be revoked and you will be forced to leave the United States.
Upon Program Completion
You have 60 days upon completion of your program to leave the United States under your F1 visa. To remain in the US, you will need to re-enroll in a higher program, transfer to another school to receive a new I-20 form, or apply to change your visa status. Your international advisor can give you more information regarding your options.