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 Non-immigrant Student Status) which is provided by the US college or university that the student has been accepted to and will attend.
Requirements for Qualification
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 for 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.
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.
If you need assistance with meeting your funding goals, the international financial aid section offers advice and options to help you meet your needs. Learn More
Post-Completion OPT (Optional Practical Training)
An F-1 student is generally entitled to 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. Learn more about OPT