F1 Visa

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

1. What is F-1 student visa?

The F-1 student visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows foreign students to enter into the U.S. to attend a full course of study at colleges, universities, conservatories, academic high schools (subject to strict regulations) and institutions with language training programs.

2. How do I qualify for F-1 visa?

To qualify for F-1 visa, you must:

  1. Be proficient in English, unless you are coming to the U.S. to participate in an English language training program. In some cases the school may make special arrangements to teach you English
  2. Prove that you have sufficient funds to complete your education
  3. Be coming to attend a full course of study by a school approved by the USCIS
  4. Have Form I-20A-B issued by your school
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3. What privileges do I enjoy on F-1 visa?

On F-1 visa, you may:

  1. Come to the U.S. as a full time academic or language student enrolled in a program leading to a degree or certificate
  2. Transfer from one school to another or switch academic programs by notifying the change to the USCIS
  3. Legally work part time on-campus. You may even seek off-campus employment if it is economically necessary or if it involves practical training
  4. Travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. until the completion of your studies
  5. Bring your dependents on F-2 visa

4. What are the limitations of F-1 visa?

On F-1 visa, you may:

  1. Work off-campus only with prior USCIS permission
  2. Attend the specific educational institution for which your visa has been approved
  3. Bring your dependents, however, they may not work in the U.S.
  4. Not apply for a U.S. Green Card

5. How long can I stay in the U.S. on F-1 visa?

The Form I-20 indicates the length of time you may stay to finish your course of study. The U.S. government takes a generous position towards students who are enrolled in full time courses in U.S. universities. You are permitted to stay until you finish your studies.

6. Can I extend my stay in the U.S. on F-1 visa if I am unable to complete my studies in the assigned time?

Yes, you may apply for extension of stay if you need extra time to complete your studies. Your Form I-20 can be extended by the designated school official. The I-20 extension should be filed along with your passport, Form I-94, Arrival-Departure document, a letter stating the reason for your extension.

7. Can I change status while on F-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply for change of status while on F-1 visa. The most preferred change is F-1 to H-1B. You may avail of other options like M-1H-3.

8. Are there any travel restrictions on F-1 visa?

No, there are no travel restrictions on F-1 visa. You may use the vacation between two semesters or other holidays to visit your home or enjoy your vacation. While re-entering the U.S. you must have the following documents:

  1. A valid Form I-20A-B with a recent signature of the school advisor
  2. A valid passport
  3. A valid visa (unless you go to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands and return within 30 days; or unless you are a Canadian citizen)
  4. Proof of your financial support

9. Can I work on F-1 visa?

Yes, you may work on-campus on F-1 visa. However, you may not work off-campus during the first academic year. You must prove that you have sufficient funds to cover your education and living expenses while applying for the visa. This category of Employment Authorization recognizes that ‘unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control’ provide legitimate reasons to request off-campus work permission.

10. Can I change status while on F-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply for change of status while on F-1 visa. The most preferred change is F-1 to H-1B. You may avail of other options like M-1, H-3.

  1. Have been in F-1 status for one academic year
  2. Be in good academic standing and be registered as a full-time student
  3. Be able to handle effectively your employment and schedule as a full-time student
  4. Have made a serious attempt to find on-campus work
  5. Be able to demonstrate that your changed circumstances are unexpected, beyond your control, and are causing financial hardship

11. What are 'unforeseen circumstances' for the purpose of off-campus employment?

Unforeseen circumstances exist:

  1. If the university reduces or eliminates your financial aid through no fault of yours; that is, if budgets change, or a professor leaves and takes the research grant that paid you. This category could include the elimination of your on-campus job. It does not include the lose of your on-campus employment through poor performance
  2. If the university drastically raises its costs or if living expenses suddenly increase. The regulations do not define the size of the increase, but the bigger the increase, the better your claim
  3. In case there are unexpected and necessary expenses. The regulations discuss ‘other substantial or unexpected expenses’ without defining them. These would need to be necessary expenses, such as medical bills or some type of emergency
  4. When there is an unexpected change in your financial source, which could be family, home government, or sponsor. Your father could lose his job, your government could devalue its currency, or a sponsor could decline further support

12. How long does it take to obtain an Employment Authorization Document for off-campus employment?

You may have to wait for about three months before you receive a response from the USCIS. If your request is approved, you will receive an EAD card valid for up to one year. You may then begin working off-campus. You may not legally work off-campus before receiving your EAD. This authorization can be renewed by USCIS by going through the same process.

13. How do I apply for F-1 visa?

To apply for F-1 visa, you must submit:

  1. Completed Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Each applicant should submit a separate application
  2. A passport valid for travel to the U.S and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay
  3. Two photographs (37 x 37mm), showing full face, without head covering, against a light background
  4. The letter of admission from the school you plan to study in
  5. The signed Form I-20A-B
  6. A statement that you will leave the U.S. after the completion of your study
  7. Proof of permanent residence in your home country, which you do not intend to abandon

Note: The Form I-20 does not guarantee receipt of an F-1 visa. The local Consular official makes the final decision on the issue of a student visa.

14. Where do I file my F-1 visa application?

  1. You have to apply at the U.S. consulate near the place of your residence
  2. If you are already in the U.S. on another nonimmigrant status, you may apply for change of status to F-1. You should apply to study at a USCIS approved school in the U.S. If you are admitted, the school will issue you Form I-20A-B. You should submit this Form and a Form I-539 to the USCIS. If the USCIS approves the application, a new Form I-94 will be issued to you.

15. What is the processing time for F-1 visa?

The processing time for F-1 visa is generally one business day at most posts. It is often issued on the same day the application is made. This does not account for background check that may be required.

16. Can I bring my dependents on F-1 visa?

Yes, you may bring your spouse or unmarried children under the age 21 on F-2 dependent visa.

17. Can my dependents work on F-2 visa?

No, your dependents may not work on F-2 status. They have to apply for the appropriate work visa.

18. Can my dependents study on F-2 visa?

Yes, your dependents may study on F-2 visa. They do not have to apply for separate study visa.

19. Under what circumstances could I 'fall out of status'?

The F-1 visa regulations require you to ‘maintain status.’ You may fall out of status if you:

  1. Fail to maintain full-time enrollment (with a few approved exceptions)
  2. Work illegally, either off-campus without authorization or on-campus more than 20 hours per week during school or more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session
  3. Fail to request a program extension and continue to study past the degree completion date listed in your Form I-20A-B
  4. Transfer schools without following the appropriate procedure (getting a new Form I-20A-B and having it processed by an International Student Adviser at the new school)
  5. Do not attend the school that the USCIS authorized you to attend

20. Can I bring my dependents on F-1 visa?

To apply for reinstatement you must write a letter to the USCIS explaining the reasons why you violated status and why you should be reinstated. Indicate the hardships that will result: should USCIS fail to reinstate you, and/or that your violation occurred because of circumstances beyond your control.

Note: If you are denied reinstatement, you have 30 days in which to leave the U.S. If you receive a denial, contact us to see if you may change status to other nonimmigrant category.

21. What are the requirements for a transfer to another school?

For transferring to another school, you must:

  1. Be a full-time student, and you intend to be a full-time student at the new school
  2. Should prove that you have the financial resources required for your education
  3. Not change your educational objective

22. Can our school waive the tuition requirement for a deserving F-1 foreign high school student?

No, the law does not allow a foreign student in F-1 status to attend public secondary school without paying tuition. The student must pay the full, unsubsidized per capita (for each student) cost of education in all cases.

23. Do the new provisions affect all foreign students?

No, the provisions only affect students in F-1 status, or applicants for F-1 visas, who plan to attend public schools or publicly funded adult education programs. These provisions do not affect J-1 exchange students, and students whose parents are diplomats, researchers or foreign workers.

24. How do the provisions affect F-1 students in private schools?

Foreign students attending private schools, or in privately funded adult education or language programs, are not subject to the requirements in Section 625. However, if a private school student wishes to transfer to a public school or a publicly funded adult education or language program, he or she will have to comply with Section 625 in order to maintain F-1 status.

25. Can our adult education program continue issuing I-20s if we charge full tuition?

The new law prohibits the issuance of F-1 visas to attend publicly funded adult education programs. The INS interim guidance defines publicly-funded adult education as ‘education, training or English-as-second-language programs operated by, through or for a local public school district, system, agency or authority, regardless of whether such a program charges fees or tuition.’ Programs falling under this definition can no longer accept students in F-1 status, even if tuition is charged.

26. Can organizations or individuals sponsor an F-1 foreign student to attend public secondary school?

Yes, nothing in the new law precludes an organization or individual from reimbursing the school authority on the student’s behalf, as long as payment does not come from public funds. In addition, previous requirements that a foreign student has sufficient funds to cover education and living expenses while in the U.S. have not changed.

27. What does 'unsubsidized' mean with respect to the cost of providing education?

The unsubsidized cost is the LEA’s total expenditure per student, excluding any fees and charges to the individual student. It includes expenditures from all public revenue sources including local, state and federal funds. All public expenditures would include all operating and capital expenditures (such as for instructional, support and non-instructional services; equipment acquisition; and facilities and construction), from all public revenue sources.

28. Does a K-12 district need to compute a separate per student cost for secondary students?

No, unified school districts may utilize the K-12 per student cost, rather than computing a separate per student cost for secondary students. Alternatively, the LEA may choose to compute cost on a school-by-school basis.

29. What is the per student basis to be used in calculating the unsubsidized per capital cost for F-1 students? Is it fall membership, average daily attendance or average daily membership?

The per student basis used should be the same as that used by the LEA, in accordance with state law or policy, for calculating per student cost or non-resident tuition for students from other school districts.

30. What if my F-1 visa expires while I am in the U.S.?

Your F-1 visa does not determine how long you may stay in the U.S. You need not be concerned about the expiration of your F-1 unless you decide to leave the U.S. for a short visit abroad prior to completing your studies. Before you re-enter the U.S., you will need to make sure you have a valid US student visa. The F-1 visa itself (unlike your F-1 status) is only important at the port of entry to the U.S.

31. When must I renew my F-1 visa?

You must renew your F-1 visa if you decide to travel outside the U.S. and your current F-1 visa will expire before you re-enter the U.S. to continue your program. If this is the case, you will need to apply for another F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Students traveling to Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the U.S. (except Cuba) for less than 30 days are not required to have a current F-1 visa in their passport in order to re-enter as their visa gets automatically revalidated at the border.

32. What documents will prove my intent to return to my home country after the completion of my studies?

While there is no set documentation to indicate your intent to return to your home country, your application for an F-1 visa will more likely be approved if you maintain closer ties to your home country than to the U.S. which can be shown in the following ways:

  1. Your immediate family members reside in your home country
  2. You own property and or maintain a bank account in your home country
  3. The likelihood of employment at home in your field of study after you complete your degree is great. (Provide evidence of job searches or interviews you have done)
  4. You have made frequent visits home (every year or 18 months)
  5. You have maintained membership in cultural organizations at home while you have studied in the U.S.
  6. You have maintained important social ties in your home country

33. Can I apply for F-1 visa in a country other than my home country?

Yes, you may apply for a F-1 visa in a ‘third country’ other than your home country, unless you are subject to the ‘visa overstay’ provisions of the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA).

34. In what situations can my F-1 visa be denied?

Your F-1 visa application may be denied if:

  1. You intend to make an application in a ‘third country’ (e.g., you are from P.R. China, but you intend to go to Canada to obtain an F-1 visa)
  2. This is your first application for an F-1 visa
  3. You are returning home after a long stay in the U.S. (Three or more years)
  4. There is a serious political or economic crisis in your home country
  5. You are engaged in practical training after the completion of your academic program
  6. You have limited time to obtain your visa. (Your visit will only be for a short period of time)
  7. You are waiting for the results of an application for permanent residency (immigrant status) or you are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

35. What can I do if my visa request is denied?

If your visa application is denied, before you leave the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, obtain an explanation of the specific reason you are denied the visa and ask about re-application procedures. Also, try to obtain the full name of the officer who interviewed you, as well as her or his fax number. The International Student and Scholar Office at the school you attend or plan to attend may be able to help you, if you can provide this information.

36. Does the Section 625 of the law affect all foreign students?

No, the law affects only students in F-1 status, or applicants for F-1 visas, who plan to attend public schools or publicly funded adult education. The law does not affect other foreign students, such as children of exchange visitors, diplomats or foreign workers.

37. How does the law affect F-1 students in private schools?

Foreign students who attend private schools or privately funded adult education or language programs are not affected by the law. However, if a private school student wants to transfer to a public school or a publicly funded adult education or language program, he or she must follow the requirements of Section 625 of the law.

38. Can organizations or individuals sponsor an F-1 foreign student to attend public secondary school?

Yes, nothing in the law prevents an organization or individual from paying the tuition costs for the student. However, the payment may not come from public funds. The foreign student must still show that he/she has sufficient funds to cover education and living expenses while in the U.S.

39. What is a B-2 visa with a 'prospective student' annotation?

You may request a ‘B-2 Prospective Student’ visa only if you have been admitted to a university but have not yet received your I-20 and will not receive it before your appointment at the U.S. Consulate. If the Embassy agrees to give you a B-2 Prospective Student visa you must make certain that the words ‘Prospective Student’ are printed on the visa by the consul. If those words are not on the B-2 visa it will be a violation of immigration regulations if you enroll in classes after you arrive in the U.S.

40. Is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) applicable for F-1 visa?

Yes, the SEVIS is applicable to F-1 visa holders. This system monitors the status of persons who enter the U.S. with an F, M or J visa. In order for students or exchange visitors and their dependents to qualify for an F, M or J visa, the school or exchange program in the U.S. must issue a Certificate of Student Status (I-20) or Certificate of Exchange Visitor Status (DS-2019) on a SEVIS-generated form and must register each person on the SEVIS website. Each applicant must submit a SEVIS-generated I-20 or DS-2019 with a unique barcode number and must be listed on the SEVIS website.