The F-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreigners international students to enter the US to study in certain qualified educational institutions certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
SEVP is a part of the National Security Investigations Division and acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to be students. SEVP manages schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications and their dependents, visitor programs, and nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the J visa .
The F-1 visa is one of the most popular types of student visa for students seeking to study at a US university or college. Thus, international students planning to pursue degrees in full-time academic programs for Bachelor’s, Master’s or doctoral programs must obtain a student visa.
It is crucial to understand that a student visa is a non-immigrant visa. It is a temporary visa and applicants must be aware of this when thinking about the F-1 visa as a path to a longer visa or immigration status. As a F-1 student, the duration of the applicant stay will vary based on the duration of the educational program.
The basic F-1 Visa requirements
There are several F-1 visa rules to keep in mind, the applicant must meet these requirements to be accepted:
– Institution certification. The college or the university where the applicant plans to study needs to be approved by SEVP Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
– Full-time enrollment. The applicant must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution while the academic term is in session.
– English language proficiency. The applicant must meet the required English language proficiency score of the institution or be enrolled in courses that will help improve English proficiency.
– Sufficient funding. The applicant must prove he/she has sufficient funds available to finance the studies and living expenses while in the US.
– Valid passport. The passport should be valid for US travel for at least six months after the educational program ends.
– Home country residency. The applicant is required to have a residence outside the US in its home country to return to following the completion of the degree.
The involvement of the school, college or university in the process
Once the applicant is enrolled, a representative of the educational institution, usual someone in charge of the international students program, will be in charged of providing the I-20 form. The I-20 form provided by the institution will list the expiration date of the program. This is very important because the applicant is required to earn the corresponding degree before the expiration date on the I-20. This date will also impact the duration of the visa and the allowed time for the student in the US.
The Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The optional practical training program is one type of work permission available for eligible F-1 students. It allows students to get real-world work experience related to their field of study. Although a Designated School Official (DSO) may recommend OPT in SEVIS (the platform for international students), it is the student who must apply for the work permit with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). If the OPT is approved, USCIS will issue an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The applicant cannot begin working before the start date on the EAD.
Under OPT an international student may work for up to 12 months in the US. For STEM (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and refers to any subjects that fall under these four disciplines.) graduates, applicants may request two additional years of work in a related field.
Once the OPT terms is finished, if the student has no extensions or additional training available, the student will need to return to her home country within 60 days after.
Spouses and unmarried children of F-1 students
If an international student has a spouse or unmarried minor (under age 21) children who will accompany the student during the program in the US, the student will receive additional Forms I-20. Family members that are eligible and receive these dependent forms will have to apply for an F-2 visa.
Be Prepared: Know Your Program and Why You Want to Come to the United States
The interview process can be overwhelming for some applicants. To ensure a good experience, the applicant should be prepared for what to expect. Some of the questions the applicant may encounter are these: