The F-1 student visa is the most common visa for students wanting to study in the United States. It is a temporary visa for foreign students who enter the United States in order to continue their education at an accredited school or college. In 2012, about 486,000 new F-1 visas were issued by the United States. This is double the amount issued the previous year.
F-1 Student Visa Application
The steps required to apply for an F-1 student visa may vary based on the U.S. embassy or consulate where you chose to submit your application. Visit USEmbassy.Gov to confirm the requirements for your specific U.S. embassy or consulate.
To begin the process of obtaining an F-1 student visa, you’ll need to:
- Fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. Print this application form confirmation page and bring it to your F-1 student visa interview.
- Upload Your Photo –Follow the photograph requirements and submit with the online application.
Upon completing your online application, you can then proceed to schedule an interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It’s best to choose an interview location in the area in which you have permanent residency. Apply for your F-1 student visa early because interview wait times will vary based on location and seasons.
F-1 Student Visa Requirements:
- The selected program must be an accredited academic educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program.
- The student’s school must be accepted by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- The student must be enrolled as a full-time student.
- The student must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language or be enrolled in courses to reach that proficiency.
- The student must have efficient funds to be financially independent during the course of the study.
- The student must not release his/her acquired residence abroad.
F-1 Student Visa Required Documents:
There are a few documents that you are required to obtain prior to your F-1 student visa interview and have with you on the interview date. Failing to have these documents can jeopardize the approval of your F-1 student visa.
- Valid Passport – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt
- Photo – If your photo failed to upload while completing your online nonimmigrant visa application, you must bring a printed photo that meets the requirements to the interview.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1 or M-1) Student Status, Form I-20 – Your school will send you a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20.
- Demonstration of your academic preparation, such as:
- Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended
- Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school.
- Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study.
- How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.
F-1 Visa Interview
At the F-1 student visa interview, digital fingerprints will be taken during the interview and put on file. Consular officials will determine whether you’re qualified and have met all the requirements to be approved for the requested visa category. After the interview, your visa may undergo further administrative processing, which is resolved within an estimated 60 days after the interview.
Upon approval of the F-1 student visa, you can check visa processing time to estimate how long before the visa is ready for pick up or delivery date.
Canadian and Mexican Commuters:
The F-3 Visa is designed specifically for Canadian and Mexican citizens who wish to study in the United States but maintain their place of residence. Students are required to study at an accredited community/junior college, vocational school, or university that is located 75 miles from the U.S. land border port of entry. Students cannot reside in the United States.
F-1 Student Visa Work Permit:
Students on an F1 visa are not permitted to work off-campus in their first year. However, they can work on campus under certain regulations. After a student’s first year, they may engage in certain types of employment off-campus provided that it is related to their area of study:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – You can work on CPT either full-time or part-time.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion) – While school is in session, you may only work 20 hours per week.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
F-1 Visa to Green Card
Many people that enter the U.S. through work, family, or school often seek to make this country their permanent home. However, going from a nonimmigrant visa to an immigrant visa (green card) isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially for certain visas. This is because of an attribute known as “dual intent”, which is the ability for the holder of a certain visa to pursue lawful permanent residence while under nonimmigrant status.
While some visas have dual intent such as the H-1B and the L-1, others do not. The F-1 is one of these unfortunate few. Applying for a green card under F-1 status may not only result in your green card getting denied, but it will also be considered a violation of status and may result in a temporary bar from re-entry into the United States.
So the question is: can you get a green card if you entered the U.S. under F-1 status?
The answer is yes, but it’s not a matter of transitioning straight from an F-1 to a green card. The first thing a student would need to do is change his or her status to a different nonimmigrant visa that has dual intent, which is permitted under F-1 status. Some options to consider are the H-1B, E-1/E-2, L-1, and O-1 visas. If you qualify for any of these visas, then it’s a matter of filing (or having your employer file) an I-129 petition along with the fees and supporting documentation. In the case of the H-1B, you will likely have to contend with the annual lottery, which has certain specifications.
Once you’ve obtained your dual intent visa, you will be able to immediately file for your green card. You will have to choose which green card best fits your qualifications. If you are a young student with very little work experience, then you may want to consider the EB-3. If you went to school later in life and have gotten a master’s degree, the EB-2 may be better.
Once you or your employer files the green card petition, you will need to wait until your priority date is current. This is the day that the USCIS obtains your petition. You should be checking the monthly visa bulletin provided by the Department of State. Once the final action date for your green card and country of origin matches or passes your priority date, your date will be current and a visa number will become available.
At this point, you have two options. Since you are already in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant status, you will be able to simply file an I-485 to have your status adjusted. This takes an average of six months and can be costly. On the other hand, you can elect to go through consular processing, which would require you to complete a DS-260 application and take it to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country for an interview. This may seem inconvenient, but it could be the faster option depending on the caseload of your consulate.
If your I-485 is approved or your consular interview goes well, you will be granted lawful permanent residence and your green card will be mailed to you.
How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help
If the participant wishes to extend his/her time in the United States, our immigration attorneys are well prepared to conduct the F-1 Visa renewal process with you. The SGM Law Group will also advise in cases of CPT, OPT, STEM extensions, visa changes, and employment extension using Cap Gap Rule. If the applicant receives F-1 status then the holder’s spouse and unmarried, minor children are eligible to obtain an F-2 Visa. Our skilled attorneys are ready to help you.
Our lawyers will assist in obtaining the F-1 Visa and, with extensive experience, deliver the best strategy necessary. Our immigration lawyers offer individualized attention in order to provide the utmost, efficient service. Our F-1 Visa lawyers will be involved in every step of the process even if the client has made previous attempts unsuccessfully.