F-1 Visa

This visa is for serious students qualified to attend full-studies at colleges, universities, conservatories, academic high schools (subject to strict regulations) and institutions with language-training programs in the United States.

A. "Am I Qualified?" -- Basic Requirements:

  1. The foreign student must have completed the course of study required of all students entering the program;
  2. The student must be proficient in English (with the following exceptions):
    1. The student is coming to the U.S. to participate in an English-training program;
    2. The school has made special arrangements to teach the student English or to teach courses in the foreign student's language;
  3. The student must prove that identifiable funds are available to pay all expenses incurred while studying in the U.S.;
  4. The student must be accepted for a full course of study by a school specifically approved by the INS; and
  5. The school must provide the student with a Form I-20 A-B.

B. "Okay, I Think I Am Qualified, Now What?" -- Applying for the F-1:

  1. The student should apply at the Consulate or Embassy located in their place of permanent residence;
  2. Required Documentation (to be brought along when you go for the visa):
    1. Non-refundable $45 application fee (subject to change);
    2. Form OF-156, completed and signed (available at the Consulate/Embassy);
    3. Passport valid for at least six months beyond end of intended stay;
    4. One photograph 1« inches square;
    5. Form I-20 A-B (from school);
    6. Evidence of sufficient funds;
    7. Evidence of ties to a residence in a foreign country; and
    8. A statement/promise that the student will depart the U.S. when they have completed their studies.

C. "Can I Bring My Family With Me?" -- Visas For Your Dependents

  1. Dependents are defined as only:
    1. Spouse; and
    2. Unmarried, minor children (under 21 years old);
  2. Dependents may apply for a visa to accompany the student;
  3. Dependents must meet all visa eligibility requirements, including:
    1. Evidence of sufficient funds for their support; and
    2. Evidence that they will depart when the student's education is completed.
  4. Dependents may not work while in the United States.

D. "Can I Work While In the U.S. ?" -- Employment While in F-1 Status

  1. The student may not work off-campus at anytime during the first year;
  2. The INS may allow off-campus employment after the first year; and
  3. The student may work on-campus without INS permission, however, all questions or concerns regarding this should be directed to your school before beginning employment of any kind;
  4. To apply for either off-campus employment or optional practical training, the student must submit Form I-201D which is provided by the school and Form I-765.

E. "What Else Should I Know?" - Special Considerations

  1. The Form I-94, issued at the port of entry into the U.S., dictates the length of permitted stay which must be adhered to;
  2. Form OF-156 lists persons ineligible to receive visas, however, in some cases, an ineligible person who is a student may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and receive a visa upon approval of the waiver; and
  3. A student who wishes to use an F-1 visa to attend public high school must:
    1. Submit evidence that the school district has been reimbursed, in advance, for the cost of the education; and
    2. Not attend the school for more than 12 months.

F. "Optional Practical Training -- What's the Story?"

  1. OPT can be taken either while in school (curricular) or after graduation;
  2. Curricular OPT can only be taken by F-1 students and is coordinated with your school - not the INS;
  3. A student may spend a total of one year in OPT (curricular and post-graduate periods spent in OPT should be added together for these purposes);
  4. Speak to your school for further information on OPT.

G. "How Do I get Out of Here? -- Transferring to a New School

  • To transfer, you must:
    1. Be maintaining status; and
    2. Go through the following notification procedure:
      1. Notify your current school of the intent to transfer;
      2. Obtain Form I-20A-B from the new school;
      3. Complete and return the Form I-20A-B to the school within 15 days of starting classes.

H. "I Need An Extension, What Do I Do?" -- Extension Procedure

  1. The initial period of admission on the I-94 allows for: the completion of the academic program, any authorized practical training and sixty days grace period to leave the United States.
  2. An extension may be obtained if:
    1. The student has maintained status;
    2. Delay in completion is due to:
      1. Compelling academic reasons or
      2. Compelling medical reasons.
  3. To apply, the student must:
    1. Submit completed form I-20A-B to their school;
    2. Submit an I-538 to their school; and
    3. Do this within 30 days before the date noted on the original I-20A-B.
    4. The student does not need to notify the INS.
  4. The Department of State does not renew or issue F-1 visas in the United States.

I. "Tell Me More!" - Further Information

  1. Where do I get the Form I-20 A-B?
    • Contact your school and they will contact the INS, if necessary.
  2. Who do I ask about specific application procedures for my country?
    • The Consular office in your country.