U.S. Visas: F-1
The F-1 is a student visa granted to applicants who want to pursue a full course of academic study at a U.S. college, university, high school, primary, or elementary school.
What are the Requirements for an F-1 Visa?
CHANGE OF STATUS IN THE U.S.:
If the applicant is presently in the United States, in valid status, VISANOW can file an application for a change of status to F-1 with the USCIS.
F-1 APPLICATION AT A U.S. CONSULATE:
If the applicant is residing outside of the United States, the applicant will submit Form DS-156, DS-158, and possibly the DS-157 to the Consular office in the country where he/she resides. VISANOW can prepare this application on your behalf. An interview at the local U.S. embassy is required for almost all applicants for F-1 visas. The waiting times for the interviews will vary. If the F-1 visa is approved, the embassy will issue a visa stamp in the applicant’s passport within a week of the interview. The officer may request that some applicants provide additional information.
Applicants for an F-1 visa must show that:
- They have “nonimmigrant intent” i.e. intent to depart the U.S. after the completion of their course of study.
- They have been accepted by an approved school in the United States, as evidenced by the certificate of eligibility (Form I-20A-B), signed by the school official and the applicant;
- Register in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an online system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents
- They possess sufficient funds or have made other arrangements to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study in the U.S.;
- They have sufficient scholastic preparation and knowledge of the English language to pursue a full course of study, or if the student’s knowledge of English is inadequate, the approved school has accepted him or her for a study in a language with which the student is familiar, or has made special tutoring arrangements that are adequate to enable the student to pursue a full course of study.
- They will be pursuing a full course of study in the U.S.:
- Postgraduate study or postdoctoral study or research at a college or university, or undergraduate or postgraduate study at a conservatory or religious seminary, certified by a designated school official as a full course of study.
- Undergraduate study at a college or university, certified by a designated school official to consist of at least 12 semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term, except when the student needs a lesser course load to complete the course of study during the current term.
- Study for at least 12 hours per week, or its equivalent, in certain postsecondary language, liberal arts, fine arts, or other nonvocational training program, certified by a designated school official
- Study in any other language, liberal arts, fine arts, or other nonvocational training program, certified by a designated school official to consist of at least18 hours of classroom attendance a week if the dominant feature of the course is classroom attendance or 22 hours per week if the dominant feature is laboratory work.
- Study in a primary or secondary school for not less than the minimum number hours prescribed by the school for normal progress towards graduation.
Can an F-1 Student Accept Employment?
An F-1 student may accept employment under the following limited circumstances:
- An F-1 student may engage in on-campus employment without obtaining specific permission from the USCIS if the student is engaged in a full course of study and the employment will not displace a U.S. resident based on the following guidelines:
- The on-campus employment must be performed on the school’s premises or at an off-campus location affiliated with the school and is an integral part of the school’s educational program;
- The on-campus employment must not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session and full time when school is not in session as long as the student maintains status; and
- Authorization for employment may continue for the duration of the student’s F-1 status.
- Generally, a student who has been in F-1 status for a full academic year, and is in good academic standing, will be eligible for off-campus work authorization. Part-time work authorization is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session but may work full time during holidays or school vacation. This work authorization is automatically terminated when the student fails to maintain valid student status.
Off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship:
- An F-1 student may be authorized for off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship under the following conditions:
- The student has been in F-1 status for one full academic year.
- The student is in good academic standing and is carrying a full course of study.
- The student has demonstrated that employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. For example: loss of financial aid; loss of on-campus employment; substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate; inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs; unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student’s source of support, medical bills; or other unexpected and substantial expenses.
- The student has demonstrated that general on-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen circumstances.
International organization internships:
- An F-1 student may request employment authorization as an Intern with an International Organization.
- Practical training may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been fully enrolled in an approved institution for a full academic year. A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training. Students may be eligible for a further 12 months of practical training when he/she changes to a higher educational level i.e. Bachelor’s degree to Master’s degree. An eligible student may request employment authorization for practical training in a position that is directly related to his/her major area of study.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Programs that are considered an integral part of the established curriculum will fall under CPT. CPT is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. The student request CPT authorization from the school official.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- A student may directly apply to the USCIS for temporary employment for OPT directly related to the student’s major area of study. The student may not begin OPT until the date indicated on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). An employment authorization application may be submitted up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until after the completion of the full academic year.
- The OPT may be authorized during the student’s annual vacation and when the school is not in session; while the school is in session provided it does not exceed 20 hours per week; and after completion of the all the requirements for a course of study or all requirements thereof (except thesis) provided OPT is requested prior to the completion of the course/all requirements thereof.
How Long is the F-1 Visa Valid?
F-1 students are admitted for a duration of status and are required to maintain a valid passport at all times for at least six months beyond the expiration of the status. Duration of status is defined as the time necessary to pursue a full course of study at any educational level in the same school as stated on the I-20 form, including any authorized practical training. F-1 students are also granted a 60 day “grace period” following the completion of their course of study or OPT period.