NONIMMIGRANT VISAS - F-1 Visa

Student Visas. Application procedure direct with US Consulate or Embassy in home country. Requires proof of admission in a US a college, proof of financial ability to support oneself and proof of intent to return to home country. Duration of status indefinite as long as student status is maintained not allowed to work while a student except in campus or outside in exceptional circumstances.

The new immigration law narrowed the scope of student visa classification by withholding such status from aliens who seek to study at public elementary school or a publicly funded adult education program, or at a public secondary school unless the aggregate period of study at that school is 12 months or less and the alien has reimbursed the school authorities for the full, unsubsidized cost of the education. The status of aliens switching from privately funded schools to publicly funded schools is deemed void, unless the aliens meet the 12 month test and the reimbursement requirement stated above. The violators of these provisions must remain outside the U.S. for a continuous period of 5 years after the date of the violation. This section became effective November 30, 1996 and applies prospectively to all visa applications and applications for extension of status.

Who Is Eligible:
An alien who has a residence in a foreign country which he/she has no intention of abandoning, who wishes to come to the United States to pursue a course of study at an academic institution accredited by the INS, may qualify for an F-1 visa. The alien must have a valid educational purpose for coming to the United States, and must be able to support himself or herself while in the United States without working.

How To Apply:
F-1 visa status may be obtained by making an application directly to a Consular Officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or, if the applicant is in the U.S. in lawful status, by submitting an application to INS to change his/her status to that of a student. In either case, the applicant must first be accepted at a school that is authorized by the INS to accept foreign students. Such schools may include established colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, other academic institutions, or language programs in the United States. The requirements for application vary somewhat depending whether the prospective student applies while abroad, or while physically present in the United States.

Applying For A Student Visa Abroad:
To apply for F-1 visa status abroad, the prospective student must submit the following documents to a U.S. Consular Officer:

  • Form OF-156 and OF-156 Supplement, Application for Nonimmigrant Visa;
  • A valid passport;
  • Form I-20, documenting that the alien has been accepted for a course of study by a school authorized by the INS to accept foreign students;
  • Evidence of financial support sufficient to meet the student’s needs during the course of study;
  • Evidence of intention to return to his/her home country upon the completion of the course of study.

Changing Status While In The U.S:
An alien who is physically present in the U.S., and in lawful visa status, such as B-2 (visitor), may request that his/her status be changed to that of a student by submitting the following to the US Immigration Service Center that has jurisdiction over the location of the student’s school.

  • Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status;
  • Form I-20, documenting that the alien has been accepted for a full course of study by a school authorized by the INS to accept foreign students;
  • I-94 Departure Record (a small white card) that was issued to the alien upon his/her entry to the U.S. The card is usually stapled in the alien’s passport by the INS Inspecting Officer at the port of entry.
  • Evidence of financial support which may include affidavit of support from relatives, evidence of scholarships, and/or bank statements in the student’s name;
  • Evidence of the applicant’s intent to return to his/her home country at the completion of the course of study.

Duration of Visa:
F-1 visa status will be granted for the period of time, or duration of stay required to complete the course of study. The student’s Form I-120 will be notated with the expected date of completion of the student’s program. If the student fails to meet the program completion date, an extension may be granted if the school certifies that the delay was caused by compelling medical or academic reasons such as illness, or changes in the student’s major or research topic.

Status of Spouses and Minor Children:
The spouse and minor, unmarried children of an F-1 visa holder are eligible for F-2 nonimmigrant visa status. They are subject to the same period of stay as the principal alien, and may not work in the United States on an F-2 visa.

Authorized Employment for F-1 Students:
Foreign students may be authorized to be employed under the following circumstances:

  • On-Campus Employment: An F-I student may be employed on-campus for up to twenty hours per week while school is in session, and full-time when school is not in session without permission from INS. The student should obtain a letter from the school's foreign student advisor or another appropriate official at the school stating that the student is authorized to perform the on-campus work. The student may obtain a valid social security card by presenting the letter, his/her I-20 ID copy, and a valid passport to the local office of the Social Security Administration.
  • Off-Campus Employment: An F-1 student who has completed one full academic year, and is in good academic standing may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time when school is not in session by obtaining written permission from the foreign student advisor or other appropriate official at the school. The student may obtain a valid Social Security Card by presenting his/her I-20 ID, a valid passport, and the written permission to the local office of the Social Security Administration. Employers of F-1 students must follow certain procedures established by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), including recruitment, and filing a Labor Attestation with DOL.
  • Curricular Practical Training: Alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education programs, or any type of required practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with a school is considered to be curricular practical training. To qualify for curricular practical training, a student must have been in F-1 status for nine consecutive months except in the case where a graduate student is required to begin practical training immediately. In any case, the practical training must be related to the student’s major area of study. A student who has engaged in one year or more of curricular practical training is prohibited from post-graduation practical training. A designated school official may authorize this type of practical training by endorsing the student’s I-20 ID. Authorization from the INS is not required.
  • Post-Graduation Practical Training: After graduation, a designated official from the school may recommend to INS that the student be authorized to participate in a one year period of practical training if the student has not engaged in a year or more of curricular practical training. The student must then apply to INS for an employment authorization documents (EAD) by submitting a completed I-765 application, his/her I-20 bearing the recommendation of the school official, and the I-765 filing fee (currently $100) to an INS District Office. The student must apply for the EAD during the 120-day period that is 90 days before completion of his/her studies and 30 days after.