Academic students (F-1)
An alien, who is on a visitor visa and wants to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, may be able to do so. However, if the course of study is more than 18 hours a week, he/she will need a student visa. F-1 visa is for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs. In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas.
One should keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Therefore, students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy.
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For qualifying, an alien must meet the following requirements:
- The student must be enrolled in an academic education program, not a vocational-type program;
- Educational institution must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
- The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
- The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;
- The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and
- The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up
- The student must demonstrate that they have legitimate obligations to return to their home country by providing sufficient proof of ties home such as a letter of future employment, proof of assets, proof of insurance payments, etc.
Applying for a Student Visa
An interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary. It is important to remember that applying early and providing the requested documents does not guarantee that the student will receive a visa. Generally, all applicants for a student visa must provide:
- Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students. Students will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, provided by their school. The student and school official must sign the I-20 form. All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F-2 visa holders). Students will also have to pay an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study;
- A completed and signed application Form DS-160
- An interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants;
- A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States;
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt. While all F visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee;
- One (1) 2x2 photograph.
The dependents should provide:
- Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
- It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
Port of Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it's very important to keep in your passport. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States.
Duration of Stay and Extensions
Students are admitted for the duration of status which is necessary to complete a full course of study, a period of authorized practical training following the course of study, plus a 60 day grace period.