What is F1-Visa?
An F1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to students willing to pursue their studies in the US. The F1 visa is a student visa which is given to international students who wish to attend educational institutions like university, college, private elementary school, high school, any language training program or any other academic institution in the US. If the candidate has received acceptance from any of the above institutes then he/she can apply for the F1 Visa.
F1 Visa Qualifications
In order to get an F1 Visa, the applicants need to qualify some specific criteria during the F1 Visa interview:
The candidate must have residence in a foreign country and must intend to return there on the completion of the course.
The candidate must demonstrate that he/she has enough finances to support his/her studies and stay in the US.
Sponsoring Education Institution
The candidate is expected to study at the education institution through which the visa was granted.
Strong relation to home country
The candidate must prove that he/she has a strong relationship with his/her home country and they have their family, assets (like home, etc.) and bank accounts in their home country.
Documents required for F1 Visa
You need some documents while applying for F1 Visa. The major documents cover your personal information, academic background, professional documents, and financial documents. It is always recommended to remain prepared with all the documents handy. You can read about all the documents required at the time of F1 Visa interview.
Advantages of F1 Visa
- Unlike H1-B Visa, there is no cap on F1 Visa, therefore, all the students who have successfully applied and fulfill the required criteria can get this Visa.
- Students can also transfer to any other school if they are accepted in a better school.
- Students holding F1 Visa can not only live and study in the US legally but can also do various other things which they will require while staying there. Like opening a bank account, getting a driver license, and travel in and out of the US anytime without any restrictions.
- They are also allowed to work with certain rules and restrictions.
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How to get an F1 Visa?
The F1 Visa process is time-consuming, so, it is suggested to start this process as early as possible. At times it can be wrapped up in 15 days or it can also take up to 2 months depending on the availability of the dates. Also, make sure that the college you are applying must be recognized by SEVP.
Once the candidate receives acceptance from the university, he/she will be officially enrolled in the SEVP. Then the candidate needs to show one year of tuition fee and living expenses. Once the university checks the financials, it issues an I-20 form to the candidate after the candidate can apply for the F1 Student Visa.
How to apply for F1 Visa?
You need to follow certain steps to apply for the F1 Visa. Once your admission is confirmed and you get an I-20 form from the educational institution where you wish to study, you can apply for the F1 Visa.
Candidates cannot apply before 120 days of your program start date. Also, make sure not to delay the process, as the complete process including the visa processing can take time. So, in order to wait for the last moment, as the 120-day countdown begins, make sure you apply for the F1 Student Visa. Although students are not allowed to enter the US territory on Student Visa before 30 days from the beginning of your program.
- I-20 form is the most important document you need to apply for the F1 Visa interview. The school sends two forms. Those who require to apply for f-1 and M-1 visa get an I-20 form and those who require J-1 receive DS-2019 Form. Once you get any of these forms, you can apply to the US Embassy or consulate which comes under the jurisdiction of their place of permanent residence. The university itself will mail the correct form to you. You will also receive SEVIS ID on your form along with your university/school's address and other information related to your program.
- After paying the SEVIS fee and getting a receipt, you can apply for a DS-160 visa form. It is an online application form.
- Print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Pay the visa fee through NEFT or at authorized AXIS bank/Citi bank locations.
- Schedule a Biometric appointment and Interview appointment.
- For the Biometric appointment, you will be required to appear in person to get your photograph clicked for the visa and get your fingerprints scanned.
- At the Personal interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about your choice, of course, college, finances, and intent of coming back. If he/she is convinced, they will keep your passport with them to get the visa stamped. Here is a guide to help you prepare for your F1 Visa Interview.
F1 Visa Processing Time
The processing time for F1 Visa is quite less in comparison to other visas. In the majority of the cases, candidates come to know about the faith of their visa immediately after the interview. Whether you will get the visa or not, you will come to know about it once the interview is over. If the visa is rejected then the visa officer will you hand over the documents mentioning the reason for denial. In certain cases, processing and knowing the result of the visa can take time, in that case, you have to be patient and wait for the result.
Working on F1 Visa
Students cannot work off-campus during the first year of their program. They are allowed to work for 20 hours per week. However, during holidays and breaks, they can work up to 40 hours per week. Students are allowed to work for a commercial firm that provides services to the university/college, like cafeteria or bookstore. Those who want to work outside the campus have two options:
- Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
CPT allows students to work or intern as part of their academic curriculum. The internship/practical training is mandatory for completing their degree. Moreover, the internship must be related to their area of study and also be approved by their university or educational institution.
Candidates are allowed to start their Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) after completing 9 months of enrollment in their program. CPT is semester-specific, it is only authorized on a semester basis i.e. fall, spring or summer CPT. Its duration is from one semester up to 364 days.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
The OPT is designed to give international students the opportunity to work in the US. With OPT, students are allowed to work maximum for a period of 12 months. Also, one can only work in their field of study and must get a job within 90 days after graduation. For those who are studying STEM subjects can get OPT extension for another 24 months. One can only start working under OPT if the candidate and his/her University's dedicated official has filed for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You have to fill form I-765. Also, if you are lucky, your employer will sponsor your H1-B Visa after which one can also file for a Green Card.
Related read: Study in US: Difference between CPT and OPT
Spouses and children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany the aspirant in the US for the duration of his/her stay require F2 or M2 visas. A spouse on F2 status cannot enroll for a full course of study but can take classes that are vocational or recreational in nature like pursuing a hobby or interest, such as cooking or tennis. Children on F2 status are allowed to attend elementary, middle, or high school as a full-time student. They may not enroll in a full-time course of study at a college or university.
The spouse and children of students cannot accept employment at any time during the stay-period on the F2 Visa.
F1 Visa Health Insurance Requirements
There are no specific requirements set by the US Department of State for F1 Visa. Generally, the school/ educational institution themselves decide what kind of insurance students need to take. In case, the school has not asked for any specific requirements for the health insurance than the applicant themselves decide what kind of insurance they required to take.
What you can do with F1 Visa?
- Change of visa status: If in case you find a job which requires a different type of visa, then F1 visa holders can change the status of their visa. In this scenario, you need to follow the instructions of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or your employer or your sponsor/reviewer.
- Extend period of stay: Generally, the validity of F1 Visa is for the time period of mentioned in the I-20 form or according to the duration of the course. However, if your visa does not allow you to stay for the complete duration of your course, then you have to apply for an extension of your student visa. The visa extension is given to F1 Visa holders on the pretext that they will be completing their course in the US and will also return to their home country once the course is over.
- Access to US healthcare: As an F1 Visa holder, you can have access to healthcare facilities in the US. Although the cost of medical facilities is one of the costliest in the world, so, the students have been advised to take an appropriate health insurance plan as suggested by your university/educational institution.
F1 Visa Rejection
If in case your visa application is rejected, then the reason for rejection of visa and under which section it has been denied is provided to you by the visa officer. Whether the visa is rejected because the applicant is not able to provide supporting documentation or if the candidate was not eligible or any other reason, the candidate comes to know about it immediately after the completion of the visa interview.
Reapply for a Visa
Those who found ineligible for study visa can reapply for it. If in case the visa is rejected under 221(g), in that case, the candidate needs to submit the visa application along with the visa fee again. Those who are denied visa under section 214(b) of the INA, then they can present evidence of significant changes done in the application since your last application.