Regardless of education level, international students can come to the US to complete their education. They are also allowed to work under defined conditions. In some cases, they can also bring their dependents to the country. The US student visa types are F-1 and M-1. This article describes the non-immigrant student visa, how to apply for it, fees, and other relevant details.
What is the F-1 visa?
The F-1 (like M1 visas) is given to international students who intend to study in US educational institutions. It covers university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, and some academic institutions. If you receive admission from one of these institutions, you can apply for the F-1 visa. Citizens who are members of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) have to apply for the F-1 visa to continue their education in the US. Although, if they undertake the recreational courses as part of a tourist visit, they could apply for a B visa or go through the VWP without needing to get F-1 permission.
Study leading to the US conferred certificate is never allowed under the B visa, irrespective of the duration of the program. Students in online learning programs that require a period on the institution’s US campus should obtain a student visa before going to the US.
There are no numerical restrictions on the issuance of the US student visa, meaning that all students who can complete the requirements and have a successful admission will obtain the visa.
The F-1 visa, however, is granted to those who intend to return to their home country. The F1 visa is issued to reinforce a person to develop their own home country by acquired skills in the US.
What are the US student visa requirements?
To apply for the F-1 visa, you must meet some specific requirements, such as:
- Firstly, You need to apply for a SEVP-approved school in the US. The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a list of schools, universities, and other institutions that accept international students. The name of the university or institution you want must be on this list; otherwise, you will not be able to apply for the F-1 visa even if you are admitted. So, it is recommended that before applying to your preferred institution, check the SEVP, and see if those are listed there.
- You have to provide documents and demonstrate that you have strong bonds in your country and intend to go home after finishing your educational course. Otherwise, it will be more difficult to gain an F-1 visa.
- Applicants of an F-1 visa must provide documents to determine they have sufficient funds for meeting the expenditures of studying and living in the US. F-1 students are also qualified for scholarships to decrease their financial burden.
- International students must demonstrate that they can understand English at an acceptable level to register in an academic program. To meet this condition, they should take part in standardized English tests such as the IELTS to show their proficiency in the language.
How to apply for the F-1 visa?
When you receive admission from a SEVP-approved school, you need to register for the SEVIS and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (SEVIS is the abbreviation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The school issues a Form I-20 to you. After receiving the Form I-20 and registration in SEVIS, you can apply at a US embassy for a student visa. You must provide the Form I-20 to the consular officer in your visa interview.
If your spouse or children want to live with you in the US while you study, they should also register in SEVIS, obtain individual Form I-20s, and apply for a dependent visa without paying SEVIS fee per person.
Similar to other US visas, filling out the Form DS-160 is the first step in the US student visa process. After completion of the form, you receive a confirmation page that you will need to save. You should then upload a photo of yourself while completing the form. In addition to this form, you should provide the following documents:
- A valid passport
- A photo
- Receipt of payments of visa fee
- Original transcripts
- The result of Standardized tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, or GRE
- A letter from the university confirming your admission
- Previous academic qualifications
- Form I-20 illustrates the needed funds to finance the expenses of education and living in the US.
You have to provide documents that prove you have that amount by submitting various materials, such as:
- A bank statement showing the turnover over the past three years
- Tax records for the past three years
- If you receive a scholarship, you must present its related documents
- Payment of a year’s worth of tuition is not a mandatory condition
- If someone else sponsors you in the US, you must submit Form I-134 and his/her bank statements over the past three years
- If you support studying in the US through a loan, loan documentation should be provided
After receiving the admission, you can apply for the F-1 visa 120 days before starting your program. You are not allowed to apply earlier, but applying later might lead to delay because of processing times.
Attending an interview is one of the main stages to apply for all nonimmigrant visas, including the USA student visa. It is recommended to schedule the interview as early as possible, due to the heavy workload of the US embassy. When planning the interview, you will receive an interview confirmation letter. It contains the date and location of your interview. You must bring all the mentioned documents to the interview.
In an interview, the consular officer will ask questions to determine the reasons for going to the US and whether you will return to your home country after completing your education.
If your visa is approved, you are permitted to come to the US 30 days before your course begins. You cannot enter the US sooner.
What questions are asked in the US Student Visa Interview?
In general, the questions in the interview for a student visa are divided into the following categories:
Questions about study plans:
Why travel to the United States?
What will be your major?
What is your goal in continuing your education?
Where has your previous university or school been?
What is your job, and who is your employer?
Why don’t you continue your education in your own country?
Questions about university choice:
How many universities have you applied for?
How many universities have you get admitted to?
How many universities have rejected your application?
Have you been to the United States before?
Where is your university located?
Do you know the professors of the university? What are their names?
Questions about academic abilities:
What was your previous grade point average?
What is your score on the language test?
How do you manage the cultural and educational differences in the US?
What do you know about US universities?
Why not study in other countries such as Canada or Australia?
Questions about the financial situation:
What is your monthly salary?
How do you support your expenses during your studies?
What is your sponsor’s job?
How much is his/her salary?
Can I see your bank statement and tax returns?
Have you received a scholarship?
How much does your university cost?
Questions about postgraduate programs:
Do your relatives live in the United States?
What do you plan to do after graduation?
Are you planning to return to your home country after graduation?
Are you planning to stay in the United States?
What job will you have after graduation?
How long does it take to evaluate the provided documents and issue the F-1 visa?
Unlike other nonimmigrant US visas, the result of the F-1 visa is immediately announced after the interview. Although, in some cases, it will take a few days to receive the decision of the US embassy. So if that happens, you need to be patient. If the visa is rejected, you will be informed of the reasons for the decision.
How much is the US student visa fee?
You have to pay about $ 160 for the F-1 application. Depending on your nationality, you might also need to pay additional fees. When a SEVP-approved school admits you, you will be registered in the SEVIS, and you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee which is $200.
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How long is a US student visa duration?
The length of your stay in the US depends on the length of your studies. You will be able to extend the duration of your visa. For example, if you have been admitted for a two-year study course but the validity of your visa is for one year, you can apply to renew it later.
Can the dependents come to the United States under the F-1 visa?
Yes. Unmarried children under 21 years old and spouses can come to the US under an F-2 visa. There is no cap on issuing the F-2 visa. It means if you, as a dependent, can meet the requirement and complete the application, you will get the F-2 visa. There should be no financial difficulty in financing the dependents during their stay in the US.
How to renew the F-1 visa?
The same procedure should be done to renew a student visa. You will probably be exempt from re-interviewing when you renew your visa.
There are two options to renew a student visa:
- Going to the US embassy
- Using Automatic Visa Revalidation
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Can the USA student visa holder get a Green Card?
It is difficult to obtain a Green Card for those who have an F-1 visa. If they intend to stay in the US, they should consider the following options:
- Get married in the US
- Invest $500,000 in the US
- Change status into other visas such as an H-1B visa and find an employer as a sponsor
- People with extraordinary abilities can also apply for a Green Card
Are the USA student visa holders allowed to work in the US?
You can work part-time on campus, but if you intend to work outside of the university, there are two options:
- Curriculum Practical Training or CPT: In some cases, the student must undergo an internship as part of his/ her curriculum to graduate. In this case, the student is only allowed to work in his/her field, and the school officials must approve the training program. The student can begin the CPT, nine months after enrollment in the degree. There is no limitation on the period of CPT. However, if it is for more than 12 months, the student will not be authorized to apply for postgraduate Optional Practical Training.
- Optional Practical Training or OPT: The OPT program is dedicated to international students to acquire work experience in the US. Starting this program can be before or after graduation. The maximum duration of this course is 12 months, and the student can extend it for another 24 months. This program should be related to the student’s field of study. Before starting, the school officials must file for an Employment Authorization Document or EAD by filing Form I-765. If the student completes the course successfully, the employer as a sponsor may apply for an H-1B visa.
Can the USA student visa holders travel outside the US?
Yes. Students may move to their home country or another country during university closure or in case of emergencies. Before planning and booking the travel, F-1 visa students must follow some instructions to ensure that they can come to the US again.
How to access US healthcare under the F-1 visa?
As long as international students live in the United States, they can access health care, although the costs are considerable. Since some accidents and illnesses cannot be prevented, it is recommended that students get appropriate health insurance.
Let’s sum up…
In this article, essential issues related to the USA student visa were discussed in detail. On the Visa Library website, you can learn about other US student visas like M2 visas as well as ways to immigrate to other countries. In case you have some experience, please write it down in the comment section. Your comments let the readers choose better and avoid mistakes. Conveying your experiences in comments is a great help for applicants.