Are you a foreign student?
Would to you like to pursue your education in the U.S.?
If you answered “Yes” to the above questions, then the F-1 visa is most likely the best choice for you! Every year, the U.S. attracts many students from all over the world who intend to enhance their education. A 2016 First Quarter Summary from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reports that over 1.11 million nonimmigrant students are actively involved in educational studies in the U.S this year, with nearly 77% of those in university bachelor’s and master’s degree programs! And there’s a 15% increase in the number of nonimmigrant students enrolled in master’s program since July 2015.
A 2015 report from the Department of State shows that 677,928 F-1 visas were issued in 2015. Additionally the 2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange shows nearly a million nonimmigrant students are actively involved in educational studies in the U.S this year, with 362,228 of those in university graduate degree programs and 398,824 in undergraduate degree programs.
The F-1, or student visa, allows students to enter the U.S. to accomplish this mission. For a person to qualify for an F-1 student visa, he or she should be accepted for enrollment in an established SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified school in the U.S.. All SEVP schools are designated as legitimate schools approved to issue visas to foreign nationals. With an F-1 visa, a student can study at an accredited institution in the U.S. and is also eligible to work on campus. Upon completion of most educational programs, the student is allowed to obtain an optional practical training, where he or she is authorized to work with an employer for approximately one additional year. For more information regarding the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), please refer to http://www.ice.gov/sevis.
WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR AN F-1 VISA?
To qualify for an F-1 visa, an applicant must demonstrate that he or she:
- Has a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
- Intends to depart from the U.S. upon completion of his or her course of study;
- Possesses sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study;
- Must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency. Most students from non-English speaking countries are required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language Exam) and the TSE (Test of Speaking English Exam); –
- Has met the necessary qualifications to enroll in a university in the US., for example, if a student has completed his or her bachelor’s degree in a foreign country, he or she then applies for a master’s degree program in the U.S..
WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS IN OBTAINING AN F-1 VISA?
The first step in getting an F-1 visa is being accepted for enrollment in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school in the U.S. For a list of SEVP approved schools, please visit the official U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
Please note: Each respective school’s application provides detailed information about the requirements necessary to apply for their program of study. For example, if you are applying for a graduate program, most schools will require that the student completes the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) examinations. If a student is applying for an undergraduate program, most schools will require the SAT exam. The GMAT is required when a foreign student intends to apply for an MBA program in the U.S., and the GMAT is generally required when a student wishes to pursue a master’s degree in other fields. If the student is considering applying for a law degree, it will be necessary to take the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT), or if he or she intends to pursue medical school, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will be required.
After a student has provided the school with any required test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, fees, etc., the student will be informed whether or not he or she has been admitted. If the student has been admitted, the school will provide him or her with a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status form, commonly referred to as the I-20
form, which the student will need to bring along with their acceptance letter from the school, educational certificates, proof of funds, etc. to the U.S. Consulate. Upon review, the Consular Officer will either accept or deny the student’s application. Upon arrival to the school, the student should contact their International Student Advisor for further information, as soon as possible.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR OBTAINING AN F-1 VISA?
A prospective F-1 visa applicant must provide the completed Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students or I-20 form. As previously mentioned, this form must be completed on behalf of the student by their approved school. A prospective F-1 visa applicant should also be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous schools attended by the student;
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution, e.g., TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
- Financial evidence that shows that the prospective student or parents who are sponsoring the student have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of the student’s intended study in the U.S..
Note that an interview is required as a part of the F-1 visa process for applicants between the ages of 14 and 79. A fingerprint scan will also be taken. A Consular Officer will make the final decision about whether the student has demonstrated nonimmigrant intent and qualifies for an F-1 visa. Nonimmigrant intent refers to the student’s objective (which must be documented) to return to his or her home country after he or she completes his or her educational program in the United States.
CAN I WORK ON AN F-1 VISA?
As mentioned in the introduction, students may participate in work-study programs on campus at their respective schools, after consulting their International Student Advisor. Upon completion of their studies, the student can apply to obtain optional practical training. The optional training program is valid for one year. The duration of the optional training program is usually 12 months, but in the science or engineering field, it is extended to 17 months.
HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE U.S. ON MY F-1 STUDENT VISA?
Usually on an F-1 student visa, you may stay as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa authorization date in your passport expires while you are in the U.S. Upon completion of your studies, you may remain for approximately one additional year, if you are 29
approved to pursue optional practical training in the U.S. Upon completion of your program or optional practical training, you have 60 days to depart from the U.S. or change your status.
CAN MY WIFE AND CHILDREN ACCOMPANY ME TO THE U.S. ON AN F-1 VISA?
Yes. Your spouse and children under twenty-one (21) years of age can accompany you to the U.S.. However, your spouse and children are not allowed to work, unless they change their status to another visa category.
If you are a student looking to enhance your education in the United STates, the F-1 student visa may allow you to pursue this goal. The intended school must be a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school in the United States and must first accept you for admission into their program. Remember, the key to obtaining a student visa is convincing the Consular Officer that you will return to your home country upon the completion of your program of study in the United States. If you fail to convince the Consulate of your return, your visa will be denied. Following the guidelines provided in this chapter will ensure that you have the best opportunity for qualifying for an F-1 visa.