F-1 Student Visa
An F-1 Student Visa is available to full-time academic and language training students who are interested in studying in the United States. In order to be eligible for an F-1 Student Visa, the
non-immigrant student will have to be first accepted in a school or educational institution that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). SEVP was developed in order for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to monitor the schools and the student visa categories.
F-1 Student Visa Requirements
- The student visa applicant must have a foreign residence, which s/he does not intend to abandon.
- The student visa applicant is a bone fide student who is qualified to pursue a full course of study.
- The student visa applicant is seeking to enter the United States temporarily and solely to pursue her/his course of study.
- The student visa applicant will study in a SEVP certified school or educational institution.
- The student visa applicant has the necessary funds to pursue her/his course of study.
- The student visa applicant meets all the admissibility requirements to enter the United States. For example, if a student visa applicant has a criminal conviction in their home country it is important to consult an immigration attorney from the United States in order to determine how the conviction would impact her/his entry into the United States with an F-1 Student Visa.
Applying for an F-1 Student Visa
The first step for an F-1 Student Visa applicant to take is to apply and be accepted at a SEVP certified school or educational institution. To get a list of SEVP certified schools you can access the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, website at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/ApprovedSchools.pdf.
Once you have been accepted at a SEVP certified school or educational institution, you will be issued a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility of Non-immigrant Student Status. At this stage of your visa application it would be advisable to contact an immigration attorney from the United States in order to assist you with the consular processing of your F-1 Student Visa. Immigration law in the United States is complicated involving many factors in order to be admitted into the country. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney in order to be successful in obtaining a student visa.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. It is an internet-based system that contains the most accurate and current information on F-1 Student Visa non-immigrants in the United States. Through using SEVIS, the schools and educational institutions are able to send the mandatory information and status of the F-1 Student Visa non-immigrant to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. There is a SEVIS fee that the student visa applicant will pay when the I-20 is initially issued by the school. The SEVIS fee is a different fee than the F-1 visa application fee that will eventually be paid at the U.S. consulate. Some schools and educational institutions have the option of paying the SEVIS fee, therefore, the student visa applicant will have to inquire at the school or educational institution that issued the student visa holder's I-20 regarding the SEVIS fee. The current SEVIS fee is $200.00.
Can I bring my wife and children if my F-1 Student Visa is approved?
Yes, as an F-1 Student Visa non-immigrant in the United States you can bring your wife and children with you on an F-2 Dependent Visa. Your wife and children can accompany you upon entering the United States, or they could join you at a later time. The F-2 Visa holders do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.
Can I work in the United States while I am an F-1 Student Visa Non-immigrant?
Yes, you can work in your school or educational institution (on-campus) while you are pursuing your course of studies if you maintain a good academic standing. However, you are limited to working on campus 20 hours per week while school is in session and full-time during holidays and vacations. You can obtain off-campus employment for severe economic hardship if you are a full-time student and are maintaining a good academic standing. It is very important not to work without first consulting with the international student office at your school or with an immigration attorney. Any unauthorized employment may jeopardize your F-1 Student Visa status.
After I am done with my course of study, can I remain in the United States for training?
Yes, once you have completed your course of studies and graduated from your academic program you are eligible for a total of twelve months of Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT provides the F-1 Student Visa non-immigrant with an opportunity to get on-the-job training and apply what they learned from their academic program. OPT requires that the F-1 Student Visa non-immigrant get authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency in the Department of Homeland Security, before starting her/his OPT. Note: It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney when applying for your OPT with USCIS.
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is an internet-based system with the Department of Homeland Security that is accessible to employers in the United States to verify potential employee's eligibility to legally work in the United States. If an F-1 Student Visa non-immigrant applies for a job, the employer will use E-Verify to check that s/he can legally work in the United States.
Note: Obtaining an F-1 Visa can be a complicated process and, therefore, it is advisable to contact an Immigration Attorney to ensure a higher probability of success in the F-1 Visa process.