Studying in America: An Introduction to the F-1 Visa

The United States can be a wonderful place to study, provided you have a visa to help you across the border. International academic students must typically apply for the F-1 Visa before they can pursue their studies in the US. While the visa has several eligibility requirements, they are all rather straightforward. You can read this primer on the F-1 Visa to understand what the visa is for, who can apply, and what else you can expect.

The F-1 Student Visa provides entry to the US for those who intend to study full time in an academic educational program or a language training program. What counts as an “academic” program? Generally speaking, your program or course of study must end with a degree, diploma, or certificate. The academic institution itself could be a high school, college, university, seminary, or conservatory, as long as the school is authorized to accept international students. The F Visa is not to be confused with the M Visa, which only applies to students in vocational or other nonacademic programs (with the exception of language training).

Before you apply for the F-1 Visa, you must be enrolled as a full-time student in an academic or language training program. Your school must have approval from the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement. You must be proficient in the English language or be enrolled in a course that will teach English proficiency. You must also demonstrate that you have enough funds or financial support to see you through your studies.

You can apply for a student visa at your country’s US embassy or consulate. Your application will include a non-refundable fee, the applicable forms (including Form DS-160), a valid passport, and a photo. Make sure you bring these documents to your interview, where an officer will ask you several questions about your intention to study in the US. In some cases, as with university and college students, you may have to prove that you have a residence abroad and that you intend to return there once your studies are complete. You may also need to show evidence of significant ties to your home country. Strong ties could include a residence, land, and other assets, as well as family, bank accounts, and a letter offering you a job upon completion of your studies.

During the first academic year of their studies in the US, F-1 students may only accept on-campus employment. Their off-campus employment options expand in the second year to include three types of practical training: curricular, optional, and STEM optional practical training. Your ability to accept employment will often depend on your program and the circumstances of the job.

If you still have yet to enroll in a US school, make sure you check each institution’s admission policies before you apply. Your academic eligibility is the first step towards securing your F-1 Student Visa. If you have any questions about the application process, or if you need the expertise of a professional, you should contact an immigration attorney. The lawyers at Sanchez-Roig Law Firm, PLLC would be happy to help you maximize your chances of receiving an F-1 Student Visa. Contact us today to discuss your situation and learn how we can assist you throughout the process.