Are you aspiring to obtain an F-1 student visa for your academic pursuits in the United States? If yes, then this is the right place for you! The USA boasts renowned universities, offering a wealth of academic opportunities, cutting-edge research, and a diverse cultural experience. Hence, studying in the USA is a great option for anyone seeking to get one of the best education in the world. In this guide, we will show you all you need to know about the F-1 visa including the visa requirements and how you can apply among other relevant information.
But before we proceed, you must understand the perks of studying in the USA.
Studying in the USA
If you have the opportunity to continue your education in the USA, then best believe you are in for the best. The following are the reasons many students opt for the USA to further their academic pursuits:
- Gain Practical Experience
When you attend a U.S. university or college, you can work in real-world settings through internships. Many degree programs require internships, helping you build connections with top employers and opening doors for future opportunities.
- Enhance Your Career Prospects
U.S. universities regularly organize career fairs and workshops with speakers from prominent organizations. These events provide valuable networking opportunities, connecting you with industry experts who can play a crucial role in your professional journey.
- Access Cutting-edge Facilities
U.S. universities and colleges boast advanced research labs and workshops, offering opportunities to engage in groundbreaking research and contribute to innovative projects, enhancing your practical skills.
- Embrace Multicultural Experiences
Studying in the U.S. exposes you to a diverse community with unique cultures and traditions. This multicultural environment provides valuable teamwork experience, highly valued by employers in our globally connected world.
About the F-1 Student Visa
The F-1 Visa, known as the Academic Student Visa, enables you to come to the United States as a full-time student. This includes enrollment in accredited colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, elementary schools, or language training programs. It is a non-immigrant visa that grants international students entry into the U.S. for studies at institutions certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).To qualify, you must be part of a program leading to a degree, diploma, or certificate, and your chosen institution must be authorized by the U.S. government to admit international students. Your stay duration as an F-1 student depends on the enrolled program. The I-20 form from your chosen university indicates the program’s expiration date, aligning with the time needed to complete your degree. It is a document provided by the U.S. college or university you are accepted to and will attend. This form serves as a Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status. Post-graduation, you might qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT), allowing up to 12 months of work in a field related to your study. STEM graduates can request an additional two years. Without extensions, you’re required to return to your home country within 60 days after graduation.
What is F-1 “Status”?
“Status” in the F-1 visa context is your official nonresident category granted by immigration authorities, indicating that you are legally present in the U.S. with specific benefits and restrictions outlined in immigration regulations. You attain F-1 status either by entering the U.S. with F-1 documents or, for individuals already in the U.S. with a different status, by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a change of status.
Your authorized stay period is denoted as “duration of status,” which aligns with the duration of your F-1 status. F-1 status covers periods when you are a full-time registered student progressing toward your degree, engaging in optional practical training (if you apply for OPT), or using the 60-day “grace period” to prepare for departure or a change in status after completing your degree or OPT period. Most importantly, the length of your authorized stay is unrelated to your F-1 visa expiration date; it is contingent upon your adherence to F-1 rules.
F-1 Student Visa Eligibility
To be eligible for an F-1 visa, you must meet specific conditions, including:
- Admission to a SEVP-accepted institution
You need to apply and be accepted into your university of choice. These schools include not only universities but also high schools, seminaries, private elementary schools, conservatories, and language programs. Your chosen school or university must be listed on the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website before applying, as only institutions on this list can accept international students. The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a list of schools, universities, and other institutions which meet the conditions and accept international students. It is recommended that before applying to your preferred schools or universities, you should first check the SEVP and see if those institutions are listed there. If yes, you can proceed to send them any documents that they require to make an admission decision. If not, you should not apply since you will not get the student visa even if you are accepted into the school.
- Full-time enrollment
You must be enrolled as a full-time student in your academic program. You must ensure that you are enrolled as a full-time student as a part-time student application would not be approved. If you are seeking part-time programmes, then it is best to opt for other immigration pathways.
- Have strong ties to your home country
Indicate and submit documents showing your strong ties to your home country, indicating your intent to return after completing your educational program. Bear in mind that the F-1 visa is temporary and if you don’t prove and submit documents that you have strong ties to your home country and intend to go home after your educational program ends, it will be more difficult to get an F-1 visa.
- Financial sufficiency
Provide evidence of adequate funds in your bank accounts to cover your study and living expenses in the United States. While F-1 students can apply for scholarships, proving financial stability is important. In fact, you are encouraged to apply for scholarship funds and organizations to lower your financial burden.
- Proficiency in English
Show your ability to speak and understand English at a level suitable for academic enrollment. Proficiency can be proven through standardized English tests like TOEFL or IELTS. You can also be enrolled in courses to enhance your language skills.
- Foreign residence
You need to have a home in your own country, and you must plan to go back there once you finish your studies if you’re applying for an F-1 visa.
F-1 Student Visa Requirements
The following are the requirements for an F-1 student visa:
- Valid passport
To apply for an F-1 visa, you need a passport valid for travel to the United States, with a validity date extending at least six months beyond your intended period of stay. If the passport includes more than one person, each individual seeking a visa must submit a separate application. This ensures that each applicant is individually assessed for the F-1 visa.
- Form DS-160
The Form DS-160 is the online application for U.S. nonimmigrant visas. It’s a digital form that every applicant must fill out to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to the U.S. The form covers personal details, contact information, passport and travel history, previous visits to the U.S., family information, and questions about your education and work experience. Moreover, the DS-160 includes security-related questions about your background and requires you to upload a photo of your face. You can access the DS-160 form on the Consular Electronic Application Center website. This form must be filled out correctly to avoid any visa denials.
- Two passport photographs
Depending on the US Embassy you apply from and the type of US visa, the photos required might be physical photos or digital photos. Physical photos mean that you have to print them and send them as part of the visa application, while digital photos can be attached online when you submit your Form DS-160 or Form DS-260. The US visa photo size should be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm), and the photo should be positioned so that the head is between 1 and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of your chin to the top of the head. The photo must be in colour, taken within the last 6 months, with no shadows, and against a plain white background. You must face the camera with a neutral expression, both eyes open. You must not wear eyeglasses unless required for medical reasons, and if worn, the frames must not cover the eyes, and there should be no glare or shadows on the face from the glasses.
- Paid visa fee
To secure your F-1 visa, you’ll need to provide proof of the paid visa fee. This shows that you have paid the required fees. Bear in mind that this fee is different from other mandatory fees you may have to pay during the application process.
- Form I-20
This form outlines the funds required for your U.S. education and living expenses, substantiated by various documents such as:
- Bank statements covering the last 3 years.
- Tax records for the past 3 years.
- Proof of any received scholarships.
- Optionally, evidence of paying a semester or year’s tuition.
- If someone in the U.S. is supporting or sponsoring you, include Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) and their bank statements for the last three years.
- If funding is through a loan, provide proof of the approved loan.
- Proof of educational background
Additionally, you must present documents verifying your educational background and qualifications:
- Original transcripts.
- Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.).
- Acceptance letters from the educational institution.
- Previous degree diplomas.
- Proof of health insurance
You might be required to provide evidence of health insurance to cover potential medical expenses if you require medical assistance.
F-1 Student Application Guide
- Get your forms from the SEVP institution.
To start your F-1 visa journey, there are a few steps you need to take after applying and getting accepted to your desired institution. The key document in this process is the Form I-20, also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. It’s essential as without it, you won’t be able to submit your F-1 student visa application or participate in your interview. So, make sure you obtain this important document from the SEVP organization to proceed with the next stages of your visa application.
- The DS-160 application should be submitted online
After receiving your Form I-20, you can start the standard application process by completing the online DS-160 form with accurate information about your visa status. Make sure you fill this form properly and honestly so as not to affect the success of your application.
- Pay the visa application fee
The student visa application price is $185. You must pay this fee and get a receipt so that you may use it later to collect the paperwork for your interview. Depending on your place of origin and the US Embassy you are applying from, you may need to pay extra costs.
- Deposit the SEVIS I-901 fee
Your school registers you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) the moment you are accepted by the SEVP institution. There is a SEVIS I-901 charge for complete registration. The price is $200 for the F-1 visa.
- Set A date for the F-1 Visa Interview
You will need to set up your interview after submitting the DS-160 form and paying the associated expenses. Before receiving your student visa, you must attend the interview. Due to the US Embassy’s busy schedule, try to plan it as early as possible to avoid any delays. You will get an appointment letter for the interview when you book it, which you will require throughout the application procedure.
- Submit The Document
You should gather your file with the necessary student documents before going to your interview. Ensure all your documents are complete as if any are missing, it can affect the success of your application.
- Attend The Interview
The interview will explore your reasons for travelling to the U.S. and the specific educational institution you plan to attend. Expect questions about your intentions to return home upon completing your degree. Your responses significantly impact the outcome of your F-1 visa application.
The USA is one of the most sought-after countries for continuing your education. However, you may need an F-1 visa depending on your program and other factors. We hope this article has been of tremendous help to you as we have shown you all you need to know about the F-1 student visa.