The American F Visa for International Students

Qualifying for F Visas

F visas can open worlds of opportunity for international students coming to the United States to pursue academic studies and language training. F visas can also be used to keep up status for certain family preference immigrants such as the older children of permanent residents. It should not matter if similar educational opportunities are available in their home countries provided they meet all the requirements.

What is an f-1 student visa or what is F1 status?

The immigration authorities grants an F1 student visa or status to an applicant who meet the following criteria:

1. F visa applicant must seek temporary admission to the United States solely to pursue academic studies at a recognized educational institution or language training program.

While not the same as that for a B visitor, at the time of the application or interview the applicant must be able to show that he intends to leave the United States upon completion of the study. The applicant must be able to prove that he is a good faith student and not a person whose purpose is to work in the United States.

F visa

2. Acceptance at a school/ Payment of SEVIS Fee

The applicant must have an SEVIS Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status,” issued in his or her name by a school approved by the Service for attendance by F-1 foreign students. In addition, applicants must pay the SEVIS Fee (I-901 payment). The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the discretion to admit international students for only 30 days and issue Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor” to remedy any defects in their documentation. International students seeking first admission with f visas must attend the school indicated on their visas. Aliens granted F visas to attend private elementary and high schools and who instead attend publicly funded schools will void their f visa status unless they can show they have reimbursed the local educational agency for the full economic cost of attendance and that their presence did not exceed 12 months.

3. Availability of enough funds

The applicant must have documentary evidence of financial support available in the amount indicated on the SEVIS Form I-20. Sometimes the applicant cannot show availability of sufficient funds outside the United States because and foreign currency restrictions may complicate matters. If a US person is sponsoring the student, the US person should sign an I-134 Affidavit of Support with proper supporting financial documentation. The affidavit of support is a legal obligation and not a mere formality to assure the student’s entry into the United States.

4. Minimum preparation for intended course of study.

The student must have sufficient academic credentials to attend the institution.

5. Maintain a full course of study.

The student must pursue a course that will lead to a specific educational or professional goal. In the context of pursuing studies at the undergraduate or college level, the student must keep up at least 12 semester or quarter hours per academic term unless less is necessary to complete the course of study in a current term [8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(6)].

F2 Visas – Admission of spouse and minor children of students with F visas

The spouse and minor children of an F-1 student are eligible for admission to the United States in F-2 dependent status. The spouse and child must demonstrate that the F-1 student has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies. The spouse and minor children of an F-1 student with an SEVIS Form I-20 must present their own original SEVIS Form I-20 issued in the each of their names released by a school authorized by the Service for attendance by F-1 international students. F-2 dependent children are allowed to attend school up to grade 12 without an I-20 and change of status to F-1.

If you are coming to study in the United States, it is crucial that you have all the required documents including, a record of fee payment, payment for SEVIS fees and a valid I-20 signed by the Designated School Officer of the educational institution you will attend. You should consider consulting with a dedicated immigration lawyer to help you through the f1 student visa processes and aid you to maintain your status or change your status as new opportunities present themselves over time.

For more information:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Student Process Steps)