International students who attend an academic program or English language program at an US university or college are issued an F-1 visa – also known as a student visa. The students are required to maintain a minimum course load to retain their full-time student status. They are also able to remain in the US for up to sixty days after they complete their academic program, unless approved to work under the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT).

F-1 students must complete their studies by the time their I-20 form expires. The I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for nonimmigrant Student Status) is provided by the US university or college where the student has been accepted.

F-1 Visa Rules & Requirements

There are several F-1 visa requirements an applicant needs to keep in mind before applying for an F-1 student visa.

Certification – The university or college where an applicant studies needs to be approved by the Student Exchange & Visitor Program (SEVP) at the US Department of Homeland Security.

Enrollment – An applicant must be enrolled as a full time student at an educational institution for the full academic term.

English Proficiency – An applicant must meet the English language proficiency score of the institution you are attending or enroll in courses that will help improve your proficiency.

Funding – An applicant must provide evidence of having sufficient funds to finance your living expenses and studies while in the United States.

Passport – An applicant's passport must be valid for travel for at least six months after completing the educational program.

Residency in your home country An applicant must have a residence in his/her home country to return to after completing studies for a degree.

F-1 Visa Application Process

The F-1 visa application process normally takes from six to eight months, depending on USCIS processing times.

The process starts when an applicant gets accepted to a SEVP-certified college or university. The SEVP certification ensures that the college or university is accredited and can provide a proper education. After getting accepted, an applicant will receive her/his I-20 form which indicates funding sources, the program of study, the program's start and end dates, the applicant's SEVIS ID number and other information.

The I-20 form is necessary to enter the United States.

A DS-160 visa application form is mandatory for all international students. You will have to provide your I-20, passport, travel itinerary and a photo for your visa. After submitting your DS-160 form, you will receive a confirmation – you will need it as part of your visa interview.

It will be necessary to schedule a visa interview at the nearest US consulate or embassy. Waiting times can vary depending on your country and can take months.

During your interview, the US embassy or consulate will have to confirm that you are a legitimate student who wishes to complete an educational program. You have to prove that you have the necessary funds to cover studies and living expenses in the US and must also confirm that you plan to return to your home country after finishing studies.

After completing the interview, an applicant will be granted the F-1 student visa – the right to study in a US university or college.

Donald Gross Law can guide you through the process of obtaining an F-1 student visa and ultimately, a green card.

Contact Donald Gross Law for a free 30-minute consultation to start the application process for your F-1 student visa.