The F-1 Student Visa category applies to individuals who are entering the U.S. to pursue a full course of study at an accredited university. The school or accredited university must be approved by the attorney general. The basic requirements of the F-1 Visa are:
- Credentials and ability to qualify for the full course of study at an SEVP certified institution
- Demonstrating status as a “bona fide” student with nonimmigrant intent and having strong ties to home county
- Desire to study at an established university, college, or other academic institution or other language training program in the U.S. which is approved by the Attorney General
- Fluency in the English language and possessing sufficient funds to attend the program which he/she has been admitted and live in the U.S. for the duration of the program
How to Apply for an F-1 Visa
Applying to a U.S. university is done using Form I-120. This form includes all relevant information including the university which has been selected as well as housing information. At most universities, gathered support materials for Form I-120 will be sent to the university’s Office of International Student Services’ office.
If the materials are deemed in order, the university will issue an I-120 which typically becomes effective within 10 days. Unfortunately, compiling the correct supporting material is not as easy as this article describes. It is important that the material is compelling to ensure the best results. Meeting with a qualified immigration attorney can make this phase in obtaining your F-1 visa all the easier.
F-1 Visa Interview
After receiving an I-120, the second step towards acquiring an F-1 student visa occurs – the visa interview. Interviews must be scheduled with the US embassy or consulate and can only occur after a $200.00 fee to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service (SEVIS) has been paid.
In the interview you can expect a few things. First, you will be asked to show all of your relevant papers including you I-120, passport and financial papers. Next you will be interviewed regarding your (1) educational plans, (2) support plans and (3) your plans to return to your home country.
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Once a consulate determines your case is in order, an F-1 student visa will be issued. Remember, you may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the reporting date on your I-120.
Optional Practical Training
Students under an F-1 Visa have the option in participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is a temporary employment agreement that must be directly related to a student’s course of study in the U.S. A student is able to participate in OPT after one full year of full-time enrollment at the U.S. institution of higher learning.
A student can begin the OPT process by seeking out their university’s Designated School Official (DSO). The DSO is responsible to verifying the student’s I-120 and then making the required notation in the SEVIS system. Following this, students file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with USCIS. Once approved, EAD will be issued to the student. Once the EAD has been issued, the student can participate in pre- or post-completion OPT.
Extensions for the OPT period are available to students who qualify. OPT extension can be applied for at any time prior to the expiration date of a student’s current OPT. Students are also able to change status from OPT to H1B during their departure preparation periods.
In some cases, OPT cases are denied for various reasons. These cases are typically very unique to the individual and may be outside the scope of this article to cover. What is important to remember is that you have options ranging from appeal through response to the Request for Evidence to changing status. Consulting an attorney is the best option as these cases are typically very complicated and require expert knowledge.
How We Can Help You
An F-1 Student Visa can bring a motivated student numerous opportunities. However, thorough execution of the F-1 process is a must. Entrusting your case to a legal professional allows for a worry-free application process.
Utilizing a legal professional is also highly recommended for those pursuing OPT or have unfortunately experienced an OPT denial. With years of experience in these areas, I can guide your case towards the best possible outcome.
I welcome any inquiries and hope that we have the opportunity to work together and make your petition a successful one.
For further reading on J-1 student visas please visit our blog section.