F-1 Visa for Students

The F-1 Visa allows international students to pursue their education in the United States as a full-time students at an accredited college, university, high school or other academic institution. According to the immigration regulations, the foreign student must be enrolled in a full course of study that ends with the conferral of a degree, diploma or certificate.

In the wake of the closure of the California-based Tri-Valley University (TVU) for immigration fraud, it is extremely important that students beware of the parameters of this visa classification in order to avoid any adverse immigration-related consequences.

Student Exchange & Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Form I-20:

Upon enrolling in an educational institution that you have been accepted to, you will receive a form I-20, which you will need to present to the U.S. Embassy in your country to apply for your F-1 student visa. The Form I-20 contains information pertaining to your academic course of study in the United States educational institution like degree start and end dates, academic major etc.

Employment while on F-1 status:

F-1 students cannot work off-campus, but can work on-campus subject to approval by USCIS and only for a certain number of hours per week. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment pursuant to certain conditions and restrictions:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

Extensions:

If you are unable to complete your academic degree program by the end date listed on your Form I-20, you must seek an extension at least one month before expiry of your I-20 in order to avoid falling our of status.

Reinstatements:

Reinstatement is the manner in which the foreign student regains his or her status after having fallen out of lawful immigration status. The student must apply for reinstatement no later than five months after being out of status. Making a convincing case for reinstatement requires the student to demonstrate either that:

  1. The violation of the status relates to a reduction in a student’s course load, and that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student, or
  2. Violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control

Grace Periods:

The SEVIS regulations provide an F-1 student a certain amount of time in order to maintain lawful immigration status in the United States. After completion of his or her studies and/or training, the student is given a grace period of 60 days to leave the United States. On the other hand, if the student withdraws from his or her school, the grace period is reduced to 15 days.

Required Documents:

  • Valid passport for at least 6 months after the student’s proposed date of entry into the United States;
  • Form I-94;
  • Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status
  • Form DS-156, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant, together with Form DS-158 (some may be required to submit Form DS-157);
  • Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, from a financial sponsor for the educational and other expenses listed in the I-20;
  • Transcripts, diplomas, resume and standardized test scores (SAT, GRE etc)
  • A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt;
  • One recent passport style photograph.