For many students, the chance to study in the United States is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. Unless the person is already a U.S. citizen or green card holder, most prospective students will have to apply for a visa to study in the United States.
The non-immigrant F-1 visa is a powerful visa that allows international students to enter the U.S. and study at institutions certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The F-1 visa is the most popular type of student visa for individuals seeking to study at a U.S. university or college.
As a F-1 student, the duration of your stay will vary based on the program in which you enroll. During and after your program, you are eligible to apply for work authorization through Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). For STEM graduates, you can request additional time to work in your field. If you do not have any extensions or additional training, you will need to return to your home country after your graduation.
F-1 Visa Requirements
Here is a general list of the documents required to apply for an F1 Visa:
⦁ Valid passport.
⦁ Form DS-160 for non-immigrant visa applications.
⦁ Two photographs meeting the U.S. Visa Photo Requirements.
⦁ Proof of paid F-1 visa fee.
⦁ Form I-20. Your Form I-20 states the funds you need to finance your education and living in the U.S. You must submit documents that prove you have that amount readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
⦁ Bank statements
⦁ Tax records
⦁ Pay stubs
⦁ Scholarship letter
⦁ Paying a semester’s or a year’s worth of tuition is also a good idea, but not mandatory
⦁ If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the U.S., you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and additional bank statements.
⦁ If you are funding your U.S. education through a loan, you must show proof of the approved loan
⦁ Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications:
⦁ Degree diploma certificate and transcripts
⦁ Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
⦁ Acceptance letters from the educational institution which accepted you
⦁ Proof of purchased health insurance for international students.
How to Apply for an F-1 Visa?
The application process for the F-1 visa goes through the following steps:
⦁ Get your admissions documents from the SEVP approved institution.
⦁ Submit the DS-160 form.
⦁ Pay the application fee.
⦁ Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
⦁ Schedule your F-1 visa interview.
⦁ Submit the file with the required F-1 visa documents.
⦁ Attend the student visa interview.
Get Your Admissions Documents From the SEVP Institution
After you apply and are accepted into the school you want to attend, the school will complete certain procedures on their end so that you can apply for the F-1 visa. The most important document you need to have is Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Without this form, you will not be able to apply for an F-1 student visa and attend your interview.
Submit the DS-160 Form
After you get your Form I-20, you can start the usual application process. This includes filing the DS-160 online with the necessary information about your visa status.
Pay the DS-160 Application Fee
The application fee for the student visa is $160. You must pay this fee and get the receipt, which you will need later for your interview documents. You might have to pay additional fees based on your country of origin and the U.S. Embassy you are applying from.
Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee
When the SEVP institution admits you, your school immediately registers you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). To have full registration, there is a SEVIS I-901 fee. For the F1 visa, this fee is generally $200.
Schedule Your F-1 Visa Interview
After filing the DS-160 form and paying the fees, you must schedule your interview. The interview is a mandatory step before you get your student visa. Try to schedule it as early as possible since there might be delays due to the heavy workload of the US Embassy. When you schedule it, you will receive an interview appointment letter which you will need later on in the application process.
Attend the student visa interview
Before you attend your interview, you should prepare your file with the required documents for students.
When you attend the student visa interview, the questions will mostly revolve around your reasons for going to the U.S. and the institution you will be attending. The interviewer will try to assess whether you intend to return to your home country after completing your degree.
F-1 Visa Validity
When your visa is approved, it is generally for the full time that you will be in school in the US. However, if it is approved for less time, you will need to renew the visa at the appropriate time.
To confirm the validity of your F1 visa, you should look at your I-20 and I-94 form upon entering the U.S. If you are renewing your visa, you may follow the same procedure. However, depending on how you renew it, the interview may be waived. Once your visa is approved, you can enter the U.S. 30 days prior to your program beginning.