Coming to the U.S. to study at an accredited educational institution is an amazing prospect for many international students. It’s an excellent opportunity to practice your language skills, make potential professional connections, and give you a competitive edge when applying to university and graduate programs. If you wish to study in the U.S. you are required to obtain a visa. One of the most common student visas is the F-1 non-immigrant visa.
F-1 Visa and Eligibility
The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows international students to study full-time at an accredited institution in the United States. The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or in a language training program. To be eligible, you must be registered in a program that leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate. The U.S. government must also approve your educational institution to admit foreign students. The visa is valid for the duration of the student's program of study, plus an additional 60 days to prepare to leave the country. The following are requirements as listed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
- The school or academic institution must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP), and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
- Must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses that will lead to English proficiency
- Must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study (without requiring unauthorized employment)
- Must show intention to leave the U.S. at the end of the visa period by maintaining a residence abroad with no intention of giving it up.
- Have a valid Form I-20 – issued by the institution where they will study.
Maintaining Visa Status
It is very important for students to maintain their status while in the U.S. There are some potential risks and challenges to be aware of, such as maintaining their status as full-time students. International students must be enrolled in and actively attending classes full-time as a requirement to maintain a valid F-1 visa. The exact hours required to be considered a full-time student vary depending on the educational program in which the student is enrolled. For example, an undergraduate student must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester, which usually equates to 4 in-person classes.
Employment is allowed in very limited circumstances and, generally speaking, must be either on-campus or at an educationally affiliated off-campus location and less than 20 hours per week. There are some exceptions, but all employment must be approved by the Designated School Official (DSO) to ensure compliance. It’s important to note that violating these rules can result in the revocation of the student’s visa and their removal from the U.S. It’s strongly advised that before individuals begin their adventure into studying abroad in the U.S. that they speak with an immigration attorney.
At Pollak PLLC, we offer expert assistance in the student visa application process to secure an F-1 visa and excel in your academic journey. If you're seeking help with applicable immigration laws, call us today at (214) 731-4515 to schedule a consultation and discuss your options. We provide comprehensive legal advice and representation to help you find the appropriate immigration solution for your visa needs.