F-1 Academic Student or Language Trainee

F-1 (Academic Student or Language Trainee) Visa

What is the F-1 visa?

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at a college, university, or other educational institution.

What are the requirements for an F-1 visa?

  • You must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program or language-training program.
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program.
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student.
  • You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency.
  • You must have enough money to support yourself while you complete your program.
  • You must maintain a home abroad that you do not intend to give up.

What strategic considerations should I keep in mind?

  • You may work on campus, but not off campus, during your first academic year.
  • After your first year, you may have three types of off-campus employment: curricular practical training (“CPT”); optional practical training (“OPT”); or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) optional practical training extension.
  • Any off-campus employment must be related to your area of study and must be approved prior to beginning work by the Designated School Official and USCIS.
  • Your spouse and children may enter the U.S. as F-2 visa holders, but their stay ends as soon as you withdraw from school.

F-1 is a visa category for students who plan to pursue degree-granting academic studies in universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories, language programs, and certain exam preparation review classes approved by the DHS’ School and Exchange Visitor Program (see SEVP certified schools). The student must apply for admission to an educational institution and be granted the student status by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the US consular office abroad before being allowed to enroll in classes offered by the educational institution that issued the admission form I-20.

What are the requirements for an F-1 student visa?

The student must demonstrate the ability to pay the tuition fee and support themselves during their stay in the U.S.

Are students allowed to work?

Students have very limited opportunities for legal employment. F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment after they have been studying for one academic year. These three types of employment are: Curricular Practical Training (CPT); Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion); and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT). For F-1 students any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS. The F-1 student’s dependents on F-2 status are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools.

I do not plan to attend a formal academic program, do I still need an F-1 student visa?

A foreign national who plans to take a short course of study, that entails a course with less than 18 hours per week, may enter on a visitor’s (B) visa. If the course of study is 18 hours or more a week, it will be necessary to secure a student visa. When traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences, or a program of study for academic credit, a student visa will be required.

How long can I stay in the US on this visa?

All students will be admitted a maximum of 30 days before program start date. If changing status s/he will be given duration of status for period needed to complete one educational program including progression to higher levels if accomplished in accordance with DHS transfer procedures (thus, no extension of stay needed).

How do I maintain my student visa?

The foreign student must study only at an institution that issued the I-20 and particularly designated by the foreign student in the application for student visa. Such institution must be approved by and in compliance with rules of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that administers the SEVIS program. SEVIS is an acronym for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Maintaining student status also entails having sufficient financial support, possessing sufficient academic credentials to attend a particular institution, maintaining a full course of study, and having the intention to depart the US.