F-1 Visas – First Preference
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First Preference For Family-Based Visas

Portions of the content on this page are available as public information on the USCIS website.

Criteria for Eligibility

Individuals seeking to come to the US for academic study will likely apply for the F-1 visa category. F-1 visas are usually for individuals coming to study in the US as a full-time student at an accredited university, college, institution of higher education, private high school or elementary school, language training program, or other academic institutions. The key requirement is that the F-1 student is enrolled in a course of study that ends in a degree, diploma, or certificate from a school that is authorized to accept international students.

The required documentation for this visa falls under 3 main categories:

Basic Documents Documents Proving Intent to Study Documents Proving Home Ties
  • Valid Passport
  • Application Fee
  • 2”x2” photograph
  • DS-160 Confirmation Page
  • Form I-20 from the US school
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
  • Resume
  • Documents proving the ability to cover all expenses while studying in the US
  • Documents detailing your study/research plans in the US
  • Academic history documents
  • Marriage/Birth Certificates (if applicable)
  • Bank statements for accounts in home country
  • Proof of property in home country
  • Proof of employment/salary in home country

 

Application Process

  • You must be accepted to an academic program in the US that allows F-1 students.
  • Complete Form DS-160.
  • Schedule your visa interview (not required for children under 14 years or adults 80 years and older).
  • Pay the required visa application fees.
  • Complete your visa interview and fingerprint scans.
  • Enter the US on your F-1 visa
    1. NOTE: New F-1 students may only enter the US no more than 30 days before their academic studies start in the US.

Validity Period

The F-1 visa is valid for the duration of the academic program the student is enrolled in. This time period is defined on the Form I-20 issued by the US school.

F-1 students may work at their US school while studying. After the first year of study, F-1 students are allowed to work off campus in jobs related to their course of study. This work is called either Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT). F-1 students are required to apply for and obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to start working.

F-1 students must leave the US no more than 60 days after the academic program is finished unless the student is authorized to remain and work in the US under OPT. OPT allows the F-1 student to gain experience in their field of study by working in a related job. After completing the study program, OPT can last up to 1 year for most fields of study and up to 3 years for F-1 students studying in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field. F-1 students have 60 days to leave the US after completing OPT.

Family of Visa Holder

The spouse and unmarried, minor children of F-1 students may apply for and obtain F-2 visas to come and live with the F-1 student while studying in the US. Minor children can attend school while with the F-1 student in the US. F-1 spouses may study part time in the US but are not allowed to work in the US.

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