What is F1 Student Visa?
The F visas in the United States are a type of Visa for non-immigrant students, which allows prospective students coming from abroad to pursue higher education (academic studies/language training courses) at the United States of America. The F-1 Visa is issued to international academic students only in US Embassies and Consulates in other countries for students interested in studying at a US University or college. The extension of your stay and changes in the status of the Visa can be taken care of at the United States itself; you need not go back to the Embassy/Consulate where you applied for the Visa.
Students holding an F-1 Visa can stay for a maximum of 60 days after the completion of their course if they don’t opt for OPT. If they do, they can work for a year and extent their OPT period by another 2 years if the Master’s major is STEM.
The I-20 forms (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status) which are issued by the University or College when a student has been accepted, has an expiration date, by which the enrolled student is expected to complete their education.
F1 Visa Qualifications
To qualify for an F-1 Visa, you need to satisfy the following conditions:
Get an admission offer from a SEVP approved University/College
Many schools, universities, colleges and other institutions are a part of the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). These institutions accept international students for their academic programmes. To qualify for an F-1 visa, it is required for a student to apply and get an admission from a SEVP approved schools.
US A has thousands of Universities and Colleges with a variety of academic courses in every field and specialisation. We would recommend you to check the SEVP list before you apply for an admission. If your preferred institution is not listed in the SEVP, there is no point in applying as you won’t get a visa under the F-1 category, even if you are admitted for the course.
Have good, strong ties to your homeland
Getting an F1 visa would be a problem if you do not provide relevant proof and documents showing your strong connections and bond to your home country.
Provide proofs of your financial resources
The US Universities have a fantastic variety of courses, but they are a little expensive when compared to academic programmes offered in other countries. Anyone applying for an F visa must assure they have sufficient financial resources to cover their educational fee, as well as living expenses in the USA.
Have good proficiency in English
Students whose first language isn’t English must submit a proof of their English proficiency, which matches the prerequisites of the programme they shall be enrolling it. This can be provided by attempting standardised English language examinations such as the IELTS or the TOEFL.
How to apply
USA visa procedures can be much of a hassle. A lot of steps to be followed, a lot of formalities to be completed, a considerate time to be spent in waiting for responses from your University/College and the visa officials. It might take quite a toll on you to keep track of what you are doing, and what has to be done next. You might also be confused and nervous if things are going correct or not. Well, we have a one-stop solution for your worries! Here we shall discuss the step-by-step procedures on how we can apply for an F-1 visa successfully, following every step with guided instructions!
For the entire process to begin, we first need to be accepted by a University/Colleges/School under the Student & Exchange Visitor Program, also called the SEVP. More than 15000 Universities/Colleges are under the SEVP Certified Schools list. Kindly check the list before you apply for an admit. Only a SEVP approved school can provide you with an F-1 visa.
Assuming you have scored an admit at your favoured target University at the United States, we now move ahead with the next step. Once you are accepted, you will now be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee . This makes you eligible to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The SEVIS I-901 Fee for an F visa applicant is $350.
On completing the fee payment, you will now receive the I-20 Form from your school. This document is also identified as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students. This document provides supporting important information on the applicant’s F visa. This I-20 form should be submitted at the time of your Visa interview. If you are planning to go to the USA with your spouse/children, you will have to register on separate I-20 forms. But they will not be registered under the SEVIS, as you are the only one studying in the USA.
Now begins your primary application process. You need to start the online visa application process now. The online non-immigrant visa application, the DS160 form should be submitted. This document needs to be completed and carefully checked before submission. You should also attach a photograph of yours, which matches the requirements mentioned on their website. Once completed, print this application confirmation page as you need to bring it during the visa interview.
So we have filled the documents. We have paid the fees. What do we now do?
It’s now time to schedule an appointment for the Visa Interview! You need to book an appointment at the US Embassy/Consulate at your country of residence. You can schedule a booking at the following offices :
- US Embassy New Delhi
- US Consulate General Chennai
- US Consulate General Hyderabad
- US Consulate General Kolkata
- US Consulate General Mumbai
The wait times for these interview appointments might vary by location, visa category and season. The US Embassy and Consulates are usually really busy with a lot of visa applications and other priorities. So don’t delay in applying for an appointment. The earlier, the better! Also, if there are any errors along the Visa Application process, you will have sufficient time to work on it. Once you’ve booked an appointment successfully, you will receive the interview appointment letter, which needs to be carried during your interview.
You also need to pay for the Visa application for the interview. The F1 Visa Fee amounts to $160.
Before you go for the interview, assemble all the necessary documents you need. These documents include your DS-160 form, the I-20 form, passport, academic records, financial proof, etc.
All set now! It is time to go to attend the visa interview! Carry all the essential documents you need for the interview. Make sure to reply confidently and show all the necessary documents. You will also be needed to submit your passport for the visa processing.
Once you have the Visa issued, you will be required to pay the Visa Issuance Fee, and you will be informed on how to collect the passport (and other documents).
Sometimes, there may be situations where your academic programme has a duration longer than your visa validity. Maybe your Masters might be for 2 years, but you get Visa only for 1 year. In such cases, you should apply for renewal. The renewal has the same procedures from the beginning, but you need not attend the interview as you have already done it once.
What are the Documents needed?
Every document involved in the Visa application process holds chief importance. Thus, you must make sure to carry each and every document through the process. The following are the documents required for an F-1 visa process :
- Two photographs meeting the requirements as mentioned on their site
- Prior academic certificates and proofs
- Transcripts of your previous degree
- IELTS / TOEFL Scores
- GRE / GMAT Scores
- Acceptance / Offer letter from the University / College you have been selected to
- Previous degree diplomas
- The I-20 Form
- The DS-160 Form
- Application Fee Payment Receipt
- Intent to depart the US upon completion of the course of study
- Proof of financial resources
How will the F-1 interview be?
After a roller-coaster ride throughout the visa application process, it is FINALLY time for the Visa Interview. But what exactly happens? What might be asked?
The preliminary procedure will be taking your biometrics. Your digital fingerprints and photos will be taken at the interview office.
You shall be questioned on your intent to visit the US A and regarding the background of your family, education and finances. If you have a doubt on what kind of questions might be asked, here we have a few frequently asked questions which can help you prepare on it!
Most of the questions revolve around the following topics :
- The intent to study in the United States of America
- Your choice in University and Course you had applied for
- Your academic strengths and other information
- Your plans after your Master
- The financial background of your family and the financial resources you will be providing for your education and stay
- Family background and relatives
These questions mainly require you to answer on your study plans at the USA. Some of the commonly asked questions are:
- Why did you choose the USA as your country for Masters?
- Will the degree match your current job profile?
- Where did you attend Universities and Schools until now?
- Does this course correlate your previous studies and work experience?
- If not, why are you interested in changing your domain/field of focus?
- Are you currently employed?
- Which all companies have you worked for?
- Why do you think a Masters would be beneficial?
- Why not Canada, United Kingdom or Australia?
- Why not pursue your postgraduate education in your homeland itself?
- Which University / College are you going for?
- What subject are you going to specialise in for your degree?
- Where all had you applied, apart from the chosen University /College?
- What do you think is appealing about USA Education?
- Have you contacted any professors at your University?
- Which state/district/city is your University /College located in?
- How many offer letters did you receive?
- Why did you apply for this particular University /Course?
- Which other courses/specialisations were you interested in?
- Do you think your chosen specialisation will have a good impact on your career?
- How did you score in the GRE /GMAT?
- What level of English proficiency did you get in TOEFL /IELTS?
- What was your previous GPA (or percentage)?
- Were you among the toppers in the class? Or an average student? Or among the low scorers?
- Do you think you can adjust to the differences in the education system?
- What were your contributions to your Bachelor’s Capstone project?
- What are your plans after the Masters?
- Do you plan on going back to your home country?
- Will you stay in the United States of America even after your Masters?
- Will you join your company again after the Masters?
- Do you have a career goal?
- What do you want to work as, after attaining your Masters?
- Would you pursue your PhD soon after your post-graduation?
- Would you continue your research in the same field?
- How do you plan to fund your education?
- Do you have any savings?
- Have you applied for scholarships or fellowships?
- What is/ was your monthly income?
- How much is your education fee?
- Who will sponsor your education?
- How many years have your parents worked for?
- Do you have a copy of your bank statements?
- Have you found an accommodation? What is the monthly rent?
- Have you also applied for an education loan?
- What percentage of your fee will be covered under the loan?
- How many brothers and sisters do you have?
- Has anyone in your family been to the USA before? When?
- Does your mother work? Does your father work?
- Do any on your siblings work?
- Do you have any relatives living in the United States of America?
- Which state do your relatives live in the United States?
- Are you planning on staying with your relatives in the USA?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
- Will someone be accompanying you to the USA?
- Where does your family live?
- Has anyone else in your family pursued their Masters? Where did they complete their post-graduation?
- Make sure you arrive early for your Visa Interview. You would not want to be late and put forth an unpleasant impression of yourself.
- Dress smart and groom yourself well. They always say that the first impression is the last impression. Do not put off your image for them,
- As your digital fingerprints will be taken, do not attend the interview with Mehendi or bandages on your hand. You will be simply sent back, and you will again have to schedule and wait for your turn for the interview.
- Your photograph needs to be clear, with every part of your face clearly seen.
- Your forehead must be visible, so do not wear caps or style your hair with bangs. Your ears also need to be seen, so do not cover your ears with your hair.
- Trim your beard well and make it look presentable. Again, do not make it look shabby.
- Wear decent clothes for the visa interview. Nothing too fancy or blingy. Keep it simple – you can wear formal attire or any traditional Indian attire.
- Wear minimal or no accessories. It should not be a distraction during the interview.
- If your religion requires you to wear accessories, keep it a bit minimal.
- Do not forget to iron your clothes!
- Make sure you apply a good, light perfume (if you are using) with just a few sprays. Strong smells and too much perfume might not really be favourable.
- Make sure you look almost similar to the photograph you have submitted for the Visa Interview initially.
- Speak English. Even if you are not getting the right words, take your time.
- Know your University and the Course well. You do not want to go there and keep thinking about the answers.
- Breathe. Drink water and stay hydrated.
- Be confident. Greet them with a warm smile and if you do not understand any question, ask them kindly to repeat it as you did not understand it.
- Keep your answers short and simple. You need not explain your entire family history or educational background. Main points are sufficient unless you are asked to explain more on it.
- Stay positive! We know that the process can be a little overwhelming. But being nervous about it would just make it more worse.
- Lastly, be honest. You would not want to risk having your Visa rejected. Even if you reapply for the Visa after an initial rejection, it might have a negative outlook on your profile.
F1 Student Visa Rejection
This is your WORST nightmare. Imagine going through the entire process, just to be disappointed at the end. There may be many reasons why your Visa can get rejected. Some of them are:
- Incorrect or missing documentation
- Lack of proof of financial resources for funding your stay at the United States of America
- Lack of evidence that you will be returning to your country once you have completed your Masters
- Forgery or false documents
- Background check not done satisfactorily
- Failure to put forth your views in the interview
- Behaviour in the interview
- Your grooming and attire
- Unsure while answering questions
- Improper English skills
- If you already have family staying in the USA
- If the University/Degree looks a little suspicious
- And sometimes, there is not really a justified reason!
If you have been rejected, just give it another try! You shall be informed about the reason of your rejection by the consular office, and given a letter as well. Make sure you understand where you have gone wrong, and try working on it. You can give any number of attempts for the visa interview, but be prepared to answer for a reason for your rejection.
Also, don’t lose hope. Remember. You have other options as well. You can either apply in other countries, study in your home country, or start working!
Maintaining a Valid F-1 Status upon Arrival
You have finally got your F-1 Visa! You can finally have a deep breath of relief.
But wait now. It might still be in danger. You need to maintain a valid F-1 Visa while staying in the USA. Here are a few things to be done to preserve the status of a valid F-1 Visa:
Your stay in the United States of America
Having an F-1 Visa, you need to arrive in the USA only 30 days (or lesser) before the commencement of your classes.
Once you reach USA, make sure to link your local address to the International Office of your school so that they can update your records in the SEVIS portal. Even if you change your accommodation in between your studies, you need to update it again. Failure in doing so might make them have an unnecessary doubt on you.
Also, once you complete your education, you can stay for a maximum of 60 days in America.
Presence in the classes and University
Students having the F-1 Visa must enrol in full-time courses, and regularly go to class and maintain the minimum passing grades. If you have any problems while completing your education by the date mentioned in your I-20 form, you can consult your mentors and the International Office, and they can help on the extension.
Tax, tax, tax!
Maintaining a valid F-1 visa is your priority. Thus, you are required, by the US law, to file a tax return provided you were present in the US in the previous calendar year.
Leaving USA while on the F-1 Visa?
You want to go back home, but are worried about your Visa?
You can leave the United States, and reenter the country any time, as long as your absence is lesser than 5 months. Also, your passport has to be valid at least for 6months for maintaining the Visa.
With an F-1 visa, you are eligible to find employment on the campus. If you are planning on working off-campus, you need to find a job related to your programme of study.
F-1 students are allowed to work off-campus in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) status, during as well as after completion of their Masters. The OPT can be applied after being enrolled at the University for at least 9 months. However, but you can’t begin working until you get the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and have been enrolled at the University/College for a year at the minimum.
Apart from the OPT, you can also be a part of the Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This is another off-campus employment choice for F-1 Visa holders. Under the CPT, practical training is an integral part of their curriculum or academic program.