F Visa – Academic Student Visa

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F Visa – Academic Student Visa

F Visas are for students who have been accepted at a SEVP Certified Academic institution for full-time study, their spouse, and unmarried minor children who will live with them during their studies in the US.  F Visas are “Nonimmigrant Visas.”   Applicants are expected to return to their country of origin after they complete their studies, and may be asked to show proof of residence outside the United States.

In order to apply for the F Visa the student and any family traveling with them must each have an I-20 form from the school the student will attend.  The student must be fluent in English or enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency.  Applicants must also prove that they have sufficient finances to cover living expenses and tuition for the duration of their studies.

Universities, High Schools, Primary Schools, Conservatories, and language training programs, in the United States that have been certified with ICE can issue the I-20 form for an F Visa.

There is no limit to the number of F Visas issued in a year, and the wait time for Embassy or Consulate interviews is generally very short.  The F Visa cannot be issued more than 120 days prior to the beginning of the course of study, and the student cannot initially enter the country with the F visa more than 30 days prior to the beginning of classes.



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F Visa -- Academic Student Visa Basics

F Visas are for full-time academic students and their dependents and are intended for temporary visits to complete study programs, not for permanent immigration. Students need to apply, be accepted and enroll in a full-time course of study in the United States while they reside outside the US. Once enrolled, the Academic institution will issue the I-20 form qualifying the student and dependent spouse and minor children to apply for the F Visa.

Proof of strong ties to the student’s country of origin, including family ties, property ownership or an offer of employment after completion of the course of study may be required.

The student will need to prove language proficiency if not enrolled in a language training course and must prove that they have the financial means to cover their personal and academic expenses for the duration of their studies.

Students on F Visas are permitted to work on-campus part-time during terms and full-time during school breaks. Dependents of students who enter the country on F-2 Visas are not eligible to work while in the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I change Universities or Courses of Study while in the United States on an F Visa?

Yes, but you are required to be enrolled full-time and have a valid I-20 from an accredited school at all times while in the United States.

How long does it take to get an F Visa for Academic Study in the United States?

The process to obtain a Student Visa is quick compared to other Visa options. Once you have enrolled in your program and obtained the I-20 form, you will need at least 2 months to apply for and be granted the Visa, and you cannot begin the process more than 4 months in advance. Actual times may vary, primarily based on how many Visa applications and interviews your Embassy is processing at the time. After your application is submitted the wait for an interview could be a few days or a few weeks. On some occasions, the application is processed prior to the interview and you can be told after your interview if the Visa will be granted.

Is an F Visa a path to a Green Card or Citizenship?

While the F Visa is considered a "Nonimmigrant Visa" it does allow for the possibility of adjusting your status after your course of study. An employer who has made you an offer can sponsor your application for an H1B, or if you are married to a US Citizen or permanent resident while you are in school they can Sponsor your petition.

Alternatively, the F-1 visa is one of the few visas where you can “self-petition” your visa to become a permanent resident. Although the process is complicated, it is possible to apply for a green card as an F-1 student visa holder. Some students choose to self-petition for an O Visa as a “person with extraordinary abilities”. You can also become a green card holder (i.e. a lawful permanent resident) if you can prove that you will invest $500,000 in the U.S. economy.

Can I ever work off-campus while in the United States on an F Visa?

The F-1 visa is for students, and the American government recognizes that some students need to work to support their studies.

With that in mind, you are permitted to work as an F-1 visa holder. However, there are restrictions on your work. You are only allowed to work part-time on campus while your program is in session, for example, and full-time during breaks.

There are also two circumstances where you can work outside of campus, including Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT):

Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)

If your educational institution requires you to work as part of the curriculum, and you need to complete practical training in order to graduate, then you may be allowed to work in Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) under your F-1 student visa. With this work, the training or practical work must be in your field study. The work also needs to be approved by your Designated School Official (DSO). CPT can begin after a minimum of 9 months of training in your degree. There is no limit on how long CPT can last, although if you have a CPT position for more than 12 months, then it prohibits you from applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is different from CPT. OPT is not required by your degree, but it is intended to give you work experience in the United States near the conclusion of your program. You can start OPT before or after you graduate. The main restriction is that the work has to be related to your field of study. You also cannot work in OPT positions for more than 12 months (although students in STEM-related subjects can file for an OPT extension of up to 24 additional months). Your OPT position can start after you and your Designated School Official (DSO) file for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), If your OPT position goes successfully, then your employer may sponsor you for an H-1B visa.

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