F-1 Student Visa

To come study in the United States, most students need an F-1 student visa. Students who travel to the U.S. on a visitor visa or through the Visa Waiver Program can take non-credit recreational courses, but if they are taking a class that leads toward a degree or academic certificate, a visitor visa is not enough, even if the class is brief.

The good news about obtaining an F-1 student visa is that it allows you to bring a spouse and unmarried minor children with you on F-2 visas. You also may be able to work in some situations. However, the bad news about an F-1 student visa is that the application process can be lengthy and demanding. Any mistakes could delay grant of a visa or result in a denial of your application. 

Many students choose to work with an experienced immigration lawyer at American Dream™ Law Office during the application process to avoid potential problems. We assist with all types of visas, including student visas and associated visas for family members.

Requirements for an F-1 Visa

The most critical factor for students to understand when they apply for an F-1 visa is that not only do they have to meet the eligibility criteria, they also need to prove that they meet those criteria. Applicants must show persuasively that they:

  • Live outside the U.S. and maintain substantial ties to the home country
  • Have financial support to allow them to complete the course of study without working
  • Are proficient in the English language or are enrolled in classes that will lead to proficiency with the language
  • Intend to return to their home country after studies are finished
  • Are accepted and enrolled in a program at school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

Once a student is enrolled in an SEVP-approved school, they are entered into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)and they must pay the SEVIS fee. The school then issues a Form I-20, which provides evidence of acceptance and enrollment for immigration purposes. If a spouse or child will be entering the U.S. on an F-2 visa, they must also register and obtain a copy of Form I-20, but they do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.

Application and Interview at the Embassy or Consulate

After receiving a Form I-20, the student then applies for an F-1 visa at the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Requirements vary, but usually the applicant will need to submit a Form DS-160 and schedule an interview at the embassy or consulate and pay the application fee.

Before the visa interview, applicants need to gather required documentation. Officials may request additional documentation during or after the interview. An immigration attorney can help ensure that you have information likely to be requested, such as standardized test scores or proof of ties to the home country. It is important to be truthful when answering questions during the interview, and to ensure that your answers match the information provided in your application and other documentation.

New students can receive a visa up to 120 days ahead of the start date of school, but they will not be allowed to enter the U.S. until 30 days before the start of the program. Continuing students may receive a visa and enter the U.S. at any time before classes start.

An Experienced Immigration Lawyer Could Help You Obtain Your F-1 Student Visa

The dedicated immigration team at American Dream™ Law Office knows how to ensure that F-1 student visa applications fully demonstrate an applicant’s qualifications. We can help you avoid mistakes that could result in delays or denial of your application. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you reach your goals.

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