Who is it for: An F-1 visa is issued to full-time students or researchers who want to study at American educational institutions. It is the most common type of student visa.
There are other types of student visas as well. There are J-1 visas, issued to students participating in a cross-cultural exchange program, and the M-1 visa, issued to students who want to pursue vocational studies in the United States.
F-1 visa holders with spouses and children can also apply to have their family members join them in the United States by applying for an F-2 visa.
Check Your Eligibility
An F-3 visa is also available for students who are considered “border commuters” that live in their own country and cross the border to attend school in the United States. These visas are granted only to students from Mexico and Canada who may study in the United States either full- or part-time.
Immigrant or Non-immigrant visa: Nonimmigrant visa.
Duration: An F-1 visa holder can stay in the United States as long as they are enrolled in an academic institution.
Details: Students must be enrolled as a full-time student and be able to prove that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves during their stay in the United States.
Other than working on-campus for up to 20 hours a week, F-1 visa holders are not allowed to work in the United States without approval from USCIS.
Check Your Eligibility
F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days before the start of a visa holder’s academic program. It is important to note that even with an F-1 visa in hand, students may still not enter the United States until 30 days prior to the start of their studies.
To apply: Students must be accepted and enrolled in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved educational institution prior to applying for an F-1 visa. F-1 visa applicants must get a Form I-20 from their educational institution before they can submit a visa application. The applicant can only apply for an F-1 visa at the native country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. If the applicant has a spouse or children who also will be coming to the United States while the applicant attends an educational institution, they must also obtain a Form I-20.
When a student is accepted by a school in the United States, they will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Prospective F-1 visa holders can apply online by completing an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. When complete, they will receive an application confirmation page which should be printed out and brought to their visa interview. The fee to file the application is currently $160. Applicants should also be prepared to present any academic transcripts, test scores, diplomas and other supporting data to substantiate their intent to study in the United States.
In many instances, F-1 visa extensions are granted to existing F-1 visa holders. An extension is usually needed when a student changes a research or major project topic, there are problems encountered in the research they are doing or they are able to document that they had a significant illness. To apply for an extension, applicants must file within 30 days of the end of their current academic program.
Extensions for F-1 visas will be turned down if a student adds unnecessary extra coursework or does not perform adequately in the coursework they are pursuing.
For more information: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs overview webpage.
Information on filing for an F-1 visa extension can be found here.