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U.S. Student Visa: Frequently Asked Questions

Before obtaining F-1 visa

What is required to qualify for F-1 visa?

To qualify for an F-1 visa, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Be proficient in English, unless you are coming to the United States to participate in an English language training program. In some cases, the school may make special arrangements to teach you English.
  • Prove that you have sufficient funds to complete your education.
  • Plan to attend a full course of study by a school approved by the USCIS.
  • Have a Form I-20A-B issued by your school

What are the benefits of F-1 visa?

Students in F-1 visa status receive the following benefits:

  • Come to the United States to study full time in a program leading to a degree or certificate;
  • Transfer to a different school or switch academic programs by notifying the USCIS;
  • Legally work part-time on-campus. You may even seek off-campus employment if it is economically necessary or if it involves practical training;
  • Flexibility to travel within the United States or abroad during the completion of your studies; and,
  • Bring your spouse and children to the United States on an F-2 visa.

What are the limits of F-1 visa?

Students in F-1 visa status must do the following:

  • You may work off-campus only with prior permission from the USCIS
  • You must attend the specific school for which your visa has been approved
  • Your spouse and children (in F-2 status) may not work in the United States

Where do I file my F-1 visa application?

  • Apply at the U.S. consulate nearest the place of your residence.
  • If you are already in the U.S. on another nonimmigrant status, you may apply for change of status to F-1. You should apply to study at a USCIS approved school in the U.S. If you are admitted, the school will issue you Form I-20. You should submit this form and a Form I-539 to the USCIS. If the USCIS approves the application, a new Form I-94 will be issued to you.

What is the processing time for F-1 visa?

The processing time for an F-1 visa depends on the consulate where you are applying and the results of your background and security check. You may be able to receive your F-1 visa in a few days, or it may take weeks or longer.

While studying in the U.S. on an F-1 Visa

How long can I stay in the U.S.?

Your Form I-20 states the length of time you may stay to finish your studies. You are permitted to stay until you finish your studies.

Can I change status while on F-1 visa?

Yes, you may apply to change to a different status while on an F-1 visa. Many students change from F-1 for instance to an H-1B, allowing them to work for a company in the United States. Other visitor and work visas are also available.

What are the requirements for a transfer to another school?

  • You must be attending an academic institution or a language-training program;
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student;
  • The school must be approved by the USICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to accept foreign students;
  • You must show sufficient financial support to complete the study;
  • You must prove that you do not intend to abandon your foreign residency.
  • Can I travel outside the US?

    Yes. You may return to the US after an absence of no more than five months. You must have a new F-1 visa if your original one has expired. Have your designated school official sign your I-20 before leaving the US.