F-1 (Student Visa)
The F-1 visa allows foreign nationals to pursue a full course of academic study at a school approved by the Attorney General for foreign students. However, it is not necessary to have an F-1 visa to attend school. Spouses and dependents of E visas, L visas, H-1B visas, and J visas may also attend school on a full or part-time basis. To qualify for the F-1 visa, a prospective student must:
- Enroll in an academic program at a school approved by the Attorney General;
- Enroll for a full course of study and not part-time study;
- Establish proficiency in English or be enrolled in an English language course;
- Establish that they have sufficient funds to support themselves; and
- Show maintenance of ties to their home country and that they intend to leave the U.S. upon completing their studies.
To obtain an F-1 visa, a prospective student first must apply to a school and be admitted. The admitting school will provide an I-20 form for the student to present at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. If determined to be eligible for the F-1 visa, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will issue an F-1 visa. Upon entry to the U.S., the F-1 student should be admitted for the duration of their studies (D/S on the I-94 card).
A prospective student who enters on a visitor's visa to look at schools will not be allowed to change their status to F-1 status in the U.S. and begin school, unless they explained this upon entering the U.S. and a notation was made on the prospective student's I-94 card.
F-1 students can work in an on-campus job up to 20 hours a week during the school year. Students can also undertake optional practical training (OPT) either during studies, or upon graduation, for a total of 12 months. Students who graduate from a course of study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) may apply for a 17-month extension of their OPT, for a total of 29 months in OPT. The employer of the OPT employee must be registered with E-Verify in order for the employee to qualify for the extension. This OPT extension for STEM students is useful in years when the H-1B cap is reached early, before an employer is able to submit an H-1B petition for the STEM student, or when the USCIS must conduct a lottery for H-1B's.
Spouses or parents of F-1 students are not authorized to work.
Full-time or part-time students who reside in either Canada or Mexico and commute to the U.S. to attend school are eligible for a specific border commuter non-immigrant classification.