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Frequently Asked Questions about the F-1 Student Visa

This article answers the frequently asked questions about applying for an F-1 student visa.

By Annie Rose Stathes
Last Updated: May 14, 2012

Frequently-Asked-Questions-about-the-F-1-Student-Visa

Q: How long can I stay in the United States with my F-1 student visa?

A: The F-1 student visa typically allows you to stay in the United States for as long as you have student status. To maintain your status as a student, and to keep your F-1 visa, you must be enrolled in full-time studies at your U.S. educational institution. If you haven’t completed your academic or language studies and your F-1 visa expires, you will more than likely be allowed to stay in the U.S. to complete your studies, but every case varies. Once you’ve completed your studies you will have up to 60 days to either leave the United States or register into your next course of studies. If you register into another course of studies, you will need to talk with the U.S. consulate and, at the very least, complete another I-20 form.

Q: How long does it take to apply for and receive my F-1 student visa?

A: Consulates and embassies can issue an F-1 visa up to 120 days prior to the start date of your program in the United States. If you apply for the visa more than 120 days before the beginning of your program, the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country will hold the visa until they can legally issue it. They will use the extra time to complete administrative work on the visa.

It is advisable that you apply for your F-1 student visa as soon as you’ve been accepted into an academic program in the United States and entered into the SEVIS. Likewise, it is important that you start to gather your documentation and other required information long before you interview with the consulate. Gathering passports, test scores and other documentations can take time.

Q: How do I know if I’m qualified to apply for an F-1 student visa?

A: To qualify for an F-1 student visa, your academic program must meet the following criteria:

  • It must be offered through an SEVP-certified school
     
  • It must be an academic or language program
     
  • It must be a course of study that is more than 18 hours per week

Additionally, in order to apply for the F-1 student visa, you must provide proof of the following:

  • That you’ve been accepted into a qualifying program by an SEVP qualified school
     
  • That you have a home outside of the U.S. with no immediate plans to permanently leave that home
     
  • That you intend to leave the U.S. upon the completion of your studies
     
  • That you have the necessary funds to pursue the educational program to which you’ve been accepted 
     
  • That you have a clean criminal record and are in good health

Q: How much does it cost to obtain my F-1 student visa?

A: There are various costs associated with securing an F-1 student visa. The following is a list of possible fees that you may need to pay for your F-1 student visa:

  • No-immigrant visa application processing fee: $140
     
  • Border crossing card fees: $140
     
  • “I901” fee for registration into the SEVIS system: $200
     
  • Reciprocity fee. Search your home country to determine whether or not you need to pay a reciprocity fee.

Be sure to keep each of the receipts for your payments; proof of purchase will likely need to be given to the U.S. embassy or consulate during your application process. Also, keep in mind that purchasing passports, picture and other required forms of documentation require separate fees.

The fee amounts and types listed above are subject to change. For the most updated information about student visa fees, visit the U.S. Department of State’s visa fees page. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s SEVIS fees page for updated information about SEVIS fees.

Q: Do I still need a passport if I have an F-1 student visa?

A: Yes. Immigration laws in the United States require that students have both a passport and visa while studying in the United States. You will, in fact, need a passport to apply for the F-1 student visa. If your passport expires while you are in the United States, your visa will remain active while you wait for your new passport to arrive.

Q: How do I apply for an F-1 student visa?

A: First, you will need to be accepted into a SEVP qualified school. Then you will need to be entered into SEVIS and receive a SEVIS-derived I-20 form. Once you have this form, and have determined that you qualify for the F-1 student visa, you will be eligible to apply for it. In order to apply you will need to do the following:

  • Submit an online application
     
  • Pay the required fees
     
  • Provide the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country with required information and documentation
     
  • Complete an interview with the embassy or consulate

If you have additional questions and would like to know more about obtaining a student visa, visit the U.S. Department of State’s student visa page.

 

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Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.

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