F-1 visas are non-immigrant visas issued by a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad to an individual who plans to come to the United States to pursue academic studies full-time at a U.S. educational school or institution and become an “Academic Student.” A foreign individual seeking to obtain an F-1 visa must plan to pursue a full course of study in an approved college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, private elementary school, language training course, or other academic institution in the United States. Those individuals already in the U.S. on another nonimmigrant visa, such as a B-1/B-2, may apply to change to F-1 status in the U.S. or outside the U.S. through Third Country Visa processing, if qualified. An F-1 visa is typically valid as long as he/she is enrolled in this approved academic institution on a full-time basis.
An F-1 applicant must demonstrate that:
- He/she does not have “immigrant intent,” meaning the applicant must demonstrate that he/she has a foreign residence and has no intention of abandoning this residence
- He/she is a “bona fide” student who is qualified to pursue a full course of study
- He/she intends to enter the U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an established institution of learning recognized as such by the U.S. government
- He/she will study only at an institution that he/she designates, which has been approved by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
- He/she will not attend a public elementary school or publicly funded adult education program, with certain exceptions
An F-1 applicant must also present a SEVIS I-20 that has been issued by the approved school, and pay all appropriate fees. An F-1 applicant must also show that he/she has availability of funds allowing for sufficient financial support. Typically, the F-1 applicant must also be proficient in English or intend to receive training to become proficient. The applicant must intend to depart the U.S., and must maintain a full course of study. The individual must also demonstrate that he/she possesses sufficient academic credentials to attend the particular approved academic institution.
The spouse or unmarried, minor children of F-1 visa holders may be eligible to come to the United States on an F-2 Visa. This requires a showing by the spouse or child that the F-1 student has been admitted to the U.S., and is either enrolled in a full-course of study (or will be within 30 days) or that he/she is engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies. F-2 Visa holders are considered “dependents” of the F-1 students. F-2 holders must be issued his/her own SEVIS Form I-20 and may remain in the U.S. for as long as the principle F-1 student is in valid F-1 status.