While the American school system is not the best in the world - that honor belongs to Finland - there are still many students worldwide who want to study in the United States at all levels of education. In order to study academically in the U.S., one must obtain what is referred to as an F visa. This type of visa allows a foreign national to come to the United States and study, even if the same program is offered in their country. Vocational students have a separate visa, the M visa, which covers their category of study.
Application for F Visa
Before a foreign national can even apply for an F visa, he or she must apply and be approved by a school that is a member of the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). A fair amount of U.S. schools are members of this program, but not all. If a foreign national applies and is accepted by a non-member school, their F visa will most likely not be granted because that school has no infrastructure in place to communicate with the State Department about their student status via SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).
Once the applicant has been accepted to a SEVP member school, he or she can begin an application for an F visa. Often, this can actually be done online, instead of mailing in the paperwork.
After the application is complete, applicants 14 and over will need to schedule an interview with a U.S. immigration official, most likely at the nearest embassy or consulate. The applicant will also require a form called an I-20, which is a written certification of a student’s status within SEVIS. It provides written proof to the government that you have been accepted to a SEVP member school.
There are a list of requirements that the applicant must meet before they will even be considered for a visa. They are:
You must be a full-time student;
You must be at least proficient enough in the English language to understand the classes you are taking;
You must be able to support yourself financially for your entire course of study; and
You must have a residence abroad that you do not intend to give up.
One important fact to remember about F1 visas is that the holder is considered to be "in status" (meaning, has the legal right to remain in the U.S.) as long as they are enrolled full-time in their academic program. Also, even if the passport expires, the visa in it is valid until its expiration date. Most schools appoint a designated official (DSO) to help international students and answer immigration-related questions.
If a student completes his or her academic program, they have until sixty days afterward to leave the United States. They may also apply for another degree program - for example, going from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree program - as long as they can obtain the right I-20.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
If you or a loved one have questions about obtaining an F visa, we can help. Please contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC, in DuPage County today.
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