In order to study in the USA, you will need a visa, however, you need a specific type of Visa called an F1 Visa. We’ve got a useful guide for you below, which tells you everything you need to know about the F1 Visa and how to get one.
What is an F1 Visa?
An F1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa for students who are looking to study in the United States. Studying or applying for an American university as an international student is impossible without an F1 Visa USA.
It is not just for students going to university. An F1 Visa is also needed if you plan on attending a private school, high school, college or any other training programme or education provider.
How do I get an F1 Visa?
The process is simple enough, but it will take some time. American visa issues usually take a long time to sort out even at the best of times, but for an F1 Student Visa USA, there are other considerations to take into account.
The first step is to apply for an American university. Once you’ve done this, the university will tell you what they require from you and to see if you’re what they’re looking for academically. As with international scholarships for international students in the UK, you’ll need to provide proof that you can support yourself while studying without the need to work. You will also need to show health insurance.Upon receipt of this information, the university will issue you with an I-20 form, for you to apply for your student visa.
You’ll apply for your visa online, where you’ll need to fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. You’ll then print this out and bring it to your interview You will then need to upload your photograph to the website and schedule your appointment for an interview. Those aged 13 or younger do not generally need to schedule an interview, nor do those aged 80 or older.
The university that you’re applying to must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP or SEVIS). You will need to check with the university beforehand that they have the facilities to support international students, especially if English is not your first language. Don’t worry, you can also apply for F1 visa while in the US.
Do I have to pay for an F1 Visa?
You will have to pay for an F1 Visa, although the F1 visa cost isn’t too expensive. F1 Visas tend to cost around $185, though the rate changes every year, you will also have to pay a SEVIS charge on top of the original $185.
This is also referred to as the I-901 SEVIS Charge. You will need this if you're looking for any F1 visa work as well.
What do I need for my interview with the American Embassy or Consulate?
There are a few things you’ll need to bring with you to your interview, such as:
- Financial support: You need to be able to support yourself. If you are unable to support yourself without having to work, you will be denied a visa.
- Official residency in a foreign country and intentions to return home: You will need to leave the United States upon graduation as the visa is not a residency visa. If an interviewer finds believes that you wish to remain in the United States, they will deny your visa application. Essentially, you’re being asked to educate yourself in America and then apply the knowledge you’ve gained back home.
- Admission to an approved education provider: As we said above, you need to have been accepted into a university, college or high school etc that is approved by the SEVP, otherwise, your visa will be declined.
- Connection to your home nation: You will need to prove that you have strong ties to your home country. You will need to provide proof, like bank statements, bank accounts, financial information, family information and any job offers or job correspondence that you have.
As for tangible items that you will need to bring with you to your interview, you will need to bring:
- Application fee
- DS-160 form
- DS-157 form (for males between 16 & 45)
- A valid passport
Make sure you have all your documents for F1 Visa.
F1 Visa interview questions
You will be asked questions at your student visa USA F1 interview, which will be mainly split into five separate sections, which are:
- Work situation
You may be asked additional questions depending on your application. These questions are usually done to determine your character, your situation and to give the US a chance to work out what kind of citizen you will be and what your intentions are for entering the country as well.
What is SEVIS fee for F1 visa?
This is usually around $350. But it can sometimes be as low as $200 or as high as $400, it depends on the state of US immigration at the time!
Can I be denied an F1 Visa?
As with all visas, they can be denied if the applicant doesn’t meet the specified criteria. Most F1 denials are based on US immigration law and with the recent travel bans implemented in the United States, many students are denied access to a visa based on immigration procedures. Another main reason is the failure to provide the correct paperwork when applying.
Not providing enough information on your home ties can also be grounds for rejection. The United States operates a very strict border policy as it is, those with criminal convictions will not be granted entry to the country. If you’re found to have misrepresented anything in your application, if you have a health issue that could affect other people or if you are deemed a security risk you will be turned down.
Am I able to work in the US if I have an F1 Visa?
You’re able to work in the US under an F1 Visa, but as it is not a work visa, you will only be able to work full-time during holidays. In term-time, you will be restricted to twenty hours a week.
That being said, you will need to speak to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You will need to brush up on the job rules under your visa in the US. Alternatively, your campus will most likely have an International Office on-site, and you will be able to speak to them as well.
There is an alternate option regarding work for international students in the US - as an F1 Visa holder, you will be able to apply for work off campus for up to twelve months through the Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT can only work for students in these situations, however:
- Part-time work during studies
- Full-time work during holidays (or recess)
- Are graduation, in a field of study related to your degree
If you work illegally while on an F1 Visa, your visa will be cancelled and you’ll be deported.
Can I transfer universities with an F1 Visa?
Of course, you can! The university itself will need to be approved by the SEVP, just as before. Transferring universities works exactly the same as changing universities in the UK, however, you will need to meet the same visa requirements, you will still need to return to your home nation when you’re done.
Do I have to return home as soon as I graduate?
You don’t have to return home as soon as you graduate. You can remain in the US for up to sixty days after completing your degree or your OPT training. If you wish to stay in the US after your degree, you will need to re-enroll in a higher programme or change your visa status.
If my F1 Visa is denied, can I reapply?
Yes, you can. As a rule of thumb, any reason why your first application was rejected should be resolved upon reapplying. For instance, if you did not have the correct documentation when applying you’ll need to ensure that you have the correct documentation this time around.
You can re-apply for an F1 Visa as many times as you like. You can re-apply as soon as you receive confirmation of your rejection. Obviously, consulate or embassy officers will check your application history, so make sure you get it right first time.
Does having a criminal record affect my chances of getting an F1 Visa?
This is a tough one as it all depends on the application itself. Generally, as a rule of thumb, the United States does not allow anyone with a criminal record to enter the country, although there have been a number of exceptions made for this.
You may still be allowed entry to the country with a criminal record, it depends on the severity of the offences that got you a criminal record in the first place. The United States tends to make exceptions for single offences and where the sentence for the crime was less than six months.
It is also worth noting as well that passing a security check, does not mean that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is aware of your criminal record.
Lying about having a criminal conviction is grounds to have your application rejected and can cause a number of issues with immigration for the rest of your life. The best thing to do is to speak to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in the UK or a lawyer, before making your F1 Visa application. Even speaking to the American consulate or the American embassy before application is a smart move.
What if my degree is being studied in my home country and I need to study in the US as part of an exchange programme?
Then an F1 Visa is not what you need. You will need a different type of visa altogether, known as a J1 Exchange Visitor Visa, which is very different.
The F1 Visa is an easy enough visa to apply for but it’s a very lengthy process and it can throw-up all sorts of complications. The best thing for you to do is to be honest in your application andmake sure that you have all of the necessary paperwork.
Changing visa status from J1 to F1
It is possible to change from a J1 visa to a F1 visa if the need arises. To make the switch you will need to provide proof that you can afford to pay one full year of your tuition, cover living expenses, your insurance and cover the expenses of any dependents (like husband, wife or children). Don't worry too much about the finances, you won’t just be expected to guess what you need financially - your academic institution will provide you with any rough estimations that you must cover.
You will also need to provide proof that you are planning to head back to your home country at the end of your academic programme. If you already hold a J1 student visa, then you will be subject to something called two-year home-country physical presence requirement, in order to change to an F1 visa. After this, you will then need to fill out an I-20 form to apply for F1 status, which you need for an F1 or J1 visa.
Can I join the US army with an F1 Visa?
This honestly depends on where you are and if you fit the other criteria in the army as well. For the most part, the US army has plenty of immigrant soldiers and has people on visas in the army.
You should know that if you enlist in the army, your studies will likely be cut short as a result, because you will need to devote yourself to the army full-time. However, if you have been in the army for two years, you can then apply for US citizenship, if that appeals to you.
Can I extend my F1 visa?
Extension of stay can be granted, but only in exceptional circumstances. This is generally done for either academic or medical reasons.
You must provide a good reason to be able to justify your stay with enough notice for your request to be made before your visa is meant to end. You will still need to re-submit your other documentation as well.
Can I do internship on F1 Visa?
You can do an internship if you wish, since on the F1 Visa you are traditionally restricted to 20 hours-a-week. Your internship will need to be unpaid to meet the F1 Visa requirements.However, you can still do two other kinds of internships, which may be a smidge more appealing such as:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Internships: This has to be related to your degree and you must receive some sort of credit for the internship as well. You must have completed your first year at university and then apply for authorisation on your visa and you have to receive an updated I-20 US F1 visa application form beforehand.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) Internships: These don't have to be related to your area of study necessarily and can be taken on while still at school or after your graduation. The Citizenship and Immigration Services must approve the OPT, you can study these for up to 12 months full-time, although you can get a longer extension in various fields, for instance, STEM fields allow you to take a 17-month extension.
Can I change my F1 visa status?
You can change your F1 visa status, but not if you entered as a visitor through a waiver programme. The process will depend on your circumstances and you will need to speak to US Citizenship and Immigration Services to sort your future out.
An honest man has nothing to fear and the same is said with your visa application. As long as you’ve done all the necessary research and have declared everything required of you , you should be good to go! For any issues regarding the US F1 Visa, speak to the CAB or to the American Consulate, the American Embassy or your own embassy or consulate for advice, they’ll be happy to help.