F1 Student Visa Guide: All You Need to Know About USA Student Visa

F1 Student Visa Guide: All You Need to Know About USA Student Visa

USA schools and universities host more than one million international students from all around the world. You can easily be one of them if you follow the correct steps. The obstacle that may stand between you and starting your studies in the USA is the F1 Student Visa.

If you have already gotten your admission letter to one of the US universities, it’s time to prepare your application to apply for the USA Student Visa.

F1 student visa incomplete application is one of the most common reasons for visa denial. Therefore, it’s essential to comply with all F1 visa requirements.

Follow our guide to find everything you need to know about F1 Student Visa. First, let me start by saying, no worries at all getting your F1 visa is easier than you think!

Types of student visas in the USA for international student

There are 3 main types of student visas in the USA for international students. Each one of them has its specific requirements and conditions.

Therefore, it’s very important to know the differences between these types of visas in order to choose the correct one.

The 3 types of student visas in the USA for international students are:

1. F1 Visa 

The F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for Academic Studies purposes. It’s the most common visa for foreign students.

To apply for an F1 visa, students should enroll in a full-time academic program at an accredited US educational institution or in ESL programs (English as a second language).

2. J1 Visa

J1 visa is an exchange visa for international students participating in an exchange program, including high school and university study.

The duration of J1 visa ranges from weeks to years, depending on the exchange program.

Among the most common exchange program to travel to the USA on a J1 visa: Camp Counselor, university student or college student, government visitor, trainee, trainee doctor, professor or researcher…. and others.

The holder of J1 visa has the same rights to work in the USA, as an F1 visa holder.

3. M1 Visa

The M1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for non-academic or vocational study or training in the United States. It has more strict requirements.

M-1 holders can stay in the US for a fixed time period – the length of their training program plus optional practical training.

However, M1 students can not work on- or off-campus during their studies. After finishing their studies, they can apply to work on optional practical training.

M1 holders can work 1 month of optional practical training, for every completed 4 months of studies. M1 visa is renewable for 3 years, however, its holders can not change their status to F-1.

Since F1 student visa is the most common visa among international students, we will focus on it in the coming sections.

Read: Ultimate Guide to Community Colleges in the USA for international students

Advantages of getting an F1 student visa for international students in the USA

Applying for F1 student visa to start your academic studies in the USA has many advantages, such as:

  • International students on F1 visa are allowed to work part-time on campus (20 hours per week).
  • F1 holders are able to engage in off-campus jobs related to their field of study, as long as it’s part of their optional practical training program.
  • Students on F1 visa can transfer between US universities, as long as they inform their school and USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).
  • The opportunity to apply for optional practical training (OPT) and work off-campus or after graduation or both combined. OPT duration is one year, however, for STEM majors, the duration of OPT is up to 3 years.
  • F1 visa holders can apply for their families to join them in the USA during their studies. In this case, the F2 visa is for a dependent spouse or an unmarried child who is under the age of 21.

Check: Home-to-Hopkins: Start your Master studies online and Graduate in USA

F1 student visa requirements and rules

F1 student visa requirements and rules

Before starting your application for an F1 student visa, it’s very important to make sure that you comply with all visa requirements.

USA student visa requirements are the following:

  1. Getting your admission letter from a recognized educational institution in the USA: In order to comply with the F1 visa eligibility, you should be enrolled in a university, college, or school that is recognized and approved by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program).
  2. Enrolled in a full-time program: to be eligible to apply for F1 visa you should be admitted to a full-time course.
  3. Submit your I-20 form: Once you’re admitted to a US university, you get an acceptance letter along with the I-20 form. This form is the most important document in your USA student visa application.
  4. Proficiency in English language: International students have to meet English language requirements as determined by their university. In most cases, they need to provide a recognized English proficiency test score, such as IELTS or TOEFL. Another option is to be enrolled in courses that will help you improve your English level.
  5. Valid Travel Document: Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months after your program completion date.
  6. Proof of Residency in your Country: You may be asked to provide proof of your permanent residency in your home country. This shows that you are willing to return to your country after the completion of your studies. We have mentioned earlier that F1 visa is a “non-immigrant” visa, therefore, you should not show interest in staying in the USA at the time of your interview, and support your statement.
  7. Proof of Sufficient funds: International students need to prove they have enough funds to finance their studies and living expenses in the USA. You can submit a personal bank statement or proof of sponsorship or a fully funded scholarship.

Check: Universities admissions in the USA without IELTS or TOEFL

How much bank balance is required for F1 student visa? 

If you are wondering how much money you need in your bank statement to comply with USA student visa requirements, the answer is there is no fixed amount.

However, the minimum bank balance should cover your tuition fees and living expenses during at least the first year of your studies.

For example, if your program’s yearly tuition fees are $22.000 and yearly living expenses are around $13.000, to apply for an F1 student visa you need $35.000 in your bank statement.

What is an I-20 Form? And why it’s important to get your F1 student visa?

The I-20 form for F1 visa application is an official declaration issued by accredited colleges or universities in the US for international students. This document proves to the USCIS that you are an eligible international student to travel and start your studies in the USA.

The I-20 form includes very important information about your academic program, including:

  • It proves that you are admitted to a recognized US university or college.
  • It highlights that you have met all US university or college admission requirements.
  • Enrolled in a full-time academic program.
  • You comply with funding requirements to cover all your studies and living cost.

In order to ask your US educational institution to send you the I-20 form along with the acceptance letter, one or more of the following requirements should be achieved:

  • They may ask you to pay a part of your first-year program tuition fees.
  • Most universities will require you to provide a personal or family bank statement to support your application.

Read: Study MBA in the USA at Half Tuition Fees !

F1 student visa application process for international students

F1 student visa application process for international students

If you planning to study in the USA and you have no idea where to start, here are the steps to apply for F1 study visa for international students:

1. Get your acceptance letter from a SEVP-certified educational institution in the USA

The first step on your journey to get your F1 student visa is to get accepted by a recognized university or college in the USA. Once you are admitted into the program, the university will send you an acceptance letter along with your I-20 form.

Once the I-20 form is issued, the following information will be added to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS):

  • Your SEVIS identification number.
  • starting and finishing dates of your studies.
  • Your study program curriculum.
  • Your personal funding resources.
  • The tuition fees of your study program.
  • Other personal information.

Before starting your USA student visa application, double-check all the information in your I-20 form. Bear in mind that it may take time to apply modifications to your I-20 form.

2. Pay your SEVIS fee

Part of your application to get F1 student visa in the USA is to pay the SEVIS processing and maintenance fees, which is $350.

Make sure to save your SEVIS payment receipt as you will need to present it at the US embassy during your interview.

You can complete the payment through fmjfee, however, you need the I-20 form to proceed with the payment.

3. Complete the DS-160 Visa Application

The DS-160 is your visa application form. All international students seeking USA student visa need to complete it.

DS-160 Visa Application fees are $160. You can access this website (ceac.state.gov) to complete the payment. You need to present your I-20, passport, and a photo for your visa.

Once the DS-160 Visa Application is successfully submitted, you will receive a confirmation receipt with an ID number. Keep your receipt as you need to during your F1 visa interview.

4. Schedule an appointment for your US Student Visa interview

Now it’s time to contact the USA embassy or Consulate in your country and take an appointment to present your application. Depending on your country of residency, waiting times may vary and can take months.

Golden Gate Study Abroad experts will help you and guide you through the process.

5. Attending your F1 student visa interview at the US embassy 

You should attend the interview in person. It’s your chance to present yourself as a qualified candidate to study in the USA.

During the interview, we advise you to focus on your plans to return to your home country after your studies compilation. According to US immigration law, every visa applicant is viewed as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.

Check: Ultimate guide to cost of studying in USA for international students

What to expect during your F1 student visa interview?

All international students have to pass the F1 visa interview as an essential step of the application process. It usually lasts between 3-4 minutes or even less than that. So you don’t have to be afraid if you are well prepared.

The interviewer at the US embassy has one job, which is to make sure that you have clear goals for your future studies in the USA. So he might ask you about:

Your academic program, academic achievements, financial resources, post-graduation plans, reasons to choose the university, and why you chose the USA.

In addition, it’s very important to know that the F1 student visa interview will be conducted in English. So you should prepare well.

If you are applying to study an ESL (English as a second language) program, contact one of our advisors to set you on the right track.

One of the best practices to prepare for the US student visa interview is to know the most common interview questions and answers. Therefore, we advise you to check our guide: How to Prepare for US Student Visa (F1) Interview Like a Pro?

F1 student visa cost

The total cost to apply for an F1 student visa is approximately $510, including DS-160 visa application fees ($160) and SEVIS processing and maintenance fees($350).

Keep in mind the F1 visa application fees are non-refundable.

Transferring to a Different university or college on F-1 student Visa

F-1 students are allowed to transfer to another university or college if the requirements are met.

However, getting admission to another university or college does not automatically transfer your SEVIS record (I-20). You must request the transfer from your current educational institution to the new one.

International students can transfer schools when they meet these requirements :

  • Enrolled in a full-time study program.
  • Maintaining F-1 visa status.
  • Have an admission letter from a new school.
  • If you graduated or finished OPT, must still be within a 60-day grace period.
  • You must have sufficient funds to transfer schools.
  • The new school classes’ starting date must be within 5 months of:
    • Your program completion.
    • The last day of class for the current semester if not graduated.
    • OPT authorization end date as listed on your EAD card.
    • If you do not want to complete the OPT, the start date of your new course must be within 5 months of the requested SEVIS release date.

Before going through this huge process, it is important to research the minimum entry requirements for the transfer program. You may need to talk to our advisors to discuss your options.

For more information, we invite you to check this guide: Guide to transferring universities or college to university in the US.

Changing an F1 student visa to a green card

Changing an F1 student visa to a green card

As previously mentioned, the F1, J1, and M1 study visas in the USA are non-immigration visas. However, if you finish your studies and would like to stay and gain more work experience or obtain temporary or permanent residency in the USA, you may be able to change your F1 visa to a green card.

Among the available options to convert a study visa into a residency in the US:

  • Apply for an EB-1 visa if you possess exceptional and unique abilities in specific fields such as arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. This visa can assist you in obtaining permanent residency and eventually American citizenship.
  • Apply for an EB-2 or EB-3 visa through the sponsorship of an American employer who offers you a job opportunity in the USA.
  • You can also extend your residency by participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT) for a period of 1 year or 3 years for science majors, allowing you sufficient time to gain experience and find a job opportunity in America.
  • Investing in the USA and converting a study visa into an investor visa for immigration to America is also an option.
  • Additionally, marriage to an American citizen is also a quick option to convert a study visa into a residency in the US and eventually obtain American citizenship.

Read: Ultimate Guide to Study at The University Of South Florida USF

Start your journey now!

We at Golden Gate Study Abroad agency advise you to make sure that you meet all F1 visa application requirements and prepare all documents before applying.

If your F1 visa application gets rejected, you can apply again within the same year. However, you need to start the process from the beginning.

If you are looking for assistance from experts in this field, we at Golden Gate are here to help! We take care of the entire process of travel and study in the USA. Including obtaining a US student visa with complete ease.

Get your free consultation now! fill out our request form by clicking the link below. Within 24 hours, one of our consultants will contact you and assist you in all the steps of the application process.

GGSA Educational Consulting Agency