F1 Student Visa for US – The Application Process and Other Details
When international students want to join US universities for higher education, they need to obtain an F1 visa for staying in this country. This visa is solely for academic students who have applied for full-time courses in any educational institution of the USA. These study programs are attended for achieving diploma, degree, or certifications in their chosen subjects from any school or college that is approved by the US government. Hence, an F1 student visa for US is the foremost requirement for these meritorious students.
Prime criteria for obtaining an F1 student visa
- Admission in SEVP institution – The student must receive an admission offer from a school, college, or university in the USA, which is approved by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the program launched by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to handle the arrival of foreign students and visitors. A list of SEVP-approved educational institutions is available on the internet. The student should first apply for admission in any of these schools or colleges, to get an F1 student visa. The admission for any full-time course in any of these SEVP institutions is the foremost factor for this US visa.
- Legal citizenship in their own country – The student needs to have documents that support his/her valid attachment to his/her homeland. These documents need to be submitted to prove the legal citizenship of the student in his/her own country. Moreover, he/she should intend to return home after obtaining the required education in the US institution, which is another important criterion for an F1 visa. So, he/she should have a permanent residence in his/her country where he/she can return after achieving the required certificate.
- Sufficient financial capability – Since an F1 visa holder does not need to have a sponsor to fund his/her education, the student should prove that he/she can bear the burden of all expenses of studying in the US. He/she should show that there is enough money in his/her bank account to manage all essential expenses during the entire proposed educational course. However, if the student obtains a scholarship for studying his/her dream course, he/she can obtain this F1 visa even with lower financial status.
- Satisfactory proficiency in English – An international student must be fluent in reading, writing, and speaking the English language, as it is the main official language in the USA. So the student must prove his/her eligibility in English communication by appearing in TOEFL or IELTS, which are standard English proficiency tests recognized all over the world. The pass mark in any of these tests proves the fluency of a foreign student needed to study in a US institution.
Essential documents to be submitted to obtain an F1 visa
- The valid passport issued by the home country of the student.
- Two current colored photos of the student, as per all the US Visa Photo Requirements.
- The Form DS-160 for all non-immigrant students, along with all the necessary documents and information to be submitted with this form.
- The proof of the online payment of the F1 visa fee.
- Form I-20 with other relevant documents of the student, like bank statements of the last 3 years, his/her tax records of the last 3 years if applicable, proof of any scholarship, proof of any educational loan, Form I-134 if the student has a sponsor to fund his/her education.
- Documents to support the current educational standard, like certificates or mark sheets of previous degrees or diplomas, admission letter from the US institution, and scores obtained in TOEFL, IELTS, GMAT, or similar tests.
How to apply for the F1 visa and Ideal Time to do that ?
When a student gains admission to a US educational institution, he/she should apply for an F1 US student visa exactly 120 days before starting the course. He/she cannot apply for this visa earlier and a late application will result in the delay in joining the classroom studies, as the formal proceeding of this application needs time for approval. So the visa applicant needs to be careful in submitting his/her application before 120 days only.
Steps to be followed for gaining F1 student visa
- Admission in SEVP institute – First of all, a student needs to apply for admission to a school or university in the USA, which is approved by SEVP. When he/she gains online admission in that institution, he/she should make sure to obtain all the valid admission documents from the institution’s authority. These documents are available only after the entire admission procedure is over and the admission fees are paid online.
- Submission of the Form I-20 – An international student needs to obtain the Form I-20, which is the certificate proving the eligibility of nonimmigrant students in the US schools or universities. This form is available from the office of any SEVP-approved institution where the student has been admitted for higher education. This form should be duly signed by the student and his/her DSO or Designated School Official. If the age of the applicant is less than 18 years, his/her parents or guardians need to sign this form on his/her behalf.
- Fill up DS-160 Form online – Next, the applicant needs to fill up the DS-160 form online and initiate the official procedure for obtaining the F1 visa for student. All the essential information should be provided on this form, along with the submission of required documents to get the sanction of this visa. The Form DS-160 is meant especially for nonimmigrant students who want to apply online for a visa. Thus, several personal questions are asked on this form to check the background of the applicant, including his/her family, education, and employment details. Moreover, the dates of all international trips made by that student in the last 5 years should be provided, with a travel itinerary and his/her updated passport. This form is available on the website of the Consular Electronic Application Center.
- Online payment of F1 visa fee – One needs to pay $160 as the application fee for obtaining an F1 visa. This fee should be paid online via credit or debit card or net banking facility. The online receipt of this payment needs to be shown later during the visa interview. Residents of some countries may need to pay an additional amount, as per the rules imposed by the US Embassies in those countries.
- Payment of SEVIS I-901 fee – Every student needs to pay $200 as the fee for registration in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This registration is done by the educational institution where the student is admitted for higher study. This specific amount called the SEVIS I-901 fee is meant for obtaining an F1 visa only and thus, it is a mandatory expense for this visa.
- Face the F1 visa interview – This interview is very important for a student, as it determines his/her eligibility for obtaining this visa. So the student should try to schedule this interview immediately after paying all the necessary fees. Sometimes, this interview may be delayed due to the high workload at the US Embassy. When the interview is scheduled, the student will receive an appointment letter that needs to be produced later for further processing the F1 visa application. Generally, questions are asked about the academic background of the applicant and the reasons for his/her choice of the educational institution in the USA. The student should guarantee his/her return to his/her homeland after completing the required education. He/she should also prove that there is no financial constraint in meeting the essential expenses during the entire course. The scores of TOEFL and other eligibility tests are also asked in this interview.
- Submission of all documents – The student needs to submit all the relevant documents right after clearing the interview round for the F1 visa. So he/she should keep all the documents ready in a file before appearing for this interview. Some documents are common for all kinds of visa applications in the USA while there are a few special documents that are needed for an F1 visa only. Form DS-160, a photograph, receipts of all visa related payments, and the list of all social media accounts held by the student need to be submitted for this visa approval.
Usually, an F1 visa is granted only for 1 year and the students need to renew it every year till their courses are completed in the USA. If any visa application is denied due to some clauses in the US Immigration law, the applicant will be informed with all the reasons for this denial.
The processing time needed for an F1 student visa is usually much shorter than other visa applications. In most cases, interviewers immediately congratulate the applicant after a successful interview and inform him/her about the approval of his/her F1 visa application.
The holder of this visa can get access to the American healthcare system and can buy a health insurance plan while staying in this country for his/her studies. If the student gets a job in the USA after completing his/her education here, he/she may change the status of an F1 visa to any other suitable type of visa to continue staying in this country. F1 visa holders are also allowed to apply for a Green Card even if they have stated their interest in going back home.
At the same time, know more about “US Student Visa- Check for Study Visa Permit, Fees and Requirements” and also “How to Study Abroad in USA? Explore the options in Detail“.