Non-Immigrant: F-1 Visa - Student


Foreign nationals may enter the United States as non-immigrants in order to pursue academic studies. The student must be enrolled in an "academic" program, not a vocational-type program. Further, the student must be pursuing their studies at an accredited institution. In addition to universities, elementary and high schools, colleges, seminaries, conservatories and language training programs also qualify for "academic" study.

NOTE - many foreign students upon completion of their studies adjust their status while within the United States to H-1B (temporary employment visa) allowing them to work for an American employer as described on page 6 below.


The alien before applying at the Consulate for a student visa must be accepted by an accredited institution. This will be proven by Form I-20 which will be sent to the student by the institution. This form should further denote it's date of approval and INS number.

Full Course of Study
The alien student should be enrolled in the usual number of courses necessary to complete the degree in the usual period of time.

English Proficiency
The school must indicate that the student is proficient in English or will be pursuing English studies. This will be done on Form I-20 and will state one of the following:

  1. School is satisfied that applicant is proficient in English usually through passing a test such as TOEFL.
  2. Student will be enrolled in courses in language in which he is proficient.
  3. Student will be enrolled in full course of study consisting of both academic Courses and English training.
  4. Student is enrolled in a language-training program constituting a full course of study.

Sufficient Funds
The alien must demonstrate that he has sufficient funds available to him for the entire duration of his proposed period of study. Specifically, the student must demonstrate that he has funds currently available at his disposal for the coming academic year and will have academic funds available in the same amount throughout his academic program.

Residence Abroad
The student must maintain a residence abroad and demonstrate that he has no intention of abandoning it, and further intends to leave the United States upon completion of his studies.


The application is made at the United States Consulate and the following is required:

  1. Form OF-156; standard nonimmigrant visa application
  2. Form I-20 A-B issued by student's school
  3. Supporting documentation; establish the alien's nonimmigrant intent and financial resources
  4. Passport and photographs (2) of the visa applicant
  5. Application fee (if applicable)
  6. Machine-readable visa fee (if applicable $20)

Processing Notes

Form 156
this form must be completed in full.

Form I-20 A-B
This form will be forwarded to the applicant upon acceptance to the school. The form will be completed by the school, the applicant only has to sign in two places. A student visa will not be issued without this form.

Supporting Documentation
As noted above, a student must show that he has no intention of remaining in the United States (non-immigrant intent). His sole purpose for entering the United States is study, and he will return to his home country upon completion of those studies. Evidence in this regard includes proof of family ties to home country, property, prospects of employment upon completion of study.

It is also essential that the student prove that he has the required funds at his disposal for his academic program. He must demonstrate that he has the funds currently at his disposal for the coming academic year and these will be available through his academic program. Evidence on adequate financial resources includes: personal funds and funds from family; financial aid and fellowships; government aid. Money can be earned from fellowship, scholarship or assistanceship grants, post-doctoral research programs and work-study programs at schools that provide such programs as part of the curriculum; this is not considered salary, and will be counted towards the students financial resources.

Documentation showing financial resources include:

  1. Financial aid from school - will be indicated on Form I-20 and student should receive official notification.
  2. Home government - student should have official notification and should be notified on Form I-20.
  3. Personal funds - proof includes bank statements, securities, real or personal property.
  4. Family funds - proof includes bank statements, records of liquid assets and securities and real and personal property, credit line and employment letters. The completion of an affidavit of support form (Form I-134) by a family member often proves helpful.

The alien's passport at the time of the application at the Consulate should be valid for at least a period of six months.

Accompanying Family (F-2 Visa)

Accompanying family members (spouse and children) will be issued an F-2 visa. The family requires the same documentation as the student, including proof of family relationship, with the exception of Form I-20 A-B.

Should the family not be applying for their visa at the consulate at the same time as the student, they will also require Form I-20 A-B issued by the school for them or page 4 of the student's Form I-20.

Note that the family members must also establish nonimmigrant intent, and sometimes consular officers are reluctant to issue such visas as they believe that if the family is together, they will remain in the United States.

Border Procedures

At the Port of Entry or Airport, the student will present to the Immigration officer his Passport and valid F Visa as well as Form I-20 A-B which will have been returned to the alien by the U.S. Consulate. The student passport will be stamped and he will be given pages 3 and 4 of the I-20, which is his I-20 ID Copy.

The student must keep this document with him at all times. The student will further be issued an I-94 form. This also should be kept and the valid date will denote "D/S" which indicates that he is admitted for a period of his course of study at an U.S. educational institute.

Maintaining Student Status

Once admitted to the authorized school for Duration of Status, an F-1 student must pursue a full course of study and make reasonable progress towards a degree to maintain his/her student status. A foreign student who takes less than a full course on the advice of the foreign student advisor or due to illness or for other medical reasons is not considered to have violated status requirements. An F-1 student who continues from one education level to another by transfer procedure is considered to be "In-Status". A student is not "Out-of-Status" during annual (or summer) vacation, if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term.

Change of School

To transfer schools an F-1 student must first notify the school he/she is presently attending of the intent to transfer and then obtain Form I-20A-B from the school to which he/she intends to transfer to. He/she must complete and return the form to the Designated School Official (DSO), within 15 days of beginning attendance at the new school. To be eligible to transfer the student should establish:

  1. He/she is a bonafide non-immigrant student
  2. Has been pursuing a full course of study at the school he/she is authorized to attend
  3. Intends to be a full-time student at the new school
  4. Has financial resources to pursue his/her education and stay. An F-1 student who was not pursuing a full course of study is ineligible to transfer and must apply for reinstatement to the Service Director (at the INS).

Duration of Status (D/S)

Is defined as the time during which a F-1 student is pursuing a full course of study or engaged in authorized Practical Training following completion of studies plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S.

Extension of Stay

Schools are allowed to approve program extensions for students who have continuously maintained status. Since an F-1 student is admitted for D/S, the student is not required to apply for extension of stay as long as he/she is maintaining status and making normal progress towards completing educational objective. A F-1 student who is enable to complete, in a timely manner, must apply for program extension in a thirty day period before the completion to the DSO.

Completion Date on Form I-20 A-B

DSO will make a reasonable estimate based on the time an average foreign student would need to complete a similar program and a grace period of one year may be added on to the DSO's estimate.

Reinstatment of Student Status

An F-1 student who is out of status may apply in writing to the District Director requesting reinstatement, accompanied by full explanation and the usual student documentation (I-20A-B). The District Director may in his or her discretion reinstate the student's status provided that:

  1. The violation of status occurred because of circumstances beyond the student's control or failure to reinstate would result in extreme hardship;
  2. The student is currently pursuing or intends to pursue a full course of study;
  3. The student has not worked off-campus without authorization;
  4. The student is not otherwise deportable.


I. On-Campus Employment
An F-1 foreign student can work on campus for up to a maximum of 20 hours/week while school is in session and full-time when school is not in session. Graduating students who are in transition between two-degree programs can also make use of on-campus employment. The appropriate official (DSO) at the school will endorse the work authorization. On-campus employment must either be performed on the school's premises or at a location which is educationally affiliated with the school. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program and commensurate with the student's level of study.

II. Off-Campus Employment (Non-Practical Training)
Three year pilot program:
An F-1 student is eligible for off-campus employment in an occupation unrelated to the student's field of study, after completion of one full academic year and is in good academic standing. The student may work only for an employer who has filed labor and Wage attestation with the student's school and U.S. Department of Labor, stating that the employer has recruited for the position for at least 60 days, will pay the prevailing wage or the employer's normal wage for the position and will not employ the student for more than 20 hours/week while school is in session. A student may accept off-campus employment only after the DSO endorses his/her I-20 ID. This program is currently valid until September 30, 1996.

III. Based on Economic Necessity
Under new regulation an F-1 student can apply for off-campus work authorization based on severe economic hardship. If other employment opportunities are not available, an eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment authorization based upon severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. The student must be in good academic standing and carrying a full course of study, and must have been in status for nine (9) months.

Practical Training

  1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
    By definition, CPT may be alternate work/study, cooperative education or any other type of required internship or practicum which is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreement with the school. An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO, to participate in a CPT Program which is an integral part of an established curricula. An F-1 student may participate in any required CPT as soon as school begins ( such as Graduate studies which requires immediate participation in CPT ) or in any elective CPT after having been "In-Status" for 9 months. A F-1 student, eligible for Practical Training, is entitled to one full year of Practical Training after completing the educational program, if the student had less than one full year of Curricular Practical Training. An eligible F-1 Student may take part in as much CPT as the curriculum permits. There is no set ceiling for CPT. A student who has received one or more years of full time Curricular Practical Training is ineligible for Post-Completion Practical Training.
  2. Pre-Completion Practical Training
    An F-1 student may apply to the INS for authorization for temporary employment involving Practical training directly related to the student's major area of study. Practical Training may be authorized when the school is not in session, while school is in session, provided practical Training does not exceed 20 Hours a week.
  3. Post-Completion Practical Training (PCPT)
    An F-1 student is permitted twelve months of Practical Training upon completion of studies. This twelve months of Practical Training is cumulative for the entirety of a particular student's programs, no matter how many degree programs he/she may pursue. Under the new regulations splitting Post-Completion Practical Training into two separate periods is permitted. A student must request recommendation for Post-Completion Practical Training to the DSO during a 120 day period which begins 90 days before and ends 30 days after the completion of the course of study. The student must request employment authorization for Practical Training directly related to the major area of study and must apply at the Service Office having jurisdiction over his/her place of residence. Post-Completion Practical Training will be authorized by the Regional INS Director on recommendation of the DSO for a maximum period of 12 months and takes effect only after a student has completed the course of study. A student must complete Practical Training within the 14 months immediately following the completion of studies. A student should not accept employment until he/she has been issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by the INS.

Temporary Absence from the United States

A student who makes a short trip abroad (less than 5 months) during an authorized period of study should have an I-20 A-B endorsed by the DSO to confirm that there have been no changes. The student must have the original I-20 ID copy and passport with a valid F-1 visa. An F-1 student who has an unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for Post-Completion Practical Training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the U.S. to resume employment after a period of temporary absence from the U.S. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last 6 months. Similarly, spouses and unmarried children of F-1 student can reenter the U.S.