F-1 Student Visa
An F-1 Student Visa is your ticket to studying at a US college or university. To qualify for a student visa, you must do more than just be accepted by an institution of higher learning, you have to get approval from the USCIS. You may have many obstacles to overcome to qualify, and once you do, there are a number of things that you must do to maintain your status.
What should you do when you have problems with your student visa? What if you want to stay in the US after you complete your education? We can answer those questions during a consultation with our Virginia immigration lawyer. Give us a call today.
Do You Qualify for a Student Visa?
You need to be accepted at a US college or university. They will supply you with a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Then, to qualify for an F-1 student visa, you must satisfy the consular officer at your immigration interview that you meet the following criteria:
- You need to show that you have a foreign residence and significant ties to your home country. You must establish that you intend to return to your home country after your studies are complete.
- While in the US on an F-1 student visa, you can only study attend the college or university through which the visa was granted.
- You must demonstrate that you have sufficient financial support to provide for your needs while in the US. This generally means that you must show you have enough money to pay your first years’ tuition and living expenses.
Applying for an F-1 Student Visa
You must first satisfy the admission requirements of the college or university that you want to attend. For a foreign student, this will mean showing that you have sufficient financial support and that you have access to things like health care. Once you have satisfied their requirements, they will issue the I-20 form. Once you have the I-20, you may apply for a student visa.
Where to Apply for Your F-1 Student Visa
You will need to apply for an F-1 visa at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. While technically you could apply for an F-1 visa at any US Embassy or Consulate, your chances of approval are best in your home country.
What Do You Need to Include with Your F-1 Visa Application
- You will need to pay the current application fee. The application is not refundable so it will not be returned to you if your F-1 visa is denied.
- You will need to submit Form DS-160 which is the online application for non-immigrant visas.
- If you are a male between the ages of 16 and 45, you will need to submit Form DS-157. This is a supplemental form required due to national security concerns.
- You will need a valid passport for travel to the US. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the date that you intend to be in the United States.
- You will need color photos of yourself that meet the current requirements.
Your F-1 Student Visa Interview
After submitting your application for a student visa, you will be notified of the date for your F-1 student visa interview. This is a pivotal moment in the student visa process, it will determine whether or not you are qualified to receive an F-1 student visa. On the day of your interview, you need to bring all of your forms and documents with you. You should be prepared to answer a lot of personal questions. The questions are all designed to verify the truth of the information you provided in your application and to determine if you truly intend to return to your home county after your studies are complete. Perhaps most of all, you will need to show that you can financially support yourself while in the United States.
Upon approval, you will likely be required to pay a visa issuance fee and have your fingerprint digitally scanned. Your passport will be taken so that you can get your visa and you will be informed when you can get it back, either by pick-up or in the mail.
Denial of Student Visa
Before you buy your airline tickets, you should wait until you have received formal notification that your student visa has been approved. Until the student visa has been issued, you could be denied. If you are denied, you should contact our Virginia immigration lawyer. We can help you explore your legal options and determine if you may qualify for a waiver of the disqualifying condition.
Maintaining Your Student Visa After You Arrive
Once your student visa has been issued, you will be able to travel to the US. However, you need to know rules to maintain your status or you may not be able to re-enter the US or participate in practical training or on-campus employment. Here are some basic guidelines:
- Do not arrive more than 30 days prior to the start of classes.
- Check in with your international student advisor as soon as possible after your arrival.
- Maintain full-time enrollment. If you need to drop classes, be sure not to go below the number of credits required for full-time status.
- Go to class and maintain passing grades. Speak to your academic advisor if you are having problems passing your classes.
- Notify your international advisor if you will not be able to complete your course of study prior to the expiration date on your Form I-20. You may be able to request an extension.
- If your passport is going to expire, contact the embassy or consulate for your home country to renew it.
- Keep your passport and I-94 form with you at all times.
- F-1 student visa holders are not allowed to work off-campus without authorization from the USCIS. You will be forced to leave the US if you work without proper authorization.
- Do not get in trouble with the law. U.S. alcohol, drug, and other laws may be very different than in your home country. If you get arrested, most colleges and universities require you to notify your international advisor. You should contact our Virginia immigration lawyer who can advise you how your arrest may impact your student visa status.
Upon Program Completion
After your course of study is complete, you must leave the US within 60 days. However, there are a number of ways to extend your time in the US lawfully:
- You can re-enroll in a higher education program.
- You can transfer to another school willing to issue you a new I-20 form.
- You can apply to change your status.
Why You Need a Virginia Immigration Lawyer
If you are able to get through the F-1 student visa process, you may not have any problems during your stay in the US. However, many international students have problems with their student visa status. Problems range from forgetting to extend your I-20 to needing to work off-campus due to a change in your financial circumstances. You may have met someone while in school and now you would like to marry them. You may have criminal law issues that could land you in immigration custody and cause you to be removed (deported) from the U.S. No matter what your immigration issue is, you can count on it being complicated and fraught with issues. There is a real possibility that things will go wrong and you will be forced to leave the US. In some cases, you may accumulate unlawful status and be subject to a bar on your return. The best way to avoid problems with your student visa or adjusting your status is to hire an experienced immigration lawyer in Blacksburg. We understand the needs of international students and may be able to help you stay in the US. Call us today to schedule a consultation or use the form on this page to ask a Blacksburg immigration attorney about your situation.