The F-1 visa allows students to attend an academic/scientific institution in the U.S. (for example, a university, college, etc.). Students must also apply for a F-1 visa in order to enroll in a longterm language course requiring up to a certain number of course hours per week depending on the language course. A language course with less than 20 course hours per week usually does not require an F-1 Visa, but such a visa can be applied for in accordance with the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program.
The educational institution in the U.S. must have a SEVIS registration. SEVIS, which stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a web-based U.S. government database that allows the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to view data about all exchange students who are in the U.S. The educational institution must have a SEVIS registration in order for the I-20 form to be issued, which must be presented when applying for the F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate.
Not all schools are authorized to issue an I-20 form. Thus, you must inquire in advance whether the envisaged educational institution also has a SEVIS registration. You can read more information at: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search
In addition, applicants must meet certain requirements. Therefore, you must secure financing for your tuition and living expenses either through your own funds or scholarships. In addition, applicants must prove that they are residents of their home country and, if necessary, provide additional evidence of their intention to return to this home country.
The F-1 visa is issued for up to 5 years. The student’s residence status in the United States is valid for the entire duration of study and is recorded in the I-20 form. If students are delayed in completing their courses of study because, for example, they change their major or fall ill, then they can apply for an extension at their educational institution. It is also possible to enter the U.S. on a F-1 visa up to 30 days prior to the beginning of the course of study and to stay in the United States up to 60 days after graduation.
Applicants must appear in person for an interview at one of the authorized U.S. consulates. Students can apply for a F-1 visa up to 120 days prior to start of the course of study. In addition to the general application documents, applicants must submit documents pertaining to the educational institution, evidence of their permanent residence in their home country, and other documents confirming their intention to return to their country of origin. In addition, they must also provide evidence that they have the financial means to stay in the U.S. The application is usually processed at the U.S. consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age receive a derivative F-2 visa lasting the same period as the principal applicant’s F-1 visa. Once children reach the American age of majority, they must change their non-immigrant visa status or leave the country.
Family members are not allowed to accept employment. Persons with a F-2 status are not allowed to apply for a general work permit (Employment Authorization Document EAD). However, F-2 visa holders can attend a public/private educational institution (kindergarten to high school). If children wish to attend an institution of higher education (e.g., a university), they must apply for a stand-alone F-1 visa.