F-1 visas are required for all visits to private high schools, U.S. universities or colleges and many language courses in the United States. The student visa category therefore enables education and training in America. If you need help with your F-1 application, please contact our visa experts!
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to strong changes in the F-1 and M-1 student visa categories. Below we highlight the consequences for international students with valid visas.
The impact of COVID-19 on the F-1 and M-1 student visa categories is closely monitored by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program), which "manages" all educational institutions, students and their families on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This is to ensure that all F-1 and M-1 visa holders continue to conduct their studies in the United States in accordance with the law.
Due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, F-1 and M-1 visa holders have also been able to take their classes at U.S. educational institutions in the form of online-only courses since the 2020 summer semester (Spring / Summer). The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a guideline for this on March 9, 2020. This has been continued in future semesters and also extended to the 2021/2022 academic year.
Exceptions to this are new students and students who start a program that offers only online classes in the new semester. These individuals do not currently receive visas or a valid I-20 form from their educational institution.
We therefore advise you to get in touch with the educational institution in order to clarify what the planned form of instruction will look like. The educational institution should also inform the persons concerned if they are currently unable to apply for a visa and are not allowed to enter the country due to purely online teaching.
More information on COVID-19 related changes can be found on ICE's official website.
In Germany, the U.S. consulates have similar processing times as before the pandemic, but there is still a 2-3 month wait for an appointment in some visa files.
We recommend F-1 and M-1 applicants to regularly check the availability of visa appointments via their online profiles at the respective consulates.
As an F-1 or M-1 visa holder, please always stay in contact with your educational institution in the U.S. to ensure that your studies or school attendance is still secured by an active SEVIS status or residence status, and to determine whether you need to be issued a new I-20 form.
In addition, it is important for students to document all changes in their respective program (e.g. e-learning, changes in the course of lectures, etc.) so that they can be presented to the SEVP on request. The SEVP will continue to try to be as flexible as possible in order to be able to create special adaptations. It is therefore recommended to follow official updates on the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) COVID-19 information page.
Currently, it is also extremely important that the F nonimmigrant residence status remains valid, even in emergency situations. This means that all visa holders must take all necessary steps under the given circumstances to maintain their status. In addition, visa holders must contact their DSO (Designated School Official) to discuss, for example, emergency plans for the school campus or changes. If the stay in the U.S. is for practical training (e.g. F-1 OPT), we strongly recommend that you speak with your U.S. employer to ensure that the training agreement is maintained. The Department of Homeland Security provides important information on maintaining the status.
Should financial difficulties (severe economic hardship) or other unforeseeable circumstances arise in the United States due to the current developments on COVID-19, there is the possibility to apply for a General Work Permit (EAD) for activities off-campus. The USCIS provides more detailed information on the possibilities in exceptional situations as well as special advice for international students.
Read more about the U.S. government's measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
F-1 visas allow you to attend an academic / scientific educational institution in the USA (e.g. university, college, etc.). However, F-1 visas must also be applied for if a language course of longer duration and with a certain number of lessons per week is to be attended.
For any exchange programs (training or internships) that take place in the United States, you will need to apply for a J-1 visa.
Several conditions must be met by both the applicant, i.e. the student, and the targeted educational institution to get the F-1 visa approved.
The educational institution in the USA must have a SEVIS registration. SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and is a web-based database of the U.S. government that allows the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to view the data of all exchange students who are in the U.S. The educational institution's SEVIS registration is required in order to issue the I-20 form, which must be presented at the U.S. consulate when applying for the F-1 visa.
Not all schools are authorized to issue the I-20 form. It is therefore necessary to find out in advance whether the targeted educational institution also has a SEVIS registration. This can be done through the web-based School Search Tool of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
F-1 applicants must also meet certain requirements:
All of the student requirements listed above and all associated documentation must be met or available prior to the F-1 visa application. F-1 visa applicants are often also required to take out foreign health insurance.
Applicants must generally appear in person at an interview appointment at one of the responsible U.S. consulates in the country where the applicant lives. In addition to the general application documents, the F-1 visa pplicant must submit
Applications for F-1 visas can be submitted a maximum of 120 days before the start of your studies. However, the application should be made at least one month before the start of the study program in order to avoid compromising the timely issue of the visa.
Generally, the waiting time for an interview appointment at a U.S. consulate varies depending on the location and time of year. When applying for an F-1 visa, waiting times of up to two to three weeks may occur. If the appointment is successful, the visa is usually approved immediately and sent by mail in the following three to ten days. The passport will be retained by the consulate for this purpose.
Consular fees for F-1 Visa applications must be paid online through a visa service provider, where the applicant must register online in advance. Possible payment methods are online payment via debit card, bank transfer or instant bank transfer. The CGI reference number of the payment transfer should be noted as it is considered proof of payment of the visa fee and must be presented at the U.S. consulate.
|Fee||Amount||Where to pay||Note|
|Consular Fee||$ 160||CGI Stanley||Remember the CGI reference number for submission to the U.S. consulate|
|SEVIS Fee||$ 350||SEVIS||the SEVIS number required for payment can be found on the I-20 form|
|Reciprocity Fee||varies||at the U.S. consulate||this fee varies according to your nationality|
An F-1 visa is issued for up to 5 years. However, the residence status in the Unitd States is valid for the entire duration of the study and is noted on the I-20 form. If there is a delay in the duration of study, e.g. due to a change of major or illness, the student can apply for an extension of status at the respective educational institution.
It is also possible to enter the United States with an F-1 visa 30 days before the start of your studies and to stay in the United States for a maximum of 60 days after graduation. During this so-called grace period, traveling in the U.S. is allowed, whereas working is prohibited.
But: If the stay abroad is longer than 5 months and is not related to the studies, the student status and therefore the F-1 visa can be lost.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age are eligible for a derived F-2 visa for the same period as the principal applicant. If the children reach the American majority, they must change their non-immigrant status or leave the country.
Family members are not permitted to work. The application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) is not possible under F-2 status. However, F-2 visa holders may attend public or private educational institutions (kindergarten to high school).
If you wish to attend a higher education institution (e.g. university), you must apply for a separate F-1 visa.
F-1 visas only allow you to attend an academic / scientific educational institution in the United States. It is not allowed to get a job in the U.S. as an international student.
Yes, it is possible to extend a F-1 visa under certain conditions.
If there is a delay in the duration of study, for example due to illness or if the main subject has been changed, the international student can apply for an extension at the respective educational institution.
SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. This is an online database of the U.S. government which enables the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to access data of all exchange students who are in the United States. The educational institution's SEVIS registration is required in order to issue the I-20 form which is mandatory for the visa application. To pay the SEVIS fee, a SEVIS number is required, which can be found on the I-20 document.