F-1 visas are required for all visits to privately funded high schools, US universities or colleges, and many language courses in the US. With the student visa is therefore a Education and training possible in the United States.

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What are F-1 visas?

F-1 visas allow for attendance at an academic/scientific educational institution in the US (e.g. university, college, etc.). However, F-1 visas must also be applied for if a language course of longer duration is to be completed and, depending on the language course, from a certain number of lessons per week.

Tip: A language course with less than 18 hours of instruction per week does not usually require an F-1 visa, but may be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program be completed.

For German-American exchange programs that take place in the USA, the J-1 visa be applied for.

Requirements for F-1 Visa

Several requirements must be met for the approval of F-1 visas, both on the part of the applicant, i.e. the student, and on the part of the corresponding educational institution.

Requirements for educational institutions

  1. SEVIS
  2. I-20 Shape

The educational institution in the US must have a SEVIS registration. SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and is a web-based database created by the U.S. government to enable the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to view the data of all exchange students who are in the US.

SEVIS registration of the educational institution is required in order for the I-20 Shape can be issued, which must be presented when applying for the F-1 visa at the US consulate.

Not all educational institutions are authorized to issue the I-20 form. It is therefore necessary to find out in advance whether the educational institution is actually SEVIS-registered. This can be found in the web-based School Search Tool of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Requirements for students

F-1 applicants must also meet certain requirements:

  1. Study place
    Prior to applying for F-1 visas, a written application must have been received and successfully completed by the desired educational institution in order for the necessary I-20 form to be issued.

  2. Funding
    The financing of the studies and living expenses must be secured through own funds or scholarships.

  3. Intention to return
    Proof of permanent residence in the home country must be provided and, if necessary, further proof of intention to return must be provided.

Apply for F-1 Visa

All of the above-mentioned requirements for students and all of the accompanying necessary documents must be fulfilled or available prior to applying for an F-1 visa. Often F-1 visa applicants are also required to have health insurance.

Application procedure for F-1 visa

Applicants must usually appear in person at an interview appointment at one of the responsible US consulates in the country in which the center of life is located. There, in addition to the general application documents

  • Documents related to the educational institution (I-20 form, confirmation of payment of SEVIS fee I-901)
  • Evidence of permanent residence in the home country,
  • other evidence of the intention to return after the end of the program, and
  • Proof of financial means for the stay in the USA

be submitted.

Attention: Until December 31, 2023, the personal interview may be waived for F visa applicants of all nationalities, except China and Nigeria, under certain conditions (e.g., no prior visa refusal, ESTA refusal, etc.). It should be checked on a case-by-case basis whether you are eligible for a so-called Interview Waiver come into question.

F-1 visa application period

Applications for F-1 visas can be submitted maximum 365 days before the start of the study. However, the application should be made in good time before the start of studies in order not to jeopardize the timely issuance of the visa.

Attention: International students on F-1 visas may enter the US no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of their studies.

Basically, the waiting time for an interview date at a US consulate depending on location and time of year. When applying for F-1 visas, there may be waiting times of up to several weeks.

Attention:The interview appointment requirement has been suspended for certain F-1 visa applicants until December 31, 2023. In these cases, the waiting period for an interview appointment at the US consulate is waived. However, the processing time of the postal application of approximately 2 weeks must be taken into account.

Immediately after the interview, applicants are informed whether their visa is approved. The passport is retained and delivered by courier after a certain processing time. If desired, the passport can also be picked up.

Cost F-1 Visa

Consular fees for the F-1 Visa application are paid online through the official Visa service provider, where applicants must register in advance. Possible payment methods include online payment via debit card or bank transfer. The 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 US consulate.

Validity of the F-1 visa

The F-1 visa is issued for up to 5 years. It is important to note that the visa is only valid in conjunction with a valid I-20 form.
US residency status is for the duration of the period noted on the I-20 form. If there is a delay in the duration of study, for example, because a change of major or illness occurs, students may request an extension from the respective educational institution.

After program completion, F-1 visa holders may remain in the United States for up to 60 days.

In this so-called Grace Period travel in the USA is allowed, but working is prohibited. If you stay outside the US for more than 5 months and are not related to your studies, you may lose your student status and therefore your F-1 visa.

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F visas for family members

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 are granted derivative F-2 visas for the same period as the principal applicant. If the children reach the U.S. age of majority, they must change their nonimmigrant status or leave the country.
The family members are not allowed to work. The application for a general work permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) is therefore not possible under F-2 status. However, F-2 visa holders can attend a public or private educational institution (kindergarten to high school).

If a higher educational institution (e.g. university) is to be attended, a stand-alone F-1 visa must be applied for.

Stand-alone I-20 forms are required for each of the F-2 visa applications.

The most frequently asked questions about F-1 visas

The fees for applying for a visa vary considerably depending on the category and may regularly increase or decrease, also as a result of exchange rate fluctuations. Therefore, every applicant should inform himself about the current fees before applying.

The application for a U.S. visa must be made through the official U.S. authorities, e.g. the U.S. consulates and U.S. embassies. The actual visa application is placed online, but almost every applicant must go to the consulate in person for a visa interview. With some work visas, it is sometimes necessary to send extensive files by mail to the U.S. authorities in the USA prior to the consular application procedure.
We advise and support companies and private individuals in all matters relating to visa applications. Read more about the requirements, duration and costs of a visa application

Some universities or colleges in the U.S. require their students to present their Social Security Number. However, normally the number is not issued to persons who are temporarily in the United States on an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa. In this case, the universities should be able to assign a different identification number to the foreign students concerned.

If you want to take up employment that is permitted under the respective student visa, you can apply for a Social Security Number.

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.

The I-20 form is issued by the respective educational institution provided that the U.S. educational institution is SEVIS registered. You can find out whether this is the case by using the school search tool of the U.S. authorities.
Please note: The I-20 is not an application form that you can download from the Internet.

We work together with the visa sponsors InterExchange and TravelWorks and act as an interface between the main applicant (graduate), the employer in the home country, the host company in the United States, the U.S. authorities and the respective exchange organisation. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Further visa sponsors can be researched on the official website of the U.S. authorities.

Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 will be issued a derived J-2 visa for the same period as the principal applicant and may travel to the United States on that visa.

The F-1 visa allows for attendance at a ("SEVIS-registered") academic/scientific educational institution in the U.S. (e.g. university, college, etc.). Language school stays also fall under this visa category.
A non-academic short-term language course often does not require an F-1 visa and can be taken under the Visa Waiver Program if the requirements are met. However, you should always clarify this with the respective language school in advance.

The validity period of an F-1 visa depends on the nationality of the applicant. Depending on the nationality, is determined on the basis of the so-called Reciprocity Schedule decided how long the visa will be valid. For example, German citizens receive a five-year F-1 visa. But the visa is to be distinguished from the residence status.
The residency status is valid for the entire duration of the study program and is noted on the I-20 form. If there is a delay in the duration of study, for example, because the major has been changed or an illness occurs, the student may request an extension from the respective educational institution. The F-1 visa holder is also permitted to enter the United States as early as 30 days prior to the start of studies and to remain in the United States for up to a maximum of 60 days after graduation.
Under certain circumstances, F-1 visa holders may be allowed to complete an internship subsequent to their U.S. studies.

It is crucial that the educational institution has a SEVIS registration. SEVIS stands for "Student and Exchange Visitor Information System" and is a U.S. government web-based database 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 United States. SEVIS includes information on the student's location, educational institution, and legal status, among other information. Only if the educational institution is SEVIS-registered, it can issue the so-called I-20 form, which is mandatory for applying for the F-1 visa at the U.S. consulate.
Not all schools are authorized to issue this form. Please find out in advance whether the educational institution you are targeting also has a SEVIS registration. You can read about this a t

There are three options of student employment with the F-1 visa:

  1. On campus (On-Campus Employment)
    During the lecture period, there is the possibility to accept a part-time position on campus of up to 20 hours per week. During semester breaks, students may also work on a full-time basis. On-campus employment includes, for example, jobs in the bookstore or cafeteria if they are located on the premises of the educational institution, or off-campus facilities if they are affiliated with the university.
  2. Off-Campus Employment (Off-Campus Employment).
    Holders of the F-1 visa may work off campus if an unexpected financial emergency situation has arisen over which the student had no control. The requirement is that the student has already completed one full academic year, has good academic records, and demonstrates that the work will not interfere with the student's studies. If approved, 20 hours per week are allowed during the semester as well as full-time work during semester breaks.
  3. Internship
    A distinction must be made between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). The CPT can be completed during the semester. There is no restriction on the maximum hours of work allowed per week. However, it is important to note that pursuing CPT on a full-time basis for a year or more will result in the student no longer qualifying for OPT. OPT may be pursued after graduation for a period not to exceed 12 months. Students with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) may be eligible for longer OPT (17 months, or 24 months from May 102016) graduate. To qualify for OPT, the student must apply for work authorization directly to U.S. Immigration using Form I-765. For both OPT and CPT, the student must first obtain permission from the educational institution and a clear connection to the student's major must be demonstrated.

Accompanying spouses and unmarried children up to age 21 will be granted derivative status upon application, and thus an F-2 visa. Children who turn 21 or marry while in the U.S. must change their nonimmigrant status or leave the country.

Work not allowed
However, with this visa, the spouses and children are allowed to not permitted to work, i.e. the acquisition of a General Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document, EAD) in the USA is excluded (unlike other categories such as L-1 or E-1/E-2).

Study only possible to a limited extent
Children may attend an "elementary" or "secondary" school (kindergarten to high school). If a higher educational institution (e.g. university) is to be attended, a separate F-1 visa must be applied for.

Spouses may only:

  • Study occasionally and for fun, or
  • Attend an SEVP-approved educational institution as a part-time student.

If the spouse wishes to study full-time, he or she must apply for an F-1 visa.

As a rule, applicants find out on the day of their interview whether the visa will be granted or not.
In certain cases, the visa applicant receives a letter of refusal from the consulate after a certain processing time. Incidentally, no reasons need to be given for a refusal. The reasons for this can be manifold and range - depending on the visa category - from the assumption of an immigration intention, to the presumption of illegal employment, to insufficient application documentation.
Once this has happened, a new visa can usually only be (successfully) applied for after several months or even years. Theoretically, there is no waiting period for the applicant until the next submission. However, experience shows that without a blatant improvement in the requirements of the respective visa category (e.g. proof of the intention to return to the home country, financial means, proof of specialized professional knowledge, etc.), a new application does not appear to make much sense.