Are you right in the middle of the process of transitioning to the US for higher studies? In 2019, more than 200,000 Indian students went to the US for further education, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange (IIE). Taking into account the huge number of students who apply for an F-1 visa and its low acceptance rate, getting confused while applying for an F-1 visa could be somewhat inevitable.
International students need to apply for an F1 student visa once they get an offer letter from a US university. Once you receive your I-20 form, you can start the visa process. Ensure that you start gathering all your application documents for a US student visa well in advance, ideally, you should begin the visa process at least three to five months prior to your programme is set to begin. Applying for a US F1 student visa often involves a number of steps or procedures. Therefore, it is essential that you read the guidelines on the embassy website or consulate where you intend to apply as these steps differ at each US embassy or consulate.
An F1 visa costs about USD 510 per application. It enables foreign students to enrol full-time at a university in the US that has been approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Students who enter the country on an F1 student visa must do so with the intention of studying or for the primary purpose of education, and they must be enrolled in a full-time degree programme.
Students should always double-check the information on the official US Visa website since the US authorities reserve the right to amend the visa requirements or restrictions at any given moment.
The process of applying for a USA F1 visa can be tedious and time-consuming, seek help from our experts to know everything about an F1 visa application!
Apply for a USA F1 Student Visa With the Help of Our Experts!
What is an F-1 Visa?
An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the US Department of State to those wishing to study in the US. F-1 visas, granted only in US embassies and consulates outside the US, require students to maintain a full course of study.
The F-1 visa is the most popular kind for students who want to attend a US university or college, and you may only apply for one after your application has been accepted by any of the recognised US universities. It must be noted that there are many part-time job options in the USA for international students on an F1 visa, but those are severely constrained. You might be able to find a job on-campus at the university of your choice, but the hours are constrained and the jobs are in high demand.
The length of your stay will vary depending on the programme you enrol in as an F-1 student. The I-20 form that the institution you want to attend will include the program's expiration date on it. This will give you a general idea of how long you will be able to stay in the country and you will need to complete your degree before the indicated expiration date.
When attending an F-1 visa student interview, you will be hit with some unexpected questions that might leave you bothered. Although a long process, it is better for you to understand what is an F-1 visa, who needs to get one, andfinancial requirements, among other things.Read on to find out all about F-1 visas.
How Do You Get an F-1 Visa?
A university or school that is recognised by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program, or SEVP, must have accepted you before you may apply for an F-1 visa. All universities or colleges in the United States that accept F-1 students are required by law to hold a SEVP certification in order to do so. The candidate will be registered in the SEVP as soon as the university accepts them. The aspirant must then demonstrate enough finances to fund themself for at least one year in the USA, including living and tuition expenditures. The candidate can apply for the F1 student visa after the university has examined the candidate's financial status and issued an I-20 form. The US Department of Homeland Security's website allows you to look for schools that have received SEVP approval.
How to Apply for an F-1 Visa?
As discussed, in order to apply for an F1 visa, you must adhere to certain steps or procedures. You can only apply for the F1 student visa after receiving confirmation of your admission and an I-20 form from the academic institution where you desire to enrol.
Students cannot apply for an F1 student visa prior to 120 days after their desired programme's commencement date. As the entire process, including the processing of the visa, might take time, be careful not to prolong it. Make sure to apply for the F1 visa as soon as the 120-day countdown starts so that you can wait until the very last minute. Here are the steps to follow that will get you your F-1 visa:
Step 1: Get accepted into an education provider in the US.
Step 2: Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and get your I-20.
Step 3: Complete the visa application.
Step 4: Schedule and get ready for your interview.
Step 5: Attend the Interview.
Candidates must keep in mind that one of the most important documents to carry for an F-1 visa interview is the I-20 form. Usually, two types of forms are delivered by the colleges, one is the I-20 form and the other is the DS-2019 form. I-20 forms are given to individuals who must apply for F-1 and M-1 visas, whereas DS-2019 forms are given to those who must apply for J-1 visas. Once you have either of these forms, you can submit your application to the US Embassy or Consulate that serves the area where your permanent residence is. The exact form will be mailed to you directly from your university. Along with the address of your school or university and other details about your programme, you will also obtain a SEVIS ID on your form.
Know more about the USA F1 student visa by checking this video:
Eligibility Criteria for an F-1 Visa
It is only possible to apply for an F1 Visa if the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Programme) certifies the institution as accepting international students. There are not really any eligibility requirements to apply for an F-1 visa but you might have to fulfil the below-mentioned conditions:
You must have been accepted to an institution approved by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
You must be able to produce evidence of having strong ties to your home country and that you intend to return home when the program ends.
You must have cleared an English language proficiency test such as theTOEFL examor IELTS exam.
Lastly, you must be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover the expenses of studying and living in the US.
When to Apply for an F-1 Visa?
A prospective international student can apply for an F-1 visa after he/ she has been accepted to a US institution and the program is to begin within the next 120 days. One cannot apply before that but applying later may lead to delays due to the time required for the visa to get processed.
Documents Required for an F-1 Visa
The application for an F1 student visa would require an assortment of documents. US visa interview will also require the following list of documents of which a good quantity of copies should be made in advance. No original documents, such as your Aadhar or Pan card, should be submitted unless specifically requested by a visa office agent. Here is a list of documents that you should keep handy at your F-1 visa interview:
A valid passport with a validity date of at least six months beyond your duration of stay.
Recent passport-size photograph.
Payment receipt of application fees for SEVIS.
Form I -20.
Confirmation page of DS-160.
Application as a non-immigrant.
The embassy or consulate might ask for additional documents such as the following:
Your test scores you used for your university application.
Your official school transcripts.
Your diploma and/or degree certificates that you have.
The bank statements you used for your I-20.
F1 Visa Processing Time
The F1 visa processing time differs on an individual basis. After the interview, you may receive a response regarding your visa. The visa interviewer may even congratulate you on receiving the visa or give you a letter outlining the grounds for the denial after the interview. This is due to the fact that this type of visa is actually processed before your interview. The interview is the last step the US Embassy takes to determine whether or not to grant a visa. However, there are instances where the F1 visa response and processing take a few days, so you should exercise patience if that occurs.
F1 Visa Validity
If your visa has been granted, it can be for a shorter period of time than you intend to spend studying in the US. The Embassy will most likely grant you a visa that is valid for a single year if your academic programme requires a year to complete. If your degree programme lasts two years but you are only granted a one-year visa, you should afterwards petition to have it renewed. The length of time that your F1 visa is valid is specified on your I-20 and I-94 forms, which you receive when you enter the US.
The same process should be followed if your visa is being renewed. Given that you have already gone through the interview process once and intend to complete the remaining years of your education to earn your degree, you might be permitted to forego it. You are permitted to leave for the US 30 days prior to the start of your programme if your visa is approved. Any earlier than that, you are not allowed to enter the US.
List of Documents Required for USA Visa Application for Indian Students
Work While Study & Post-Study Workwith F1 Visa
After graduating, you can opt for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) programme to gain work and practical learning experience that is offered off-campus. Whereas, having an F1 student visa will also qualify you to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after graduation. This will allow you to work in the US for up to 12 months in a profession associated with your studies. You can request an extra two years of employment in a relevant profession if you have studied STEM in the USA. You must go back to your native country within 60 days of graduating if you do not have any extensions or additional training.
During the first year of their degree, students are not permitted to work outside the campus. Each week, they are permitted to work only 20 hours simultaneously following their regular studies. However, they are legally allowed to work up to 40 hours a week over holidays and breaks. Students have the opportunity to work for a private company that offers services to the institution or university, such as a cafeteria or bookstore. There are two choices available to those who desire to work off-campus:
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
Now, let us discuss the Difference Between OPT and CPT for International Students in detail:
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is intended to provide international students with the chance to work in the US. With OPT, students are only permitted to work for a maximum of 12 months. Additionally, one is only authorised to work in the field in which they majored and has 90 days from graduation to find employment. Students who are majoring in STEM fields can extend their OPT for an additional 24 months.
One can only begin working under OPT if they have applied for an Employment Authorisation Document (EAD) with their university's designated official. For this, candidates must complete I-765 Form. Further, your employer may sponsor your application for an H1-B or EB-5 visa, which will then allow you to apply for a Green Card.
Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
In order to further their academic studies, CPT permits students to work or intern. It is necessary to complete the internship/practical training to earn their degree. Additionally, the internship needs to be approved by their university or other educational institution and connected to their field of study.
Candidates may begin their CPT programme once they have been enrolled in their programme for nine full months. CPT is only approved for a specific semester, such as the fall, spring, or summer. It might last anything from one semester to 364 days.
Possibilities of F-1 Visa Denials
It is possible that your request for an F-1 visa will be rejected and there could be several Reasons for F1 Visa Denials. In this case, you will receive a thorough written justification that includes the legal provision that caused your application to be rejected.
It is critical to read and thoroughly abide by all guidelines if you want to prevent your F-1 student visa application from being rejected. Always review your documents several times before submitting your application.
You should be able to convincingly prove during your F-1 student visa interview that you are heading to the US for study-related purposes and intend to return home after your course of study is through. Every international student applying for an F1 Visa is thoroughly inspected by the USA State Department. For the following reasons, your visa application could be denied:
Insufficient financial support
Invalid or false documents
Incorrect photograph formats
Substandard visa interview
However, those who faced rejection may take certain steps to reapply for an F1 student visa and avoid making those mistakes again. In the event that the visa is denied pursuant to section 221(g), the candidate must reapply and pay the visa fee. If you were denied a visa under INA Section 214(b), you can show proof that you made significant improvements to your application since your previous application.
Quick F-1 Visa Interview Tips
As a foreign student requesting an F-1 student visa, there is no shortcut to passing your US immigration interview. Just like your application to a US university and the other steps in the visa application process, a successful US visa interview demands preparation. You can practise responding to the questions asked during your student visa interview at the American embassy to get ready in advance. The following are some of the tips for a successful US F-1 visa interview:
All the documents that the consular needs to see should be provided. Prior to your visa interview, arrange your records so that you would not arrive at the embassy or consulate with a complete jumble in your hands.
Since the interview is brief, provide clear answers without spending a lot of time contemplating them.
Maintain your composure and attempt to abstain from alcohol for at least 24 hours before your interview.
Eat something before heading to the appointment facility on the day of the interview because you might have to wait a little longer than expected.
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