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F-1 Visa for Students

Interested in earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD at a U.S. college or university? Alcorn Immigration Law can help.

The F-1 visa allows foreign nationals to live in the U.S. to study full-time at an accredited educational institution.

The spouse and dependent children of an F-1 visa holder are eligible for F-2 visas. With an F-2, dependent children may attend grade school, from kindergarten through 12th grade. A spouse and children with F-2 visas may attend recreational classes as well.

F-1 visa holders may not work during their first academic year off-campus, but may work on-campus under certain conditions. After the first academic year, F-1 students are eligible to apply for off-campus employment. See OPT (Optional Practical Training) for F1 Students for more details.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for an F-1 visa, an individual must be:

  • Enrolled in an academic—not a vocational—educational program or a language-training program approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate. (A student enrolled in a vocational program may be eligible for an M-1 visa.) For a list of U.S. schools that enroll F-1 students, click here.
  • A full-time student.
  • Proficient in English or enrolled in English courses.
  • Able to show sufficient funds to support herself or himself during the entire period of study.
  • Able to show she/he maintains a residence abroad that she/he has no intention of giving up.

Application Process

Once a foreign national is accepted to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, the designated school official (DSO) will provide that individual with a Form I-20 (Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status). For an F-1 visa, a student must:

  • Select one school to attend and fill out that school’s Form I-20. The information contained in this form will be entered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database.
  • Before applying for an F-1 visa, pay the SEVIS fee by going to to access SEVIS Form I-901 Fee. Watch the I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Tutorial for more detailed information about the payment process.
  • Save the receipt for the Form I-901 fee payment and bring it to the visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • File an online application Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) with the U.S. Department of State. A photo of the student Online Form DS-160 will require a photo of the student to be uploaded. If the photo upload fails, the student will be required to bring a printed photo meeting the requirements listed here.
  • Once the online Form DS-160 is filled out, print the confirmation page and bring it to the visa interview.
  • Make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in her or his home country.
  • Pay any applicable fees prior to visa interview and bring receipt to interview along with passport and all other supporting documents.

At the visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a F-1 visa. A digital fingerprint scan may be taken during the interview. F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days before classes begin. However, an F-1 visa holder will only be allowed to enter the U.S. 30 day or less before classes begin.

Services for Students

At Alcorn Immigration Law, we help prospective foreign students obtain visas. We also assist visitors to the U.S. and foreign nationals currently in the U.S. under another visa to change to an F-1 student visa to begin courses at an eligible education institution in the U.S. If you have questions about becoming a student, do not hesitate to contact us.


$160 for online Form DS-160

Form I-20 (Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status)

Form I-901 SEVIS Fee

Online Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application)

  1. Apply to and get accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.
  2. Obtain and fill out the school’s Form I-20.
  3. Pay the SEVIS Fee
  4. File online Form DS-160 and pay the filing fee.
  5. Appear for the visa interview.

None. You must plan to return to your home country. At the airport, border, or other port of entry, you will need to satisfy the U.S. government officer that you have a residence in your home country and do not intend to abandon it. You must demonstrate that your visit to the U.S. will end after a specific amount of time.

International students attending eligible U.S. educational institution

Initial Petition: Usually for the duration of student status plus an additional 60 days after the program end date listed on Form I-20 and any authorized practical training.

Extensions: Only in certain instances. See OPT Optional Practical Training for F-1 Students and STEM OPT Extension for F-1 Students.


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