The F-1 visa is also known as a student visa. Foreign nationals may enter the U.S. in F-1 status in order to engage in full-time academic studies. Dependents of those in F-1 status, may enter in F-2 status. F-1 students can range from private elementary school students all the pay up to doctoral candidates, and those engaged in post-doctoral studies. In general, foreign students are permitted to work no more than 20 hours per week on campus, and their dependents are not permitted to work at all.
Unlike other non-immigrants who are given a definite period of stay in the U.S., students are permitted to remain in the U.S. for the “duration of status”. Duration of status means that a student remains in valid status during the entire period of enrollment in an academic period plus any period of Optional Practical Training (OPT).
In order to confer student status on a foreign national, a school must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security to issue I-20s, the documentation required for a student visa. F-1 students may not pursue a course of study at a school that has not been approved by DHS. Without a valid I-20, a foreign national will not be able to obtain student status. Additionally, a student must maintain a valid status throughout the period of stay. If, by way of example, a student fails to register for a full-time course load, s/he will lose his or her F status.
In order to obtain an I-20, and therefore F status, the following requirements must be met:
- The foreign national must be proficient in English or be enrolled in English language courses leading to proficiency,
- The foreign national must have sufficient funds available to him or her to support him or herself completely during the entire proposed course of study,
- The foreign national must maintain a residence abroad and must intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of his\her studies
- Upon initial admission, the foreign national must intend to attend the school specified on the F-1 visa
It is possible to obtain a F-1 visa abroad, at a consular post in the home country, or here in the U.S. through a Change of Status application.