F Visa

Academic Students

INA §101(a)(15)(F); 8 CFR §214.2(f)

An F visa is a non-immigrant visa for international students studying at a U.S. college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.

F-1 General Requirements

  • An F-1 student must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
  • The school must have SEVP certification;
  • The student must be enrolled in a full course of study;
  • The student must demonstrate sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study;

Time Limitations

F-1 students are admitted for “Duration of Status” or “D/S.” This means that a foreign national is considered to be in status as long as they are maintaining a full course of study and maintaining their F-1 status.

Non-Immigrant Intent 

Unlike other non-immigrant visa categories such as H or L, an F-1 student must have “non-immigrant” intent.  This means that the foreign national must maintain a foreign residence which s/he has no intention of abandoning;

Employment

F-1 students may have opportunities to work both on and off-campus and through participation in practical training. Off-campus is typically not permitted during the first academic year, but on-campus employment is allowed subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

Additionally, students may seek Practical Training:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

Practical training should be sought only after the F-1 student has completed at least 1 academic year unless the student’s academic program requires immediate participation.

Practical training employment must be related to an F-1 student’s area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (DSO) (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.

Accreditation

While accreditation currently is not a requirement by USCIS for permitting school’s to be SEVP certified, it is highly advised that students enroll only in schools that have been accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education. Students can check the accreditation status of a school on the Department of Education website. Furthermore, the H-1B regulations require any qualifying degree to be from an accredited institution.

F-1 Change of Status Checklist

F-1 Change of Status Checklist

Optional Practical Training

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants Post-Completion OPT to F-1 students who completed a program at a SEVP-certified college, university, conservatory, or seminary. OPT begins after the student’s program end date.

The earliest an application for employment authorization (EAD) for Post-Completion OPT can be filed is 90 days prior to the student’s program end date and no later than 60 days after their end date. Please note that filings must occur within 30 days of I-20 issuance. USCIS strictly enforces these deadlines.

Post-Completion OPT Checklist
OPT Checklist

MPLG’s OPT Checklist provides details on the forms and documents required for submitting an OPT application. Additional documents may be helpful depending upon each individual’s circumstances. Contact MPLG to learn more.

STEM OPT

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants STEM OPT extensions for an additional 24-month period to F-1 students who are currently in a post-completion OPT period. To qualify, an F-1 student must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an eligible STEM field from an SEVP certified school that is accredited at the time of the STEM OPT filing.

Please note that STEM OPT extensions must be filed prior to the expiration of the initial OPT period. Persons who have already entered the 60-day grace period no longer qualify for the STEM OPT program.

Students may qualify for STEM OPT extensions once per degree level (i.e., Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctorate). The maximum number of STEM OPT extensions over the course of an academic career is 2.

Extensions may be filed up to 90 days before the expiration of the post-completion OPT period.

STEM OPT Checklist
STEM OPT Checklist

MPLG’s STEM OPT Checklist provides details on the forms and documents required for submitting a STEM OPT application. Additional documents may be helpful depending upon each individual’s circumstances. Contact MPLG to learn more.

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General

Academic Students

INA §101(a)(15)(F); 8 CFR §214.2(f)

An F visa is a non-immigrant visa for international students studying at a U.S. college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.

F-1 General Requirements

  • An F-1 student must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
  • The school must have SEVP certification;
  • The student must be enrolled in a full course of study;
  • The student must demonstrate sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study;

Time Limitations

F-1 students are admitted for “Duration of Status” or “D/S.” This means that a foreign national is considered to be in status as long as they are maintaining a full course of study and maintaining their F-1 status.

Non-Immigrant Intent 

Unlike other non-immigrant visa categories such as H or L, an F-1 student must have “non-immigrant” intent.  This means that the foreign national must maintain a foreign residence which s/he has no intention of abandoning;

Employment

F-1 students may have opportunities to work both on and off-campus and through participation in practical training. Off-campus is typically not permitted during the first academic year, but on-campus employment is allowed subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

Additionally, students may seek Practical Training:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

Practical training should be sought only after the F-1 student has completed at least 1 academic year unless the student’s academic program requires immediate participation.

Practical training employment must be related to an F-1 student’s area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (DSO) (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.

Accreditation

While accreditation currently is not a requirement by USCIS for permitting school’s to be SEVP certified, it is highly advised that students enroll only in schools that have been accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education. Students can check the accreditation status of a school on the Department of Education website. Furthermore, the H-1B regulations require any qualifying degree to be from an accredited institution.

F-1 Change of Status Checklist

F-1 Change of Status Checklist
Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants Post-Completion OPT to F-1 students who completed a program at a SEVP-certified college, university, conservatory, or seminary. OPT begins after the student’s program end date.

The earliest an application for employment authorization (EAD) for Post-Completion OPT can be filed is 90 days prior to the student’s program end date and no later than 60 days after their end date. Please note that filings must occur within 30 days of I-20 issuance. USCIS strictly enforces these deadlines.

Post-Completion OPT Checklist
OPT Checklist

MPLG’s OPT Checklist provides details on the forms and documents required for submitting an OPT application. Additional documents may be helpful depending upon each individual’s circumstances. Contact MPLG to learn more.

STEM OPT

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants STEM OPT extensions for an additional 24-month period to F-1 students who are currently in a post-completion OPT period. To qualify, an F-1 student must hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in an eligible STEM field from an SEVP certified school that is accredited at the time of the STEM OPT filing.

Please note that STEM OPT extensions must be filed prior to the expiration of the initial OPT period. Persons who have already entered the 60-day grace period no longer qualify for the STEM OPT program.

Students may qualify for STEM OPT extensions once per degree level (i.e., Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctorate). The maximum number of STEM OPT extensions over the course of an academic career is 2.

Extensions may be filed up to 90 days before the expiration of the post-completion OPT period.

STEM OPT Checklist
STEM OPT Checklist

MPLG’s STEM OPT Checklist provides details on the forms and documents required for submitting a STEM OPT application. Additional documents may be helpful depending upon each individual’s circumstances. Contact MPLG to learn more.

FAQs
USCIS Memos & Other Resources

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