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;
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.
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;
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.
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.