BY MELISSA BURNS
Getting an F1 visa is a necessary step for any international student willing to live and study in the United States. It may not be exactly easy, and many would-be students believe getting one is a multi-stage adventure like an African safari; but in fact, it is all fairly straightforward. To succeed you merely have to know certain facts beforehand – and in this article, we will tell you the most important things about F1 visa you should know.
1. There is a distinct list of prerequisites for getting it
The United States is very particular about what they want from those applying for an F1 visa. You must:
- Be an official resident of a foreign country;
- Have no intention of staying in the United States after graduation. F1 is a student visa, and your goal should be studied and then return to your home country;
- Have definite ties with your home country (family members, job offers, bank accounts, and other assets) that you are unlikely to abandon;
- Attend a language-training program or an academic institution;
- Be enrolled as a full-time student of a school approved by USICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to accept international students;
- Have sufficient finances to complete your education (study and living expenses), as your employment opportunities will be limited.
2. You can leave the United States for a period of time
After getting your F1 visa, you aren’t obliged to stay in the United States for the entire approved period of time. You have a right to travel abroad and then return to the USA after a leave of no more than 5 months. If your original F1 visa expires during this period, you have to obtain another one.
3. You can transfer to a different school
You aren’t obliged to spend your entire studying time in the initially approved school. You have the right to notify your current school and transfer your SEVIS record to another school of your choice. The only thing to look out for is that you have to obtain an I-20 form from your new school and submit it within 15 days of the transfer date.
4. F1 visa doesn’t preclude you from working in the USA
However, this is a tricky issue. As F1 is a student visa, your work opportunities are going to be severely limited – at least legal ones. Officially, you are mostly allowed to work on the territory of a campus of a college you at which you study for up to 20 hours a week, which certainly doesn’t amount to much. You may also consider training programs that give international students an opportunity to work. As this is a very subtle issue that can have you kicked out of the country if not handled carefully, make sure to contact your foreign student advisor before looking for a job.
5. F1 visa allows you to stay for as long as you study
F1 visa offers you a “duration of status” stay in the United States – meaning that you can legally stay in the country for as long as you study in the school you’ve applied to. After you complete your academic program and graduate, you will have 60 days to leave the country. If you want to stay longer, you have to change your visa status, re-enroll in a higher-level program or transfer to a new school.
As you may see, things aren’t as bad as many believe them to be. As long as you follow the rules, getting an F1 visa isn’t particularly difficult, and it opens up a lot of doors in front of you.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org