How to Apply for an F-1 Student Visa

International students planning to study in the United States must obtain a student visa to live in the country temporarily. Most students receive an F1 visa, and here’s how to apply for an F1 student visa.

Receive Admittance into a Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) 

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To be eligible to apply for an F1 student visa, you must have admittance to a SEVP-approved institution. These schools have a list of requirements that they must meet to allow international students to attend.

Before applying to the school or university you wish to attend, check the SEVP site to make sure your school is listed. If your school is on the list, send in the admission documents.

If the school you want to attend isn’t on the list, be ready to choose a different one because even if you receive acceptance, you won’t receive the visa to attend.

After you receive your school acceptance notice, you’ll be required to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Your university will send Form I-20 to you, and you must give this form to the consular official during your interview for the visa.

Additional Qualifications 

To apply for an F1 visa, you’ll need to confirm that you’re enrolled as a full-time student. You must also show that you are strongly connected to your home country. Plan to send documentation verifying that you have a solid connection to your country and intend to return home once you’ve completed your educational program. It will be harder for you to qualify for the visa if you fail to prove your loyalty to your home.

For a visa, plan to prove that you have enough money in your bank accounts to pay for the cost of attending school and living in the U.S. Keep in mind that even if you have enough money for school, you may still qualify for scholarships. Be sure to research what scholarships you may be eligible for to decrease your financial expenses.

You’ll need to show that you can speak English and understand it well enough to study in the United States. Take a standardized proficiency test like the IELTS or TOEFL to confirm your English language skills.

What You Need for the F1 Visa 

To apply for your visa, you’ll need:

• An official passport

• The DS-160 form required for non-immigrants

• Two pictures that meet the requirements established for the United States visa photos

• Confirmation that you paid your fee for the visa

You’ll also need to submit a completed copy of Form 1-20. In this form, you’ll declare how much funding you need to pay for your schooling and to live in the United States while attending school. You must include documentation confirming that you have the finances available on the form. To prove that you have the funding that you need, submit documents like:

• Your last three years of bank statements

• Your last three years of tax records

• Employment pay stubs

If you’ll be using a scholarship to pay for any of your expenses, send proof of it with your form. It is also helpful to pay your first year of tuition, but this is not mandatory.

If someone is sponsoring you to come and learn in the United States, you’ll need to send Form 1-134, an Affidavit of Support, and three years of your sponsor’s bank statements.

If you are paying for your education in the United States using a loan, you’ll need to send in verification that you have approved funding.

When applying for a visa, the United States will need you to confirm your qualifications to attend the school you’re planning to attend. Confirmation documents include school transcripts, test scores, school acceptance letters, and other diplomas.

The Application Steps 

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1. Reach out to the SEVP institution to request your admissions papers.

2. Fill out your application online using the DS-160 form.

3. Pay the fees for the application and the SEVIS 1-901 form.

4. Schedule an interview to apply for your visa.

5. Send in the file with the documents needed for the visa.

6. Go to the interview.

How Long Can You Stay in the Country with an F1 Visa? 

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Once the United States Embassy approves your visa, you’ll be given a date confirming when the visa expires. In some cases, these types of visas are approved for the entire time you’ll be in school, or it may be for less time.

If you’re planning to attend a study program that allows you to graduate within a year, then the embassy will probably approve your visa for one year. However, if your study program takes longer than a year to complete, you will likely receive approval to stay in the country for only one year. This means that you’ll need to request a renewal.

The valid dates of your visa will be listed on the 1-20 form and the 1-94 form. You will receive this when you come into the country and complete the same process when it is time to renew your visa. On renewal, you may be able to avoid the interview since you’ve already completed one and you plan to continue learning to earn your degree.

If the embassy approves your visa, you are permitted to leave for the United States 30 days before starting your educational course, and you will not be allowed to come into the United States before that time.

How Long Does It Take to Process the Visa?

You will probably receive an answer about your visa once you’re done with the interview. Often, the visa interviewer will congratulate the student requesting it or give them information about why they were denied.

This is because these types of visas are usually processed before you go in for the interview. Meeting with an interviewer is the final embassy assessment step. However, if you don’t receive information about your visa status after your interview, don’t worry. Processing can take a few days following the interview.

The Best Time to Apply for an F1 Visa 

Once you receive confirmation that you’ve been accepted into the school you wish to attend, you can request the visa 120 days before the start of your educational program. You won’t be able to make the request sooner than that. However, if you wait, it could result in a delay because of the processing time. Apply for the visa as soon as possible.

Can You Stay Past the Visa Expiration Date?

Once your visa expires, you’ll have 60 days to get ready to leave for home. You may qualify for an extension only if you still need time to earn your degree and as long as you plan to return to your home country upon completion.

Learn English

The Uceda School of Las Vegas will help you learn English. Our goal is to give our students the language skills they need to live exciting and productive lives in an expanding world. To learn more about our English courses in Las Vegas, call us at 702-586-3131.

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