F-1 Visa: Guide To A Student Visa

Immigration Practice Areas > Visas > Guide To F-1 Visas: Who Can Apply For A Student Visa?

Who Can Apply for a Student Visa?

Education is perhaps the most powerful tool available to people around the globe – it is a universal key to opportunity, cultural experience, growth, and transformation. Every year, thousands of people hope to attend schools or attain further training in the United States. Luckily, student visas allow for this type of experience, opening the doors for countless students, trainees, and other learners.

There are two primary types of student visas: F-1 and M-1. The F-1 visa is the most common type that students use, with many people choosing to work with a Dallas or Houston student visa attorney to work through the application process.

But who exactly is eligible for an F-1 student visa? What are the basic requirements for applications? And what types of student visas are available? The answers are in this guide to F-1 visas.

F-1 Visas - Guide To Student Visas

Guide to F-1 Visas

F visas are available to people who want to enter the United States to attend:

  • University or college
  • High school
  • Private elementary school
  • Seminary
  • Conservatory
  • Another academic institution, including language training programs

If you want to come to the U.S. to attend a vocational school or another recognized but non-academic institution (other than a language program), you’ll need an M visa. Likewise, if you’re traveling here to participate in a short recreational course of study – something that’s not going to earn you credit toward a degree or an academic certificate, a B visa may be more appropriate. Finally, a J visa is available to people who need practical training that isn’t available in their home country; training of that nature must be directly related to the student’s academic program. If you’re not sure which type of student visa is right for you, your best bet is to talk to an immigration attorney who can give you guidance.

Student Visa Requirements

While applicants for a student visa must adhere to standard visa specifications, there is an additional requirement that candidates must meet. Any person applying for consideration for an F or M student visa must also have already been accepted to an SEVP-approved school, institution, or other organization. This organization will provide essential paperwork for the student’s application (F or M visas).

Students applying for J student visas will need their organization to act as a sponsor during their application, so acceptance to any program must also be arranged ahead of time.

What Does “SEVP-Approved” Mean?

When a school or other institution is SEVP-approved, it has been reviewed and vetted by the Student Exchange and Visitors Program.

Types Of Student Visas

There are three types of student visas: J visas, M visas, and F visas. Each visa is available to a slightly different class of learners.

Please note that all student visas are nonimmigrant visas. This means that they are temporary and contingent upon a student’s course of study or exchange experience. Once the educational experience has completed, visa holders typically have 30 to 60 calendar days to exit the U.S. and return home.

F Visas

The most popular type of student visa, F visas allow foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to study at universities. They also allow exchange students to study at American high schools and private elementary schools. To apply for an F visa, a student must first be accepted into an SEVP-approved university or exchange program. After that, the institution would work with the visa applicant to provide the necessary application documentation (Form I-20).

As a note, F visas are also available to students attending specialty language programs and seminary.

Finally, family members of F-1 visa holders can come to the U.S. with them. These include spouses and unmarried children under 21, who would be eligible for F-2 visas.

What About the F Visa Interview?

Typically, you must attend an interview with a USCIS official to obtain an F visa. There are a few exceptions, though, such as people who are aged 13 or under and those who are aged 80 or older. Everyone else – people who are aged 14 to 79 – is generally required to interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.

When Can You Enter the U.S. as a New Student on an F Visa?

If the U.S. government grants your visa petition to study here, you can receive your visa up to 120 days before your program of study is scheduled to begin. However, you can’t enter the United States on a student visa (of any type) more than 30 days before your program’s start date.

When Can You Enter the U.S. as a Continuing Student on an F Visa?

The only way you can get an F visa as a continuing student is to renew your original visa – the one you applied for as a new student. If you’re a continuing student, you can reenter the United States at any time before your classes start.

What Kind of Documentation Do You Need for an F Visa?

In order to file your F visa petition, you’ll need:

  • A passport that’s valid for travel to the United States, and it must remain valid for at least 6 months beyond your projected period of stay in the U.S. unless you’re exempt by a country-specific agreement
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page, which is the page you get after submitting your form
  • Application fee payment receipt to show that you paid your application fee
  • Photo, which your attorney will upload when submitting your Form DS-160
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status and Form I-20, which your school will send to you

You may also need other documentation, such as evidence of your academic preparation (like transcripts or degrees from schools you have attended), proof of your intent to depart the U.S. when you’re finished with your course of study, and proof that you can cover all your educational, living and travel costs. Every case is different, so it’s a good idea to speak with an attorney to find out what you need to do before you file a petition with the U.S. government.

J Visas

J visas are a unique type of student visa, available to those in specific and specialized exchange programs. Types of experiences allowed under J visas include work-study programs, apprenticeships, and research fellowships. The USCIS lists common J visa recipients: visiting professors, au pairs, research or graduate assistants or fellows, and camp counselors.  According to the USCIS, the J visa program is intended to “promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science.”

Applicants seeking J visas must have a sponsoring organization. This organization would be whatever institution was facilitating the training or exchange experience. In order to initiate their application, J visa candidates would request a Form DS-2019 through their sponsoring agency. This form must be submitted with the standard visa application.

In conclusion, family members of J-1 visa holders can come to the U.S. with them. These include spouses and unmarried children under 21, who would be eligible for J-2 visas.

M Visas

Finally, M visas are the most restrictive student visa class. In fact, utilization is largely limited to those attending vocational training programs. Other “non-academic” training programs, excluding language programs, are also eligible. The SEVP must approve any participating institution.

Family members of M-1 visa holders can come to the U.S. with them. These include spouses and unmarried children under 21, who would be eligible for M-2 visas.

Contact A Dallas Student Visa Attorney Today

If you or a loved one hope to study in the U.S., a student visa unlocks the door. While such an opportunity is no doubt exciting, it also involves complicated application procedures with little room for error. Because of this, your best ally is a qualified and professional immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can help you organize your application, discuss expectations during your visa interview, and help ensure that your application is accurate and timely.

Davis & Associates is the premier immigration firm in Dallas, Texas. We serve Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston and strive to help clients achieve their dreams. No matter your immigration concern, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation. You’ll talk one-on-one with one of our expert attorneys and leave with a path forward. We can help – call us today!