Qualifying and Applying for F-1 Student Visa Status
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To qualify, applicants for the F-1 status must demonstrate that they have no intention of immigrating to the U.S. Applicants must show evidence of significant ties to their home country that will ensure their return upon completing studies in the U.S. They must also demonstrate that they are able to obtain the financial support necessary to fund their educational goals in the U.S. Successful applicants are sometimes given the F-1 status for duration of status (D/S). This permits such students continue in the F-1 student status so long as they remain in the course of study with a valid Form I-20. F-1 Student visa holders must also carry a full course load in order to maintain status.
Prior to applying, applicants must first obtain admission into a qualifying institution and obtain a Form I-20 which specifies the length of the intended program and the costs of same. Effective January 3, 2003, SEVIS Form I-20s may only be issued by a school that is designated by the USCIS. Requests for designation are made using Form I-17 and I-17A along with requisite fee and supporting documents.
Applications for a change to the F-1 status made within 30-60 days of arrival in the U.S. in another status may be denied on the basis that such is fraudulent. It is assumed that such an applicant entered the U.S. with a different visa while intending to be a student upon arrival.
On-Campus Employment: F-1 visa holders may qualify to accept part-time on-campus employment while school is in session and full-time employment during breaks. On-campus employment may begin at any time.
Off-Campus Employment: The regulations also permit off-campus employment if it is based on severe economic hardship due to unforseen circumstances beyond the student’s control. To be eligible, students must have been in the F-1 status for 9 months and obtain a recommendation from the school prior to requesting work authorization from the USCIS.
Curricular Practical Training: This refers to employment that is integral or important to the student’s academic training. This type of employment is usually offered by employers through a cooperative agreement with the school. This requires 9 months in the F-1 visa status and endorsement of the school.
Optional Practical Training: This permits F-1 students to accept employment after completing each program such as Bachelor’s degree, Masters and/or PhD. Each authorization last 12 months and employment must be in the student’s major area of study. To qualify, students must have been enrolled in school for 9 consecutive months prior. They must also obtain the School’s endorsement as must file an application for employment authorization to the USCIS within 90 days of completion of studies. All practical training must be completed within 14 months of the completion of studies. During the authorized period of training, a student may re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad so long as he has a valid F-1 student visa, a recently endorsed Form I-20, a valid EAD card, if he has not otherwise violated his status.
Spouses and children of F-1 students visa holders may apply for F-2 visas. Those dependents in the U.S. in another visa category may seek a change of status. Those outside of the U.S. may apply for F-2 visas at the appropriate U.S. consulate abroad. Student and Exchange Visitor Information System regulations now prohibit F-2 spouses from engaging in full-time studies at any level.
A dependent child in F-2 status may attend primary and secondary schooling on a full-time basis. Both the child and dependent child in F-2 status must change to the F-1 status if they desire to attend any post-secondary program on a full-time basis. F-2 visa holders may not accept employment.