Foreign nationals may enter the United States as nonimmigrant in order to pursue academic studies. The student must be enrolled in an “academic” program, not a vocational-type program. Further, the student must be pursuing their studies at an accredited institution. In addition to universities, elementary and high schools, colleges, seminaries, conservatories and language training program also qualify for “academic” study. NOTE – many foreign students upon completion of their studies adjust their status while within the United States to H-1B (temporary employment visa) allowing them to work for an American employer as described on page 6 below.
The alien before applying at the Consulate for a student visa must be accepted by an accredited institution. This will be proven by Form I-20, which will be sent to the student by the institution. This form should further denote it’s date of approval and INS number.
The alien student should be enrolled in the usual number of courses necessary to complete the degree in the usual period of time.
The school must indicate that the student is proficient in English or will be pursuing English studies. This will be done on Form I-20 and will state one of the following:
The alien must demonstrate that he has sufficient funds available to him for the entire duration of his propose period of study. Specifically, the student must demonstrate that he has funds currently available at his disposal for the coming academic year and will have academic funds available in the same amount throughout his academic program.
The student must maintain a residence abroad and demonstrate that he has no intention of abandoning it, and further intends to leave the United States upon completion of his studies.
The application is made at the United States Consulate and the following is required:
FORM I-20 A-B
This form will be forwarded to the applicant upon acceptance to the school. The school will complete the form, the applicant only has to sign in two places. A student visa will not be issued without this form.
As noted above, a student must show that he has no intention of remaining in the United States (nonimmigrant intent). His sole purpose for entering the United States is study, and he will return to his home country upon completion of those studies. Evidence in this regard includes proof of family ties to home country, property, prospects of employment upon completion of study. It is also essential that the student prove that he has the required funds at his disposal for his academic program. He must demonstrate that he has the funds currently at his disposal for the coming academic year and these will be available through his academic program. Evidence on adequate financial resources includes: personal funds and funds from family; financial aid and fellowships; government aid. Money can be earned from fellowship, scholarship or assistance ship grants, post-doctoral research programs and work-study programs at schools that provide such programs as part of the curriculum; this is not considered salary, and will be counted towards the students financial resources.
Documentation showing financial resources includes:
The alien’s passport at the time of the application at the Consulate should be valid for at least a period of six months.
Accompanying family members (spouse and children) will be issued an F-2 visa. The family requires the same documentation as the student, including proof of family relationship, with the exception of Form I-20 A-B. Should the family not be applying for their visa at the consulate at the same time as the student, they will also require Form I-20 A-B issued by the school for them or page 4 of the student’s Form I-20. Note that the family members must also establish nonimmigrant intent, and sometimes consular officers are reluctant to issue such visas, as they believe that if the family is together, they will remain in the United States.
At the Port of Entry or Airport, the student will present to the Immigration officer his Passport and valid F Visa as well as Form I-20 A-B which will have been returned to the alien by the U.S. Consulate. The student passport will be stamped and he will be given pages 3 and 4 of the I-20, which is his I-20 ID Copy. The student must keep this document with him at all times. The student will further be issued an I-94 form. This also should be kept and the valid date will denote “D/S” which indicates that he is admitted for a period of his course of study at a U.S. educational institute.
Once admitted to the authorized school for Duration of Status, a F-1 student must pursue a full course of study and make reasonable progress towards a degree to maintain his/her student status. A foreign student who takes less than a full course on the advise of the foreign student advisor or due to illness or for other medical reasons is not considered to have violated status requirements. A F-1 student who continues from one education level to another by transfer procedure is considered to be “In-Status”. A student is not “Out-of-Status” during annual (or summer) vacation, if the student is eligible and intends to register for the next term.
To transfer schools a F-1 student must first notify the school he/she is presently attending for intend to transfer and then obtain Form I-20A-B from the school to which he/she intends to transfer to. He/She must complete and return the form to the Designated School Official (DSO), within 15 days of beginning attendance at the new school. To be eligible to transfer the student should establish:
It is defined as the time during which a F-1 student is pursuing a full course of study or engaged in authorized Practical Training following completion of studies plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S. EXTENSION OF STAY Schools are allowed to approve program extensions for students who have continuously maintained status. Since a F-1 student is admitted for D/S, the student is not required to apply for extension of stay as long as he/she is maintaining status and making normal progress towards completing educational objective. A F-1 student who is enable to complete, in a timely manner, must apply for program extension in a thirty day period before the completion to the DSO.
I-20A-B DSO will make a reasonable estimate based on the time an average foreign student would need to complete a similar program and a grace period of one year may be added on to the DSO’s estimate.
A F-1 student who is out of status may apply in writing to the District Director requesting reinstatement, accompanied by full explanation and the usual student documentation (I-20A-B). The District Director may in his or her discretion reinstate the student’s status provided that:
A student who makes a short trip abroad (less than 5 months) during an authorized period of study should have an I-20 A-B endorsed by the DSO to confirm that there have been no changes. The student must have the original I-20 ID copy and passport with a valid F-1 visa. A F-1 student who has an unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) for Post-Completion Practical Training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the U.S. to resume employment after a period of temporary absence from the U.S. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last 6 months. Similarly, spouses and unmarried children of F-1 student can reenter the U.S.