F-1 Student Visa
F-1 classification is for students entering the U.S. temporarily to engage in a course of study at the following institutions:
• Private elementary school
• High School
• College or University
• An academic institution, including a language training program
(*Please note individuals attending vocational or other nonacademic institutions aside from a language training program must apply for a M-1 visa instead. Also, individuals traveling on B-1/B-2 visitor visas are not permitted to pursue a course of study other than a short recreational program).
Individuals who wish to pursue a course of study in the U.S. must first apply to and be accepted by a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified institution. Upon acceptance, the school will enroll the prospective F-1 student in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and issue a Form I-20 noting the terms of study and duration. The student must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee and present the Form I-20 when applying for a F-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate. An F-1 student may enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date.
Dependents, including spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old, are eligible for derivative F-2 status. They are issued separate Form I-20s but are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.
Optional Practical Training
Students in F-1 status are permitted to apply for up to 12 months of optional practical training (OPT) to work for an U.S employer in a job directly related to the student’s major area of study. However, individuals may extend the OPT period by up to 17 months under the following circumstances:
• Student received a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).
• Employment is with an U.S. employer registered and in good standing with USCIS’ E-Verify employment verification program.
Under OPT, students may not accumulate more than 90 days of unemployment and those under the 17-month STEM extension may not exceed 120 days of unemployment.
Duration of Status
The period of stay granted to F-1 students is known as “duration of status” as it covers the period of time necessary to pursue the course of study, as well as any period of post practical training. F-1 students are granted a 60 grace period to prepare for departure, transfer to another program, or change their status upon completion of their course of study or practical training. Students authorized by the Designated School Official (DSO) to withdraw from classes will be allowed a 15-day period of departure. Those who fail to maintain status, such as failure to maintain a full course of study without the approval of the DSO, are not eligible for an additional period for departure.