EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State supported network. For information about F-1 visas, please visit: https://www.educationusa.info/. More information also available on http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html.
The Student Visa (F-1) allows you to register for full-time courses in a college, university or language school. A full-time course in an American college or university generally consists of four classes that total 12 credits (units) a semester. In a language school, a full-time course is determined by the number of hours you take per week.
You cannot register for part-time courses if you have F-1 status.
To apply for the F-1, you must:
- Have a passport with an expiration date of more than 5 months in the future.
- Apply for the I-20 form and register for the semester you want to attend.
- Contact the American Embassy and request an appointment for the F-1.
- Prepare for a possible interview with an embassy official about your visa request.
- Show the embassy official proof that you can pay for your educational and living expenses in the U.S.
If your F-1 application is approved, you will be permitted to travel to the U.S. on a student visa.
PLEASE NOTE: Once you enter the U.S., you must go to the school that accepted your admission request and begin your course of study there. You cannot attend a different school without permission from Immigration. It is a very serious violation!
If your F-1 visa is denied, you may need to wait a few months before you can re-apply. Ask the embassy official to give you a copy of his/her written decision so that you can read and understand the reason(s) for the denial.
Frequently Asked Questions for International Students
Do I need to turn in an immunization form as an international student?
Yes, it is part of the admission process as an international student. If you have not had any immunizations you must see a physician and have these procedures done. Failure to submit an immunization record may result in having a hold placed on your academic record.
Do I need to have health insurance?
Most likely Yes. Most states require that all students enrolled in a full time program have health insurance. The insurance should be from a company in the US. This will make it easier to determine what services are covered by the insurance.
Can I work while I have my F-1 status?
After being under the student visa for 9 months you are allowed to work on campus for 20 hours a week while school is in session;you are allowed 40 hours a week during school breaks, i.e. Spring and Summer. You must get authorization from the International Student Advisor. Should you desire to work off campus, you must speak to the International Student Advisor to determine if you are eligible to get the forms to apply for INS authorization. Accepting employment without the appropriate authorization is a serious violation of your F-1 visa status.
Am I able to receive financial aid?
No. International students are not eligible for federal or state financial aid. There is a web site where you can apply for a scholarship or for a loan to help pay for your education. It is www.IEFA.org for scholarships and www.IEFC.com for loans.
How do I get an extension on my I-20?
To receive an extension you must speak to the International Student Advisor at least 60 days before the expiration date on the I-20.
How long can I stay in the United States after graduating?
You can stay in the United States for 60 days.
How do I get an extension on my visa?
You are given duration of status on your I-94 card in conjunction with your I-20 form to remain in the US until you complete your studies, as long as you remain enrolled in school as a full time student at all times. If you need to have your visa stamp on the passport extended, you must return to the US consulate in your home country.
How can I get a Social Security number? International students can only receive social security numbers if they are authorized to work. Students must receive authorization from the International Student Advisor (on campus-employment) or the INS (off campus employment). Employment without the appropriate authorization is a serious violation of your F-1 visa status. There is no other way to receive a Social Security number.
How do I get a driver's license? The department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Massachusetts requires a Social Security number to issue a driver's license. If you are authorized to work, you may use your social security number to take the driver's test to receive a license. If you are not employed you will need to go to the local Social Security office and get a letter stating that you are an F-1 visa student who is not authorized to work and cannot be issued a social security number. You will take the letter and your F-1 visa to the DMV and they will assign you a driver's license number without the social security number after you take and pass the written and driver's test.
Do I need to file a tax return if I am an international student?
Yes. As an international student in this country, on an F, J or H visa, you must file a tax return by April 15th of each year. If you did not work you must file form 8843. If you did work you must file form1040 NR E-Z or 1040 NR and form 8843.
How do I change visa status?
From B-1/B-2, J-1 or F-2 to F-1: Complete INS form I-539 Application to extend/change Non-immigration Status. Enclose all documents and mail to:
Immigration and Naturalization service
Eastern Regional Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
ST. Albans, VT 05479-0001
How do I transfer from/to schools?
An F-1 student who is maintaining status may transfer to another Service-approved school. An F-1 student who was not pursuing a full course of study at the school he or she was last authorized to attend, is ineligible for school-transfer and must apply for reinstatement at the INS. To transfer schools, an F-1 student must first notify the school he or she is attending of the intent to transfer, then obtain a Form I-20 A-B from the school to which he or she intends to transfer. The transfer will be effected only if the F-1 student completes the Student Certification portion of the Form I-20 A-B and returns the form to a designated school official on campus, within 15 days of beginning attendance at the new school. The student must start attending the new school on the first available date.
What does "duration of status" mean?
Duration of status is defined as the time during which an F-1 student is pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by the Service for attendance by foreign students, or engaging in authorized practical training following completion of studies, plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the United States. The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study.
What happens if I fall out of status?
If you fall out of status, you can apply for reinstatement provided you go to the INS and prove that:
- The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control or that failure to receive reinstatement to lawful F-1 status would result in extreme hardship to the student;
- You are currently pursuing, or intending to pursue, a full course of study at the school which issued the Form I-20 A-B;
- You have not engaged in unauthorized employment; and
- You are not deportable on any grounds.
The visa of any nonimmigrant who overstays his/her period of authorized stay in the US will be canceled, and the person must apply for a new visa at the US embassy or consulate in his or her country of last permanent residence. If a person is in unlawful status for a period up to 180 days and leaves the US, he/she will be barred from returning to the US for a period of 3 years. If the unlawful period exceeds 180 days, the person will be barred for 10 years.
Responsibilities of F-1 International Students
- International Students must keep passports and immigration documents valid at all times.
- International students are responsible for observing the regulations of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- Any international student attending school for the first time or any continuing student who has been absent for a semester or more, should show the passport, visa stamp and visa documents to the International Student Advisor within the first two weeks of class. Any international student who does not attend the International Student Orientation must see the International Student Advisor as soon as possible after arriving to campus in order to complete visa formalities. This process is to help avoid students overlooking any procedures that could cause them to be in violation of their status.
- Students with F-1 visa status must take a full course load (at least eighteen clock hours of attendance a week if the dominant part of the course of study consists of classroom instruction, or to consist of at least twenty-two clock hours a week if the dominant part of the course of study consists of laboratory work or 12 credit/ semester hours at college/ university) at all times during their academic stay. Students taking less than a full time course load without authorization are considered in violation of their F-1 visa status. Students who have been suspended or dismissed from the college for academic or disciplinary reasons may not remain in the US on the F1 visa.
Scholarships for International Students
Varies by college. Student needs to inquire with their specific college. You can also visit www.IEFA.org for scholarships. There are other resources available online. Below are a few more:
Loans for International Students
Most credit unions and commercial banks provide loans to international students with a guarantor. There may be limits on the loan amount. You can also visit and www.IEFC.com for loan options.