F1 Visa Explained

F1 Visa Explained

What is a F-1 Visa?

The F-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows overseas students to study at schools recognized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program in the United States (SEVP). It is the most common student visa for those who want to study at a US university or college, and you can only apply for an F-1 visa after your application has been accepted by an accredited US institution.

The length of your stay as an F-1 student is determined by the program in which you enroll. The expiration date of your program will be listed on the I-20 form issued by the university you plan to attend. You must complete your degree before the given expiration date, which will give you an idea of how long you can stay in the United States.

You may be qualified to apply for Optional Practical Training after graduation (OPT). This will let you to work in the United States for up to 12 months in a field connected to your studies. You can request two additional years of work in a relevant profession for STEM graduates. If no extensions or additional training are available, you must return to your home country within 60 days of graduation. If you're interested in learning more, immigrationservice.com can assist you in determining what you can accomplish with your F-1 visa once you graduate.

F-1 Visa Requirements 

If you plan to apply for an F-1 student visa, there are a few things to bear in mind. For your application to be accepted, you must meet the following requirements:

Institution certification—SEVP Immigration & Customs Enforcement must authorize the college or university where you wish to study.

Full-time enrollment—While your academic year is in session, you must be enrolled as a full-time student at the university.

English language proficiency—You must either meet the institution's required English language proficiency score or enroll in courses that will help you enhance your English proficiency.

Sufficient funds—You must show that you have enough money to cover your studies and living needs while in the United States.

Valid passport—Your passport must be valid for travel to the United States for at least six months after your program ends.

Home country residency—You must maintain a domicile in your home country to which you will return after completing your degree.

How to Apply for a F-1 Visa

1. Obtain your I-20 after being accepted.

When you are admitted to a SEVP-certified US university, the F-1 student visa process begins. The SEVP certification is a mechanism for the US government to verify that your university is accredited and has the resources necessary to provide you with an education.


Your university will send you an I-20 form once you have been admitted. This form serves as a record of your study plans as well as additional information concerning your stay.

When your I-20 is issued, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records the following information:

  • Your SEVIS identification number

  • Start and finish dates for your program

  • Your desired course of study

  • Your sources of funding

  • The cost of attending your preferred school

  • Additional personal data

This information is provided by your university depending on what you supply in your university application files.

Make sure all of your information is correct when you receive your I-20, and then sign the bottom of the first page. An issue on your I-20 can take a long time to resolve, and if something is wrong, you may be denied entry into the country. When visiting the United States, keep your I-20 form. It will be required for entry into the United States, employment, and other activities (such as obtaining a US driver's license).

Pay Your SEVIS Fee

The overall cost of your F-1 student visa is around $510, which includes the visa fee as well as SEVIS processing and maintenance fees.

  • Requirements: Your I-20

  • Cost: $350 

  • Apply here: Payment portal for your SEVIS fee

Keep the receipt for the I-901 SEVIS charge. It will be required at your visa interview.

Complete Your DS-160 Visa Application

Your visa application is the DS-160. To get an F-1 visa, all prospective international students must submit a DS-160.

  • Requirements: Your I-20, passport, travel itinerary, photo for your visa

  • Cost: $160 

  • Where to apply: Application portal for your DS-160

You will receive a printed confirmation with a barcode after properly submitting your DS-160. This form should be saved because you will need it for your visa interview.

Schedule Your Visa Interview

Schedule your visa interview at the nearest US embassy or consulate. Wait times vary by region and might last months, so schedule your appointments as soon as possible!

Ask your enrollment counselor about student visa interview recommendations or how to set up a practice interview session if you're enrolling at a US university through immigrationservice.com. You will feel more at ease with the process if you practice your visa interview beforehand.

Attend Your Visa Interview

The US consulate or embassy validates that you are coming to study as a legitimate, serious student during the interview portion of the F-1 visa application procedure. You must also show that you have sufficient means to cover your time studying in the United States and that you intend to return home after your studies are over during your visa interview. Though there are a few rare exceptions, you must attend your visa interview in person (e.g., if you are younger than 14 or older than 80 years of age, or if you meet certain visa renewal requirements).

  • Cost: Your DS-160 payment covers the cost

  • Where to apply: Scheduling portal for your visa interview

You will be issued an F-1 visa and F-1 status after successfully completing your visa interview. You can now study in the United States!

F-1 Visa Admission Requirements

Make sure you have the following documents ready for the consular officer to review before your visa interview.

  • A current passport

  • A duplicate of the photo you'll be using on your visa

  • Printed copies of your SEVIS payment confirmations DS-160 and I-901

  • I-20 form

  • Official test scores and transcripts stated in your university application

  • Diploma (if applicable)

  • Bank statements or other financial proof

The consulate official may ask for additional documentation during your interview. Consider bringing the following documents to help you prepare:

  • Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from the schools you attended are examples of academic records.

  • Your US institution requires standardized test scores.

  • Evidence of your intention to leave the United States after completing your studies

  • Statements demonstrating your financial ability to cover all educational, living, and travel expenses.

F-1 Visa Denials

It's possible that your F-1 visa application will be turned down. If this occurs, you will receive full written reasoning, including the provision of the legislation that led to your application's denial.

It is critical to read and follow all instructions carefully to prevent having your F-1 student visa application refused. Before submitting your application, always double- and triple-check your documentation. To make this process easier for you, immigrationservice.com consultants can provide visa assistance: They will gladly assist you in organizing all of the documents you will require in the proper formats and on time.

Maintaining F-1 Visa Status

To continue studying in the United States as an international student, you must actively preserve your F-1 status. To do so, you must follow university regulations and standards of behavior, as well as the requirements and conditions outlined in your F-1 visa application.

When you are in U.S. 

  • Make sure you arrive in the United States no later than 30 days before your program starts.

  • Contact your authorized school official as soon as you arrive in the country (DSO).

  • Contact your DSO again before the start date specified on your I-20 form when you arrive at your university.

While studying in the US:

  • Maintain a solid academic standing by attending all of your classes. If you need help in any of your classes, your Shorelight advisor can refer you to academic resources that can help you succeed.

  • If you require additional time to complete your program beyond the end date provided in your I-20, contact with your DSO about available extension options.

  • When your academic semester begins, make sure you enroll in a full course of study.

If you want to drop a class or switch classes, speak with your DSO first.

Can F-1 International Students Work in the US?

Yes, you can work in the United States while on an F-1 student visa. You must, however, adhere to the following F-1 visa requirements and restrictions:

  • While your academic year is in session, you can only work part-time on campus.

  • You are only allowed to work a total of 20 hours per week.

  • With your university's permission, you may be permitted to work off campus.

Keep in mind that you will have a 60-day grace period to exit the United States once your program is completed. If you want to stay longer, talk to a immigrationservice.com advisor about your options, which include transferring to another school or continuing your study.


I hope this information was useful. Complex immigration processing can be incredibly complicated and stressful for everyone. Before filing this application, you should seek legal advice from an experienced attorney.

Immigrationservice.com can assist you and will be there for you every step of the journey. Please contact us via phone or email.