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The United States F-1 Visa

The F-1 visa, sometimes called a student visa, is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign students to study in the United States. Given the educational opportunities available in this country, it’s not surprising that the number of F-1 visas granted continues to grow each year; in fact, over 600,000 F-1 visas were issued in 2015.

But like most other visas, getting the F-1 isn’t so simple whether you plan on studying at New York University (NYU), Columbia University, Fordham University, Pace University, or any college or educational institution in New York City or elsewhere. It usually requires the services of experienced immigration attorneys such as an immigration lawyer at Saland Law.

F-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements

The primary requirement of the F-1 visa is that the individual must be a student. But there are many other requirements the student must meet in order to obtain a student visa. In order to get an F-1 visa, the student must:

  • Take a full course load at a Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved school. You can find a list of SEVP approved schools at the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States webpage.

  • Be enrolled in a language training program or an academic program that will lead to a degree, certificate or diploma.

  • Have complete financial support for the entire duration of study.

  • Be proficient in the English language or enrolled in a program that will lead to English proficiency.

  • Maintain a home outside the United States that the student intends to return to when the studying is complete.

There are a few things to remember about the above requirements. The SEVP approved school doesn’t have to be a post-secondary institution, like a college or university. F-1 student visas can be used for language training programs, seminary, secondary school (middle or high school), primary school (elementary or grade school) or a conservatory.

The full course load requirement isn’t required under certain circumstances, such as academic difficulty, medical issues or if the student isn’t required to take enough credits to have full-time status, such as when the student is very close to graduating.

F-1 Application Process

Getting an F-1 visa is a multi-step process that usually takes several months to complete, although the visa application process itself may only take a few weeks. The longest part is usually applying for and getting accepted to a school. Depending on a school’s admissions process and requirements, it may take several months to receive acceptance to an SEVP approved school.

Once a student is accepted into a school, the school will make sure the student passes the necessary security checks. In order to run this security check, a Designated School Official, or DSO, will provide the student with Form I-20. The student will fill this out and pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee using Form I-901. This fee is usually $200.

Depending on the student’s background and chosen field of study, it may take a few weeks to fully complete the background checks. Once this happens, the student will be provided a completed Form I-20 (this is a very important document) and will need to prepare and submit the F-1 visa application, pay the appropriate fees and schedule the visa interview.

The F-1 visa application fee is $160, but there is also an issuance fee. The exact amount of the issuance fee will depend on the student’s nationality. The F-1 visa application itself is called Form DS-160 and can be completed and submitted online.

Generally speaking, an interview isn’t required for applicants aged 13 years and younger or 80 years and older. However, it’s up to the consular officer to make the final determination of who will be interviewed.

When the student attends the interview, he or she will need to bring the following documents:

  • A passport that will be valid for at least six months after the end of the student’s anticipated stay in the United States
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Fee payment receipts, if paid before the interview
  • Photograph, if not already uploaded
  • Form I-20 that the school sent the student after running the student through SEVIS

Depending on the embassy or consulate, the student may need to bring additional documents, such as evidence of financial ability to pay for attending school in the United States and academic records.

After a successful interview, the F-1 visa can be granted. However, the consular officer has the discretion not to grant the visa if the officer thinks the F-1 visa requirements aren’t met. Assuming the F-1 visa is granted, it can only be issued up to 120 days before the student’s classes begin. Additionally, the student won’t be allowed to enter the United States more than 30 days before classes are to begin.

What About Working with an F-1 Visa?

During the student’s first year, the student is prohibited from working off-campus. However, the student may work on-campus, subject to certain rules. During the student’s second academic year, the student may work off-campus, but only in the following three situations:

  • Curricular Practical Training
  • Optional Practical Training
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics optional Practical Training Extension
When Does the F-1 Visa Expire?

The F-1 visa will expire when the student completes his or her studies. This anticipated date will be listed on the student’s Form I-20. After that date, the student will have 60 days to leave the United States.

If a student needs additional time to complete an academic program, extensions are possible. Students will need to check with their appropriate school department and obtain approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Crimes and Convictions

Of grave concern to any F-1 visa holder or applicant is the ramification of an arrest or conviction on a holder of such a visa. While a defendant or accused should have the best available criminal defense attorney to represent him or her, a foreign nation residing in the United States on an F-1 or other visa has concerns beyond that of any other American student. What could this arrest mean to your scholarship or financial aid? Will you be able to return overseas to see your family while your criminal case is pending? What will happen if you are ultimately convicted of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude or any other offense? Deportation? Revocation of your visa? An inability to remain in the United States?

All very good questions and legitimate concerns, protecting your legal status and F-1 visa begins with securing the best possible outcome in your criminal case and arrest.

H-1B: Your Ticket to a Better Education and Future

Whatever your course of study and whatever college or university you decide to attend, an H-1B can facilitate a future that you otherwise could not attain in the United States. To best ensure you have taken the proper steps to secure your H-1B, retain an immigration attorney with the knowledge and experience in these matters. In the event you have made a mistake or had a lapse in judgment that led to an arrest, do not let a criminal conviction devastate your education or future. The right criminal lawyer, if needed, can be the difference between matriculating and reaching your education goals and the loss of both your liberty and legal status.

Let Saland Law navigate you through the ocean of immigration law and assist you in reaching your dreams.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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