The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa allowing foreign nationals to engage in academic studies in the U.S. These students, who range from elementary school students to doctoral candidates and persons engaged in post-doctoral studies, are classified in the F visa category. Students must be proficient in English or be enrolled in English language courses leading to proficiency. The student must have sufficient funds to support him or herself during the entire course of study.
Besides being admissible in general, the student must match the basic requirements for obtaining F-1 status:
Enrolling in an academic education program (not a vocational-type program)
- Enrollment in an elementary school, academic high school, college, university, seminary, conservatory, or language training program qualifies as academic study. An academic student can be seeking a Bachelor's, Master's, Ph.D. or other graduate-level degree, or be engaged in post-doctoral studies.
Enrolling in a school approved by the Attorney General for the attendance of foreign students
- Only schools approved by the Attorney General may issue INS Form I-20 A-B to a prospective student certifying his or her eligibility for attendance. All public elementary or high schools, as well as public colleges and universities, are approved. Any school with a recognized name is almost certainly approved.
Enrolling in a full course of study at the school
- As a general rule, if an alien student is enrolled to take the usual number of courses needed to complete the requirements for a degree in the usual time, he or she is enrolled in a full course of study.
- The student must demonstrate that he or she has funds currently at his or her disposal for the coming academic year, and that, barring any unforeseen change in circumstances, adequate funds will be available in the same amount throughout the student's academic program.
- Must maintain a residence abroad that he or she has no intention of abandoning and must intend to leave the U.S. upon completion of his or her studies
Length of Stay
F-1 students are permitted to remain in the U.S. for the duration of status. Duration of status means that a student remains in valid status during enrollment in an academic programs, plus any periods of authorized practical training and a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S.
After having obtained a certificate of eligibility (INS Form I-20 A-B) from a school that has accepted the student for a full course of study, the prospective student applies for a F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. Change of status (changing from another non-immigrant visa classification to F-1 without leaving the U.S.) may also be available, but not in every case.
Department of State
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement