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Last Updated: January 21, 2024

The F1 Visa Process from Start to Finish

While many types of student visas are awarded to students looking to study in the US, the "F" Visa is the most common type of student visa issued to international students who want to pursue their education in the United States. There are 3 subtypes of F visas namely:

F-1 Visa Eligibility Criteria

The F-1 visa is required by most internationals to study in the United States. The F-1 allows students to enroll in a degree course in a SEVP-approved school. It is issued to students with the following criteria:

All about the I-20 Form

Cost of F-1 Visa

Below is the breakdown of the cost for the F-1 visa:
Fee ParameterFee Amount
SEVIS fee$350
SEVIS reapplication fee (within 12 months of first application)$0
SEVIS reapplication fee (after 12 months of first application)$350
F-1 visa application fee$185
F-1 visa reapplication fee$185
F-1 applicant dependents SEVIS fee$0
In addition to this, there might be additional fees imposed on the candidate subject to their nationality, visa status, the school they are applying to, and individual circumstances.

The F-1 Visa Process

Get I-20 from an approved SEVP school

Once an international student is admitted into a Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) school, they will receive an I-20 form from them. This form is proof that they have been approved to join a SEVP-approved program if they can secure an F-1 visa. The I-20 will have a SEVIS ID, which is unique for each candidate and will be used to further the application process.

Complete the I-901 form online and pay the SEVIS fee

The candidate will use the information in the I-20 form to complete the I-901 form and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The fee is $350 for each candidate. Most nationals can use a credit card to make the payment online but certain nationals are required to use money order or other forms of money transfer methods. If payment is made by a check, there is a $30 fee if the check is not honored by the bank.

Check for additional fee

The SEVIS fee of $350 is mandatory for all candidates applying for an F-1 visa unless their institution agrees to sponsor them. In addition, there might be additional fees imposed by the school, like the school SEVIS administration fee.

Print the payment receipt

Once the fee payment is made, the candidate should print the receipt and bring it with them at the time of the interview.

Apply for F-1 visa online

Through the official website, the candidate should complete the online visa application form, DS-160 using the above two documents. The candidate will also have to upload their photograph that confirms their requirements. The fee for successfully submitting the DS-160 form is $185. Submit, pay, and obtain the receipt for the visa application fee.

Schedule an appointment for the interview with the consulate

The candidate should fix a date as early as possible to allow ample time for the visa processing. Certain times of the year have better acceptance rates than others, so it is important to have ample time. Ensure proper preparation to deal with the commonly asked questions in the visa interview and master the tips to show off in the little time that is provided during the interview.

Have the required documents

Make sure that the necessary documents from the first step, which is SEVIS, to the last step, which is appointment confirmation are included in the folder that the candidate takes with them to the interview.

Documents Needed for the F-1 Visa

Following is the list of documents required for F-1 visa application:

Some Tips for the Interview Day

When individuals know what they are in for, they will be able to prepare themselves both physically and mentally.

Working while Staying in US on F-1 Visa

International students are not allowed to work in the US. They can only take up internships contingent on several restrictions. The only exception would be when the candidate has special permission from the DHS, for example, if the candidate can prove that they have financial hardship. But these situations are pretty rare.

Two internship options available to the international students are: In either case, the candidate cannot work for over 20 hours a week during the school weeks. During vacation time, when the candidate is off from school, they can work up to 40 hours a week. A good source of information would be the candidate's DSO.

Not following any of the employment conditions will result in the termination of the candidate's visa and they will be required to leave the country.

Renewing F-1 Visa

The candidate can stay only till 60 days after the program end date that is listed on the form I-20. If they wish to stay further, in case their course is not completed on time, or they want to pursue another course, they would have to apply for visa renewal. This can be done on the USCIS website. The process is the same as when they applied for F-1 the first time. The only difference is that the candidate might not have to go for an in-person interview. Under no condition can the candidate overstay their visa duration. Doing so is illegal and the candidate will be barred from entering the US in the future.

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