How to Apply for F-1 student Visa to US
The F-1 Visa is an authorization document that allows international students to study full-time at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved University in the US. International students can remain in the USA for 60 days after the completion of their studies, unless they have applied and have been approved for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows them to stay and work after school.
In the United States, International students with F-1 status who have completed at least one academic year of study on a full time basis at a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enrol F-1 students are eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) that allows temporary employment in areas directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study. In addition, F-1 students who have earned degrees in certain areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from the STEM Designated Degree Program list are eligible for a 24-month extension of their OPT employment authorization.
F-1 students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date on their I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status), which is provided by the US college or university that the student has been accepted to and will attend.
How to Apply for F-1 Student Visa to US
The F-1 Visa application costs about $510 per application, and it is best practice to apply at least 3 months before the program start date. Note that the Visa application fee is non-refundable. Students with F1 Visa can work on-campus at their designated institutions. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the F-1 visa:
Be accepted into an educational institution in the US
To be eligible for the USA Student Visa, the applicant must be accepted into an educational institution for full-time studies. That is, a college, university, conservatory, or seminary that has been certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Students accepted into any of these educational institutions will receive an I-20 from the school’s international student office. This document will be needed for the Visa interview as well, hence, it is required that the form is kept safe.
Register for the SEVIS and pay the fee of $350
You will have to pay a non-refundable application fee. This means that if your visa does not get approved, you will not get your money back. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) must receive the fee before an applicant can proceed with the next steps of the Visa process.
Complete an online non-immigrant visa application and pay the fees (DS-160- $160)
All applicants will need to complete and submit DS-160, the online application for a non-immigrant visa. To apply for the DS-160, applicants must submit a copy of passport-size photo that meets specific requirements, and submit additional required documents.
Schedule an Appointment for a visa Interview
The final process in the USA student visa application process is to schedule an appointment for a visa interview. The interview can be scheduled at a US Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s home country.
Complete the Visa Interview and Receive a Decision
It is important that applicants attend the visa interview and show up well prepared. Although this process can be stressful, it is important to remain calm and answer the questions as best as possible. Once the visa interview is complete, applicants will receive a decision on their applications.
Required Documents for US Student Visa Application
It is important that applicants take the time to gather all the required documents for the USA student visa application. Note that incomplete application documents could lead to visa refusal.
Here’s a list of all the documents you may need for your F1 application:
- Certificate of Eligibility for non-immigrant student (I-20)
- Receipt from your SEVIS fee
- Receipt from the online visa form (DS-160) for a non-immigrant student
- Passport or Travel Document with a validity date at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States
- Proof of financial support: Documents that prove your financial situation or any financial support you will have during your studies
- Two recent color photos of yourself, one physical, one digital. These must also meet US immigration’s image requirements: You can upload a digital photo that is:
- In color
- Sized such that the head is between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image’s total height from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head
- Taken within the last 6 months to reflect your current appearance
- In front of a plain white or off-white background
- Taken in full-face view directly facing the camera
- With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open
- Taken in clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis
- A DS-157 form for all males aged 16-45.
- Transcripts, test scores, qualifications, or certificates from schools you have attended
F-1 Visa Interview
To obtain a USA student visa, an interview is required to determine whether an applicant is fit to enter the US. It is important that applicants arrive at the visa interview with all the required documents (stated above). The applicant should be prepared and be ready to answer the questions as best as possible.
F1 visa interview questions often include inquiries about previous academic qualifications and choice of university. Applicants may be required to prove that they have ties and obligations that would guarantee their return to their home country after international studies. Most importantly, applicants will be required to prove that they have the means to finance their education. Education expenses in the US are higher than most countries and being able to present a solid financial plan for the duration of your studies is crucial to pass the F1 visa interview.
Examples of F1 Visa Interview Questions
- Why did you choose to study in the US instead of joining the workforce in your home country?
- Why did you choose this school and why is it the best school for you?
- What are your test scores, your GPA, and your overall performance as a student in the past?
- How are you funding the entire duration of your education, including tuition, room and board, transportation, and all other expenses?
- After you graduate, will you return home or will you stay in the United States?
USA F-1 Student Visa Refusal
Irrespective of the amount of work put into the visa application, misfortunes could happen and the visa may be denied. Do not panic or feel sad about this decision, rather, correct the mistakes from the previous application and reapply. To apply again, applicants will need to begin the process from the beginning, however, the SEVIS fee will not be paid again. Any other application fees will need to be paid a second time.
Usually, applicants will be advised about the reason for the F1 visa refusal. Below are some reasons why the application for F1 visa could be denied:
- Lack of financial proof to support yourself while in the US
- Missing or incorrect documents
- Lack of proof that you intend to return to your home country after graduating
- Failed background check
- Failure to explain your answers during your interview
Other common reasons for denial include Fraud or Misrepresentation, Unlawful Presence in the United States, Health-related grounds, Criminal-related grounds, or Security-related grounds. To learn more about visa denials and to see if you are eligible for a waiver or to reapply, refer to the US Department of State website.