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F-1 Student Visa

Law Offices of Yu & Associates


Who Is Allowed to Study Under an F-1 Visa in the United States?

People who are coming to the United States to pursue full-time academic studies are usually admitted in F-1 student visa status. The F-1 category includes academic students in colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, other academic institutions, and in language training.

How Do I Apply if I am Outside of the United States?

You must first apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. If you are accepted, the school should give you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). If you require a visa, then you should take the USCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring USCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States.

How Can I Change My Status to Become an F-1 Student If I Am Already in the U.S.?

You must first apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the United States. If you are accepted, the school should send you USCIS Form I-20 A-B/IID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). You must submit this form and a USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to USCIS. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States.

How Do I Apply for Permission to Transfer Schools?

You must be a full time student in good academic standing. You must notify your current school of your intent to transfer. You must ask the school that you plan on attending to give you a new USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). You must complete your portion of the USCIS Form I-20 and give it to your new designated school official (DSO) within 15 days of transferring. The designated school official (DSO) should give you the last two pages, known as Form I-20 ID, and forward a copy of the first two pages, known as Form I-20 A-B, to USCIS and your prior school.

As an F-1 Student, Can I Bring My Spouse and Children with Me to the United States?

Your spouse and children may come with you to the United States in F-2 status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student (F-1) visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) and proof of their relationship to you. The F-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the F-1 academic student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status.

How Long Can I Stay in the United States?

You are allowed to stay in the United States for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in an educational program and making normal progress toward completing your course of study. If approved, you also will be allowed to stay in the country up to twelve additional months beyond the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. At the end of your studies or practical training, you will be given sixty days to prepare to leave the country.

How Can I Extend My Stay as a Student in the United States?

You do not need to apply to extend your stay in the United States as long as you are maintaining your student status and making normal progress toward completing your academic course of study. The designated school official (DSO) from your school will write down a completion date on your USCIS Form I-20 A-B (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). Under normal circumstances, you should be able to complete your studies by this date.

Will I Get a Work Permit?

You may be allowed to work on-campus or off-campus (after the completion of your first year of study) under limited circumstances. You may also wish to discuss employment with the designated school official (DSO) at your school. Your accompanying spouse and child may not accept employment.

Can I Travel Outside the United States?

Students may leave the United States and be readmitted after absences of five months or less. Upon your return to the United States, you should provide immigration inspectors with:

  1. A valid passport.
  2. A valid F-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary).
  3. A current USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students) signed by your appropriate school official (you should have the appropriate school official sign your USCIS Form I-20 each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the United States).
  4. A new USCIS Form I-20 A-B/I-20 ID if there have been any substantive changes in your course of study or place of study.
  5. Proof of your financial support.

When making your travel plans, please remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your F-1 student status. You will be considered to be "in status" if you travel during the annual summer vacation, as long as you are eligible and intend to register for the next school term.

Requirements for F-1 Academic Students

Foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. may enter in the F-1 category provided they meet the following criteria:

  1. The student must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, or a language-training program;
  2. The school must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  3. The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
  4. The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
  5. The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and
  6. The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.

What is Curricular Practical Training? How Do I Participate?

An F-1 student may be authorized by the DSO to participate in a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum, ie. it is part of your academic program. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. A request for authorization for curricular practical training must be made to the DSO. A student may begin curricular practical training only after receiving his or her Form I-20 with the DSO endorsement.

How Can I Get Further Work Experience in My Field of Study?

Optional Practical Training (OPT) may be authorized to an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a USCIS approved college, university, conservatory, or seminary for one full academic year. This provision also includes students who, during their course of study, were enrolled in a study abroad program, if the student had spent at least one full academic term enrolled in a full course of study in the United States prior to studying abroad. The student should request employment authorization for practical training in a position that is directly related to his or her major area of study. A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level.

Are You Eligible to Apply for Optional Practical Training?

An F-1 Student can apply for optional practical training after completion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree (excluding thesis or equivalent). Students in English language training programs are ineligible for practical training.

When Can F-1 Students Apply for Practical Training?

OPT is available to students in F-1 status who have been enrolled in a full course of study for one academic year. A student may submit an application for authorization to engage in optional practical training up to 90 days prior to being enrolled for one full academic year, provided that the period of employment will not begin until after the completion of the full academic year as indicated by the DSO.

Pre-completion OPT

A student may be granted authorization to engage in temporary employment for optional practical training:

  1. During the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session, if the student is currently enrolled, and is eligible for registration and intends to register for the next term or session;
  2. While school is in session, provided that practical training does not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session; or

Post-completion OPT

After completion of the course of study, or, for a student in a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program, after completion of all course requirements for the degree. F-1 students can apply for post-completion OPT 90 days before their academic program ends and no later than 60 days after their academic program ends.

Does Participation in Curricular Practical Training affect Optional Practical Training?

If you have worked under Curricular Practical Training (CPT):

  1. for less than 12 months full-time, you are eligible for 12 months full-time OPT.
  2. for more than 12 months part-time, you are eligible for 12 months full-time OPT.
  3. for more than 12 months full-time, you are not eligible for any OPT.

Can an F-1 Student Extend OPT?

Yes, F-1 academic students who receive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) degrees and who have already received an initial grant of post-completion OPT can apply for a 17-month extension for a maximum of 29 months of post-completion OPT.

What Are the Eligible STEM Degrees?

To be eligible for the 17-month OPT extension, a student must have received a degree in one of the following areas:

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Actuarial Science
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technology
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences

For a complete STEM degree list ĘCClick Here.

What Conditions Should be Met before Applying for a STEM OPT extension?

An F-1 student who is currently in the OPT program needs to show that:

  1. The student's education level shown in SEVIS is bachelor's, master's, or doctoral;
  2. The name of the student's major shown in SEVIS is on the STEM Designated Degree Program List;
  3. SEVIS shows the student is on an approved period of OPT that has not expired;
  4. The name and address of the studentí»s employer entered into SEVIS are exactly the same as provided by the student.

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a web-based database mandated by federal laws and regulations to electronically monitor and report all foreign academic students and scholars in the U.S.

In addition, the student's employer must be registered with E-Verify. E-verify is an Internet-based system operated by USCIS in partnership with the Social Security Administration.?Employers are encouraged to register in the E-verify program, which provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers. The Designated School Official (DSO) must ensure that the student knows that he or she must work for an E-Verify employer, but the DSO is not responsible for verifying an employer's registration with E-Verify.

When Does the Student Need to File for the Extension?

The student must ensure the Form I-765, the supporting evidence, and the fee payment reaches the proper USCIS Service Center before his or her current OPT expires. USCIS recommends that students file within 90 to 120 days of the expiration date of their current OPT.

What Must the DSO Do to Assist a Student in Applying for a STEM Extension?

The DSO must verify the student's eligibility for the extension, make the recommendation in SEVIS if the school supports the student's request, and print a Form I-20 showing the recommendation.

What Should the Student's Employer Do for the STEM Extension Application?

In order to request the 17-month STEM extension, the employer of the OPT holder must register with USCIS's E-verify system.

 

The above is intended as a general introduction and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion for your particular case. Please contact the Law Offices of Yu & Associates with any specific questions. Tel: (301) 838-8986, Email: syu@yulegal.com, Address: 110 N Washington St., Suite 328E, Rockville, MD 20850.



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