Temporary Visas

An F-1 student visa may be issued to a foreign student enrolled in a full-time course of study in a degree-granting program at an authorized, accredited academic institution of secondary or higher education in the U.S. Prospective students must prove that they do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. and have strong ties to their home country. No petition is required, but the school must issue a Form I-20 to the foreign student, and then the student must register for inclusion in the SEVIS database, in order to be issued the visa.

SEVIS is used to monitor maintenance of visa status by foreign students and scholars. Although F-1 students must show sufficient funds to support themselves throughout the full course of study, if a student has demonstrated enough funding for the family to live on, dependent family members may accompany the principal in F-2 status. F-1 students, like M-1 vocational students and J-1 scholars, are required to have continuing nonimmigrant intent, meaning they must have an unabandoned permanent residence abroad, to which they plan to return upon the conclusion of their course of study in the United States.

F-1 students are admitted for “D/S” or “duration of status,” meaning a period of stay is authorized for as long as the student remains enrolled in an approved course of study. F-1 status may continue for up to a year, or in some cases three years,  after completion of a degree program if the school has authorized a period of “optional practical training” (OPT) after graduation, and the student has obtained an employment authorization document to complete that training. Most students who complete an academic degree program at an accredited academic US institution can get one full year of OPT following the completion of each degree at a new level (i.e. one year of OPT after completion of Bachelor’s degree, one year after finishing a Master’s, and one year after finishing a Doctorate), provided they get approval for OPT from the school before their program completion date, and timely apply for an Employment Authorization Document. However, F-1 students who complete degrees in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or mathematics), may apply to extend that period with an additional 24 months of STEM OPT, but only in a job directly related to the field of their STEM degree, and only with employers enrolled in E-Verify.

F-1 students have a grace period of 60 days to depart the U.S. after completion of an approved educational program or a period of authorized practical training, or 15 days to depart if they obtain school authorization to leave their educational program prior to completion. While admitted for D/S, without a hard status expiration date, F-1 students may begin to accrue unlawful presence if they are discovered to have violated the terms of their status, such as engaging in unauthorized employment.

Have more questions about F-1 student visas? Contact Karin Wolman today!

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