Applying for F-1 and F-2 Student Visas


Introduction to F-1 Student Visas

Applying for F-1 Student VisaForeign students who want to study full time in the United States can do so by applying for an F-1 visa. F-1 Visas allow recipients to study full time at an American college, university, community college, academic high school, private elementary schools, or language school that have approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to admit F-1 students.1 2 Upon approval, members of the student's immediate family can be approved for F-2 visas that are valid for the duration of the F-1 student's stay. However, prospective F-1 students must meet certain requirements to be approved for an F-1 visa. Furthermore, F-1 students must follow certain requirements to maintain their F-1 status for its entire duration.

Applying for an F-1 Student Visa

Foreign students applying for F-1 visas must make an account with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is a web-based system where foreign students create user accounts where they obtain immigration identification number and complete and submit their F-1 visa application.3 Creating a SEVIS account requires a fee for applying for an F-1 visa. SEVIS allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to monitor F-1 students while they are in the country.4

Before applying for the F-1 visa, foreign students must first apply to the schools of their choice that are approved to admit F-1 students.5 After accepting a student, the school fills out a Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 status 6 for the student's SEVIS account, whereupon the foreign student can then complete his or her application for F-1 status.7

After the foreign student has been accepted to an eligible institution and has completed his or her F-1 application, he or she must then interview that the United States consulate in his or her home country.8 In order to be approved, students must demonstrate that they have a residence outside of the United States to which they will return after the duration of their F-1 status is completed 9, that they have enough money to support themselves for the duration of their study (since F-1 status does not allow the students to take most forms of employment), and that their English language fluency is either good enough for the course of study that they intend to pursue, or that they will take English classes beforehand if it is not.10

Arriving in the United States after Approval for F-1 student visa

Students approved for F-1 status may travel to the United States thirty days before they are scheduled to enroll.11 12 After their status is confirmed at a United States port of entry, an inspecting officer issues an I-94 form 13 and enters the F-1 student's information into their SEVIS account and the school is informed automatically that the student was admitted into the country 14.

F-2 Visas for F-1 Student's Family

Spouses and children of F-1 students can get F-2 visas that will allow them to accompany the student to the United States for the duration of the F-1 visa.15 F-2 family members may either go to the United States with the F-1 student or follow later.16 If they are going at the same time as the student, they do not need their own applications since they are on the student's I-20 A-B form.17 18 If the F-2 family members are following the F-1 student after he or she first arrives, they are required to each obtain a Form I-20 from the school where the F-1 student attends.19 20 While in the United States, F-2 family members are not allowed to get employment while in the United States on F-2 status, though F-2 family members who are minors may enroll in elementary and secondary schools while on F-2 status.21 22

Potential Difficulties Getting F-1 Student Visas

While F-1 visas are great opportunities for foreign students to study in the United States, some foreign students might have difficulty being approved. Students who cannot show that they have a plan to pay for their education and living expenses, cannot show that they intend to leave the United States after their visa expires, or cannot show that they will have the English language skills for their proposed course of study, will not be approved for F-1 visas. Students applying for F-1 status to study in high technology fields may be subject to extra scrutiny due to security concerns.23 Finally, students applying for F-1 visas from countries that are designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism will have more difficulty than other foreign students obtaining approval for F-1 status.

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  1. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p 230
  2. 8 C.F.R. § 214.3.
  3. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.230-231
  4. Id.
  5. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.231
  6. The full name in the paper is “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status”
  7. Id.
  8. Id.
  9. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.231, 233
  10. Id.
  11. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.232
  12. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(5)
  13. Id.
  14. Id.
  15. Id.
  16. Id.
  17. Id.
  18. Id.
  19. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.232
  20. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(3)
  21. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.233
  22. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(15)
  23. Weissbrodt, David, and Laura Danielson. Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell. 6th ed. N.p.: West, 2011. Print. West Nutshell Ser., p.231