F-1 Visa Deep Dive

What is an F-1 visa?

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to students who are studying in the US. Students with this visa can be in the US for up to five years on their initial F-1 status, and they must then apply for another type of visa if they wish to remain in the country indefinitely.

How can you obtain an F-1 visa?

You need to apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate in the country you're a citizen of. You'll also need to have a valid passport, and an I-20 from a SEVP certified school in the US. You can also look at our article on US Student Visas to gain a better understanding of whether or not an F-1 visa is right for you!

What are your responsibilities as an F-1 visa holder?

In order to maintain your F-1 status, you must maintain full-time student status by completing at least 12 hours of coursework each academic semester. You can also use summer sessions to make up any of the credit hours you don't complete during semesters. Moreover, you cannot engage in unauthorized employment, study, or travel while on an F-1 Visa. This means that if your job doesn't have a work authorization letter from USCIS and permission from DSO, it is unauthorized. You may not change jobs without prior approval from DSO as well.

Can you work during the school year using your F-1 visa?

Yes, you can work part-time (20 hours maximum) on- or off-campus during the school year as long as you apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Can you work during the summer using your F-1 visa?

Yes, you can work either part-time or full-time (40 hours maximum) on- or off-campus during the summer under CPT conditions.

What are some common mistakes that international students make that have consequences on their visa status in the United States?

Here are some common mistakes that international students make:

  • Failure to file a change of status application within 30 days of arrival (this includes renewing your F-1 visa)
  • Failure to maintain full-time student status 
  • Failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status at all times
  • Failure to maintain a valid passport with an unexpired I-20 Form issued by an American institution

What happens if your visa expires before you finish school, but you want to stay in the US and finish school?

If your F-1 visa expires, you have to leave the United States and apply for a new one at a US consulate. If you return to the US before receiving your new visa, immigration officials may deny your entry.

Remember that even though your F-1 status has expired, it doesn't mean that the school can revoke its SEVIS record. The school still needs to keep track of some things about you (including grades) until graduation or transfer, so they will want to keep tabs on whether or not you are still enrolled as an F-1 student.

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