F1 Visa process and requirement: USA student visa
There are various types of student visas to study in USA such as F1 visa, J1 visa and M1 visa. The F1 visa is for students applying for undergraduate or graduate studies requiring more than 18 hours of study in a week whereas the J1 visa is for pupils, lecturers or visiting scholars who are a part of an exchange program. The M1 student visa is for students who plan on attending vocational or technical schools, similar to F1 visa, but M1 visas are time stamped.
If you have applied for a master’s or bachelor’s program in the USA and have a valid admit in a university, then you can apply for an F1 visa. But before you apply for an F1 student visa, you should thoroughly check that all the documents and F1 visa requirements are met. Below is a complete guide on how to apply for US F1 visa, its application cost and a checklist of documents that would be required on the day of F1 visa interview.
F1 visa application procedure
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) list
First and foremost, it is necessary that the college that you have applied to comes under Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) list which is recognized and accredited by the US government. Only SEVP approved institutions can provide the important documents required for a US student visa. Upon acceptance by an institution, you will be enrolled in the SEVIS system and you will be sent an I-20 form.
Pay SEVIS I-901 fee
It is highly recommended that you pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at least three days prior to submitting your US visa application. The fee is USD 200. Make sure you input the required details exactly as they appear on your I-20.
Complete DS-160 visa application form
After you have received a receipt for SEVIS I-901 form, you can fill the DS-160 form which is an online F1 visa application form. It’s advised to apply as early as possible even if your program has plenty of days to commence. The visa can be issued 120 days prior to your arrival in the US. However, you are only allowed to enter the country at most 30 days prior to your course commencement. The application is pretty simple, just follow the instructions stated there and you will be able to sail through it. Keep in mind to note down your application id which is needed if you plan to exit the form and fill it later.
Following details need to be filled in DS-160 form:
- Name and date of birth
- Address and phone number
- Passport details
- Photograph (Photograph requirements)
- Details of travel plans, and travel companions
- Details of previous US travel, if any
- Your point of contact in the US
- Family, work and education details
- Security, background and medical health information
- SEVIS ID and address of US institution/program you intend to enrol in (as printed on I-20)
Note: If you face problems while uploading your photograph, you can take a printed copy of it on your F1 visa interview day.
Also, fill in the details carefully and if you have any queries about the application form, you can visit travel.state.gov website. Take a print out of the form after you have submitted it.
Pay Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee
Next, pay the visa application fee, known as Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. The payment can be either made online or by paying at an authorized bank. The fee is approximately USD 160.
Schedule Interview and biometric appointment
The next step is to schedule an interview and biometric appointment in the US embassy or consulate nearest to you. The interviewer will mostly ask you questions about your course and the reason behind taking it up, the university you are joining, economic background and financial situation, and your intent of coming back. Your fingerprints and photograph are taken after the interview.
F1 student visa document checklist
Ensure you have the following documents before attending the interview:
- Passport (old and current) – Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your duration of stay in the U.S.
- DS-160 application form confirmation page with application ID number and barcode
- Interview appointment letter (original and copy)
- Signed SEVIS Form I-20 sent by the University
- SEVIS fee and MRV fee payment confirmation receipt
- Financial documents – Bank statement for at least three years (could be of parent or guardian) to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover the expenses incurred during your stay in the US.
- Original mark sheets from previous institutions that you have attended/Original documents like work experience letters/recommendation letter, if you were employed
- Pay slips of last six months and Income Tax returns for the last 3 years, if employed
- Score sheets from a standardized test such as TOEFL, LSAT, GRE, GMAT etc.
- 1-2 photographs in the required format, printed on photo quality paper.
Derivative/Dependent visa (F-2 visa)
Anyone accompanying the principal applicant will have to apply separately for an F-2 visa.
Documents required for an F-2 visa applicant are:
- For proof of relationship, a copy of the marriage and/or birth certificate
- A photocopy of the principal applicant’s visa/official documents from the USCIS confirming the principal applicant’s status.
- A copy of the principal applicant’s personal data page from his/her passport.
F1 Visa OPT
An applicant who has been issued an F-1 visa can work for 20 hours a week on campus and full-time during holidays, subject to the approval of Department of Homeland Security and the International Office in your university/school. Also, F1 visa holders are eligible to work off campus after graduation for up to 12 months, known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). It is temporary employment permission that allows you to train and work in a field that is related to your field of study. Post OPT, you will have to apply for a work visa if you want to continue working in the US.
You are allowed to stay in the US up to 60 days after the completion of your course, even if you don’t have a job offer or haven’t applied for OPT.