F1/F2 Academic Students

You need F-1 visa if you are planning to attend university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, another academic institution, including a language training program.

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate or Change Status to an F student visa, you must first apply to and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. The U.S. school will provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the consular officer or submit with your change of status application. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, they must obtain individual Form I-20s, but they do not pay the SEVIS fee.

An F-1 student may be admitted for a period up to 30 days before the indicated report date or program start date listed on Form I-20.

Optional Practical Training (OPT). An F-1 student may be authorized up to a total of 12 months of full-time practical training at each educational level (e.g., undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate). If the student chooses to engage in pre-completion OPT, he may not work more than 20 hours per week while school is in session, but may work full-time during his annual vacation and other times when the school is not in session. If a student engages in pre-completion OPT, the student’s eligible period of  post-completion OPT will be reduced by 1 month for every 2 months of part-time pre-completion OPT that is worked when he graduates.

Students who graduate with a qualified Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) degree, and are currently in an approved post-completion OPT period based on a designated STEM degree may apply for a 17-month STEM extension of their post-completion OPT (12 months on OPT plus 17 months extension).

Unemployment. Student cannot accrue more than 90 days of unemployment during OPT.  STEM students cannot accrue more than 120 days unemployment for the 20 months. A student must work at least 20 hours per week to be considered employed. 10 days between the end of one job and the start of a new job will count toward unemployment.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT may be granted on a part time basis (no more than 20 hours per week) or a full-time basis (more than 20 hours per week). A student working 20 hours or less for 2 years, or more than 20 hours for 1 year is not eligible for post-completion practical training. The student cannot accept CPT unless he has completed 1 academic year or if in language program prior to completion of studies. A job offer is required for CPT. The student must submit request for CPT to DSO. Students must follow internal procedures established by DSO. DSO endorses CPT on page 3 of I-20 form.

Reinstatement. Students may be reinstated to his F-1 status by submitting the DSO’s recommendation for reinstatement and demonstrating that:

  1. He has not been out of status for more than 5 months or that there were exceptional circumstances and that the request was filed as promptly as possible;
  2. He does not have a record of repeated or willful violations of Service regulations;
  3. He is currently pursuing or intending to pursue a full course of study;
  4. He has not engaged in unauthorized employment;
  5. He is not deportable on any ground other than being out-of-status;
  6. He established to the satisfaction of the Service either that the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his control such as serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, a natural disaster or inadvertence, oversight or neglect by the DSO or the violation relates to reduction in the student’s course level that the DSO could have authorized and that failure to reinstate will result in extreme hardship to the student.
  7. A student denied reinstatement is not barred from seeking another visa but consular officer should review the circumstances surrounding why the student ceased full-time study and lost status in the first place, including any actual status violation. Reinstatement is generally a discretionary matter.

60-day “grace” period. Following completion of studies or completion of practical training, F-1 students have 60 days to leave the country. If a student receives prior approval from the International Center to withdraw from classes in cases of extraordinary circumstances, that student has 15 days to leave the U.S. If a student withdraws without authorization, the student has no grace period and must depart the U.S. immediately.

F-2. The spouse and minor children accompanying an F-1 student are eligible for admission in F-2 status if the student is admitted in F-1 status. The spouse and minor children following-to-join an F-1 student are eligible for admission to the United States in F-2 status if they are able to demonstrate that the F-1 student has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies. In either case, at the time they seek admission, the eligible spouse and minor children of an F-1 student with a SEVIS Form I-20 must individually present an original SEVIS Form I-20 issued in the name of each F-2 dependent issued by a school authorized by the Service for attendance by F-1 foreign students. A new SEVIS Form I-20 is required for a dependent where there has been any substantive change in the F-1 student’s current information.

If you are in the United States as the spouse or child of an F-1 visa holder, you do not need to apply to change your status if you wish to attend elementary, middle, or high school in the United States. If you wish to attend post-secondary school full-time, you must apply for change of status.