It’s common for Immigrants to come into our office and ask “I came into the country as a visitor, how can I stay in the United States?” Our most common answer is, F-1/Student Visa. The reason for this is: 1) there is no cap on the number of visas issued; and 2) so long as you have the required documents, Immigration/USCIS will not deny the visa.
So what exactly is it that is needed to successfully receive an F-1 Visa? There are the 5 requirements:
- Are you interested/qualified to attend an academic institution, language training program, or test preparation program?
- Your intention must be to be a “full time” student; what that means is that you must take a minimum of twelve (12) units per session.
- Is your future school eligible to accept and sponsor foreign students? Ask the school’s international counselor, they will advise you correctly on this matter.
- You must be able to show that you have enough funds to pay for your education- whether on your own, or from a sponsor (any US citizen or Greencard holder, or parent abroad).
- You must be able to show that you are in legal status in the United States; or, if currently outside the US, you need to show the US Consulate that you intend on returning to your home country after the completion of the program.
Seems easy right? Well, it is!
We do often come across situations in which the school counselor has not followed through with the immigration paperwork correctly, which in turn negatively effects the application; or, when the Applicant attempts to process the application themselves, without having the know how to do so. Because there is no cap on the number of visas issued, and because the issuing officer (especially in US Consulates abroad) has full discretionary authority to deny your case, any missing document, mistype, or holes in the application will lead to an automatic denial.
The best idea is to go through a qualified Immigration Attorney, www.SJVlaw.com. This will ensure that you are aware of your rights (i.e. if you can work, where you can work, if you can travel, if you can extend your visa, etc.), and that your application will be filed timely and correctly. Of course no Immigration attorney can ever guarantee an approval, but in general if 65% of ALL F-1 applications are approved, it’s safe to say the other 35% are denied because of miscellaneous errors, or mistakes made by the Applicant at the time of the interview.
Here is a basic review of the steps:
- Obtain I-20 from qualified school
- if outside the country, make an appointment at your local US Embassy to process your visa and for an interview. Go to www.usembassy.gov for information regarding your local embassy procedures.
- Pay your SEVIS fee of $ 200.00 (this is the computer system that processes said applications, whether in the US or abroad) with an internationally accepted credit card. You can pay the fee at: https://www.fmjfee.com/index.jhtml
- If you are abroad you will now pay the visa issuance fee along with filing the required online forms; if you are in the United States you will pay the fee for filing the required form.
- If abroad you will attend an interview; if in the United States the visa will be mailed directly to you or your attorney of record.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE INTERVIEW?
If you retain an immigration attorney, they should be able to prepare you for your interview abroad by doing a “mock interview” with you on the phone, letting you know what sorts of questions the officer will ask, and how you should answer said questions to receive the optimum support
WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET DENIED?
Some will tell you that you can appeal said denial, this is false. What you can do is ask the officer “why” you were denied. This will allow you to determine whether or not you should reapply. Some consulates, i.e. Mumbai, India, has an expedited/special process for Student Visas which are filed within one year of a previous denial.
ONCE I GET MY STUDENT VISA, CAN I TRAVEL TO MY HOME COUNTRY, OR ANY OTHER COUNTRY FOR THAT MATTER?
Yes. Once you have a valid visa you can travel. We would suggest traveling with documents indicating that you are enrolled in your said educational program so as to avoid any problems at the port of entry.
CAN I WORK WITH AN F-1/STUDENT VISA?
The short answer is YES. You can work 20 hours per week on campus, but there are other programs you can work out with your school in which you get units for paid internships, similar to a work-study program. You should contact an attorney for detailed answers on this question. Contact Us
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I FINISH MY ACADEMIC PROGRAM?
This is another loaded question, there are a plethora of options once you have completed your course of study, including but not limited to:
- Transferring to another F-1 program (a four year degree, certification course, or master’s program)
- OPT- this is a form of training which allows recent Bachelor’s graduates and Master’s graduates the opportunity to work for 12 or 18 months (depending on course of study). The benefit of this is of course a work authorization card which allows students to earn in US dollars, legally, after graduation.
- Transfer to another non-immigrant visa, i.e. H-1(b).
- Marry a United States Citizen (always an option no matter what)
I’M ON A B-1/B-2 VISITOR VISA, NOW WHAT?
Timing is key here! You cannot apply to soon, or else immigration will suspect immigration fraud, and you cannot apply too late, or you will fall out of status and as a result get a denial on your visa. Try and plan as early ahead as possible and call a qualified immigration attorney to guide you through the process.
We hope that you have found the answers you’re looking for here, but if not, feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.
THE LAW OFFICE OF VACHHANI & ASSOCIATES
Sungina J. Vachhani, Esq.
17918 Pioneer Boulevard, Suite 204
Artesia, California 90701