F1 Visa

F-1 Student Visa

A foreign national may apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to study in the U.S. on what is called an F-1 Visa. To receive an F-1 Visa, one must enroll in a full-time, degree-granting program at a college or university approved by the U.S. Government. The student must maintain and intend to return to a residence abroad and have sufficient funds for self-support through the duration of the degree. The spouse or child(ren) of an F-1 student are also eligible to live in the U.S, but. in F-2 status.

Spouses and Dependents

An F1 Student’s spouse is not permitted to work, but the child(ren) is permitted to attend school. After completing the degree, the student and family must return to their country unless granted another visa.

Duration of Status

The valid length of stay for an F-1 student is called duration of status. This timeframe is equal to the time required to complete the degree and any associated practical training. Practical training is work experience related to the student’s major. As long as F-1 students are making normal progress toward completion of the degree, they remain in legal status and do not need to apply for an extension of the visa.

Admittance and Validity

F-1 students may be admitted up to 30 days before the semester begins. They may leave the U.S. for up to 5 months without losing status. If a student stays outside the U.S. for more than 5 months or makes a substantive change to the visa, such as a change in major or transfer of university, he/she must obtain a new certificate of eligibility from the university to regain status.

Exit Requirement

After F-1 students have completed the degree and associated practical training, they have 60 days before the visa expires and they have to leave the U.S. The same timeframe applies to the F-1 student’s family. If the F-1 student withdraws from classes, he/she must leave the U.S. within 15 days. However, if an F-1 student fails to maintain a full course of study without the approval from the proper school official, he/she must leave the U.S. immediately.


F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment in certain circumstances. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment, after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment after the 1st year. These three types of employment are:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)

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