F-1 Visa Explained: Your Guide to Studying Full-Time in the USA

F-1 Visa Explained: Your Guide to Studying Full-Time in the USA


The F-1 visa lets a student live in the United States for a certain amount of time to study at a school, college, seminary, or conservatory.

F-1 Visa Explained

Is the F-1 Visa Right for Me?

Studying in the US is a great opportunity for many students, but if you are not a US citizen or green card holder, you will need a special visa.

There are many schools and programs to choose from, and the F-1 visa is the most common for international students. Here are the key things to remember about F-1 visas:

  • You must plan to return to your home country after your studies are finished.
  • You can only study at a school approved by the US government.
  • You can work part-time on campus or through a special program after your first year.
  • Your spouse and children can come with you on a different visa, but they cannot work.

F-1 Visa Eligibility

To get an F-1 visa:

  • Apply and get into a school in the US approved by SEVP. This can be a university, high school, seminary, or other approved schools.
  • Be a full-time student at that school.
  • Be good at English or take English classes there.
  • Show you have enough money to pay for your studies in the US.
  • Prove you plan to go back home after finishing your studies since the F-1 visa is temporary.
  • Live outside the US when you apply.
  • Getting accepted into a US school can take a while. The visa process happens after you’re accepted. Not sure if you’re eligible? Check if you meet the requirements.

The F-1 Visa Process

Congratulations! You got into a school in the U.S.! That’s a big achievement after all your hard work. Now, here’s what you need to do to get your student visa:

  • Your school will put you into a system called SEVIS to keep track of you while you’re studying in the U.S.
  • You’ll need to pay a fee of $350 to help run the SEVIS program.
  • Your school will give you a form called I-20, which proves you’re accepted. You’ll need this to apply for your F-1 visa.
  • Use the DS-160 form to apply for your visa. It’s detailed and takes time to fill out.
  • Schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, unless you’re really young or old.
  • Before the interview, pay a $185 application fee and maybe another fee based on your nationality.
  • Wait for your visa. The wait time can vary.
  • Remember, you can only get your visa up to one year before your school starts.
  • If you’re already studying in the U.S., you can renew your visa anytime as long as you’re still in school.

Boundless can help you through the visa process and get you ready for your interview. Check out what they offer!


F-1 Visa Interview

You need to go to a U.S. Embassy or consulate for an interview. Here’s what you need to bring:

  • A valid passport that doesn’t expire for at least six months after your planned entry into the U.S.
  • A confirmation page from Form DS-160.
  • A receipt showing you’ve paid the application fee.
  • A photo that meets the U.S. State Department’s rules.
  • Form I-20 from your school.
  • Documents like school records, test scores, and proof that you can financially support yourself while studying in the U.S.
  • During the interview, the officer will ask you questions to decide if they should give you an F-1 visa. Be honest and thorough because you’ll be swearing to tell the truth. For tips on how to do well in the interview, check out Boundless’s guide.

The officer might also take your fingerprints. After the interview, they might need more time to process your application. They’ll tell you if that’s the case.

Once the interview is over, they’ll let you know if you got the visa. If you did, you’ll be all set to study in the U.S.

For extra help with your student visa application, Boundless offers special materials from someone who used to work as a U.S. consular officer.


1. What is an F-1 Visa?

An F-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to enter the United States for the purpose of full-time academic study at accredited institutions.

2. Who is eligible for an F-1 Visa?

Eligibility for an F-1 Visa typically requires acceptance into a SEVIS-approved educational institution in the USA, proof of financial resources to cover tuition and living expenses, and intent to return to their home country upon completion of studies.

3. How long can I stay in the USA with an F-1 Visa?

F-1 Visa holders are allowed to stay in the USA for the duration of their academic program, plus an additional 60 days after completion of studies (known as the grace period). If further studies or practical training are pursued, additional visa arrangements may be necessary.

4. Can I work while on an F-1 Visa?

F-1 Visa holders are allowed to work on-campus part-time during the academic year and full-time during school breaks. Off-campus employment is restricted and requires authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

5. Can I bring my family with me on an F-1 Visa?

While immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can accompany F-1 Visa holders to the USA on F-2 Visas, they are not allowed to work or study without obtaining the appropriate authorization.


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