F1 Visa | USA Study Visa Requirements & Application Process


Study Visa – USA

The United States is usually the top choice for students intending to study abroad. Except for individuals who possess U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status, all prospective students are required to submit a visa application to pursue studies in the United States. Typically, students are required to obtain either a student F or M visa to pursue a comprehensive academic program, including undergraduate, graduate, or research studies. Before looking into USA study visa requirements, let’s discuss the different categories of student visa.


Student Visa Categories

There are three main categories of US student visas: F-1 visas are for full-time university study, J-1 permits are for exchange program participation, and M-1 visas are for vocational training. In most cases, students will need to apply for a visa under the F-1 category.

The individuals classified as dependents, including spouses and/or children, who fall under these specific visa categories are granted permission to accompany and reside in the United States for a temporary period until the student’s program completion. F-2, J-2, and M-2, respectively, are the dependent visa categories for the above-mentioned student visa classes.


F-1 Visa

Students who are seeking admission into a program that necessitates a study load exceeding 18 hours per week, including undergraduate, master’s, and MBA programs, are classified under the F-1 visa category.

A student with an F-1 visa is permitted to temporarily reside and pursue their education in the United States while they are enrolled in a recognized institution. In other words, the F-1 type is a non-immigrant visa category.

It must be an academic institution where you are enrolled; a vocational school cannot be your place of training. Your school must be SEVP-certified by the Department of Homeland Security to accept F-1 foreign students.

F-1 visa holders who enter the country as students may work, but since this is a non-immigrant visa, there are limitations on where they may work and the type of positions they are permitted to take up.


J-1 Visa

Participants in exchange programs such as students, researchers, and professors are eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. For instance, many students from Indian schools participating in short-term study abroad programs and Fulbright scholars would need a J-1 visa for visiting the US. Au pairs and Educare workers, government officials, interns, doctors, researchers, interns, teachers, trainees, and university students are all examples of exchange visitors.


M-1 Visa

The M1 visa is designated for individuals seeking to pursue vocational studies within the United States. Vocational training includes courses in cosmetology, flying school programs, technical studies, mechanical training, and cooking classes. Since there is no numerical cap on the M1, any student who satisfies the criteria may be issued a visa. The application process for both the F1 visa and the M-1 visa is identical; however, there is a distinction in terms of the time-stamping of M-1 visas upon entry. It is important to remember that M-1 visa holders can only stay in the United States for the length of time specified on their visa.

Students on the M1 Visa are barred from enrolling in academic courses. Part-time study is permitted for up to six months for those who enter the United States on an M1 Visa, but they are not allowed to seek out full-time work during that period. You must provide proof of sufficient funds to support your stay in the United States if you want to apply for an M1 Visa. Initial M1 Visa approvals are usually valid for one year.

Also, students who hold an M1 visa are restricted from working full-time in an off-campus setting, pursuing their studies as part-time students, switching their programs, migrating to another institution after the first six months, and continuing their studies in the United States to attain a degree.


Employment Opportunities – US Student Visa

During their first academic year, F-1 students are not allowed to work off-campus but are permitted to seek on-campus employment with certain restrictions. Following the completion of their initial year of study, F-1 students are eligible to engage in three distinct categories of off-campus employment.

  1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) refers to a form of practical training that is mandated by educational institutions and facilitated by sponsoring employers through collaborative arrangements. This training may take the form of an internship, co-op, or other similar programs. CPT is not constrained by a weekly 20-hour work restriction and may be full-time if it is required by your course of study.
  2. Practical experience that is related to your major and is often paid is known as Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students have the option to pursue OPT either during their academic program, referred to as pre-completion OPT, or upon completion of their course, known as post-completion OPT.
  3. The STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) Extension is a designated period of 24 months during which F-1 students can engage in temporary training that is pertinent to their program of study in an approved STEM field.

In exceptional circumstances, such as extreme financial constraints or special student relief, F-1 students may be permitted to work off-campus. Practical training is permissible for M-1 students only upon the successful completion of their course of study.

Off-campus training employment for both F-1 and M-1 students necessitates a connection to their field of study and must receive proper authorization from the Designated School Official, an authorized professional responsible for managing the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), before commencing any work.

Students with an F-1 STEM visa who have a pending Form I-765 may now avail of premium work permit processing. Only OPT and STEM OPT extension-seeking students are eligible for this extension.


F-1 Visa Application Eligibility

  1. Admission to a program of study at a school in the United States that has been approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
  2. Registration as a full-time student at the SEVP-approved educational institution
  3. Demonstrated proficiency in the English language or enrolment in English as a Second Language (ESL) course
  4. Evidence of adequate financial resources to sustain academic pursuits in the United States
  5. Connections to your home country that indicate an intention to return after completing your studies in the United States

F1 Visa Application Process India

  1. A valid passport
  2. SEVIS fee payment receipt
  3. Form DS-160 (non-immigrant visa) confirmation page
  4. Visa Application Fee payment receipt
  5. Two photographs (as per the USA study visa requirements)
  6. Form I-20


F1 Visa Application Process India – List of Supporting Documents

  1. Bank statements (last 3 years)
  2. Tax records – Form 16 (past three years)
  3. Salary slips from prior work, if any
  4. Statement from a qualified CA
  5. Details of the scholarship, if any
  6. Sponsorship information and accompanying documentation, if any
  7. Education Loan Approval Letter, if applicable
  8. Academic documentation, such as transcripts, diplomas, and degrees
  9. English Proficiency Test Results such as TOEFL/IELTS/Duolingo and others
  10. Standardized Test Scores such as the GMAT/GRE/SAT/ACT and others
  11. Health insurance – International students


USA Study Visa Requirements for Indian Students

USA study visa requirements for Indian students are listed as follows :

  1. You must first apply to a US university that has SEVP approval
  2. If admitted to a school that is part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), you will be included in the SEVIS database
  3. Following that, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of USD 350
  4. The SEVP-approved institution will then provide you with a Form I-20
  5. Then, you will need to schedule a biometric and visa interview appointment by filling up the online application form (DS-160) and paying the visa application fee
  6. At the in-person biometric appointment, you will have your visa picture taken and your fingerprints scanned
  7. Then, you will be required to attend a student visa interview at an American embassy or consulate. You must present Form I-20 and other essential documentation to the consular official
  8. If the consular officer determines that your application requires further administrative processing after your interview, they will inform you
  9. Finally, you will be informed of the outcome and issued a US student visa if approved

F-1 visas for new students can only be granted up to one year before the commencement date of an academic program. The time frame used to be 120 days, but the State Department extended it in February 2023.


Student Visa – Recent Updates

Revised fee: As of June 17, 2023, the application processing fee for student visa categories will increase from USD 160 to USD 185.

Visa fee validity: Non-immigrant visa application fee payments issued after October 1, 2022, are valid for 365 days. Applicants who filed for their student visas before October 1, 2022, will not be charged the revised fee until September 30, 2023.

Interview waiver: An interview waiver could be available for applicants seeking F, M, or academic J visas. The applicant must already be in possession of a valid US visa from one of the approved categories. Regardless of expiration, the new regulation applies to people who were granted a U.S. visa. Individuals who had a recent visa application denied are ineligible for the waiver program. The decision to grant an interview waiver will be taken on a case-by-case basis by embassies and consulates.

Vaccination Requirements: To fly to the US, noncitizen non-immigrant air travellers no longer need to present evidence of an approved COVID-19 vaccination.

We understand that the USA student visa process might appear overwhelming at first. To make things easier for you, we have addressed key components such as visa classifications, eligibility, employment opportunities, required documents, and the most recent updates. Please contact Manya-The Princeton Review’s experienced advisors for further information and case-specific assistance.

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Where should one apply for a US student visa?

An F1 visa application is processed entirely online. The SEVIS I-901 Form and DS-160 Visa Application Form must be completed and submitted to start the F1 visa application process.

Can dependants of F-1 visa holders accompany them to the United States?

Yes, they can do so. To live in the US with a student visa holder until the end of their authorized stay, spouses and minor children must obtain F2 or M2 visas. However, the dependent spouse is not permitted to enroll in a full-time program at a recognized institution or take up paid work. Children with F2 status are permitted to start or continue their education at a recognized school. They cannot, however, register for a full-time course of study in a college or university.

What is Form I-20?

For international students with an F-1/M-1 student visa, authorized institutions or universities in the US will provide an I-20 Form as proof of their eligibility. The form includes your SEVIS ID number, program name with start and end dates, sources of funding, cost of attendance, and other personal data.

Are student visa holders allowed to work in the United States?

There are several restrictions, yet international students are allowed to work in the United States. F-1 and M-1 visa holders studying abroad have the option of working on campus or in approved training programs. Students are not allowed to engage in off-campus jobs during their first year of study. 

Can Indian students apply for scholarships in the United States?

For Indian students hoping to study in the US, several scholarships and grants are available, including the Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowship, Stanford Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowships, The Indian Trust Fellowship, Tata Scholarships, Akhtarali H. Tobaccowala Fellowship, Global Study Awards, and the QS Connect Masters Scholarship.

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