F-1 visa is designed to support to American education system as well as allow foreign students to study in the US.
There are several ways to get the F-1 visa:
1. Applying From Abroad:
If you are applying for an F-1 Student Visa from your home country, you will begin by selecting a school in the U.S. where you want to study and applying to the school. If your application is accepted you will obtain Form I-20 from the DSO (Designated School Official) and pay the I-901 SEVIS receipt. You will be added to the SEVIS database with an individual ID number.
After the school enters your information into the SEVIS database, you will receive Form I-20 and schedule the “Initial Entry Visa Interview” with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please check with your U.S. Embassy or Consulate to determine their policies and procedures. You can check the U.S. Department of State website and select your city, then click the link for visa information. Wait times for student visa appointments at embassies and consulates world-wide can be found at Travel.State.Gov.
2. Changing Visa Status While in The US:
If you are already in the U.S. on a temporary non-immigrant visa and are looking to change from your current status to an F-1 student visa status, you will first choose the institution (BIR) where you want to study and fill out their international application form. The school must be approved by USCIS to issue F-1 Visas to foreign students. If you have any questions you should contact the admissions department of the school.
Once your international student application is accepted you will obtain form I-20 from the school’s DSO and will be added to the SEVIS database. You will then need to mail the following documents to USCIS:
- Form I-539 (application for change of status)
- Form I-20
- Copy of Form(s) Form I-94
- Copy of Passport
- Copy of Entry Visa
- Proof of Funds
- SEVIS Fee Receipt
Wait for USCIS to respond. It takes approximately two weeks to receive a confirmation letter with an application receipt number (i.e. LIN, WAC, EAC). You can check your application status by entering your receipt number in the USCIS Case Status Website. You may also receive a Request for Evidence or a Request for Information. Consult your DSO and respond to the request as directed. The two usual grounds for denial of change of status are failure to file on time and insufficient funds. You will need to plan early and contact the school DSO well before your current visa’s expiration date to ensure a successful application process. To read more about waiting for USCIS approval process, see below.