F Visas – Students

Non-Immigrant Visas:

Temporary or nonimmigrant visas are available for people entering the United States for a limited period of time and for a specific purpose. In most cases, people applying for nonimmigrant visas must demonstrate that they intend to leave the United States when their visa expires and that they do not intend to immigrate. However, people who qualify for H-1B (professional worker), L-1 (intracompany transfers) visas, and possibly E-2 investor visas are exempted from this requirement.

Although nonimmigrant visas are considered temporary, many of them are available for a number of years. Unlike immigrant visas, most nonimmigrant visas are not subject to any numerical limits.

F-1 visas are available for applicants intending to be full-time students at a U.S. academic institution or language training program. The academic institution (college, high school, elementary school or language training program) must be approved by the INS. The INS can grant approved academic institutions or language training programs the authority to issue certificates of eligibility (Form I-20AB or I-20MN) to foreign students.

An F-1 visa applicant must show acceptance by the school or program and prove they can afford to attend the school and provide their own living expenses. Proof of finances is important to show that the applicant will not go on welfare and is not coming to the U.S. with the intention of becoming a permanent resident.

A person with a F-1 visa is allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours per week while attending school. After attending school for one academic year, an F-1 student may work off-campus, but this employment is limited by restrictions set by the INS. After graduation, one year of practical training is available under proper circumstances. However, in certain situations employment before graduation will be counted against the one year practical training. F-2 visa holders (spouses and children of foreign students,) are not allowed to seek employment.

A relatively recent change severely restricts F-1 visas issued to students at public high schools and elementary schools. In fact, the new changes bar F-1 student status for students seeking to attend public elementary schools. Students seeking to attend a public high school are limited to one year of attendance, and the foreign high school student must reimburse the school for the full-unsubsidized costs of the studentâs education.

Please note that these above changes do not apply to minors in other statuses (i.e., H-4, R-2, L-2) who are attending public schools. Also, these changes do not apply to foreign college and university students.

F-1 students often change their status to H-1B professional workers when they are finished with school. Click here for more information on H-1B visas. After that, many are sponsored by their H-1B employers for permanent residence (a “green card”) in the United States. This can be done through a labor certification, a national interest waiver, or other means. For more information about immigration through employment, click here

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