Hey you! I got something you might be interested in today! Have you ever dreamt to study in the United States? But you’re not sure where to start, right?! I’ll share with you my experience about the F1 Visa, also known as a student visa! Now, it is easier to say than to do, I’ll admit, I’ve been there! That’s why I decided to write an article about the F1 Visa process! I chose to write it in three parts! The first part will explain the first step of the process that is getting enrolled in a school, the second one the actual application for a student visa and the last one will give more information about your arrival in the United States and all the little things you should know about the student visa!
Keep in mind, though, I only write about what I experienced and I do not pretend to have all the answers. I just want to share what I know and help you understand the process. Your experience might be different from mine so make sure to always refer to the official documentation.
What is the F1 Visa and what are the requirements?
The student visa allows international students to come to the United States for educational purpose. It means that you can come and study in an American Academic institution as long as you meet the requirements. The F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa so you are expected to depart the United States once you graduated.
The first requirement to be eligible for a student visa is to find an academic institution that is accredited to enroll international students. By academic, it is meant colleges, universities, language training schools (which I did, click here to read through my experience), etc… As long as your institution is SEVP approved, you can choose whatever school you want (more on that below).
Once you chose your school, you need to make sure to enroll in a full-time program. The definition of full time might depend on the establishment but for Language schools, it usually means at least 18 hours of classes per week. You will then need to prove that you have a sufficient level of English to follow the curriculum if you’re studying at a University. For a language program, the requirements are a bit lower since your main purpose is to study English. Finally, you will need to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to live in the USA without working and strong links with your country of residence.
First Step of the F1 Visa process
Choose your school
As I said earlier it is important to choose a school that is SEVP approved. The Student Exchange and Visitor Program is a program of the Department of Homeland Security that keeps track of all the schools certified by the state to accept International Students as well as sponsors for the J1 visa. You can check their website to find a SEVP-approved school. If you already have a school in mind, make sure to contact them and to ask if they are in the program.
Choosing your school is important because it is a huge part of your stay in the United States and of your overall experience. Depending on what type of experience you are shooting for, you might consider different things to make up your mind. If you want to pursue an undergraduate/graduate program, make sure to check the tuition costs first. They are pretty expensive in the United States. Although, they do have cheaper programs such as certificates, and they qualify for an F1 Visa too. If you decide to come to the United States to study English, make sure to find a school that offers options that will allow you to enjoy the American way of life!
Enrollment and documentation
Once you found a SEVP-approved school, you can apply and start the enrollment process. Keep in mind that if you chose a University/College, you are sending out an application that will need to be reviewed and approved by the school. If you chose to study in an English Language School, you are usually assured to be accepted as their main purpose is to have you come to study English in their school.
Check out what are the application papers required (I don’t have a precise list because it depends on the school). It will usually require, at least, your passport, a financial verification form or any document proving your financial situation and to pay the application fee.
Once your enrollment is approved, you will have to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee, that is around $350. The Student Exchange and Visitor Information System is the database that supports the SEVP and you pay a fee for the creation of your « profile » in this database. This is what allows the creation of your I-20 Form (also referred to as Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Status) and it keeps track of it. You should receive a receipt payment for this fee, make sure to keep it somewhere safe as you will need it later. Once the fee is paid, the school will send your acceptance letter and your I-20 Form with the start and end dates of your program. The document is mailed out to you, and you need the original one for your visa application.
To keep things simple, once you are enrolled in a school,
you should have received :
The payment receipt of your SEVIS Fee
An acceptance letter from your school
Your I-20 Form
Make sure you get all those documents and that there is no mistake on it.
The first step is done! Once you are enrolled in a school, you now have to apply for your F1 Visa! You can read about how it goes right here!