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F-1 Visa

The F-1 visa is reserved for foreign nationals who wish to come to the U.S. in order to study at an American university.  The student can be coming to the U.S. to pursue an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.  The spouses and unmarried children who are under the age of 21 may obtain F-2 visas and accompany the F-1 student to the United States.

If the student is outside of the U.S., the student must obtain the F-1 visa at the U.S. consulate.  The consulate will require certain documents from the student, such as proof that the student has paid the required SEVIS fee and the student’s Form I-20 which is issued by the university the student will be attending in the United States.

Additionally, the student must also be able to provide proof of how he/she will support him/herself during the stay in the United States.  Such proof usually consists of bank account statements that show a sufficient balance.  This ability to fund the student’s stay in the U.S. often compromises the most difficult part of the application as many consulates are dissatisfied with the student’s proof.

Conversely, if the student is already in the U.S. in a different status (such as H-1B, H-4, L-1, etc.) then the student must file a Form I-539 Application to Change Status.  This application is sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Importantly, in many cases the student must wait until USCIS approves the I-539 Application before he/she can start attending classes, so it is very important that the student file the application as early as possible.

F-1 status can be very beneficial for foreign nationals.  One of the advantages of F-1 status is that, after completing a degree program, the student can apply for work authorization.  There are two types of work authorization: curricular practical training and optional practical training.  Each type of work authorization has its own eligibility requirements and restrictions, but working with an immigration attorney on these applications can help the student feel confident that the work authorization conditions have been met.

Another advantage is with regards to long-term immigration planning.  Many F-1 students eventually want to work in the U.S. and transition from F-1 status to H-1B status.  If a foreign student completes a Master’s degree in the U.S., then the student has an increased chance of being selected in the H-1B lottery.  The reason for this is because there are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas that are set aside for students with Master’s degrees.  Therefore, if the student is not selected in the 20,000 Master’s Cap Lottery, their application is automatically included in the 65,000 regular H-1B Cap Lottery – effectively giving the F-1 student two bites at the H-1B apple.  (Fore more information on the H-1B visa and the Cap Lottery, feel free to read the information provided here).

At the Callan Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys are happy to assist F-1 students with their I-539 Applications and work authorization applications.  Contact our office today to speak to a member of our helpful staff about your case.  We look forward to working with you!