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Work in the USA with the student visa F-1

In the USA, it is allowed to work legally with the student visa F-1, but with some restrictions. Below are the available options.

Work at an educational institution (On-Campus Employment)

Students can work at the institution up to 20 hours a week during the study and up to 40 hours on holidays and vacations. Usually, it is administrative work: coordination of student events, work at the library, the admission office etc.

Training on CPT and OPT programs

Those who study at the universities or colleges can get a job out of campus on the CPT or OPT programs (it is officially considered as an internship). Both programs provide both full and part-time employment.

CPT program

CPT (Curricular Practical Training) — training during the study: the university delegates to a commercial company the right to teach some subject to the student. Then, the training report is checked at the university and gets a mark. So, the internship is a subject at the university.

How to get CPT
  1. Make sure that your educational institution provides CPT.
  2. Find an employer that is ready to take you for an internship. The job shall match your specialty at the university.
  3. Get an official job offer.
  4. Before the beginning of the semester, make an application for getting CPT and attach your job offer. Manage to do it before the last date of applying for CPT. The dates vary from university to university; usually, it is December or January (for the spring semester) or August or September (for the fall semester).
  5. In a few days, you will get a new I-20 form with the permission to work at your company during the semester. In the next semester, you will be able to apply for CPT again.
  6. Get the social security number (SSN) at the local Social Security Office if you haven’t gotten it before. Everyone who works in the USA needs this number.

OPT program

OPT (Optional Practical Training) — training after graduating. It is provided after finishing the study and getting the bachelor’s degree (BA or BS), master’s degree (MA or MS) or MBA. OPT lasts one year.

STEM extension

Since 2016, the students with technical specialties (STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) get two more years of OPT. So, for them, the OPT program lasts 3 years.

CPT and OPT restrictions

  • It is necessary to study at a university or college (not at a language school).
  • CPT or OPT is given only after 8 months of being in the USA in the F-1 status, but not necessarily at this educational institution. For example, you can study at a language school and then transfer to a university.
  • The training shall match the specialty at the university, but some variations are possible. For example, a student studying mathematics can work as a programmer.
  • Not all educational institutions provide CPT and OPT or can have their own rules of getting and extending these programs, so the details are always to clarify at the university.
  • If a student took CPT many times during the study, he or she can lose the opportunity to take OPT. This shall be clarified at the university.

How to get the U.S. student visa F-1?

The student visa F-1 is the most common type of visa for studying in the USA. It provides the opportunity to study at certified educational institutions: language schools, colleges, universities and private schools.

  • The F-1 visa is issued for a period from 1 to 5 years, but you have the right to stay legally in the USA indefinitely while studying, even if the visa has expired.
  • With this visa, you can work legally if you are studying at a university.
  • F-1 allows taking a spouse and children up to 21 years to the USA.

In what cases is the F-1 visa necessary?

You need this visa if you are going to study in the US certified private schools, universities, colleges or language schools during a long period of time (usually over three months) or if your program makes out over 18 hours a week.

If you have a short-term educational program (less than 3 months) and it takes less than 18 hours a week, you can study with the tourist visa B1/B2. At that, the citizens of the most European Union states, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and some other countries don’t need to receive the B1/B2 visa – they can stay in the USA without a visa up to 90 days.

How long does it take to get the F-1 visa?

The entire process – from choosing the institution to getting the passport with visa – takes in the most cases from 10 days to 3 weeks. In rare cases, the U.S. consulate carries out an additional administrative processing, which usually takes about a month.

The cost of visa

Visa fees make out $360 total.

Steps of getting the visa

Searching for an educational institution

First of all, you need to select a certified educational institution in the USA. These are language schools, colleges, universities or private schools that have SEVP certification — the right to accept foreign students. If you are looking for language courses, they can be chosen on ClassTrip. Read how to choose language courses in the USA or how to enroll at an American university.

Applying to the school and getting I-20

When you will be ready with the choice of an educational institution, you need to contact it and book the course. Typically, it can be done on the website of the school or university. If you are looking for language courses, you can choose and book them on ClassTrip. After it, the school will ask to send your personal data (name, citizenship, address, contact phone number etc.).

Then, the educational institution will send you by courier service the I-20 form that you will need at the visa interview. The shipment usually takes a few business days.

What is I-20 form

The I-20 form is the main student’s document that shows where the person is studying and how long he is allowed to stay in the USA. I-20 can be renewed infinitely. Read what the I-20 form is and what it gives.

Also, ask the school to send you the letter of acceptance to the educational institution via e-mail. Print it – it will be required at the visa interview.

The rules of acceptance vary in different educational institutions:

  • Some schools send I-20 only after a full or partial payment for the course (semester).
  • Sometimes schools ask first to send a statement from your bank account (or the account of your sponsor) as the confirmation of the fact that you will have funds for living in America while studying. At that, your sponsor can be any person with a sufficient amount on the account (according to the school rules).
  • Universities and colleges may have entrance exams (but not always) and usually require from foreign students a TOEFL certificate or offer to pass their own English test.

Paying the application fee and SEVIS fee

When you will have I-20, you will have to pay two fees.

  • Application fee $160 (common for all types of visa)
  • SEVIS fee $200 (for student visas)

See how to pay them in the article Visa fees for the U.S. student visa F1.

Filling the DS-160 form online

See the article How to fill in the DS-160 form.

Sign up for the visa interview

See the article How to sign up for the U.S. visa interview.

Interview at the consulate and getting the passport with a visa

The interview is the most important part of the process of getting a visa. It requires preparation in advance. Be well prepared for the interview. See the article How to be interviewed for the visa to the USA.

How to fill in the DS-160 form

A part of getting the U.S. student visa F-1 is filling in the DS-160 form. The form is filled in online on http://ceac.state.gov/genniv.

For the filling you will need:

  • A recent photo in electronic format. The requirements to the photo are on www.ustraveldocs.com in the section “Nonimmigrant Visa Information” → “Photos and fingerprints”.
  • SEVIS ID — the number, beginning with N that can be found in your I-20 form in the upper left corner.

How to fill in

Open http://ceac.state.gov/genniv. Select the country where you will get the visa and click “Start an Application”. Enter the answer to the security question. Then there are 12 steps with questions, where you have to tell in detail about yourself, your family, planned trip, and the educational institution where you are planning to study in the USA and upload a photo.

Please, fill in carefully

Answer the truth. Your answers influence the decision about issuing the visa. On the visa interview, the visa officer can ask to tell more detailed about your answers in DS-160. It is recommended to write down the answers for all questions beforehand and then copy and paste them into the form, in order to avoid mistakes when filling.

Filling language

The form shall be filled in in English. The questions will also be written in English, but on the site you can switch on the tips with translation: find “Select Tooltip Language” in the upper right corner of the site and select the necessary language. Then hover the mouse over questions and the translation will appear in the tooltips.

After filling

When you will have answered all the questions and uploaded a photo, you will be offered to recheck the information and then to sign and submit the application (click Sign and Submit Application). After it, you will see the confirmation page of filling DS-160 with your photo, brief personal information and a bar code. Print this page (click Print Confirmation). You will need in for the visa interview.

Confirmation of filling DS-160

Confirmation of filling DS-160

How to sign up for the U.S. visa interview

A part of the process of getting the U.S. student visa F1 is an interview at the consulate. When you will be prepared and get all necessary documents, sign up for the visa interview on the website https://cgifederal.secure.force.com.

For signing up, you will need:

How to sign up

Open https://cgifederal.secure.force.com and select the country, where you will have a visa interview. Click “New user?” (below). The following items can slightly vary from country to country.

Follow these steps and specify:

  • The type of visa: nonimmigrant visa
  • Embassy/Consulate – the city where you are going to have an interview. This step can be absent for some countries.
  • Interview language. This step can be absent for some countries.
  • Visa category: visas for students and participants of exchange programs
  • Visa class: F-1 — student visa
  • Applicant information in English:
    • Personal and contact data
    • DS-160 confirmation number (see above)
    • SEVIS number and school information (see above)
  • Family members applying with you (if any).
  • Information for the courier delivery of documents.
  • Number of $160 application fee payment (number of receipt). See above.
  • Date and time of the interview. Usually, the nearest date is available in 2-3 days.

Visa fees for the U.S. student visa F-1

A part of the process of getting the student visa F-1 to the USA is the payment of two fees. The fees are non-refundable (even if visa is denied).

  • Application fee $160 (common for all types of visa)
  • SEVIS fee $200 (for student visa)

Application fee $160

The ways to pay vary from country to country. To learn more, visit the official website with the instructions for getting a U.S. visa: www.ustraveldocs.com.

Select your country and go to “Nonimmigrant Visa Information” → “Payment Options”. Read how to pay the fee and get the payment number (receipt number). Save this number. Also, save the payment receipt itself or print it (if it is in the electronic form). You will need it when signing up for the visa interview.

SEVIS fee $200

SEVIS shall be paid online on https://fmjfee.com.

Before payment, you will need this information from I-20
  • SEVIS Identification Number — the number beginning with N that can be found on your I-20 in the upper left corner.
  • School Code — the code of your school from the section “School Information” in I-20. This code contains the signs “214F” in the middle. For example, SFR214F00751000.
How to pay SEVIS
  1. Open https://fmjfee.com and click “Submit Form I901 and Fee Payment”.
  2. On the next page below select the option “Form I-20” and click OK.
  3. Then fill in the information about yourself and the school (see above) in English. Pay attention that the birth date shall be in the American format month/day/year.
  4. At the next step select the payment method and enter the payment information.
  5. After it, the confirmation page will appear. Print the payment confirmation by clicking “Print This Page” below. This printout will be necessary at the visa interview.

After paying the fees

You shall have in hand the number of the application fee payment (and payment receipt) and the confirmation of SEVIS payment. Save them – you will need them later.

How to be interviewed for a visa to the USA

The interview at the consulate is the most important part of the process of getting the U.S. student visa F1. Read below, what documents are required and what questions will be asked.

The process of the interview

At the appointed time come to the interview to the selected consulate. They will check your documents, take fingerprints and give a number in the queue (all details will be explained on the spot). When your number or name is announced, you will have to come to a window, where a visa officer is. He or she will interview you. During the interview, the officer can ask you to show some confirming documents (see below). The interview usually lasts a few minutes.

Do not take anything extra

It is forbidden to bring electronic devices (including cell phones) and dangerous things to U.S. embassies and consulates. More details on www.ustraveldocs.com in the section “Nonimmigrant Visa Information” → “Security Regulations”.

What will be asked

According to paragraph 214(b) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, everyone who gets the American nonimmigrant visa is regarded as a potential immigrant. The main task of the visa officer is to make sure that:

  • You are not a potential immigrant
  • You provide true information about yourself
  • You have enough funds for being in the USA during the trip/study

Below there are questions that may be asked at the interview. Answer the truth. Your answers are checked with given by you in the DS-160 form.

General questions. Often only they are asked.

  • Purpose and duration of the trip
  • What places are you going to visit? When?
  • With whom do you travel? In some cases: if traveling alone, then why?
  • What do you do?

Questions about you

  • If you are studying
    • Where do you study? What do you study? Which year?
    • What are your plans after graduating from the school/university?
  • If you are working
    • Where do you work? What does your job consist of?
    • How long have you been on your last working place?
    • Why did you decide to leave your previous job?
    • What is your income?
  • Do you own real estate in your country?
  • Have you been to the USA before? With what purpose?
  • What countries have you visited in the last year (two years, five years)?
  • With what purpose did you visit <country name>?

Questions about your family

  • What is your marital status?
  • Who do you live with?
  • If you are married (including civil marriage), then how long?
  • Do you have children? How many? What age are they?
  • What does your spouse do?
  • What do your parents do (if you live with them or if they pay for the trip)?

Questions about the trip

  • Who pays for the trip?
  • Why did you choose this city/state?
  • Do you have relatives in the USA?
  • Do you have friends in the USA?
  • If you are going at the invitation from friends (relatives), what do they do? For how long have they lived in the USA? How did they get to the USA? How long haven’t you seen them? How long have you known them?

If you are going to study in the USA

  • What educational institution are you going to? Why this one?
  • What are you going to study? Why this profession?
  • If you are going to English courses, for what purpose do you study English?
  • What are your plans for future?

What influences the decision to issue a visa

The decision about issuing a visa is made purely individually. But it is considered, that the factors listed below can influence the decision of a visa officer. Though, depending on the situation, they may not play any role or even change their value.

Positive factors

  • Experience of traveling to other countries, especially to developed ones
  • Presence of parents, husband or wife, children living in your country
  • An interesting job in your country
  • Real estate in your country
  • Any other factors showing the connection with your country and motivation to come back

Negative factors

  • No travel plan
  • Plans to stay in the USA for a long time without a certain business
  • Lack of funds for living in the USA during the trip
  • Presence of friends in the USA

What documents shall be taken to the interview

Required documents

Additional documents

Take any other documents that can confirm your intentions, information given in DS-160 and can influence the decision about issuing a visa. They shall be provided only at the request of a visa officer.

  • Old international passport (with earlier issued visas and travel stamps)
  • Statement of the bank account
  • Employer’s statement (with the position, salary and working experience) or statement from the university or school
  • Statement of leave from work or academic leave at the university for the dates of traveling to the USA
  • Marriage certificate
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • National identity document
  • Documents of the ownership or participating in business in your country
  • Documents confirming the ownership of expensive property in your country

How to behave at the interview

Stay confident and friendly. Be prepared well to the interview. Know answers to any potential question in advance. Don’t create the impression that you are going to the USA with the purpose to immigrate. At the interview, especially when getting the student visa F-1 they can start speaking English with you immediately. If you feel that language barrier can disturb your interview, say that at the moment you feel more confident when speaking your mother language and ask to use it.

After the interview

If the visa is approved

At the end of the interview a visa officer will tell you, if your visa is approved or not. If it is approved, the consulate reserves your passport to paste in the visa. After that, usually in 1-3 days, you will get your passport in the way specified, when signing in for the interview.

If the visa is denied

If the visa is denied, the passport is returned immediately, and usually the reason for the denial is explained. In case of failure, you can apply again. Learn more on www.ustraveldocs.com in the section “FAQ” → “Visa Refusals”.

Additional processing

In rare cases, the consulate carries out additional administrative processing. Most of all, it is completed within one month. According to the reviews, usually the consulate checks people, who have specific knowledge in science and technologies. See more on www.ustraveldocs.com in the section “Applying for a nonimmigrant visa” → “Application Pending Further Action”.

U.S. tourist visa B1/B2

How to choose language courses in the USA?

How to enroll into a university in the USA?

U.S. student visa F-1

The student visa F-1 is the most common type of visa for studying in the USA. With it, you can take language courses, study at colleges, universities and private high schools.

Student visa F-1 to the USA pasted in into the passport

Student visa F-1 to the USA pasted in into the passport. Source: infinitevisaph.blogspot.com

What educational institutions can you study at?

At the certified ones. These are language schools, colleges, universities or private schools in the USA that have the SEVP certification — the right to accept foreign students. All language courses on ClassTrip have this certification.

What is the validity period of the visa F-1?

The visa can be issued for the period from 1 to 5 years (depending on the education program and applicant’s country). But you may stay legally in the USA for an unlimited period of time while you are studying at a certified educational institution even if the visa has expired. The period, during which you can stay legally in the USA, is given in your I-20 form (see below). If your visa has expired and you are temporarily leaving the USA, then you will have to go through the process of getting a new visa to enter the U.S. again.

What is I-20?

The I-20 form (read “ai-twenty”)is the main document of the student that shows where the person is studying and for how long he or she can stay in the USA. The institution sends the I-20 form to the future student before getting the student visa F-1. This form is the ground for getting the student visa. If you decided to extend your study or are going to change the educational institution, you get a new I-20 with the extended period of being in the USA depending on the selected program.

Example of the I-20 form

An example of the I-20 form. Source: studyinthestates.dhs.gov

Details and restrictions

Is it allowed to work legally in the USA with the student visa?

Yes, it is, but with some restrictions. See our article Work in the USA with the student visa F-1.

Can I come to study with my family?

Yes. Your husband or wife and children under 21 years that are not married can get the F2 visas and stay with you on the U.S. territory.

Can I change my visa for another one while in the US?

Yes. For this, you need to apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on their website.

Does the visa F-1 have any additional restrictions?

It is necessary to attend classes. If the attendance is less than 80%, the visa may be cancelled.

How to get the student visa?

Read the article How to get the U.S. student visa F-1.