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Everything you need to know about F-1 Visas

Students wishing to study in the United States must know the F-1 student visa application process. There are currently over one million international students studying abroad in the United States, and with some preparation and guidance, you can join them. To help you get started, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to the US visa to help you understand what the F-1 visa, F-1 visa rules, and F-1 visa requirements are.

About F-1 Visa

The F-1 Student Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows international students to enter the US and study at an institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This is the most popular type of student visa for students wishing to study at a US university or college, and you can apply for your F-1 visa as soon as a recognized US institution accepts your application.

As an F-1 student, the length of your stay will vary depending on the program you enroll in. The I-20 form provided by the university you want to attend will list the expiration date of your program. You need to earn your degree before the expiration date of enrollment and it will give you an outline of how long you can stay in the United States.

After you graduate, you may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This will allow you to work in the United States for up to 12 months in a field related to your studies. For STEM graduates, you may request an additional two years of work in a related field. If you do not have an extension or additional training, you must return to your home country within 60 days of graduation. If you want to know more, Shore light can help you explore what you can do with your F-1 visa after graduation.


There are several F-1 visa rules to keep in mind if you plan to apply for a F-1 student visa. You must meet these requirements for your application to be accepted:

Institution certification—The college or the university where you plan to study needs to be approved by SEVP Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

Full-time enrollment—You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution while your academic term is in session.

English language proficiency—You must meet the required English language proficiency score of the institution you are attending or be enrolled in courses that will help you improve your English proficiency.

Sufficient funding—You must prove you have sufficient funds available to finance your studies and living expenses while in the US.

Valid passport—Your passport should be valid for US travel for at least six months after your program completion date.

Home country residency—You are required to have a residence in your home country to return to following the completion of your degree.

Before you begin your F-1 visa application, you must take the following steps:

Get accepted by a SEVP-certified institution before submitting your visa application. When you are accepted, you will receive your I-20 form, which you will need to apply for your F-1 visa.

Pay your SEVIS fee.

Complete your DS-160 visa application.

Schedule your visa interview.

Attend your visa interview.

If you are applying for a F-1 visa from India, Shorelight’s F-1 visa for Indian students guide is for you.

Once these steps are completed, you will be ready to complete and submit your F-1 student visa application.

Application Process

  1. Get Accepted and Get Your I-20

The F-1 student visa process starts when you get accepted to a SEVP-certified US university. SEVP certification is the US government’s way of proving that your university is accredited and has the proper resources to provide you with an education.

Once you are accepted, your university will provide your I-20 form. This form documents your study plans and provides supporting information about your stay.

The following information is recorded in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) when your I-20 is issued:

Your SEVIS ID number

Your program start and end dates

Your intended program of study

Your funding sources

Cost of attendance at your school of choice

Other personal information

Your university provides this information based off what you submit in your university application materials.

As soon as you receive your I-20, make sure all your information is accurate, and then sign the bottom of the first page. It can take a long time to fix an error on your I-20 and if something is wrong, you may not be granted access into the country. Retain your form I-20 when you travel to the US. You will need it to enter the US, to work, and for other activities (e.g., like getting a US driver’s license).

Helpful resources: Confirm your US university is a SEVP-accredited institution

Source: Shorelight

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