Frequently Asked Questions about
Applying for an F-1 Visa
A visa is the page in your passport indicating that
you are qualified to apply for admission into the United States. The
visa describes the immigration category, such as an F-1 Student or J-1
Exchange Visitor. A visa is generally required for a foreign citizen to
enter the United States. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a
visa to enter the United States.)
To apply for F-1 visa, you must provide the
following documents to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy:
- Completed and signed
Form DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa
Application. Each applicant (including your family members)
should submit a separate application;
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a
validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay;
- Two photographs, meeting the
Department of State’s photo
- A letter of admission from the school where you plan to study;
- The signed Form I-20A-B issued by your school;
- A statement that you will leave the United States after the
completion of your study;
- Proof of a permanent residence in your home country, which you do
not intend to abandon.
Your school issues a Form I-20 A-B when the student
is admitted. If you need a new Form I-20, contact your school.
If you are outside of the United States, you should
apply at the U.S. embassy or consulate near you place of residence.
If you are already in the United States in another
nonimmigrant status, you may apply for a change of status to F-1. You
should first apply to study at a school approved by the USCIS. If you
are admitted, the school will issue you a Form I-20A-B. You should
submit the Form I-20 and a Form I-539 Change of Status Application to
the USCIS. If your application is approved, the USCIS will send you a
new Form I-94.
Yes, you may generally apply for an F-1 visa in a
“third country” other than your home country. If you have overstayed
your visa, however, the 'visa overstay' provisions of the Illegal
Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) require you
to return to your home country.
The processing time for an F-1 visa depends on the
consulate where you are applying and the results of background and
security check. You may be able to receive your F-1 visa in a few days,
or it may take weeks or longer.
There are no specific documents that indicate your
intent to return to your home country. You are more likely to be
approved for an F-1 visa if you maintain closer ties to your home
country than to the United States. You can show this in many ways,
- Showing that your immediate family members live in your home
- Proving that you own property and or maintain a bank account in
your home country;
- Demonstrating that you are likely to get a job at home in your
field of study after graduation, such as evidence of job searches or
interviews you have done);
- Visiting home frequently (such as every year or 18 months); and,
- Maintaining memberships in social or cultural organizations at
home while you have studied in the United States.