F1 Visa: A Complete Guide on Application and Interview

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The United States of America is one of the most preferred countries internationally to obtain a higher education. Many prestigious and globally high-ranking institutions are located in the US, making it more challenging for applicants to apply and then get shortlisted. Applicants must fulfil a set of requirements or eligibility criteria to avail its high-quality education. They must also obtain an F1 student visa, valid for the duration of education. The US F1 visa application process can be confusing at times, and this article aims to provide a few pointers to aid aspirants.

Under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) has been designed to monitor non-immigrant students and exchange visitors. SEVIS ensures that records of non-immigrant admissions of students are maintained, alongside providing a mechanism to report violators of visitor status.

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What is F1 Visa (USA)?

Individuals who currently reside in their respective countries can enter the US by obtaining a non-immigrant visa for their brief visit to the country, or an immigrant visa to permanently relocate to the US. Students aspiring to receive their education in the US require an F visa or M visa, depending on the nature of the course they have enrolled in. 

The F-1 nonimmigrant student visa of the INA is offered to international students admitted to SEVP-approved educational organisations on US soil. An F-2 nonimmigrant visa is provided to foreign citizens who are the spouse or child of an F-1 student.

What is the validity of f1 visa? 

Duration/validity: The duration and validity of the F-1 student visa are subject to variations, based on these factors:

  • An applicant that has been registered as a student of a SEVP-approved educational institute is eligible for the F-1 visa throughout that course. They are qualified to land on US soil up to the 30 days before the starting date of their educational program/course until the last date entered on their I-20.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be allowed as an additional extension which is usually exclusive to the course’s completion. Up to 12 months of OPT can be offered to students applying for an F-1 visa*.
  • *Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is inclusive to the course, wherein the student can work towards curricular credits. But, if CPT is performed full-time for 12 months, it will discard the OPT duration.
  • A grace period of 60 days is additionally offered to F-1 visa holders to update their visa status or depart from the US. This grace period is initiated when the OPT or degree has been completed, as per the I-20.*

*The duration of authorised stay depends on the validity of the F-1 rules and does not rely on the expiration date of the F-1 visa. F-1 visa might expire before the validity/status expires, or the validity might expire before the expiration date of F-1.

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F1 Visa: A Complete Guide on Application and Interview

DS 160 for an F1 Student Visa 

Consular Electronic Application Center website is responsible for hosting, managing, and authenticating DS160 forms for the US F1 visa application process. It is the online nonimmigrant visa application portal where we need to upload all the documents necessary for the application for an F1 visa. Documents including passport, CV/resume, travel itinerary, SEVIS ID, I-20 are required to be eligible for DS160. The applicant must electronically sign the application form for DS160. The DS160 confirmation number allotted to the applicant after the acceptance of the application is critical for the further process of confirmation.

How to Get an F1 Visa?

It is suggested to start the process as early as possible because the complete application process can take almost a year. Make sure the college that you are applying is recognized by SEVP. Once you get the acceptance by the university you will be enrolled in the SEVP after which you can deposit your application fees. After the payment of fees, you will receive an I-20 form from the university and then, you can apply to the F1 study visa.

How to Apply for F1 Visa USA? 

The following 4 step process needs to be completed by applicants, to have an F1 visa issued for their education in the US.

  1. Get accepted into a SEVP-approved school/university:  The university that the applicant plans on attending has to be a part of the official list of schools of SEVP. The academic institution has to fulfil a particular set of requirements to authenticate the quality of education provided and its ability to manage international students.
  2. Pay SEVIS fees and apply for I-20 with Designated School Official (DSO): SEVIS Fees of 350$ need to be paid, and the DSO appointed by the college must authenticate and verify the credentials of the applicant through an I-20 form.
  3. Complete F-1 visa application form (DS160): You must use the Consular Electronic Application Centre (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/) website for completing the DS-160 form, which is particularly important for the issuance of F1 visa USA.
  4. Schedule and Attend F-1 visa interview: An interview would be hosted at a Visa Application Centre with an officer who will personally inquire to the applicant about their purpose of travel and confirm the basic details provided against the documented paperwork, to authenticate and verify the F-1 visa application.

Documentation and Checklist for F1 Visa USA

  1. A passport
  2. The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160
  3. The application fee payment receipt
  4. A passport photo
  5. A Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) Student Status (Form 1-20)
  6. Information about the academic major for which the applicant has been selected

F1 Visa Interview Process and Questions

The scheduled interview for F1 visa application is obligatory for the issuance of the F1 visa. To get an F1 visa, you need to qualify some criteria during the interview which are as follows: 

Foreign Residence: It is necessary that you have a residence in the foreign country to return after the completion of your course. 

Financial Support: The candidate must have enough finance to support their study in the US. 

Sponsoring Education Institution: The candidate can only study at that educational institution for which the visa is granted. 

Relation with Home Country: The candidate must have a strong relation with their home country and they should have their family, assets (home etc.) and bank accounts in the home country.

The interview questions usually relate to – 

  • The confirmation of the authenticity of the documents provided
  • Confirmation of the intended purpose of travel
  • Generalised questions such as the reason for the specific choice of the academic course, college, etc.
  • Sponsor for the education, reason of choice of the US for schooling, specialisations within the course, etc.
  • Current employer, the reason for the continuance of education, an explanation for why this education from the US institute is relevant and requisite for this particular career.

F1 Visa Fees and Costs

F1 visa fees include the following costs:

  1. F1 visa fees: 160$ (11,768 INR)
  2. SEVIS fees through I-20: 350$ (25,743 INR)

What are the Advantages of F1 Visa?

  1. There is no cap on F1 visa unlike H-1B visa. Students who successfully fulfil all the required criteria can easily get the visa.
  2. Students can transfer to any other school of their choice if they get accepted.
  3. Students with F1 visa can legally live in the US along with other benefits like opening a bank account, getting a driver license, traveling out of US and back anytime without any restrictions.
  4. Students with F1 visa with them are allowed to work in the US with some rules.

The Expedited US F1 Visa, Emergency F1 Visa to the US from India

To be eligible for an Expedited F1 visa/Emergency F1 visa, the purpose of the travel should be to ‘initiate or resume’ a valid program of academic study in the United States within 60 days, in an event when no regular visa appointments are available. You must fill the Expedited Visa form, and explain the reason for urgency. Ensure that the nature of the urgency matches the guidelines for the form. This option is restricted and limited to only those students that are within 60 days of the start date of their course. Also, applicants who haven’t been rejected an F1 visa application in the past six months alone are eligible for the expedited visa. After receiving an email that indicates an acceptance response from the ICE for the expedited visa appointment, the appointment must be scheduled at an early date to complete the process.

Essential documentation:

  • Original Form I-20 confirming the start date of the program within 60 days

F1 Visa Rules

Based on the guidelines set forth by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE), the following set of F1 visa rules must be fulfilled before an F1 visa will be issued to the applicant:

  • The applicant must be an attendee at an academic institution and must be accepted into the educational centre officially.
  • The applicant must be a full-time student at an educational institute that is approved by the USICE for accepting international students.
  • Sufficient financial support, requisite for completion of the educational course, must be displayed with official documents (such as bank statements) 
  • Applicants must prove that they do NOT intend to abandon their foreign residency.*

*180 days of unlawful presence that arises from illegally staying in the US despite a lapse of the last date specified on the I-20 form can result in a bar from re-entering the US again. Instead of risking their application by violating F1 visa rules, applicants can apply for an F1 visa renewal. 

F1 Visa Renewal in the USA, How to Reapply for F1 visa

For renewal of F1 visa USA, the procedure for application of a new one involves the same US Government’s ICE online visa application portal as given above. The process follows the same path as creating a new profile, repayment of SEVIS fees and F1 non-transferable and non-refundable fees, and following the same procedure as done for the first attempt.

The process itself is time-consuming, tedious, intricate, confusing, and often involves monetary penalties for the aspirants (fees for changes in the visa forms due to discrepancies). The United States of America is a prime destination for academicians from international backgrounds, especially Indians. Leap Finance is dedicated to providing funding for the further education of young, driven, and motivated Indians who require funds for their education. International education loan packages are designed to suit the unique requirements of students. We also offer a US bank account exclusively for undergraduate, postgraduate and masters aspirants, before they arrive at the educational institution.

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Kanika Singh

Kanika took a detour from academics for the corporate world. Now she works as a senior editor specialising in content creation, marketing, and strategy.

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