What is an F-1 visa and how does it work?

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2022 | Visas |

When you want to become a full-time student in the U.S., but have no intention of relinquishing residency in your home country, you will need an F-1 student visa to accomplish this goal.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services advises that F-1 visas are for academic students only. If you intend to enroll in a vocational educational program, you will need an M-1 student visa instead.

F-1 eligibility criteria

To receive an F-1 student visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Attend an accredited college, university or other academic institution approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • Enroll as a full-time student in this institution with the intention of ultimately receiving your degree
  • Have sufficient funds to support yourself during your entire stay as a student
  • Have proficiency in the English language or enroll in English proficiency courses
  • Maintain your permanent residency status in your home country

F-1 student employment

As an F-1 student, you can hold an on-campus job any time while a student, but you cannot hold an off-campus job until you complete your first academic year. Even then, you can only hold one of the following types of off-campus jobs:

  • Optional Practical Training, i.e., OPT
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training Extension, i.e., STEM OPT
  • Curricular Practical Training, i.e., CPT

In any event, both the person at your school authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and the USCIS must approve your job before you begin working. In addition, the job must relate to your area of study.