F-1 VISA (Student)

What is F-1 Visa?

The F-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows international students to enter the US to study. It is the most popular type of student visas for individuals seeking to study at US university or college. Applicants can only apply for the F-1 visa after an accredited US education institution accepts the individuals application. All study institutions must also be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The length of stay awarded on an F-1 visa will vary depending on the duration of the course in which the student is enrolled. Once the academic course is completed, the student may remain in the US for up to 60 days beyond course completion date. If the student wishes to stay in the US longer, they must apply fir Optional Practical Training (OPT).

To be eligible to apply for an E-3 visa, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The college or the university where you plan to study needs to be approved by SEVP Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution while your academic term is in session.
  • 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.
    • You must prove you have sufficient funds available to finance your studies and living expenses while in the US.
    • Your passport should be valid for US travel for at least six months after your program completion date.
    • You are required to have a residence in your home country to return to following the completion of your degree.


How to Apply
  1. Applicant must first get accepted to a SEVP-certified US university
    • University provides I-20 form for applicant to fill out which documents study plans and provides supporting information about the applicants stay
  1. Applicant pays the SEVIS fee
    • The total cost for your F-1 student visa will be approximately $510, which includes the cost of the visa itself, plus SEVIS processing and maintenance fees.
  1. Applicant completes the DS-160 Visa Application
  2. Applicant schedules the visa interview
    • Click here to view common questions asked in this interview as well as tips on answering (insert link to US student visa interview page)
Types of US International Student Visas
F1 Visa
Academic Studies
J1 Visa
Practical Training
M1 Visa
Non-Academic /
Vocational Studies
The “F” visa is for academic studies. An F1 visa is issued to students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program. F1 visas are by far the most common form of international student visa in the U.S. F1 students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. F1 status allows for part-time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20 hours per week). Additionally, students can work on optional practical training (OPT) for up to one year after completion of their academic program. Students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date on the I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). A J1 visa is issued to students who need to obtain practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. J-1 student status allows for similar employment as the F1 visa, with similar restrictions, as long as permission is given by the exchange visitor program sponsor. An M1 visa is issued to a student who is going to attend a non-academic or vocational school. M-1 visa holders for technical and vocational programs are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.
Comparison between the F-1 and J-1 Status


Must have substantial (51%) institutional financial support provided specifically for the educational program to obtain the initial document and to request any extensions of the DS-2019.

Must show financial support for the entire length of program when requesting the initial document.

Any source of financial support is acceptable.

Must show financial support for the first year of the program when requesting the initial document.

Any employment on- or off-campus requires a work permit from the program sponsor. On-campus employment does not require a work permit.

Off-campus employment requires a work permit from Berkeley International Office and/or USCIS.

Academic Training is available for off campus jobs/internships related to your course of study. Maximum of 18 months of Academic Training may be used during and after your studies. An extension for up to 18 months is possible for post-doctoral research.  Off-campus work during the degree program reduces the total period of Academic Training available after program completion. During your program, Curricular Practical Training(link is external) permission is available for off campus jobs/internships related to your course of study.

Post-degree Optional Practical Training employment permission is available for a 12-month period. A job offer is not required for 12-Month OPT.

An OPT extension for an additional 24 months is possible for certain STEM majors.

J-2 dependent (spouse, child) work permission is available, but not guaranteed. Income from the dependent’s employment may be used to support the family’s customary recreational and cultural activities and related travel, among other things. Employment will not be authorized if this income is needed to support the J-1 primary status holder. F-2 dependents (spouse, child) are not eligible for any work permit.
J-1 and J-2 dependents may be subject to the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement

J-1 and J-2 dependents may also be subject to the 12-Month Bar depending on the length of the J program.

Note that the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement and 12-Month Bar are separate rules.

No Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement.

No 12-Month Bar.

J-2 dependents are eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S. F-2 spouses and children may enroll in academic programs for less than a full course of study at an SEVP-approved school(link is external). (Check with the school and their international office to be sure enrollment is less than full-time.)

F-2 spouses and children may participate in studies that are “avocational or recreational in nature”  (i.e., non-academic hobbies and recreational studies) up to and including full-time. F-2 children may attend full-time elementary or secondary school (kindergarten-12th grade).