THE STUDENT VISA FOR ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES
the most common visa after tourist for entry into the United States is
the F-1 Visa granted to allow entry into the United States for full time
academic or language student enrollment in a program leading to a degree
or certificate. The visa can
normally be issued quickly, allows transfer from one school to another or
to switch academic programs (with notification to the INS) and even
allows part time work on campus. Accompanying relatives can also obtain
appropriate visas and one may travel in and out of the United
States until completion of the
studies. If one wants to attend school in the United
States and have a relative
accompany during the time in school, the visa is not difficult to obtain.
The Basic Visa
Procedure and Requirements:
While scrutiny of the visa
applicants has been increased since the terrorist attacks of September
11, this visa remains an excellent way to enter and remain in the United States and take advantage of the
excellent universities and colleges available. It is vital to note,
however, that one must remain in the school and actively take the
programs in order to remain subject to the visa and INS has investigated
and deported students who enrolled in a school but then failed to
adequately attend the classes or take the examinations. It is probably a
good idea, in this new world of increased legal scrutiny, to obtain
competent legal advice for filing for the application and adhering to the
requirements. Failure to abide by the rules can result in deportation and
banning from the United States entirely for five years.
There are drawbacks. One
must first be accepted as a student by an approved school in the United States before one can apply for the F-1
status, though this application can be made while still in the United States under a tourist visa. (Commonly,
prospective students come and visit the campuses while on a tourist visa,
and, if admitted, remain in the United States to apply for the F-1 Visa.) Be
sure to let INS know, when you get your tourist Visa, that you are going
to look for schools since they may object later on if you seek to alter a
tourist visa to a student visa.
One can not work legally
off campus without special permission and must attend only the school for
which the visa was approved. While accompanying relatives may stay in the
States with the student, said relatives can not work. There
are also restrictions on attending public elementary or secondary (high)
schools since the United States does not wish to have its public
high schools accessible to any foreign student who wishes to attend.
The thrust of the visa is
to allow attendance at a college or university and it is expected the
student will pay full tuition unless receiving a scholarship from the
There are no quota
restrictions. Applications filed at consulates are usually approved
within a week, often within two days. Applications filed in the United States may require several months to be
The duration of the visa
depends on how long you retain student status and that, in turn, depends
on the program you are in. One receives a I-94 card upon entry into the United States and normally it is stamped
“D/S” for duration of the student status. That means the visa
holder may remain in the United States in a student status for as long
as it takes to complete the education objectives PROVIDED the student
finishes within what the INS and school consider a “reasonable
period of time.”
Practically speaking, the
visas are issued for the estimated length of time it will take to
complete the program. Consulates use their own judgment in deciding the
expiration time for the visa.
Once in the United States, the student may remain in
student status without requesting an extension for up to the date
indicated on the documentation from the school plus sixty days PROVIDED
the student maintains a full time student status and does not become
inadmissible or deportable.
Extensions beyond the time
limit of the visa are possible and are applied for at the school. To
receive an extension, the student must demonstrate that he or she remains
enrolled in the program and has good cause for not completing the program
in the time previously specified.
Criteria for F-1 Status:
- One must be already accepted by the school and
have enough money to study full time without working.
- One must be able to speak, read and write
English well enough to understand the course work or, alternatively,
if the school has special tutoring in the native tongue, this may
overcome language barriers.
- The applicant must prove that he or she intends
to return to the home country after completion of the studies.
Each approved school has a
person on staff known as the designated school official (DSO) who has
primary responsibility for interacting with the student.
One can alter one’s course
of study within the same school without notifying the INS so long as the
course would have qualified in the first place.
One can not alter schools
without applying to the INS for permission.
One can not work outside
the school without a special application to the INS showing need.
If illness or remarkable
circumstances require a lesser class load, that is allowed and no special
application need be made to the INS but the INS does have the right to
challenge such a reduction in class so it is wise to get a written
approval from the DSO indicating that it is medically necessary for a
reduction in class load.
Violation of the Rules Can Bar You from the United States:
Many of the regulations
regarding student visas bear stiff penalties if violated, including
barring admission back into the United States for five years. Further, under
new regulations, an INS inspector at the airport may summarily bar entry
to anyone requesting admission into the United States and there is no
judicial review of that decision if the inspector thinks the applicant is
lying about anything connected with entering the United States OR if the
applicant does not have proper documentation to support entry into the
United States in the category requested.
If the inspector so
excludes an applicant, the person may not be admitted into the United States for five years.
It is thus vital to fully
understand the conditions of your visa and make complete and full
disclosure of all vital information. Legal advice is strongly recommended,
as well as a full briefing of the applicant as to the requirements so
that any examination at the border will not result in this barring of
entry due to confusion or panic.
Green Card Possible?
is no inherent advantage in applying for a Green Card while on a student
visa, though it is certainly allowed. Recall, however, that the rationale
of the student visa is to be in the United States on a temporary
basis only and
if one applies for a Green card the INS may require proof of two things: that
you did not enter the United States intending to apply for permanent
residency AND that you will leave once your studies are completed if you
do not get a Green Card. This is not easy to prove
and the INS has the right to retract your student visa if you fail to
demonstrate both intentions.
On the other hand,
obtaining a degree of higher education may certainly improve your chances
of a Green Card under the various other categories of applications,
Assuming you can be admitted
to the correctly qualified school and can afford it, it is relatively
easy to obtain the F-1 Visa and, as in so much in life, one must simply
carefully and accurately follow the application process and conform to
the specific rules. Failure to do so may not only eliminate the chance
for an F-1 status, but may eliminate any chance under any Visa to enter
States for five years. Nevertheless, if done correctly, this
is by far the easiest visa to obtain aside from tourist or temporary