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Students Coming to America: Understanding The F1 Visa

In preparation for your study abroad trip to the U.S., you'll likely need to attain an F1 visa. Here is a breakdown of what to expect.

Jul 20, 2018, 12:07 PM

This article is not a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney. We recommend you consult a lawyer or other appropriate professional if you want legal or immigration advice.

You’ve gotten into the school of your dreams – what happens next? This is a time for celebration and preparation. For those looking to come over to the U.S. to study full-time, you need to apply for an F-1 Visa.

There are three different visas available for students coming to America – the J1, F1 and M1. The most popular is the F1 visa. This visa is for non-immigrant students coming to the U.S. for academic and language training purposes. You must be coming as a full-time student in either middle school, high school or for university with an end goal of a degree. You should consider the F2 visa for any dependents that may be accompanying you.

Applying for an F1 Visa

There are several steps involved in the F1 Visa process. You will begin by applying to the school of your choice. Once you receive confirmation of acceptance, the school will issue form I-20. Schools that issue I-20 forms are recognized as education institutions by the U.S. and confirm your full-time student status.

The I-20 form is an eligibility certificate for nonimmigrant student status. You will need to complete this document and pay the I-901 service fee which can range from $180-$200. This service fee covers administrative costs for the visa processing. Typically, your school will help you with the required documents for your visa. These include your active passport, school acceptance letter and a financial statement. You will need to prove that either you, your family, or a sponsor can provide financial stability for a minimum of one full year to study in the states. If you chose to have a sponsor, you will need to include their bank statement. Make sure you bring these documents with you to your interview. Make sure you do not miss a step for applying for your F1 visa by following up with the Department of State website here.

F1 Visa Interview

If you are between the ages of 14 and 79, you will need to set up an interview with the U.S. Embassy in your home country. In addition to your documents, you will need to show that you have an appropriate level of English-speaking proficiency. If you are coming to the U.S. for a language intensive course such as English as a second language (ESL), they will typically waive this requirement. Finally, you will need to show your intention to come back to your home country once you’ve met your educational goals. You can prove intent by showing property ownership, family in your home country, or a business. The U.S. wants to make sure you will not remain abroad when your visa expires.

F1 Visa Length

Your visa is valid for your D/S – duration of study. Once you have completed your goals, you have a 60- day grace period to apply for another visa, prepare for your country return or transfer to another university. Once you are in the U.S., you will hear the term F1 status being used instead of F1 visa.

Do I Need Health Insurance with My F1 Visa?

The U.S. Department of State does not require specific student health insurance for F1 visa holders. However, most educational institutions have their own mandatory health insurance requirements. Some will recommend a university sponsored health insurance plan that meets these requirements. For these schools that have their own sponsored plans, you may have the option to waive their offered insurance plan if you can show proof of another comparable coverage plan. IMG international student health insurance plans often exceed coverage, or offer a less expensive alternative to university sponsored health plans.  Our Student Health Advantage plan offers eligible insureds, whose initial coverage is at least 3 months, the option to renew monthly up to 60 months. The maximum renewable duration is 60 continuous months (if the premium is paid when due and the insured continues to meet the eligibility requirements of the plan).

Choosing a health insurance plan may seem like another hoop to jump through, but your health care and the financial implications of it are very important. In the U.S., you are required to pay for medical expenses out of pocket. Protect yourself from a financial headache with one of our student plans:

Keeping your F1 Status

There are certain rules you must follow when studying abroad with a F1 visa. The following are ways you may violate your visa rules or even be terminated from your program:

  • Unauthorized employment – F1 visa holders may only work 20 hours a week on campus during the school year. You can work 40 hours during school breaks. You are not allowed to work off campus.
  • Failure to enroll – if for any reason you do not enroll in the following semester, you must immediately notify the school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Failure to complete transfer – if you do not complete your transfer, you must notify your original school and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Unauthorized schedule change – you must be a full-time student to keep your F1 status. If you drop below the guidelines and course load of a full-time student, you will lose your status. This is the most common way that F1 statuses are violated
  • School expulsion or suspension
  • Change address without notification – You must notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of any address change. This includes switching dormitories, apartments, and housing units.

If you have violated any of these terms, do not wait until you receive a notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. You should be proactive by applying for reinstatement before you are notified.

If you have any additional questions about which insurance plan is right for your study abroad experience, contact the IMG team for more help at (317) 655-4500!

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