F1 Visa for International Students: Documents Required, How to Apply

F1 Visa for International Students: Documents Required, How to Apply

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Aishwarya Bhatnagar
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Mar 13, 2024 17:37 IST

Pursue your American higher education dream with an F1 Visa. Open doors to universities, colleges, and language programs. The F1 Visa grants temporary stay for dedicated students like you. Secure yours with strong ties to home, financial proof, and academic records. Start early, follow the steps, and ace your interview. Welcome to the exciting world of US education.

f1 student visa

International students who qualify for US universities admission for a full-time course, have to apply for an F1 visa. To study in the USA, an F1 visa is basically for academic students and upon obtaining this visa, students can study in the USA. The F1 visa is valid for five years and upon expiration, students can re-apply for an extension. The application process for an F1 visa can be completed online and upon selection, applicants will have to appear for an interview with the officials. Check out this F1 visa guide for international students, and get all the details before you apply!

What is F1 Student Visa in USA?

An F1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to students willing to pursue their studies in the US. The F1 visa is a student visa that is given to international students who wish to attend educational institutions like universities, colleges, private elementary schools, high schools, language training programs or any other academic institution in the US. If the candidate has received acceptance from any of the above institutes then he/she can apply for a student visa in USA or an F1 visa upon receiving their I-20 form.

F1 Visa Qualifications

In order to get an F1 Visa, the applicants need to qualify for some specific criteria during the F1 Visa interview:

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Criteria Fulfilment for Getting F-1 Visa in the USA

Foreign Residence

The candidate must have residence in a foreign country and must intend to return there upon the completion of the course.

Financial Support

The candidate must demonstrate that he/she has enough finances to support his/her studies and stay in the US.

Sponsoring Education Institution

The candidate is expected to study at the educational institution through which the visa was granted.

Strong relation to home country

The candidate must prove that he/she has a strong relationship with his/her home country and they have their family, assets (like home, etc.) and bank accounts in their home country.

Documents Required for F1 Visa

You need some documents while applying for an F1 Visa. The major documents cover your personal information, academic background, professional documents, and financial documents. It is always recommended to remain prepared with all the documents handy. You can read about all the documents required at the time of F1 Visa interview.

Advantages of F1 Visa

  • Unlike the H1-B Visa, there is no cap on the F1 Visa, therefore, all the students who have successfully applied and fulfilled the required criteria can get this Visa.
  • Students can also transfer to any other school if they are accepted to a better school.
  • Students holding an F1 Visa can not only live and study in the US legally but can also do various other things that they will require while staying there. Like opening a bank account, getting a driver's license, and travelling in and out of the US anytime without any restrictions.
  • They are also allowed to work with certain rules and restrictions.

How to Get an F1 Visa?

The F1 Visa process is time-consuming, so, it is suggested to start this process as early as possible. At times it can be wrapped up in 15 days or it can also take up to 2 months depending on the availability of the dates. Also, make sure that the college you are applying must be recognized by SEVP.

Once the candidate receives acceptance from the university, he/she will be officially enrolled in the SEVP. Then the candidate needs to show one year of tuition fees and living expenses. Once the university checks the financials, it issues an I-20 form to the candidate after the candidate can apply for the F1 Student Visa.

How to Apply for an F1 Visa?

You need to follow certain steps to apply for the F1 Visa. Once your admission is confirmed and you get an I-20 form from the educational institution where you wish to study, you can apply for the F1 Visa.

Candidates can apply for a student visa in the USA a year before the program's start date. Also, make sure not to delay the process, as the complete process including the visa processing can take time. So, to wait for the last moment, as the 120-day countdown begins, make sure you apply for the F1 Student Visa. However, students are not allowed to enter the US territory on a Student Visa before 30 days from the beginning of your program.

  1. The I-20 form is the most important document you need to apply for the F1 Visa interview. The school sends two forms. Those who require to apply for F-1 and M-1 visas get an I-20 form and those who require a J-1 receive a DS-2019 Form. Once you get any of these forms, you can apply to the US Embassy or consulate which comes under the jurisdiction of their place of permanent residence. The university itself will mail the correct form to you. You will also receive SEVIS ID on your form along with your university/school's address and other information related to your program.
  2. After paying the SEVIS fee which is USD 350 (INR 28,990) and getting a receipt, you can apply for a DS-160 visa form. It is an online application form.
  3. Print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
  4. Pay the F1 student visa fee of USD 185 (INR 15,323) which can be paid through NEFT or at authorized AXIS bank/Citi bank locations.
  5. Schedule a Biometric appointment and Interview appointment.
  6. For the Biometric appointment, you will be required to appear in person to get your photograph clicked for the visa and get your fingerprints scanned.
  7. At the Personal interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about your choice, of course, college, finances, and intent of coming back. If he/she is convinced, they will keep your passport with them to get the visa stamped. Here is a guide to help you prepare for your F1 Visa Interview.

F1 Visa Processing Time

The processing time for an F1 Visa is quite less in comparison to other visas. In the majority of cases, candidates come to know about the faith of their visa immediately after the interview. Whether you will get the visa or not, you will come to know about it once the interview is over. If the visa is rejected then the visa officer will hand over the documents mentioning the reason for denial. In certain cases, processing and knowing the result of the visa can take time, in that case, you have to be patient and wait for the result. Check out for more details at: US Student Visa Appointment in India.

Working on F1 Visa

Students cannot work off-campus during the first year of their program. They are allowed to work for 20 hours per week. However, during holidays and breaks, they can work up to 40 hours per week. Students are allowed to work for a commercial firm that provides services to the university/college, like a cafeteria or bookstore. Those who want to work outside the campus have two options:

  • Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)

CPT allows students to work or intern as part of their academic curriculum. The internship/practical training is mandatory for completing their degree. Moreover, the internship must be related to their area of study and also be approved by their university or educational institution.

Candidates are allowed to start their Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) after completing 9 months of enrollment in their program. CPT is semester-specific, it is only authorized on a semester basis i.e. fall, spring or summer CPT. Its duration is from one semester up to 364 days.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The OPT is designed to allow international students to work in the US. With OPT, students are allowed to work maximum for a period of 12 months. Also, one can only work in their field of study and must get a job within 90 days after graduation. Those who are studying STEM subjects can get an OPT extension for another 24 months. One can only start working under OPT if the candidate and his/her University's dedicated official have filed for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). You have to fill out form I-765. Also, if you are lucky, your employer will sponsor your H1-B Visa after which you can also file for a Green Card.

Related read: Study in US: Difference between CPT and OPT

Dependents of F1 Visa Holders in the USA

Spouses and children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany the aspirant in the US for the duration of his/her stay require F2 or M2 visas. A spouse on F2 status cannot enrol for a full course of study but can take classes that are vocational or recreational in nature like pursuing a hobby or interest, such as cooking or tennis. Children on F2 status are allowed to attend elementary, middle, or high school as full-time students. They may not enrol in a full-time course of study at a college or university.

The spouses and children of students cannot accept employment at any time during the stay period on the F2 Visa.

F1 Visa Health Insurance Requirements

There are no specific requirements set by the US Department of State for an F1 Visa. Generally, the school/ educational institution themselves decide what kind of insurance students need to take. In case, the school has not asked for any specific requirements for health insurance then the applicant themselves decide what kind of insurance they are required to take.

What you can do with an F1 Visa?

  • Change of visa status: If in case you find a job that requires a different type of visa, then F1 visa holders can change the status of their visa. In this scenario, you need to follow the instructions of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or your employer or your sponsor/reviewer.
  • Extend the period of stay: Generally, the validity of an F1 Visa is for the time period mentioned in the I-20 form or according to the duration of the course. However, if your visa does not allow you to stay for the complete duration of your course, then you have to apply for an extension of your student visa. The visa extension is given to F1 Visa holders on the pretext that they will be completing their course in the US and will also return to their home country once the course is over. 
  • Access to US healthcare: As an F1 Visa holder, you can have access to healthcare facilities in the US. Although the cost of medical facilities is one of the costliest in the world, so, the students have been advised to take an appropriate health insurance plan as suggested by your university/educational institution.

F1 Visa Rejection

If in case your visa application is rejected, then the reason for the rejection of the visa and under which section it has been denied is provided to you by the visa officer. Whether the visa is rejected because the applicant is not able to provide supporting documentation or if the candidate was not eligible for any other reason, the candidate comes to know about it immediately after the completion of the visa interview.

Reapply for F1 Visa

Those who are found ineligible for a study visa can reapply for it. If in case the visa is rejected under 221(g), in that case, the candidate needs to submit the visa application along with the visa fee again. Those who are denied visas under section 214(b) of the INA, then they can present evidence of significant changes done in the application since your last application.

US F1 Visa FAQs

Q. What all documents are required at the time of US student visa interview?

A. Following is a list of documents required during your US student visa interview:

  • A valid passport
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) confirmation page
  • Fee payment receipt
  • Photograph
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, Form I-20, or M-1 (as the case may be)
  • Additional documents include: academic transcripts, test scores, intention to depart the US after the completion of your course, and your financial proofs

Q. How much SEVIS fee do I have to pay?

A. SEVIS fee depends on your visa. Students must note the following:

  • Students, who are applying for F-1, F-3, M-1, or M-3 visa, need to pay a fee of $350
  • Students, who are applying for J-1 visa, need to pay a fee of $220
  • For special J-visa categories (subsidized payment), fee stands at $35

Q. Is SEVIS fee same as student visa fee?

A. No. SEVIS fee is different from US student visa fee. An applicant is required to pay both the fees separately. Students applying for F-1 visa need to pay a visa fee of $185 and a SEVIS fee of $350.

Q. What all institutions are covered under US F1 visa?

A. Students, who are applying to study in a university/ college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, any other academic institution (that includes a language training program), need to apply for F-1 visa. Those who wish to study in a vocational or non-academic institution need to apply for M visa.

Q. I have applied for F-1 visa. When can I enter the US after its approval?

A. A US student visa can be issued up to 120 days before the commencement of your academic course. However, you cannot enter the US more than 30 days before the beginning date of your academic course.

About the Author
Written by
Aishwarya Bhatnagar
Study Abroad Expert

Aishwarya is a professional Writer currently working as a Study Abroad Expert in the Editorial Team at Shiksha. She has over 5 years of experience and is skilled at creating Online Content with leveraged knowledge i... Read Full Bio

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All courses in US

A postgraduate in English Literature from Jamia Milla Islamia, Niha has been associated with the education industry as a student counsellor for the past eight years now. Her expertise in customer service, communicat... Read Full Bio

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Piyush Kohli

2 years ago

Hi Harvir, please elaborate on your query and let us know which course you want to pursue, so, we can assist you better.


tharun reddy

2 years ago

I'm having only 2 years of ITR. Is it enough for F1 visa interview

Reply to tharun reddy


Piyush Kohli

2 years ago

Hi Tharun, although 3 years of ITR is sufficient, if you don't have that then you can show Form 16 as well.


Jiya Ghosh

2 years ago

under education do we have to have provide details of schooling as well, if yes upto what level ?

Reply to Jiya Ghosh


Piyush Kohli

2 years ago

Hi Jiya, usually universities ask for class 10th and 12th academic scores.


Kranthi Reddy

3 years ago

Is GRE is required for an F1 visa? I only have an IELTS score as GRE is waived off for fall 2021, I got admission to a university only with my IELTS score. My question is can I attend the F1 visa interview without GRE?

Reply to Kranthi Reddy


Tejpal Singh

4 years ago

And what is the ielts requirement for getting addmession in US college .. or i should give another exam for this

Reply to Tejpal Singh


Piyush Kohli

4 years ago

Dear Tejpal, make sure to check the exact requirements of the university where you are applying before appearing for an English Language Proficiency exam. You will also get an idea of what should be your target score for the exam. If you are going for MS or MBA, also check whether you need to give