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Must I first obtain permission from the USCIS to obtain an F-1 student visa?

UPDATED: July 2, 2012

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If you are a foreign student seeking to enter the United States to study, you do not have to obtain advanced permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain an F-1 student visa. However, the student must obtain a certificate of eligibility, (Form I-20 A-B), from the academic institution at which the student will study. This certificate should be submitted with a non-immigrant student visa application and supporting documentation to a U.S. consulate or embassy in the student's home country.

Obtaining Permission for an F-1 Student Visa from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy

You will need the permission of the U.S. consulate or embassy to obtain an F-1 student visa. To obtain permission, make sure that you have your documentation in order before you submit your F-1 student visa application. Such documentation includes:

  • Filling out the F-1 student visa application form completely; omissions could cause delays.
  • Submit any required documentation, like transcripts of your grades and the I-20 form that the university you want to attend provided you.
  • Proof of financial ability to support yourself while in school.
  • Required photos.
  • Required fees.

After the embassy or consulate receives your application for an F-1 student visa, you will be required to attend an interview. During or after the interview you may be photographed and electronically fingerprinted. If issues arise during the application process, you may be required to submit additional documentation. Once your application is approved, the embassy or consulate will issue a student visa. This student visa gives you permission to enter the United States. After the student visa is issued, the student may simply apply at the border for admission to the United States, just as any non-immigrant would.

F-1 Student Visa Requirements

Once in the United States, you must comply with the terms of your F-1 student visa. For example, you cannot work off-campus during your first year at school. Violations of the terms of your F-1 student visa can cause you to fall out of status. This means that the USCIS will then have the authority to remove you from the country, despite the original permission you received from the U.S. embassy or consulate. You should protect your F-1 student visa status to avoid any issues with the USCIS. 

Getting Help from an Immigration Attorney

If you do not understand the rules associated with your F-1 student visa, consult an immigration attorney who can advise you of the current rules and requirements for maintaining your F-1 student visa.

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