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FAQs - F-1 Visas

F-1 Visa Applications

F-1 IMMIGRATION STATUS

F-1 MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

F-1 Travel

F-1 VISA APPLICATIONS

Where and how do I apply for an F-1 visa?

You will need to apply at the nearest U.S. consulate which has jurisdiction over your residence abroad. Appointment scheduling procedures and times vary from consulate to consulate so you will need to check for details at the appropriate U.S. consulate nearest you: Click HERE for a List of Embassies and Consulates.
NOTE: Canadian citizens are not required to obtain actual visas from a U.S. consulate and only need an issued I-20 document from Dartmouth's Office of Visa & Immigration Services.

How much are the F-1 visa application fees?

There are two different application fees for F-1 visas. There is a one-time "SEVIS" fee of $200 (as of 2008); as well a standard world-wide "Machine Readable Visa" fee (MRV fee) is $160.00 (as of 2012). More information on MRV fees can be found online at: Travel.State.Gov, and for the SEVIS fee: Click HERE.

Are there any other costs or fees associated with my F-1 visa application?

Depending on your own country's policy on fees for U.S. citizens, there may also be a "reciprocity fee" that you will have to pay.  Also, depending on how far away the nearest U.S. consulate is from your home you may also need to allow for addition travel and accommodation costs to get to your nearest consulate city.

How long will it take to get my visa?

This depends on many factors, among them, what type of visa, which U.S. consulate you are using, and whether your application will be subject to an additional security clearance check. In general, most U.S. visas are approved and issued within seven to ten business days, though some can take a little longer. If you are subjected to an additional background security check, such clearances tend to be approved within approximately four to eight weeks. Visit Travel.State.Gov on Visa Wait Times- for Interview Appointments and Processing.

I applied for the visa, and now they tell me that before my visa is issued my application has to go through "administrative processing" What does this mean?

This means that your visa application has been subjected to an additional security clearance procedure. In general, this will add at least between two and four weeks to the visa application process. Unfortunately, there is nothing Dartmouth College, or anyone else can do to expedite this process. Please let our office know if your application is delayed due to a security clearance check. We may need to issue you a new I-20 form with a deferred start date if you are delayed significantly.

What documents do I need to take with me to an F-1visa application appointment?

Each specific U.S. consulate's website will tell you what exactly to bring to the visa appointment (as well as what is not allowed inside the consulate). In general, F-1 visa applicants should bring the following:

  • The completed MRV visa application form(s), downloadable from the appropriate U.S. consulate website
  • I-20 form, issued by Dartmouth College,
  • Your passport valid for at least six months into the future,
  • Proof (receipt) of the $200 SEVIS fee payment (see additional information above)
  • Financial evidence confirming the financial details itemized in sections #7 & #8 on your I-20 form
  • Evidence of sufficient English language ability
  • Evidence of non-immigrant intent (evidence that you have strong ties to your home country, and that you plan to return there after your U.S. program of study
  • F-1 students should bring proof of acceptance to your Dartmouth degree program

I've heard that I may need to prove that I intend to return to my home country after I finish my F-1 program. What kind of evidence would be acceptable as "proof of non-immigrant intent"?

This is often somewhat intangible evidence that you have strong personal, financial, academic and or professional ties to your home country, and that you plan to return there after your Dartmouth degree program. This type of evidence can vary widely. Some suggestions include:

  • A simple statement that you plan to leave the U.S. at the end of your program, and return to your home country
  • Evidence of property or real estate or land ownership in your home country
  • Evidence of financial holdings in your home country
  • Ownership of a car or other liquid assets
  • Spouse, children or significant other family relatives in your home country
  • Permanent employment offer in the home country
  • Strong religious or civic ties to your local community

My spouse and/or dependent children are applying for F-2 dependent visas. Do they also need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee?

No - F-2 dependents do not need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee. They will, however each need to pay the standard MRV $160 visa application fee.

My spouse and/or dependent children are applying for F-2 dependent visas. What documents do they need to bring to the visa application appointment?

F-1 applicants who are also having a spouse or children apply for F-2 dependent visas should bring marriage certificates (translated into English in necessary) and birth certificates, as well as their dependents' own I-20 forms, passports and MRV visa application forms.

My F-2 spouse would like to try to get a job in the U.S. Is this allowed, and if so, how can my spouse apply for work permission in the U.S.?

F-2 dependents may not legally work in the U.S. under any circumstances.

My F-1 visa was denied because of regulation "214(b)". What does this mean?

A visa denial based on regulation 214(b) generally means that the applicant has failed to prove non-immigrant intent. This means that the presiding U.S. consular officer was not convinced that you intended to leave the U.S. at the end of your degree program. You may reapply for the visa if you have new information relating to your nonimmigrant intent.

My visa was denied. Can I reapply?

Yes, in general, if your visa is denied, you may reapply. However, you should be sure that you have new evidence or information before you reapply. If you are denied a visa please inform our office as soon as possible.

Do I need to travel home to get a new visa if my F-1 visa expires while I am in the U.S.?

No, as long as you are maintaining full-time enrollment and satisfactory progress in your degree program, your F-1 status is perfectly fine, despite the fact that their F-1 visa may have expired. You would only need to obtain a new, extended visa if you have plans to depart the U.S. for a visit abroad and re-enter the U.S. You may legally remain in the U.S. if your F-1 visa has expired without any negative consequences as long as your F-1 status is still valid. (See additional section on F-1 status)

Are there exceptions to needing an F-1 visa if I travel outside of the U.S.?

Yes, under a procedure called "Automatic Revalidation" if you have extended or been approved for a change to F-1 status, you may travel only to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands (excluding Cuba) for a period of 30-days or less and then re-enter the U.S. using an expired F-1 visa. To do so, you must have in your possession:

  • A current and valid I-20 form with a valid travel signature less than one year old from your immigration advisor
  • A current and valid passport
  • A current I-94 card (if you entered the U.S. by land) or a current passport Admission stamp (if you entered by air or sea) indicating previous admission to the U.S in F-1 status

Please contact your immigration advisor at the Office of Visa and Immigration Services, if you plan to take advantage of Automatic Revalidation on an expired visa. NOTE: If you travel to Canada, Mexico and/or the Caribbean Islands you may need a visa for those countries prior to your travel. Automatic Revalidation only applies to U.S. immigration and does not exempt you from the immigration requirements of those other countries and territories.

F-1 IMMIGRATION STATUS

What is the difference between an F-1 visa stamp and F-1 status?

The difference between U.S. immigration status and a visa is an important and sometimes confusing concept. F-1 status can be extended, shortened or even changed to a different immigration status (i.e. H-1B) while you are inside the U.S., yet your F-1 visa does not have to match your corresponding immigration status while you are inside the U.S. The visa is only necessary for travel purposes. Initial entry and subsequent re-entry into the U.S. from abroad requires a valid visa corresponding to your particular immigration status (i.e. F-1) at all times. However you do not need to depart the U.S. if your visa expires as long as your F-1 (or other) immigration status is still valid. This is a very different policy than many other countries. For example, some nationalities will only receive a one-year F-1 visa stamp, yet their degree program will last for two, four, even six years in the U.S. As long as they are maintaining full-time enrollment and satisfactory progress in their degree program, their F-1 status is perfectly fine, despite the fact that their F-1 visa may have expired.

What exactly do I need to do to maintain valid F-1 immigration status?

The following checklist details most of the main aspects of maintaining valid F-1 immigration status while in the U.S.:

Report to OVIS to have your SEVIS record registered in SEVIS in a timely fashion. You must be registered in SEVIS no later than 30-days after the program start date, and each semester thereafter, no later than 30-days after the next session start date for continuing students.

  • For the first entry for initial school attendance, the school listed on the visa and on the I-20 must be the same, and that is the school you must intend to attend.
  • Pursue a "full course of study" at the school listed on the currently valid Form I-20 during every academic session or semester except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by your OVIS advisor.
  • Make normal progress towards completing your course of study, by completing studies on or before the expiration of the program completion date on your I-20 form.
  • Keep your I-20 form valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay, change in educational levels, change in programs of study or transfer of schools.
  • Abide by the F-1 grace period rules (30-day early arrival, 60-days upon completion of studies).
  • Report a change of address to OVIS within 10-days of the change, so that your SEVIS record can be updated.
  • Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity.
  • Abide by any special requirements, such as Special Registration
  • Do not work, either on or off-campus, unless specifically authorized by OVIS under F-1 regulations
  • Abide by the aggregate unemployment rules while on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • All students should also keep their own passports valid

Any failure of any the above-referenced rules can result in the loss of your legal F-1 immigration status.

If I fail to maintain F-1 status may I apply to get it back?

There is a process to apply for reinstatement should you violate the terms of your F-1 status, however it is a very complicated procedure. Your immigration advisor can assist you with basic information on F-1 reinstatement, however you may need to obtain legal advice from a trusted immigration attorney to do so.

How long will my F-1 status be valid?

Your F-1 status dates are indicated in section 5 on your I-20 form. Most importantly your program ending date in section 5 is the date you are expected to complete studies. Your program can be extended, or shortened, depending on the progress of your academic program. Upon entry into the U.S. an immigration inspector should write "D/S" ("duration of studies") on your entry stamps. This means that your F-1 sponsor (Dartmouth College) can amend the duration of your F-1 status as necessary. Note that the date you "complete" your studies is not necessarily your graduation date. For immigration purposes, the date you complete your studies is the date you complete all your obligations to the school in order to receive the degree.

How long of a grace period do I have in F-1 status?

As an F-1 you are allowed to arrive in the U.S. no earlier than 30-days prior to the starting date listed in section 5 of your I-20 form. Upon completion of studies you have a 60-day grace period from which to depart the U.S., apply for post-completion OPT, or change it to another immigration category. If you wish to extend your F-1 program because you need more time to finish your degree requirements, you must apply to your immigration advisor *before* the end date on your I-20 form.

If I apply for and receive post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) am I still considered to be in F-1 status?

Yes, for the entire duration that you are authorized for OPT (click here to go to the OPT-FAQ section) you are still under the same regulations of F-1 status.

F-1 MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

F-1 Travel

I want to travel home for a holiday. What do I need to know about traveling home and coming back to the U.S. as an F-1 student?

Last Updated: 5/3/13