What Are My Options As An F-1 Student In The USA?

An F-1 student visa is for those who wish to pursue full-time academic studies at a recognized college or university in the United States. To qualify for an F-1 visa, you must be accepted by a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-approved institution. An institution can be a 4 year college or university, a 2 year college, a professional program, or a conservatory program. 


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This visa permits you to remain in the United States for your education, plus a grace period of 60 days and a period for OPT or CPT if you qualify.


Options for F-1 Student While In The USA


You have several options as an F-1 student visa holder studying in the United States, such as:


  1. On-campus Employment: You are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during school breaks.

  2. Optional Practical Training (OPT): You may be eligible for up to 12 months of work permission in your field of study if you have completed one academic year.

  3. Curricular Practical Training (CPT): You can enroll in a paid off-campus job important to your academic program.

  4. STEM OPT Extension: If you are a student in a STEM field who has completed 12 months of OPT, you may be eligible for a 24-month extension.

  5. Change of Status: You can alter your non-immigrant status to H-1B (temporary worker), O-1 visa (artist visa) or green card status (permanent residency).


Note that you must retain your position as a full-time student and make academic progress to comply with your visa.


Where Can You Apply For An F1 visa?


You may apply in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a student F-1 visa and  present the Form I-20 to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. 


If you are currently in the US, then you can file for a Change of Status if you qualify to do so. 



F-1 Visa Qualifications


To qualify for an F-1 visa, you must do the following:


  • Must have a foreign residence. 

  • Accepted by a U.S. college or university participating in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. 

  • Demonstrate that your entry into the United States is purely for the purpose of enrolling in a full-time academic program and that you have adequate finances to support your tuition and living expenses without engaging in unlawful employment. 

  • Demonstrate strong ties to your home country and the intent to return after completing your studies. 

  • You must not have a disqualifying criminal record or a history of immigration offenses.


It is essential that you discuss these requirements with an experienced attorney, as the requirements for an F-1 visa are subject to change, and the consular officer may request additional evidence or information during the visa interview.


Elektra Yao, also known at The Artist Visa Lawyer ®, has successfully represented record labels, modeling agencies, production companies, individual artists, and creatives. She is passionate about the arts, specifically the intersection of entertainment and immigration. 

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