top of page

Nonimmigrant visas: F visa for academic students

A foreign national interested in studying in the US must first apply and obtain a student visa known as an F visa.

The F1 is the main applicant and F2 are the applicant’s dependents like spouse and dependent children.

There are two ways to apply for a student visa: while in the US or from abroad.

Applying for a student visa while in the US

If you are already in the US, you must have lawfully entered the US and be still in status to qualify for a change of status. The first step is to contact a qualified school and obtain an I-20.

The I-20 is a form filled out and issued by your school and contains the following information:

  1. Name and address of school

  2. The applicant’s complete contact information

  3. Course name, type and duration

  4. Program costs and tuition, living expenses, additional expenses and scholarships if applicable

Student visas apply to those who wish to study English in the US, attend college or higher education courses, or courses for certain professional certifications.

Once you obtain your duly filled out and signed I-20, the next step is to request a change of status online or by mailing the correct USCIS form and accompanying documentation. You should always include proof of your financial situation to demonstrate you and/or your dependent(s) do not intend to work without authorization, a letter explaining your plans while in the US, and your goals such as studying English to take the TOEFL and attend college in the US or returning to your home country better qualified to join the job market.

The main disadvantage of requesting a student visa in the US is that the new visa is not stamped on your passport which means that you cannot leave the country and return on the same student visa. In order to do that, the applicant will have to request a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate so that his or her return to the US on the same student visa is allowed.

Applying for a student visa from abroad

If you are applying for a student visa from abroad, you must also first obtain an I-20 from an educational institution in the US or through a qualified agen like a Student Travel Bureau.

Once you have all the necessary documentation as listed above you must then request a student visa at the US Embassy or Consulate nearest to you. Make sure to answer all the answers in the form truthfully to the best of our knowledge including whether you have had any visas denied or canceled in the past. Keep in mind that providing incorrect or false information to a consular officer can be considered an intentional act and could lead to a visa denial. Processing times vary greatly depending on where you are applying from but the good news is that as of June 2022 processing times will be shorter.

Reinstating your student visa

If you are currently in the US and your student visa expired or your I-20 was canceled, you should be aware that you have 5 months to reinstate your student visa. After the five-month mark, you will be requested to show exceptional circumstances out of your control that prevented you from filing a new visa request within that time frame. In addition, the applicant must:

  1. Not have a record of repeated or willful violations of past or current nonimmigrant status

  2. Not have worked without authorization

  3. Be pursuing or intend to pursue a full course of study in the immediate future at a qualifying school

  4. Not be deportable for any other reason.

Once your reinstatement request is approved, you will be in lawful status again and allowed to remain in the US as long as your status is valid.

Student visas and employment

Student visa holders may work but there are restrictions. Work is allowed if equal to or less than 20 hours per week and must usually be on campus or in a field related to the course of study. It is important for the student to first obtain permission from the school to avoid a situation in which the school representative believes that a violation of the student status has occurred which could lead to the cancellation of the student visa in question.

In certain circumstances, special situations may allow the student visa holder to work more than 20 hours per week and/or seek employment off-campus. You should contact your school to find out what the requirements are and if you qualify.

Another option is obtaining a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) before or after you graduate. These programs allow certain foreign students in the US to work full time and receive full benefits on a temporary basis.

Student visa denied: what’s next?

If you have had a student visa request denied and you are currently in the US, you may be eligible to appeal the decision or submit a motion to reopen and/or reconsider. If you are applying from abroad, you will have to start the visa request process all over again.

If you have had a visa request denied and would like to apply again or would like to appeal the decision issued by USCIS, contact one of our immigration attorneys today to find out what your options are. You can schedule a consultation online at Our attorneys and paraprofessionals are fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English.


bottom of page