Understanding the F Visa a.k.a Student Visa

by neville

The F visa, in many ways, is the best “non immigrant” visa to have. It allows a long continuous stay; it permits employment, with restrictions; and it carves a direct path to an immigrant visa that is laid out in the immigration laws.

The F visa is also the most common visa used by students studying at US universities. At any given time, there are over 2 million F-students in the USA. However,  the F student visa has become the subject of controversy since most of the 911 hijackers were on F visas at the time of the incident.

Nonetheless, there is a great push to be more flexible and accommodating to prospective student visa seekers, so that is good news you. Also the US government, universities, and employers  want more international students here in the US rather than less.

With that general philosophy, one should presume that the government is not a deliberate stumbling block to student visas. In fact, even in developing countries, India, as an example, 80% or more of the applicants at particular consulates, are routinely successful.

In our experience we have seen 99% success from some developing countries most years. So it is not a daunting task to obtain an F visa if one is a bona-fide, serious student.

F Visa Duration

The F visa is granted for the anticipated duration of your program of study plus an additional year. For example, if you will be  pursuing a Bachelor or Doctoral degree you will  typically receive a five year visa. And for the Masters Degree you can typically expect to get three years.

The extra year is to allow you leeway to complete your program in the case of academic difficulty or slow adaptation to the teaching methods. It can also be used for the purpose of completing Optional Practical Training for one year after graduation.

F Visa Requirements

You can only get an  F visa in conjunction with admission to a qualified institution. Almost every legitimate institution (and some questionable ones unfortunately), has the required standing to facilitate international students.

Some institutions, will ask you to show financial documents prior to granting academic admission. Most, however, will admit you and then ask you to show financial suitability. The key word here is “show.” In most cases, the I-134, affidavit of support, plus a bank letter from a sponsor or parent showing a specific sum of money will suffice.

Practices vary in this process. Some schools require you to show available funds for the entire program. That can be almost impossible for many. Fortunately, most require that you show funds for all expenses for one calendar year. In fact, most consulates will not require you to show more than one year, but you might be asked how you plan to pay for the future years.

I-20 and Interview

After you have submitted your financial statement and or your I-134 ( make sure it lists specific liquid assets and ready cash as opposed to property), the Designated School Officer from your prospective US university, will issue a document called an I-20.  The “I” in I-20 indicates that it is an “immigration” process or an “immigration department” administered program.

In order to obtain the F visa, you must take that document, along with your admission letter, and your financial documents, to a US consulate in your home country (and likely the one for the region in which you live if there are several). Your passport must be valid for at least one year, and you are required to go in person for an interview.

Learn about the J Visa (Exchange Visa) here, or move on to the Student Visa Application Process.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel Asamoah September 2, 2013 at 6:37 am

hi, i am a senior high school graduate with good grades and qualification. i am interested in studying abroad but i am having no assistance. please can someone help me get a student visa?
please i really need your help.


Nadeem Ali November 6, 2012 at 11:34 am

Hi, My name is Nadeem Ali. I am 30 years old working class person and now I want to go to USA for higher education so that it could help me to grow in my career. I am graduate (BA Program) from University of Delhi. My mobile number is 09990614904.


Ijeoma Eheduru September 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for your response, you’re really doing a great job. I want you to help me by giving me the names of some universities that admits students before asking them to show financial stability. Thanks.


godwin martins July 5, 2011 at 6:55 am

It awesome reding from your blog. ? pray ? will make suecces in my intervie


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