F1 Visa Rules: Important Rules to Know
The F1 visa, known to most as a U.S. student visa, is a very attractive option to many wishing to attend school in the U.S. With the F1 visa, one can live and study in the U.S. In this guide, we will explore some important rules regarding the F1 visa. If you have any questions, feel free to request a free consultation with our office.
The process of obtaining an F1 visa can be relatively simple: once admitted to a college, and having proven that you will be able to support yourself and satisfy various requirements, the school will issue the prospective student a form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Once in possession of the form I-20, the foreign student may apply for the F1 visa, on form DS-160, found on the U.S. Department of State’s website, and be issued an F1 visa to commence studies.
Assuming you already have an F1 visa, and are in the U.S., you may be wondering what the rules are with respect to your status. Student status does not permit you to live in the U.S. as if you were a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. There are restrictions to F1 student status that all F1 visa holders should be mindful of when in the U.S. to study.
Maintain Your Status
The most important rule of F1 status, naturally, is the maintenance of one’s F1 status. This means that you must attend your classes, achieve passing grades in all of your classes, and abide by the rules of your school.
As an F1 student’s status depends on their staying in school, students should to follow campus rules. An F1 student who breaks campus rules, such as underage drinking, drug use, or any other kind of elicit activity, could be found to be in violation of their F1 status, and face potential revocation of their status. F1 students should exercise caution around any activities that could result in immigration complications down the line.
Don’t Work Without Work Authorization
Another important don’t for F1 status holders is don’t work without authorization. This is not to say that it is impossible for F1 students to seek employment authorization while in F1 status, which will be discussed shortly. However, working without proper authorization from your school is a violation of your student status, and is something that is taken very seriously by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Even if the work you’re considering is something as minor as babysitting, dog walking, or other jobs, consider carefully the consequences to your student status.
While the above restrictions may seem strict, the list of “do’s” for F1 status are comparably pleasant! You should take full advantage of your student status. Barring the restrictions around elicit activities and work, in many ways F1 visa holders can live autonomously in the U.S. Use your time as a student to get a good education, make friends, and enjoy school!
Work Authorization (CPT and OPT)
With respect to work authorization, certain students may apply to their school’s Designated School Official (DSO) for a grant of Curricular Practical Training while in school. Curricular Practical Training is generally granted due to extreme financial hardship, or for summer internship programs relevant to your program of study. Not all students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training however, and grants of it are entirely at the discretion of your school’s DSO.
Furthermore, most F1 students (with limited exceptions) are eligible following their graduation for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a straightforward one-year process by which you apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card. This application is made on form I-765, and as mentioned, entitles the graduate to one year of work authorization. During this time, the foreign student may work for any employer, provided proper notification is made to the school’s DSO. You should note however, that the one-year of employment is generally limited to one year, except if your field of study was a STEM field. STEM field students may apply for an additional two years of work authorization following the expiration of their one-year OPT, provided they have an employer with whom they are working.
Work Authorization Through H1B and Other Options
During the initial one year of OPT, F1 students may broach the subject of longer term sponsorship with their employers. This often takes the form of entry into the H1B visa lottery, which is run in March of the given fiscal year. Note that there is no guarantee of selection in the lottery, and if you are not selected, you may run the risk of not having work authorization in the U.S.
Other long term options are available to foreign students on a limited basis following the expiration of their OPT. Citizens of Canada, Mexico, Australia, Chile and Singapore are eligible for special visa status based upon their nationality. Qualifying journalists and reporters may apply for a specialty media related visa called the I visa, provided certain qualifications are met. Furthermore, entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses may qualify for a grant of E-2 Treaty Investor status. The regulations surrounding these alternative visa categories are complex, and should not be navigated without the help of an attorney.
Duration of Status
On a final note, F1 visa holders are admitted to the U.S. under what is called Duration of Status. Unlike most employment based visas, Duration of Status is not an expiration, meaning a date is not provided by which the foreign national must either extend or depart the U.S. Rather, F1 visa holders admitted Duration of Status, who maintain their status, will be considered lawfully present as long as they abide by the terms of their F1 visa, even if you change programs or go on to higher education.
If you are an individual in the United States on F1 status with questions about your status and future potential work authorization, feel free to contact my office. You may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
Share this post...
Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.