Simply put, a student visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas may also be referred to as temporary visas, and are issued to foreign nationals seeking to visit the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Those who are applying for nonimmigrant status must prove that they do not intend to stay or live permanently in the United States.
The two main nonimmigrant visa categories cover nonimmigrant workers, and nonimmigrant exchange students, which are the largest number of non-immigrant visas issued each year.
Generally speaking, nonimmigrant exchange students must be petitioned by a sponsor who will assist them in obtaining their temporary visa. For students, their sponsor will usually be the educational institution that is providing their educational experience.
To elaborate, a student visa (or F-1 visa) is issued to those who are coming to the United States temporarily in order to pursue their studies. This pursuit may take place at an established:
- Elementary school;
- High school;
- Conservatory; and/or
- Language school.
Again, student visas are temporary in nature and grant the student nonimmigrant status. Every year, over 500,000 people come to the United States on F-1 student visas. While the number of distributed visas can be limited on a visa-by-visa basis, the number of students who can receive the F-1 student visas is unlimited.
F-1 visas are generally intended for students seeking to attend universities, colleges, or high schools. Students seeking a visa in order to attend vocational programs require an M-1 visa instead.
What Is Required to Obtain a Student Visa?
In order to be eligible for a student visa, the applying student must meet several requirements. Applicants must demonstrate that:
- They are accepted by a U.S. school as a student;
- They are expected to come into the U.S. as a full-time student;
- The institution to be attended is approved by the Attorney General;
- They possess sufficient funds needed to meet their expenses for the period of expected study, without having to resort to pursuing employment; and
- They have sufficient knowledge of the English language.
To prove the above requirements, students may be asked to offer additional proof. Some examples of such proof would be academic transcripts, or participation in interviews with immigration authorities.
In order to obtain an F-1 visa, the student must first apply to a U.S. school that has been approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the student is accepted, the school will provide them with an I-20 form. This form should be brought to a U.S. Consulate in order to obtain a student visa. For the best chance that the application will be approved, this should be done at the Consulate located in the student’s country of residence.
Once the student has arrived in the United States, they will receive a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). This form contains a record of the student’s legal admission to the United States, as well as their visa’s expiration date. This information is especially important if the student wishes to file for a visa extension, which must be done within a certain amount of time prior to the visa’s expiration date.
The student will be permitted to stay in the United States while enrolled as a full-time student. Upon approval, they may also be allowed to stay for one year longer than their program’s duration in order to pursue practical training.
Finally, the student will need to pay any applicable fees. Commonly, this will be a $140 filing fee, as well as a separate Student and Exchange Visitor Information Services (“SEVIS” I-901) fee of $200.
What Is Student Visa Fraud?
Student visa fraud, although not especially common, does occur. This specific type of fraud involves the use of deceit or lying in relation to the student visa process. Some examples of student visa fraud include, but may not be limited to:
- Providing false information on the visa immigration application;
- Lying about the student’s age or academic enrollment;
- Continuing to stay in the U.S. after the visa expires; and/or
- Falsifying academic documents, such as credit hours taken.
Additionally, any sort of immigration fraud could result in being banned from re-entering the U.S. in the future. Lying on immigration papers could lead to academic penalties, such as the loss of an academic sponsorship, or expulsion.
How Are Student Visas Related to F-2 Visas?
Students with valid F-1 visas can also apply for F-2 Visas for family members. F-2 visas are issued to the spouse and minor children of foreign students who have been granted F-1 visas. Here, a minor child is under 21 years old. The purpose of an F-2 visa is to allow the dependents of foreign students to accompany them while they are studying in the United States.
In order to obtain an F-2 visa, you must prove that your spouse or minor children are your dependents. Also, you will need to show that your finances are adequate to support them during your stay as a student in the U.S.
The process to apply for an F-2 visa is similar to that of applying for an F-1 visa. You should contact your school’s international student office, and request an I-20 form. You will most likely be asked to provide documentation proving the relationship between you and your dependents, such as a marriage or birth certificate. Furthermore, you will be asked to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to support your dependents. This can be proved with bank statements, pay stubs, or affidavits.
Your dependents will bring the I-20, along with any other necessary paperwork, to a U.S. embassy or consulate for a non-immigrant visa interview. Generally speaking, children under the age of 14 do not need to go to the interview. However, that fact may change depending on the whim of each individual consulate officer.
Dependents on an F-2 visa cannot study full time at the post-secondary level. In order to be allowed to study for a degree, the dependent must apply for their own F-1 visa. However, children are allowed to attend K-12 schools full time, and spouses are allowed to take part-time classes that are vocational or recreational. Examples of such classes would be cooking or language classes.
Those who possess an F-2 visa can travel outside of the U.S. So long as the dependent has an unexpired visa, as well as properly signed I-20s, they may leave and re-enter the U.S. for as long as the visa remains valid.
Do I Need an Attorney to Obtain a Student Visa?
The application process for obtaining a student visa can be complex, and it is important to avoid any suspicion of immigration fraud. You should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable immigration attorney if you wish to apply for a student visa.
An experienced local immigration attorney will be best suited in helping you determine which type of visa you should apply for, while also ensuring that you follow all the rules and provide all of the necessary documentation. Lastly, should any legal issues arise, an immigration attorney can also represent you in court, as needed.