All about F-1 Student Visa
A citizen of a country outside the United States and who wishes to study at an accredited American language school, college, or university is required to have an F-1 student visa.
Definition of "F" Status
An F visa is issued to someone who plans to attend a full course of study at an approved institution in the United States. This person must have a permanent residence in their country of origin with plans to return upon completion of their course of study.
There are six main entities involved in the F-1 immigration process:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- The U.S. School
- The Designated School Official (PDSO, DSO)
- The Student
- The U.S. Department of State (DOS)
- The SEVIS Database and the SEVIS Help Desk
F Visa Quick Facts
- F visas can be obtained in two ways: by applying from abroad or changing status
- Only schools approved by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can accept F-1 international students
- F-1 students must maintain a full course load during their program of study
- F-1 students can remain up to 60 days after the successful completion of their degree or certificate program
- F-1 students may not work in the United States except under certain circumstances
- F-1 students can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for 12 months after the successful completion of a degree program
- F-1 students may bring their spouse or children on an F-2 visa
You as an F-1 Visa Student are responsible for knowing, understanding, and following all laws that apply to you as a student during your stay in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the section of the United States government that oversees immigration regulation. Unfortunately, DHS will not accept lack of knowledge of the regulations as an excuse for not maintaining your status, and failure to maintain your status may have serious consequences.
SOLEX College and Your Advisors
SOLEX College provides support services to students in achieving their educational and training objectives. This includes providing advice about immigration regulations. However, the nature of the regulations simply does not always allow us to give 100% certain answers. Feel free to ask us for copies of regulations and related guides that may be of interest to you. You are the one held responsible for following the regulations, so it is important to do everything you can to know and understand them.
Please remember that SOLEX College staff members are employees of the school and not DHS. We are, like you, subject to the agency's rules and regulations. DHS has granted us permission to enroll F-1 international students as long as we abide by their regulations, therefore we cannot accommodate requests that are outside of these regulations.
Maintaining F-1 Student Status (current students only)
Below are some important guidelines to help you maintain your status. Failure to comply with any of these regulations may negatively affect your status as an F-1 student in the United States.
Report to School
Upon arrival in Chicago, you are required to report to SOLEX College to confirm your enrollment at the school and report your current address in the U.S. The DSO can then ‘activate’ your SEVIS record. Your SEVIS record is what DHS uses to see if you are maintaining your status in the U.S.
F-1 visa student must enroll in a full course of study (minimum of 18 hours per week or 12 credits per semester) throughout the academic term. Always consult your DSO before you drop your full-time course to part-time or withdraw from all of your courses, otherwise, you may jeopardize your legal status. DHS will not accept insufficient funding as an excuse for dropping below full-time hours.
Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police, as your home country government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country’s consulate in the U.S. Provide your DSO with any updated information regarding your passport, name change, visa, or status.
Change of Address
F1 international students must submit a Change of Address and/or Contact Information form to the International Student Office within 10 days of moving while enrolled at SOLEX College. Addresses must be a physical location, not a P.O. Box. SOLEX College is responsible for changing this information in SEVIS once we have received it from you. You do not need to contact SEVIS personally.
If F-1 student visa holders cannot complete the program of study by the date shown on your I-20, they must request a Program Extension from your DSO. Submit an Extension of Time to Complete the Program form to the International Student Office at least two weeks before the date on your I-20. Your I-20 must remain valid at all times throughout your study.
Following the completion of your program, you may stay remain in the U.S. for 60 days. You must depart the U.S. before this 60-day period expires. If you cancel your enrollment in the middle of a semester, you must depart the U.S. within 15 days of your cancellation date.
Extension of Time to Complete Program
An "Extension of Time to Complete Program" can be granted to students who have continually maintained F-1 status, and whose program completion has been delayed due to compelling academic or medical reasons. If you are unable to complete your program of study by the completion date in #5 on your I-20 form, you must apply to extend your I-20.
In order to apply for an Extension you must submit:
- An Extension of Time to Complete the Program form to the Designated School Official (DSO)
- Financial documents (proof of financial ability to cover the cost of education and living expenses in the US)
DSO will update your SEVIS record with a new program end date and print you a new I-20 form
You should apply sufficiently in advance of the program end date to allow the DSO adequate time to approve the extension and update SEVIS.
Reinstatement to F-1 Student Status
Students who have failed to maintain their F-1 student status are entitled to apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ask to be reinstated (returned) to student status. Please note that a student who has been out of status for more than 5 months is ineligible for reinstatement.
If a student provides clear evidence for violation USCIS may forgive the violation and return the student to proper status. Students may also be reinstated if they can show that failure to regain status would result in serious hardship.
If you have fallen out of status, please make an immediate appointment with a DSO to discuss your situation in detail. If the DSO recommends that you apply for reinstatement, you should provide the DSO with all the documents necessary to issue a new I-20 form for reinstatement, including, if necessary, updated financial documents.
To apply for F-1 student visa reinstatement, submit the following documents to the USCIS office:
- I-20 form indicating that it has been issued for the purpose of an application for "Reinstatement". (Student must sign item #11)
- Copies of all other I-20s forms (from SOLEX College and any other U.S. colleges attended)
- I-539 form (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status)
- Personal letter detailing reason(s) for violation of status, you are enrolled in full course-load, and hardship would occur if not returned to F-1 student status.
- Copy of I-94 (available online)
- Copy of Passport ID pages
- Copy of entry visa in your passport
- Official transcripts from all the schools attended while in the United States,
- Financial documents (proof of financial ability to cover the cost of education and living expenses in the U.S.)
- Money order or check made out to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security"
Employment for International Students
Without prior authorization from Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), students with an F-1 visa are limited in their employment opportunities. Below you will find more information about this topic.
To be eligible for on-campus employment, you must have a current I-20, be a full-time student, and otherwise maintain your F-1 status. Students can only work at a school with access to your SEVIS records.
On-campus employment is NOT permitted for students who have completed their programs.
Off-campus Employment in Case of Severe Economic Hardship
A student who has been enrolled for an academic year and is maintaining F-1 status may apply to USCIS for "off-campus employment based on severe economic hardship."
You are required to show that your severe financial hardship has been caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. You must show specifically how the financial data submitted to the school for creation of the I-20 has changed. Convincing documentation is necessary. Additionally, you must have completed one academic year before applying.
The wide range of valid reasons for seeking hardship employment might include:
- Unexpected loss of a scholarship
- Decrease in funding from home country due to serious currency devaluation
- Tuition and fee increases
- Medical bills, loss through robbery/burglary (documented with police report) or natural disaster
- Disruption of a sponsor's income or death of a sponsor
If you think you might qualify for Severe Economic Hardship, please make an appointment with your DSO for assistance.
To apply, you will have to submit the following documents to USCIS office:
Completed I-765 (available from the website: www.uscis.gov). In #16, choose the appropriate code and note: ["(c)(3)(iii)] F-1 Off-Campus employment due to severe economic hardship").
- Copy of I-94
- Copy of visa
- Copy of passport
- Copy of most recent USCIS employment authorization document, if applicable.
- Two photos meeting USCIS specifications.
- Copy of I-20
F-2 Dependent Visa
The spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) of an F-1 student may accompany the student to the United States or join the student at a later date under F-2 status.
Dependents will receive separate I-20 forms. If they did not come to the U.S. with you, SOLEX College can issue an I-20 for them to use for application to the U.S. Consulate for an F-2 visa to enter the U.S.
To request an I-20 for your dependents submit the following documents:
- Request for Dependent Form
- Evidence of relationship (marriage license, birth certificate)
- Evidence of financial support for yourself and your dependents
To apply for an F-2 Dependent Visa at the U.S. Consulate, you must submit for each dependent:
- Evidence of relationship (marriage license, birth certificate)
- DS-160 form (available from the website www.uscis.gov)
- I-20 form
- Evidence of financial support
- Proof of payment of the visa application fee
Note: Additional documentation may be required. Check the website of the U.S. Consulate where your dependents will apply for the F-2 visa and www.state.gov for the most recent information.
Cost of Living
Attending SOLEX College means attending a college in the heart of Chicago — one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. Chicago is the country's third-largest city with more than 60 vibrant, ethnic communities, stunning architecture, famous museums, and lakefront parks. Hundreds of fine restaurants with cuisines from around the world cater to every taste and budget. During the spring and summer, the city comes alive with fairs, concerts, tours and outdoor fun in many parks and on the lakefront.
Approximated living cost per month for international students
- Housing / Apartment Rental: $800-$1,200
- Telephone / Internet: $50-$100
- Daily Necessities: $50 (toiletries, school supplies, etc.)
- Food: $200-$300 (For food prepared at home - Frequenting restaurants will increase this cost significantly)
- Net total expense: Anywhere from $1,000 for a month-long stay in the U.S. depending on chosen luxuries (can be as little as half the cost if shared with another person)
Health insurance and other living costs
Finding affordable health insurance can be difficult, especially while you are attending school. SOLEX College has formed a partnership with ISO, a reputable health insurance provider and member of AIG Companies, who can meet your health insurance needs while you are in school. Individual and family plans are available with a range of coverage and prices.
For more information, talk to your admissions representative or visit ISO's website.
As an International student or scholar in the US, you may need to file a tax return with the IRS. Sprintax will look after your tax return from start to finish.
Other Student Services
While SOLEX limits provision of student services outside the classroom to admission and academic advising, it maintains a list of contacts with state and local service providers to which a student can be referred. This includes referral to various government offices, legal services and rehabilitation services.
SOLEX College provides housing assistance and airport pickup for an additional fee.
Immigration and Visa Information
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will give you all the information necessary for travel to the U.S, including all immigration forms.
On this website you will be able to find the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your own country to learn about the visa policies and procedures that are implemented in your country.
On this website you will find information related to current U.S. foreign policy and affairs, as well as current travel information and visa wait times.
You will use this website to pay the necessary SEVIS fees.
This website will give you information relevant to being an international student. You will find travel information and frequently asked questions that are very helpful.
Transcript and Diploma Evaluation Agencies
World Education Services can assist with translating and evaluating foreign credentials.
Educational Credential Evaluators assist you with translating and evaluating foreign credentials.
Last Updated: 9/23/2010
Have questions or ready to get started?
Call us at 866-79SOLEX (76539) to speak to an admissions representative or request more information via e-mail.