F-1 Visa: Academic Students
The F-1 Visa allows students to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate, and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.
The general criteria for an F-1 Visa includes:
- Applicant must have a foreign residence with no intention of abandoning it;
- Applicant is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study;
- Applicant will study only at an institution designated by him and approved by in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”);
- Applicant seeks to enter the U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a course of study at an established institution of learning or other recognized place of study in the U.S.; and
- Applicant will not attend a public elementary school or
- publically funded adult education program, and will not attend a public secondary school unless he or she attends the secondary school for a period not in excess of 12 months and demonstrates that he or she has reimbursed the school board the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of the education.
F-2 Visa: Spouse or Child of F-1 Visa Holder
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an F-1 Visa holder are eligible for F-2 status, and may stay in the US as long as the primary student remains in legal F-1 status. The spouse and unmarried children can apply for F-2 visas, and either accompany or follow to join the F-1 Visa holder in the U.S.
To apply for an F-2 Visa, the F-1 Visa holder should contact his/her school’s international student office and request a new I-20 for the dependents. The F-1 Visa holder will likely be asked to provide documents to demonstrate the relationship, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates. The F-1 Visa holder will also need to show evidence of financial resources sufficient to support his/her family living in the U.S. This may include bank statements, pay stubs, affidavits of support, and family savings in his/her home country. After receiving a new I-20, the F-2 Visa application procedure becomes very similar to applying for an F-1 Visa. The spouse and unmarried children need to make a visa appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and bring to the interview all documents mentioned above, plus additional information to support their request for a NIV.
A spouse in F-2 status may not enroll in a full course of study, or engage in any study toward a degree program. An F-2 spouse may, however, take classes that are vocational or recreational in nature, such as part-time study for the purpose of pursuing a hobby or interest. A child in F-2 status is allowed to attend K-12 schools (elementary, middle, or high school). However, to study full-time at post-secondary level, the spouse or unmarried child must change his/her F-2 status to F-1, and may not attend school until the change of status request is approved by the USCIS. It should be noted that after turning 21, a child will lose his or her derivative F-2 visa status and must change to another nonimmigrant status in order to stay in the U.S.