In a culturally diverse community such as South Florida, the F-1 student visa is not a foreign sounding term. For foreign-born adolescents and adults, the possibility exists to attend a U.S. College or university program upon obtaining F-1 student visa status. After September 11, this visa received a bad rap.The requirements of eligibility are, however, far from being lax. The first step is meeting the respective entry requirements for the school of choice. Once accepted into a higher education program, the student must either apply for the F-1 student visa at a U.S. embassy inside the home country or if already present in the U.S. in another non-immigrant visa category file a non-immigrant visa petition for a change to F-1 student visa status. The school gives the student so called I-20 papers that need signatures from both a school official and the student.
Since 9/11, student background checks have intensified with the introduction of SEVIS – The Student Exchange Visitors Information System, a government internet database that keeps student information updated and easily accessible for verification. During the interview with a consular officer, the student must be prepared to show a signed I-20 form, a filled out visa application form and supplement, the DS – 156 and DS -158, as well as financial information showing the student has enough funds to sustain the costs of studies while in the U.S. Once the student has passed the interview at the U.S. embassy or received a positive adjudication of a change of status petition, the duration of stay in the U.S. will depend upon the length of study.
What may less commonly know are the steep costs associated with U.S. studies in non-resident status? Public universities clearly distinguish in tuition costs, and the foreign student oftentimes pays two to three times the amount for a class credit than the U.S. counterpart. Work authorization in the U.S. while in F-1 visa status is limited to 20 hours per week for on-campus work. Since applying for student loans in the U.S. is not an option for an F-1 student visa, foreign based sponsorship or traditional parent help make U.S. studies feasible. In terms of academic requirements, a student in F-1 visa status has to maintain a full course load throughout the duration of the program. The F-1 student visa provides opportunity for foreign students, no doubt, but it also shows that not just anyone can obtain and maintain the requirements attached to this visa.