USA Student (F-1) Visa FAQ

Are you an international student dreaming of studying in the United States? If so, you'll need to navigate the F-1 visa application process, which can be complex and time-consuming. From submitting the right documents to scheduling interviews and meeting financial requirements, there are many steps to take before you begin your academic journey in the US. Whether you're a first-time applicant or a returning student, we've covered you with all the information you need!

USA Student (F-1) Visa FAQ

Table of contents

General USA student visa types

There are two general categories of student visas in the States:

The F-1 visa benefits are:

How to apply for an F-1 visa?

Here are the steps you must follow to obtain a student visa to the USA:

Documents required for obtaining a Form I-20

A Form I-20 is a document issued by a U.S. academic institution to an international student accepted for a full-time study program. It is a critical document for obtaining an F-1 student visa or changing the status to F-1 within the United States.

The Form I-20 includes important information, including the student's name, date of birth, program of study, and expected graduation date. Additionally, it outlines the tuition, fees, and other expenses associated with attending the academic institution.

To apply for a Form I-20, you will need the following documentation:

Once you have received your I-20 form from an American university, you can apply at the US embassy.

What documents are needed for an F-1 visa interview?

Ensure you have collected all the required documentation when attending the interview in the consulate. Here is a student visa checklist:

Mandatory documents

What are the U.S. student visa photo requirements?

The photo for any visa to the United States must meet the following criteria:

To instantly get the compliant U.S. visa photo, simply upload your portrait to the tool below. It should be a recent photo of you looking straight into the camera with a neutral facial expression. The face should be well and evenly lit.

Take an image with a smartphone or camera against any background, upload it here and instantly get a professional photo for your visa, passport or ID.
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Source photo example that you need to take in order to make a passport or visa photo at


Result example: a correct visa or passport photo that you will receive

Here's an example of the original photo:

Original picture

You will get two files from Visafoto: a digital photo for electronic applications and a template ready for printing.

Example photo for F-1 visa USA
Photos for USA F-1 visa for printing

Visafoto will instantly crop the photo to the 2x2" size, format the head and eye positions and replace the background with a uniform white. You will need it upon filling out the DS-160 form (the image must be uploaded to the website), so you must take a photo in advance. At the same time, you will get a template for printing containing four 2x2” photographs. Print it out, cut out the pictures with scissors, and take it to your interview at the U.S. Embassy.

What are the typical F-1 visa interview questions?

The consul at the interview will need to make sure that the prospective student:

Here are some questions you might be asked at the student visa interview:

Important notice: You do not need to show airline tickets or any bookings at the interview. It is advisable to pay for your itinerary after you receive your F-1 visa.

Do you need health insurance for an F-1 visa application?

No, there are no specific F-1 visa insurance requirements. However, some institutions require the purchase of school-sponsored health insurance. In addition, you must prove at your visa interview that you or your sponsor can cover medical expenses if necessary.

Is there any F-1 visa age limit?

No. You can enroll in a U.S. university and get a student visa at any age.

How much does it cost to issue an F-1 visa?

The F-1 visa price consists of two general fees:

How long does it take to issue an F-1 visa?

F-1 visa wait time varies depending on several factors, including the individual's circumstances and the processing times at the U.S. embassy or consulate where they apply. Generally, it is recommended to apply for a student visa several months before the intended start date of the program, as the processing time can vary and unexpected delays can occur.

You can start F-1 visa processing 365 days before the academic program. However, if you are granted a visa, you may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days before the start of your studies.

Can international students work in the U.S. on an F-1 visa?

Getting legal work on a student visa is possible, but you cannot work off-campus during your first year.

In the first year, an F-1 student can work up to 20 hours per week on campus. During the vacations, it is allowed to work full-time. A typical job for a student in the United States involves working in a library, cafeteria, or other university facility. However, jobs such as janitorial are unsuitable because American workers, not students, usually do them. You can also work in a position in your academic program. Masters and graduate students can become teaching assistants in a department or with a professor. They handle papers, teach classes, or help with research.

Off-campus employment is possible after the first year of study. As in the first case, you can work up to 20 hours weekly. To qualify for employment, you must be experiencing financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. You must also be in good academic standing. The occupation chosen must be under the approved program.

Dependent family members of F-1 visa holders

Spouses of F-1 visa holders are generally eligible for an F-2 visa, which allows them to enter and reside in the United States with their spouse. However, F-2 visa holders are not eligible for employment in the United States.

Unmarried children of international students under 21 are generally eligible for F-2 dependent status. The f-2 visa allows children to attend primary and secondary schools in the United States but does not allow them to work.

It is important to note that each family member must apply for their visa and go through the application process separately.

F-1 visa 5-month rule

The "Five-Month Rule" is a regulation that governs the status of F-1 visa holders in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Suppose an international student is absent from classes or out of status for five months or more. In that case, their SEVIS record will be terminated, and they may have to reapply for F-1 visa status to return to the United States.

However, this rule also provides flexibility for students who must interrupt their studies for five months or less. Suppose the F-1 visa holder timely notifies the appropriate office and provides accurate information about their leave. In that case, they may be able to retain their visa status.

On the other hand, if an F-1 visa holder stays outside of the United States for more than five months, their SEVIS record will be terminated, and they will be required to obtain a new Form I-20 and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee again.

What happens with an F-1 visa after graduation?

Upon completion of studies, F-1 visa holders are granted a grace period of 60 days. This term is intended to allow graduates to prepare for their departure from the United States, transfer to another school or program, or apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if eligible. During the grace period, student visa holders are permitted to remain in the United States but are not allowed to work or study.

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