F-1 – Student Visa and Optional Practical Training
To obtain educational opportunities in the United States, foreign nationals need a student visa. An F-1 visa allows you to enter the U.S. legally, attend school and gain work experience under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. For individuals who are already in the U.S. in another type of status, they may enlist the services of Garvish Immigration Law Group to assist with a Change of Status Application to change status to F-1.
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What Is An F-1 Visa?
An F-1 visa is a type of student visa. Issued through the U.S. Department of State, it authorizes you to enter the United States and obtain an education at one of the following:
- An accredited college or university;
- High school;
- Elementary school;
- Other certified institutions, such as a language training program.
The school must be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to issue I-20s and accept international students. In addition, the program or your course of study must culminate in a degree, diploma, or certificate.
What Is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
Unlike the J-1 or M-1 student visa, an F-1 visa allows you to work off-campus via the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary off-campus employment directly related to your field of study. It allows international students on an F-1 visa to work for up to 12 months prior to completing their academic studies and/or after receiving their degree.
To be eligible for OPT, you must be enrolled full-time for at least one academic year at a certified school. If approved for OPT, you may work part-time while taking classes and full-time when school is not in session. If you enroll in post-completion OPT, you may work for three years after receiving your degree, provided the work is directly related to your field of study.
The United States is making immigration changes to attract more international students in STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) programs to help with the U.S. economic recovery. In January 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added 22 new fields of study to the STEM OPT program. To attract more nonimmigrant students to U.S. universities and employers, more F-1 students earning bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in certain STEM fields will be able to remain in the U.S. for up to 36 months to work in their field of study, versus the previous 12 month F-1 OPT visa stay.
The 22 new fields of STEM study that qualify for OPT extensions are:
- general forestry
- forest resources production and management
- human-centered technology design
- cloud computing
- climate science
- earth systems science
- economics and computer science
- environmental geosciences
- geography and environmental studies
- mathematical economics
- mathematics and atmospheric and oceanic science
- general data science
- general data analytics
- business analytics
- data visualization
- financial analytics
- other data analytics
- industrial and organizational psychology
- social sciences, research methodology, and quantitative methods
Qualifications for an F-1 Visa
An F-1 student visa provides opportunities for quality education and training in your career field. Qualifications include:
- You must be enrolled full-time at a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- You must have secured funding to offset school and living expenses.
- You must have a valid passport.
- You must have an established residency in your home country to return to once you complete your education.
- You must be proficient in speaking English or enrolled in courses to improve proficiency.
F-1 Visa Change of Status Application Process
Depending on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times, it can take anywhere between 12 and 24 months to obtain a change of status to F-1. The student visa application process includes:
- Get accepted by an accredited school;
- Obtain Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Students;
- Pay all associated fees;
- Submit Form I-539, Application to Change Status, to request your change from another status to F-1 status; and
- Provide evidence that you have sufficient funds to maintain yourself and pay for tuition.
At Garvish Immigration Law Group, our experienced Atlanta employment-based immigration lawyer guides you through the F-1 application process. Our goal is to help you obtain your F-1 student status in the quickest amount of time possible.
FAQs About F-1 Student Visas
For professional legal help in obtaining an F-1 student visa, reach out to our team at Garvish Immigration Law Group. Frequently asked questions we hear from international students who want to study under the F-1 OPT program include:
Once your student status is approved, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you maintain your underlying I-20 with your program and up to 60 days after graduation. To discuss options for extending your stay further, contact our Atlanta employment-based immigration lawyers about other opportunities to continue your studies or employment.
If you need an EB-3 Visa for your future or current foreign employee, it’s in your best interest to consult with an Atlanta business immigration lawyer for EB-3 visas as soon as you can. A business immigration attorney for immigrant visas can help you in the following ways:
- Walk you through the complicated EB-3 visa process
- Ensure you submit flawless petitions and are not denied due to mistakes, unfamiliarity with the applicable law and regulations, or missed deadlines
- Advocate on your behalf to DOL or USCIS if something goes wrong
- Help you obtain an EB-3 Visa as fast as possible
At our Atlanta-based law firm, we have extensive experience representing and advising companies on employment based immigration, including EB-3 visas, as well as non-immigrant visas. The experienced Atlanta-based EB-3 attorneys at Garvish Immigration Law Group are here to assist you through the entire process.
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