Eligibility for F-1 Status
To obtain an F-1 Visa or F-1 status, a student must present to the government:
- Form I-20 properly issued in the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by a school designated by the Department of Homeland Security
- A passport valid for at least 6 months
- Intention to study in the United States “temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study”
- Proof of a residence outside the U.S. to which the student intends to return after completing the program of study
- Financial ability to cover the cost of education and living expenses in the U.S.
- Proof of having paid the SEVIS fee
Eligibility for I-20 issuance
A student needs to receive the Form I-20, produced in the SEVIS and signed by the principal designated school official (PDSO) of the institution they wish to attend.
The PDSO may issue Form I-20 only after the conditions listed below have been met:
- The prospective student has made written application to the school.
- The application, transcripts of past schools, proof of financial responsibility, and other supporting documents have been received, reviewed, and evaluated at the school’s location in the United States.
- The prospective student must provide evidence of English language proficiency to qualify for the course of study.
- The appropriate school authority has determined that the prospective student’s qualifications meet all standards for admission.
- The official responsible for admission at the school has accepted the prospective student for enrollment in a full course of study.
- The prospective student informs school authority and the PDSO if dependents will enter the U.S. with the student. Each dependant receives the Form F-2 from the PDSO.
- The student signs the Student Certification on the Form I-20 to indicate that they have read and understands the terms and conditions of F-1 status.
- The student pursues a full course of study at the school that issued their I-20 beginning with the “start date” on the I-20 form.
- The student follows proper procedure regarding enrollment, attendance, and name and address change information.
- The student engages in employment only when specifically authorized.
The student’s role in the F-1 process
Maintaining F-1 status
It is extremely important for a non-immigrant to maintain their status while in the United States. Failure to do so is grounds for removal from the United States (deportation).
To maintain F-1 Status:
- Report to the PDSO for initial registration in SEVIS upon arriving at school.
- Pursue a “full course of study,” making normal progress at the school listed on the currently valid Form I-20.
- Make normal progress towards completing the course of study, by completing studies before the expiration of the program completion date on the Form I-20.
- Keep the I-20 current by obtaining the PDSO signature on Page 3 within the appropriate timeframe, which is every 2 trimesters.
- Report a name or address change to the PDSO within 10 days of the change.
- Abide by regulations and limitations with regard to any employment on campus.
- Inform and seek help from the PDSO regarding all related issues of enrollment, attendance, illness, personal or economic hardship, and employment.
- Abide by rules requiring disclosure of information and prohibition on criminal activity.
- A student must keep their passport valid.
U.S. Government Contacts
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Bureau of Consular Affairs (U.S. Department of State)
For information on passports, visas and international travel, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs.