Types of Foreign Student Visas to Enter USA and Process
Foreign students can enter the United States under three visa types depending on the type of educational institution or program of study.
There are three types of visas allowing foreign students to enter the United States, depending on the type of program and institution in which they enroll
F-1 Visa –
The most common of these is the F-1 visa program. Introduced in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, the program allows foreigners to study full-time at educational institutions in the United States.
The F-1 visa is the most common visa issued to foreigners studying in a full-time academic program.
Students must be accepted by an approved school, document they have sufficient funds to cover 12 months of expenses and demonstrate academic preparedness to succeed in the program. Programs must be at a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) certified school.
F-1 students are admitted to the United States for the “duration of status” until the program is complete.
F-1 visa holders represent 78.1 percent of all foreign students in 2012.
F-1 visa is used for a wide range of full-time academic programs including language training, test preparatory programs and associates, bachelors, master’s, professional and doctoral degree programs.
As with other foreign student visas, there is no limit on the number of F-1 visas that can be issued annually.
Process for Applying for F-1 Visa –
The process for applying for an F-1 visa involves several steps, the first of which is to apply and get admitted into a SEVIS-certified school.
Once admitted, the school becomes the sponsoring institution for a student visa and enters the foreign student’s information into the SEVIS database, generating a paper I-20 form to include in the student’s admissions packet.
Once the prospective student receives I-20 form, she applies for a foreign student visa through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in her home country. During this step, the applicant is screened for security risks (terrorist, health or criminal), does not have a criminal record and does not meet any other inadmissibility criteria as outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.
After the foreign student is awarded a visa, and upon her arrival into the United States, immigration inspectors confirm her SEVIS record and enter her arrival information into the SEVIS database.
The sponsoring school is then responsible for confirming that the foreign student is attending classes and must update SEVIS for any changes in her enrollment status, major, or any disciplinary actions.39
F1 Visa process steps –
The prospective student applies to a SEVIS certified school or institution and pays a $100 fee. Upon admission this school becomes the sponsoring institution for the student visa and enters their information in the SEVIS database.
Step 2 –
The prospective student then applies for a foreign student visa with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
Step 3 –
The embassy or consulate screens the applicant for eligibility and issues the F1-Visa
Step 4 –
Upon arrival in the United States, Immigration inspectors confirm the students SEVIS record and enters his or her arrival information into the database.
The sponsoring school is then required to record in SEVIS that the student is attending class.
The school is responsible for updating SEVIS with changes in student status, major or any disciplinary actions taken.
The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that does not provide a direct path to permanent residency and has limited use for employment purposes. F-1 visa holders can seek temporary work authorization while a student through on-campus employment, off-campus employment
Two programs allow current and graduating F-1 visa holders to work for an off-campus employer:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) –
Through the CPT program, students on F-1 visas can work full-time or part-time while completing a degree program.
Employment must be integrally related to an established curriculum, be in the student’s major field of study and be approved by the designated school official who coordinates with the employer
CPT participants are usually limited to working 20 hours or fewer per week during the regular terms, while full-time employment is usually authorized during the summer.
Graduate students in advanced candidacy status are typically allowed to work full-time during the regular term if employment is an integral part of their degree programs
Students who enroll in full-time employment under the CPT program for more than 12 months would be ineligible to apply for optional practical training (OPT) post-graduation
Optional Practical Training (OPT) –
The OPT program allows F-1 visa holders to work full-time in the United States for up 12 months (for non-science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree holders) or 29 months (STEM degree holders) after receiving their U.S. bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree.
There is no limit on the number of OPT authorized per year, but the program requires approval by the foreign student’s school and the Department of Homeland Security.
F-1 visa holders are eligible for this post-graduation work authorization after each successively higher degree program they complete.
This program was designed to be part of the educational process by providing practical work experience for recent graduates with F-1 visas to sharpen and add to the skills they learned in school.
In 2008, President George W. Bush extended the period of OPT for STEM students to help bridge the gap between OPT and pending H-1B visa petitions.
As of November 2013, there were an estimated 100,000 F-1 students using the OPT program.
J-1 Visa -
The J-1 visa is used for foreign students, scholars, teachers, trainees, international visitors, au pairs and participants in travel-study programs.
This visa is intended for cultural exchange purposes, such as the Fulbright Scholarship program. J program sponsors must be recognized by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States.
If the program is funded by the foreign or U.S. government, or if the skills the J-1 visa holder is coming to develop or acquire are on the State Department’s “Skills List” for J-1s country of citizenship or permanent residency, then she or he must return to their home country for two years at the end of the exchange program, or obtain a waiver of that requirement before being eligible for a change of status to an H or L visa, or lawful permanent residence.
J-1 visa holders are admitted to the United States for “duration of status,” as long as their program lasts.
M-1 Visa -
The M-1 visa is used for non-academic, vocational study purposes only. This visa is the least common and is granted for only one year.
Students must be accepted by an approved program, show sufficient funding and demonstrate sufficient academic preparation.
M-1 students are admitted to the United States until a specific date keyed to the duration of their program of study.
H-1B Visa –
If the F-1 visa holder wants to receive work authorization for a longer period after graduation, they typically apply for an H-1B visa through their employer.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant employment-based visa that allows employers to hire foreigners to work in specialty occupations on a temporary basis.
Specialty occupations are defined as “requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher (or its equivalent) in the field of specialty.”
Visas are granted in up to three-year increments with the option to extend up to six years. Referred to as a “dual intent” program, the H-1B visa allows foreigners to work temporarily on a non-immigrant visa while taking steps toward permanent residency through employer sponsorship or other means.
Visas are issued to employers on a first-come-first served basis with an annual H-1B visa cap set at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas for workers with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions.
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Monday, September 01, 2014
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01 September 2014
Types of Foreign Student Visas to Enter USA and Process