Student Visas – Basic Information

There are several provisions in US Immigration Law that allows foreigners to attend school in the United States.  For help with any immigration related issue you should retain the immigration experts at Hilf & Hilf, PLC:

F-1 Student requirements:

1) Pursue a full course of study (with some exceptions) at an established private elementary school, private high school, university, college, community college, seminary, conservatory, or other academic institution or a language training program in the United States.  The school must be SEVIS approved;

2)  Make normal progress toward completing the course of study;

3) Maintain required valid documentation (passport, I-20 (certificate of eligibility), I-94 card marked D/S (Duration of Status);

4)  Update any change of address, name (for example, by marriage), or major area of study within 10 days of any change;

5) Must not engage in unauthorized employment (authorized employment options are very limited);

6)    Must leave the United States within 60 days after completing the course of study, unless the student has followed the required    procedures to change status or change schooling.

F-1 students can bring their dependant spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years through F-2 status. F-2 status allows the aforementioned persons from engaging in any lawful activity, such as schooling, but does not allow employment (even employment that is academic based). The F-2 recipient’s status continues for the duration of the related F-1 student’s status.

J-1 Exchange Visitor requirements:

1)    Engage in approved activities at the authorized location for which the DS-2019 was issued. Approved activities have included the following: Au pairs, camp counselors, school exchange programs, summer work-travel, boarding school students, secondary school students, participants in training programs, teachers, research scholars, professors, physicians, specialists, government visitors, and international visitors;

2)  Maintain medical insurance;

3) Maintain required valid documentation (passport, DS-2019, I-94 card marked D/S (Duration of Status);

4)  Update any change of address, name (for example, by marriage) within 10 days of any change;

5)  Must not engage in unauthorized employment (authorized employment options are very limited);

6) Must leave the United States within 30 days after completing    the J-1 program.

J-1 visitors can bring their dependant spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years through J-2 status. J-2 spouses and J-2 children are eligible to engage in any lawful activity, such as schooling. Furthermore, they are allowed to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD).

M-1 Student requirements:

1)  Pursue a full course of study (with some exceptions) at an established vocational institution or other recognized non academic institution in the United States;

2)  Make normal progress toward completing the course of study;

3)  Maintain required valid documentation (passport, I-20, I-94 card marked D/S (Duration of Status), SEVIS registration form;

4)  Update any change of address, name (for example, by marriage), or major area of study within 10 days of any change;

5) Must not engage in unauthorized employment (authorized employment options are very limited);

6)  M-1 students are admitted for 1 year of for the period necessary to complete their course of   study. They must leave the United States within 30 days after completing the course of study.  M-1 students are admitted for a specific time period, and the I-94 is date specific. The M-1 and M-2 holder may accrue unlawful presence or become an overstay by remaining beyond the allowed time period.

M-1 students can bring their dependant spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years through M-2 status. M-2 status does not allow for schooling or employment, with the exception of children in elementary, junior high school/middle school, and high school.

Fs, Js, and Ms may be admitted to the United States as early as 30 days prior to the program start date. To obtain an I-20, the foreign student must first apply to the school, gain acceptance, and submit evidence of having the financial ability to support him or herself for the period of the academic program. Once the I-20 is approved, the foreign student must apply at the US consulate in the foreigner’s locality for an F-1 visa (unless the student is Canadian) in order to enter the United States. Upon arrival, there is the possibility that the USCIS officer at the port of entry could request evidence of financial ability to support the foreigner’s stay in the United States as a student.

It is possible for a non citizen present in the United States can change their non immigration status to a student status. However, the USCIS can deny the application in the exercise of its discretion if it believes the foreigner intent was to circumvent the normal visa process. This could result in a denial in the application for change of status, and an order for the foreign student to depart or face removal proceedings. A request for change of status within 30 days of arrival creates a rebuttable presumption that the foreign student committed fraud in the initial visa application. A request to change nonimmigrant status between 30 and 60 days after arrival may be presumed to be fraudulent if the facts of the case gives the officer reasonable belief that the foreign student misrepresented their intent, which can be rebutted by the foreign student.

Institutions approved to host F students and M students designate a Principal Designated School Official to maintain contact with the Department of Homeland Security, and up to 9 others Designated School Officials to handle record keeping functions, advise students, approve certain benefits for students, and enter data into SEVIS (the Student Exchange Visitor Information System). SEVIS collects information on non immigrant and exchange visitors in order to track and monitor the students, inform of status events such as entry and exit data, changes in address, change in course of study, extension of time for program of study, and employment notifications. The school faces severe sanctions for failing to comply with these requirements.

It is possible for a person who finishes their degree or program to remain in the United States to engage in optional practical training.  Under OPT, the foreign student can remain in the United States for another year upon proper authorization.

An F-1 or M-1 student who violates status may request reinstatement while in the United States through a formal procedure. To be eligible for reinstatement, the student must establish:

1)  The violation of status resulted from circumstances beyond the foreign student’s control or that a failure to receive reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student;

2)  The foreign student is currently pursuing, or intends to pursue a full course of study at a school which issued the SEVIS Form I-20;

3)  The foreign student has not engaged in unauthorized employment;

4)  The foreign student is not deportable other than for entry without inspection or failure to comply with the terms of the F-1 or M-1 status;

5)  The foreign student has not been out of status for more than 5 months at the time of filing the request for reinstatement (or demonstrate that the failure to file within this time frame was the result of exceptional circumstances and that the foreign student filed the request for reinstatement as promptly as possible);

6)  The foreign student does not have a record of repeated or willful violations;

It is always recommended that a foreign student who is either seeking to enter the United States as a foreign student, requesting reinstatement, attempting to adjust status, wanting to extend their studies through OPT, wishes to obtain employment (when eligible to do so), or who have overstayed the terms of the visa hire an experienced Immigration Attorney such as the law firm of Hilf & Hilf, PLC.