F1 Student: FAQ
The F-1 Visa is a student visa issued to persons who will be full-time students seeking a degree or certificate at an approved institution. Your F-1 Visa is issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate in or near your country and is on one of the pages of your passport with your picture, personal information and name of the school on it. It is like a ticket to enter the United States.
The I-94 is the departure portion of the form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). You complete it before your arrival in the U.S. At your port of entry into the U.S. the Immigration Officer will write your SEVIS number (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) on your I-94, along with a stamp indicating your place of entry, the date that you are permitted to stay until, and your status as an F-1 student. The Immigration Officer should write "F-1-D/S" (Duration of Status) on your I-94. Each time you leave the U.S you will be asked to return the I-94 at your port of departure.
An I-20 form, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F1) students, is a document that Concordia University, Irvine issues to enable you to apply for an F-1 student visa.
You must be academically admitted to CUI and have proven with financial documents that you and/or your sponsor have sufficient resources to cover all expenses associated with your stay and study in the United States.
You will need to obtain your own sponsor. The sponsor does not need to be in the U.S. Our only requirement is that the sponsor(s) have sufficient funds to meet your financial requirements.
Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.
Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain a change of classification, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Non-immigrant Status, and also submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that there is an additional fee of $140 for this process, and that one may not begin studies until the change of classification is approved.
Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes start.
If you are a Canadian citizen, you are required to obtain an I-20, but not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States.
An I-20 form will enable you to apply for a visa, but it does not guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Visa approvals vary from country to country. To be issued a visa, you must prove to the consular officer that you are financially secure and have strong ties and intentions to go back to your home country upon completion of your study in the United States.
Effective September 1, 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security introduced an additional fee often referred to as SEVIS I-901 fee. If you have not previously paid the I-901 fee, you must pay the fee provided that your I-20 form is issued after September 1, 2004. The I-901 fee is $200 in most cases. The I-901 fee payment receipt may be requested during your appointment at the consulate. If you file a change of status application with the Immigration Service within the United States, it is advisable that you attach a copy of the payment receipt to the application package.
You must have a valid I-20 form issued by the school and your passport number to make a payment.
To make an online payment, you will need the information as follows:
- Your passport number
- School code and SEVIS numbers from your I-20 form
- Credit card information including: a credit card number, a credit card expiration date, name and address of the primary card holder
If you do not have your own credit card, someone else can make a payment on your behalf. If someone else allows you to use his or her credit card number, make sure you have all the information before you start filling out the online form. To make an online payment, follow the instructions below:
Go to www.fmjfee.com
Fill out the online form as required
Print out the payment receipt for your own records.
As per immigration regulations, F-1 visa students must be enrolled full-time and carry a minimum of 12 units for an Undergraduate student and 6 units for a Graduate student per semester during spring and fall semesters.
An extension to your Form I-20 may be filed so you may complete your degree.
Yes, you may travel during school breaks. You will need your Form I-20 signed by a college official (PDSO/DSO).
F-1 student visa holders are not eligible for Social Security Numbers unless they intend to engage in employment.
If you are an F-1 visa holder with secured on-campus employment, take your passport, your I-20 visa document, your I-94 form, and the job offer letter from your on-campus employer confirming your job offer to one of the Social Security Offices.
If you are an F-1 visa holder on OPT, take your passport, your I-20 visa document showing the authorized OPT, your I-94 form, and your EAD card to one of the Social Security Offices.
If you are an F-1 visa holder on CPT, take your passport, your I-20 visa document showing your authorized CPT, and your I-94 form to one of the Social Security Offices.
At the Social Security Administration Office you must complete an application form. You will receive notification of your social security number in the mail. The process usually takes from four to eight weeks. You may call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 with any questions. For more information, check the website: www.ssa.gov.
Employment opportunities for F-1 students are very limited.
As per immigration regulations, F-1 visa students may legally engage in on campus employment up to 20 hours a week. There are no special procedures required to apply for this type of employment. You may begin as soon as you are offered a position. Your job does not have to be related to your field of study. Employment authorization is not required for this type of employment.
The other types of employment available are: OPT (optional practical training), CPT (curricular practical training) and economic hardship based employment.
To be eligible to apply for off-campus employment authorization based upon severe economic hardship, you must meet the following criteria and must demonstrate severe economic hardship resulting from one of the following unforeseen circumstances:
- Loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
- Unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support
- Other substantial and unexpected expenses
- You must have been in valid F-1 status for at least full academic year
- You must be in good academic standing and registered full-time.
Immigration transfer is initiated by the school you are currently attending before your last date of classes. You must notify the Office of International Admission of your intention to transfer to another school and give us the name of the new school before your last day of classes. Failure to do so may result in cancellation of your SEVIS record along with your withdrawal leading to out of status.
After you transfer out, you may stay legally in the United States to start classes in another school provided that the waiting period does not exceed 5 months. Consult your international students advisor to make sure you will not fall out of status.
You are allowed to stay in the United States for a period of sixty days counting from the program completion date indicated on your I-20 or the last day of classes, whichever is earlier.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a one-year employment authorization that allows you to engage in legal off-campus employment to gain practical experience upon completion of your program. It can also be done part-time or when the school is not in session. Employment authorization is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service upon recommendation of the school. Processing your employment authorization may take about 90 days. Therefore, it is essential that your application be submitted at the beginning of your last semester at CUI.
To be eligible for Optional Practical Training, you must:
- Maintain a valid F-1 status at the time of the application
- Have been in a full-time valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year prior to submitting your application
- Intend to work in a field related to your major of study
Once your employment authorization is approved, it will be valid for one year. Dates of employment must be identified on the form. For OPT after completion of studies, the beginning date cannot be later than 60 days after the date you have completed your studies.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an employment option available to F-1 students where the practical training employment is an integral part of the curriculum or academic program. This employment may be an internship, a practicum, or any other work experience that is either required for your degree (as set forth in the course catalog) or for which academic credit is awarded. Employment authorization (EAD card) issued by the Immigration Service is required.
Yes, you may bring your spouse or unmarried children under the age 21 on F-2 dependent visa.
No, your dependents may not work on F-2 status. They have to apply for the appropriate work visa.
Yes, your dependents may study on F-2 visa. They do not have to apply for separate study visa.
The F-1 visa regulations require you to 'maintain status'. You may fall out of status if you:
- Fail to maintain full-time enrollment
- Work illegally, either off campus without authorization or on campus more than 20 hours per week during school session
- Fail to request a program extension and continue to study past the degree completion date listed in your Form I-20A-B
- Transfer schools without following the appropriate procedure (getting a new Form I-20A-B and having it processed by an International Student Advisor at the new school)
- Do not attend the school that the USCIS authorized you to attend
Your F-1 visa does not determine how long you may stay in the U.S. You need not be concerned about the expiration of your F-1 unless you decide to leave the U.S. for a short visit abroad prior to completing your studies. Before you re-enter the U.S., you will need to make sure you have a valid U.S. student visa. The F-1 visa itself (unlike your F-1 status) is only important at the port of entry to the U.S.
You must renew your F-1 visa if you decide to travel outside the U.S. and your current F-1 visa will expire before you re-enter the U.S. to continue your program. If this is the case, you will need to apply for another F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Students traveling to Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the U.S. (except Cuba) for less than 30 days are not required to have a current F-1 visa in their passport in order to re-enter as their visa gets automatically re-validated at the border.