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F-1 Visa

An F-1 non-immigrant visa is an immigration document that permits a citizen of a foreign country to enter the U.S. to pursue a full course of study at an academic institution that is SEVP-certified and has been authorized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to offer courses to foreign students. At the completion of studies, the student is expected to return to his or her residence abroad.

  • What is SEVP? Student and Exchange Visitor Program
  • What is SEVIS? SEVIS is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student's academic career in the United States.

What is a DSO? The DSO, or Designated School Official, is the school administrator responsible for issuing I-20s and advising F-1 students. At Trident Technical College the international admissions coordinator and the director of Admissions are DSOs. As an F-1 student you must regularly communicate with the international admissions coordinator to ensure you maintain legal status while in the U.S.

Steps to Becoming an F-1 Student

From Outside the United States

Non-immigrants must:

  • Submit complete application packet to Trident Technical College, meet all admission requirements and be accepted by TTC first.
  • Be able to pay for the cost of schooling and living expenses while in the United States and furnish proof of sufficient funding to the school. Non-immigrant students have limited work opportunities, so unless the school has promised an on-campus job, non-immigrant students should not expect to work to pay expenses.
  • Attend school full-time (at least 12 credit hours).
  1. When a school accepts a non-immigrant applicant, it issues a Form I-20 for initial attendance. Prospective non-immigrant students may apply to more than one SEVP-certified school but must choose one and use the Form I-20 from that school when applying for a visa.
  2. After receiving the Form I-20, the prospective non-immigrant student must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  3. The prospective non-immigrant student must then obtain a student visa from an embassy or consulate abroad or, if from a visa-exempt country such as Canada or Bermuda, apply for admittance at a U.S. Port of Entry (POE).
  4. The Department of State (DOS) website has additional information for Canadian students.
  5. After obtaining an F-1 visa, the prospective student may apply for entry into the United States through a U.S. POE no more than 30 days prior to the program start date on the student's Form I-20.

From Within the United States

Non-immigrants must:

  1. Be in the United States in a valid non-immigrant status and eligible to change to F-1 (See USCIS website on who may change status).
  2. Be accepted by an SEVP-certified school, receive a Form I-20, and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. 
  3. Use a Form I-539 to apply to USCIS for a change of status.
  4. Receive approval from USCIS for the change of status.
  5. Be prepared to depart the United States immediately if the change of status application is denied.

Obtaining an F-1 Visa

Applying for a Change of Status

SEVIS Form Information

Visa Interview

Non-immigrant Intent

What to Expect When Arriving

F-1 Forms

Affidavit of Support I-134

This form should be used by sponsors of prospective students to show ability to provide sufficient funds to students for educational and living expenses throughout the length of study. This form needs to be notarized by a certified notary public.

Transfer Clearance Form

This form should be used by prospective students wishing to transfer to TTC from another school. The form must be completed and signed by the current school's DSO and mailed/faxed directly to TTC.

Reduced Course Load Request

This form should be used by current F-1 students who wish to request a reduced course load. The form must be completed and signed by the student's academic advisor and interoffice mailed/faxed directly to the international admissions coordinator by the advisor.

Completion of Program Verification

This form should be used by current F-1 students who need to indicate their anticipated graduation date in order to extend their I-20 or to complete their program of study. The form must be filled out and signed by the student's academic advisor and interoffice mailed/faxed directly to the international admissions coordinator by the advisor.

Waiver for Change of Status

This form should be used by current F-1 students who have applied for change of immigration/non-immigrant classification or permanent residency.

F-2 Dependent Information

  • An F-2 spouse may not engage in a full course of study, but may engage in study at an SEVP-certified school in the United States as long as they are enrolled in less than a full course of study.
  • The F-2 spouse may still engage in study that is merely avocational or recreational in nature. To engage in a full course of study, an F-2 spouse must apply for and be granted F-1, M-1, or J-1 status.
  • An F-2 child may engage in study at an SEVP-certified school in the United States as long as they are enrolled in less than a full course of study at the post-secondary level.
  • An F-2 child may also engage in recreational or avocational study. To study full-time at the post-secondary level, the child must apply for and be granted F-1, M-1, or J-1 status.