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
- 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).
- 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.
- After receiving the Form I-20, the prospective non-immigrant student must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
- 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).
- The Department of State (DOS) website has additional information for Canadian students.
- 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
- 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).
- Be accepted by an SEVP-certified school, receive a Form I-20, and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
- Use a Form I-539 to apply to USCIS for a change of status.
- Receive approval from USCIS for the change of status.
- Be prepared to depart the United States immediately if the change of status application is denied.