Would you like to take up a privately financed degree at a US university or college or take a language course in the US? In all of these cases, you will need an F-1 visa to study in the USA. To apply, you need the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20), which is issued by the American university. Students who study or do an internship in the USA as part of a German-American exchange program must apply for the J-1 exchange visitor visa.
Requirements for an F-1 US visa
In order to apply for an F1 visa to study in the USA, several requirements must be met:
- Proof of admission to a US university, college or language school recognized by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)
- Participation in a full-time study program
- Permanent residence outside of the United States
- Proof of sufficient English language skills
- Proof of sufficient financial means
- Intention to stay in the USA only temporarily
Important: You should always consult the responsible contact person at the US university before you cancel a course. If, for certain reasons, full-time study does not prove to be practicable in the course of your stay, it is also necessary to inform us of this in good time.
The following applies to family members: Spouses and unmarried minor children have the option of traveling to the USA and applying for an F-2 visa. They too have to meet various requirements.
Application process for the F-1 visa for the USA
With the acceptance of a study place, the US university issues a form to the student. The Certificate of Eligibility or I-20 is a kind of pre-document for the visa. Important: You can only apply for an F-1 visa for studying in the USA with a Certificate of Eligibility. After receiving the certificate, it is advisable to check all the information. An incorrect date of birth or spelling mistakes in the name must be corrected.
Good to know: The so-called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) form is only relevant for visa-free travel. Students entering the USA on an F-1 visa are not affected.
There are several steps involved in applying for an F-1 visa to study in the USA. Learn more about USA and North America on thereligionfaqs.
1. Complete the DS-160 application form
The application process includes completing the DS-160 online application form. For the form you need a current passport photo that must meet certain criteria. The exact regulations can be found on the website of the US diplomatic mission in Germany. The completed application form must be printed out and brought with you to the later visa interview.
2. Paying the visa fee and SEVIS fee
For the visa application for the USA, a fee is due, the Machine Readable Visa Fee, MRV for short. It is currently US $ 160. Payment is made through the Visa service provider CGI Stanley. For this it is necessary to register on the website. Possible payment methods are online payment with debit card, bank transfer, instant transfer or cash at the bank.
Important: Make a note of the CGI reference or transfer number. It is required to make an appointment for the visa interview and must be brought with you to the interview.
Anyone applying for an F-Visa to study in the USA is also obliged to pay the so-called SEVIS fee (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). This is currently US $ 200.
3. Make an appointment for a visa interview
After you have paid the visa fee, you have the opportunity to arrange an embassy appointment in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich on the CGI Stanley website. Alternatively, an appointment can be made by telephone via the CGI Stanley hotline.
To make an appointment, you need the following information: the passport number, the CGI reference number and the ten-digit barcode on the confirmation page of the DS-160 application form.
When making appointments, there may well be waiting times. How long the process will take can be checked on this website.
4. Preparation for the embassy appointment
Students must bring a number of documents with them to the embassy appointment. Compulsory F-1 visa documents are:
- Passport valid for the entire duration of the stay (it must be in good condition and have a blank page for the visa)
- Original signed Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (I-20)
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Printed confirmation of the appointment
- Color photo – preferably on photo paper
Other documents can also be helpful. Bringing it with you is completely voluntary and not absolutely necessary, because if, contrary to expectations, the embassy requires one of the documents, you can also send it via scan:
- Certificate of enrollment
- Documents that prove that the student would like to leave the USA after completing the study program: non-terminated tenancy, building society loan agreement, pension insurance, certificate from the university
- Financial documents that confirm that the student has sufficient financial means for the USA stay: Scholarship and BAföG certificates, official and signed certificate from the bank
- Evidence of school and academic training: Abitur certificate, a preliminary transcript of records, results of language tests or admission tests
Even family members need certain documents, such as its own, issued by the US Institute of I-20 form. It is therefore necessary to also deal with these provisions in advance.
Visa interview and issuing of visas for the USA
You shouldn’t show up too early for your visa interview, half an hour’s lead time is sufficient. Incidentally, the agreed time does not indicate the beginning of the conversation, but first and foremost the entry into the embassy and the beginning of the entire procedure.
In the visa interview, especially the so-called plays detection of binding a role. The consular officer usually asks what ties the student has to their home country or what plans exist after returning from the USA. Students should also be able to explain why they would benefit from studying in the United States at this point in time.
It is worthwhile to think about what you want to tell at home in advance and how best to formulate the content in fluent English.
After a successful visa interview, students will receive their passport including an F-1 visa for studying in the USA by post. This usually takes five to seven working days. It is advisable to check the visa for correctness immediately.
F-1 visa: validity, entry and exit
With an F-1 visa, students are allowed to enter the United States up to 30 days before the start of the program. After the program ends, students have the option to stay in the country for a maximum of 60 days. During this so-called grace period it is not allowed to work. The time is only intended for domestic travel.
During their studies, students are free to travel to other countries such as Mexico or Canada. For this it is necessary to consult with the visa section of the US university. They will issue the appropriate approval and put a note on your I-20 form. You can get all further information from the responsible Foreign Student Adviser at the US university.
Sometimes it happens that an F-1 visa is issued for a period that exceeds the study period. Nevertheless, the following applies: The visa is earmarked and only valid in combination with a current I-20 form. Entry as a tourist, for example, is not possible.
Work permit with an F-1 visa USA
Students are allowed to work at the US university for up to 20 hours per week. Employment outside the university is not permitted. However, it is possible to apply for a work permit for the USA.
Optional practical training
F-1 visa holders have the chance one optional practical training (Optional Practical Training to) apply. This must have a technical reference to the study program and is possible in two variants:
- Pre-completion OPT from the second year of study. During the semester, students are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. It is allowed to work full-time during the semester break.
- Post-completion OPT following the study program for a maximum of twelve months. Mathematics students and students of technical, engineering and natural sciences can, under certain circumstances, apply for a further extension of up to 17 months (OPT STEM Extension).
Students need a letter of recommendation from the US college to submit to the US Immigration Service (USCIS). If they are approved, they will receive an Employment Authorization Card. For more information on optional hands-on training, see the USCIS website.
Curricular Practical Training
Another option is Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This is also a work permit for the USA that is issued before the study program is completed. In contrast to the pre-completion OPT, the CPT must be a compulsory part of the course or make a significant contribution to research for the thesis. With the pre-completion OPT, only the technical reference to the course is required.
The curricular practical training is possible part-time and full-time for a maximum of twelve months during the course. Students who complete a CPT full-time over a period of twelve months can no longer apply for optional practical training.