What is an F-1 visa?
The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa category that allows foreign students to come to the United States to pursue academic studies at approved educational institutions. This visa category is primarily for individuals who plan to engage in full-time academic programs, including English language programs, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions.
Key points about the F-1 visa:
- Student Status: The F-1 visa is designed for individuals who intend to be full-time students in the United States. It’s not intended for individuals seeking to work or engage in other activities as their primary purpose in the U.S.
- Educational Institutions: To obtain an F-1 visa, you must have been accepted into an educational institution that is approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This includes universities, colleges, high schools, language schools, and other educational programs.
- Program Length: The F-1 visa is typically issued for the duration of your academic program. If you need more time to complete your studies, you can apply for an extension.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT): After completing your studies, you might be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows you to work in your field of study for a certain period of time. OPT is subject to specific regulations and requires authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- SEVIS: To apply for an F-1 visa, you will need to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and receive a Form I-20 from your educational institution. The SEVIS system is used to track and manage information about international students and exchange visitors.
- Nonimmigrant Intent: Applicants for an F-1 visa are required to demonstrate that they have a nonimmigrant intent, meaning that they plan to return to their home country after completing their studies.
- Dependents: F-1 visa holders can often bring their spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age to the United States on F-2 visas. However, F-2 visa holders are generally not allowed to work or engage in full-time studies.
- Visa Application Process: To apply for an F-1 visa, you need to submit the Form DS-160 online, pay the visa application fee, schedule and attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and provide required documentation to demonstrate your eligibility.
It’s important to carefully review the requirements and procedures for obtaining an F-1 visa from the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. The process can be competitive and requires proper documentation, so it’s advisable to start early and seek guidance from your chosen educational institution’s international student office or an immigration attorney if needed.
I am a F-1 visa student married to a US citizen. Can I apply for a green card in the US?
Yes, as an F-1 visa student who is married to a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for a green card (lawful permanent residency) in the United States through a process called “adjustment of status.” This process allows eligible individuals to transition from their nonimmigrant status (such as F-1 student) to permanent resident status without having to leave the U.S.
Here are the general steps you might follow to apply for a green card while in the U.S. as an F-1 visa student married to a U.S. citizen:
- Marriage to a U.S. Citizen: The first requirement is that you are legally married to a U.S. citizen. The marriage must be genuine and bona fide, meaning it was not entered into solely for immigration purposes.
- Eligibility: The U.S. citizen spouse must be at least 18 years old and have a valid and genuine marriage to you. You, as the F-1 visa holder, need to maintain your lawful student status and meet other eligibility criteria.
- File Form I-130: Your U.S. citizen spouse needs to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between you and your U.S. citizen spouse.
- Receive Approval: Once the Form I-130 is approved, you’ll receive notice of its approval from USCIS.
- File Form I-485: After the I-130 is approved, you can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This is the main application for adjusting your status to that of a permanent resident. Along with Form I-485, you will likely need to file other forms such as Form I-765 for work authorization and Form I-131 for a travel document (Advance Parole).
- Biometrics Appointment: After submitting Form I-485, you will receive a notice for a biometrics appointment where your fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be taken for background checks.
- Adjustment Interview: In most cases, you and your U.S. citizen spouse will be required to attend an adjustment of status interview with USCIS. During the interview, the officer will verify the authenticity of your marriage and evaluate your eligibility for the green card.
- Decision: If your adjustment of status application is approved, you will be granted lawful permanent resident status and will receive your green card.
It’s important to note that the process can be complex, and eligibility requirements may change. It’s advisable to consult the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website or consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that you have the most up-to-date and accurate information before proceeding with the green card application process.
How much does it cost to apply for a marriage green card if I am a F-1 student?
The cost to apply for a marriage-based green card (adjustment of status) can vary based on your specific situation and the forms you need to file. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) periodically updates its fee schedule, so it’s important to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information. Here are some potential fees that might be associated with the marriage-based green card application process for an F-1 student:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): This is the petition filed by your U.S. citizen spouse to establish the relationship between you as the intending immigrant and your U.S. citizen spouse. As of my last update, the filing fee for Form I-130 was separate from the adjustment of status fees.
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status): This is the main application for adjusting your status to that of a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). The filing fee for Form I-485 includes the cost of processing the application, as well as the cost of biometric services (fingerprinting and photograph). The fee amount can vary based on your age and specific eligibility category.
- Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization): If you wish to obtain work authorization while your green card application is pending, you can file Form I-765. As of my last update, there was a filing fee for Form I-765. Keep in mind that work authorization is not guaranteed and depends on your eligibility.
- Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document – Advance Parole): If you need to travel outside the United States while your green card application is pending, you can file Form I-131 to request advance parole, which allows you to re-enter the U.S. without abandoning your application. As of my last update, there was a filing fee for Form I-131.
It’s important to review the USCIS website for the most current fee information and to carefully follow the instructions provided for each form you are filing. USCIS might also offer fee waivers or reduced fees for certain categories of applicants. Additionally, USCIS could change its fee structure, so be sure to verify the fees before submitting your application.
If you’re uncertain about the fees or any aspect of the application process, consider consulting an immigration attorney or a reputable immigration consultant to ensure that you have accurate and up-to-date information.