F-1 Student Visa
An F-1 visa may be granted at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to an individual who is qualified to pursue a full course of study at an academic or language institution authorized to admit foreign students. At the embassy or consulate, the individual will be required to submit an I-20 form and proof of adequate funding for one year of study (or the length of the program if less than one year), along with the application for a nonimmigrant visa (OF-156). In addition, the individual must prove that he or she intends to enter the United States for educational purposes only and that the applicant has a permanent residence in a foreign country and strong family or business ties which he or she has no intention of abandoning.
It is extremely important for a student on an F-1 visa to maintain legal status throughout the program of study in the U.S. The illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 places a particular emphasis on the need for students to take responsibility for maintaining F-1 student status. Please read the Staying Legal section below and the Maintaining Your Legal Status section on this website to review the basic immigration regulations governing F-1 students.
An individual who enters the U.S. in B-2 visitor status should be engaged in the following types of activities: visits with friends or relatives, travel, sightseeing, or medical treatment. A B-2 visitor will be admitted for a minimum period of six months and may be eligible to apply to the Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) for extensions of stay in increments no longer than six months each.
A student who plans to study at Cedarville University should not attempt to enter on a tourist visa. The immigration officer at the port of entry will refuse entry if he or she determines that an alien is entering on a B-2 visa for purposes other than those of a tourist nature.
We strongly recommend that a new student contact the office of international student services if he or she is having trouble obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa. To enter the U.S. on a tourist visa is not a viable solution.
Visa Waiver Program (WT)
An individual may be eligible to enter the U.S. in "B" visitor status without a visa, provided he or she has a valid passport issued by a designated country, a round-trip airline ticket, and the intent to stay in the U.S. for a period not to exceed 90 days. The following countries participate in the visa waiver program: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
A visitor who applies for entry under the visa waiver program is not eligible for an extension beyond the 90 days and cannot work, study, or change to another nonimmigrant visa status.
We strongly recommend that a new student contact the office of international student services if he or she is having trouble obtaining a F-1 student visa. To enter the U.S. on the visa waiver program is not a viable solution.
There are basic requirements for maintaining student status in the United States. If you are an international student, it is very important to follow the guidelines below to ensure that you remain in good standing with the USCIS:
- Keep your passport valid at all times.
- Attend the school noted on your I-20.
- Maintain full-time enrollment each semester.
- Do not engage in studies beyond the completion date listed on the I-20. If more time is needed, obtain a Program Extension before the completion date has passed.
- Report a change of address or phone number to the Cedarville registrar or the office of international student services within 10 days of a change.
- If you have changed your major or degree level, obtain a new I-20 which reflects this program of study from the office of international student services.
- If you commence studies at another school, make sure that the transfer process is completed. Visit the international student office at your new school to obtain a new I-20, and tell the advisor that you are a transfer student. The new school should take care of the rest.
- Do not work without obtaining proper employment permission from the USCIS. Limit on-campus employment to a total of 20 hours per week (even if you have more than one job) while school is in session.
Websites to Visit
The following procedures must be followed to enter the United States in valid F-1 student status:
- Read page two of the Form I-20AB carefully and complete section 11 on page one as instructed.
- Take Form I-20AB to the American Consulate nearest you along with your passport, letter of admission, and proof of financial support. At the Consulate, you will be asked to complete an application for a visa.
- Upon presentation of the Form I-20AB to the American Consulate, a F-1 visa will be stamped into your passport, and your Form I-20AB will be returned to you. If you are interviewed by a consular official, you should be prepared to answer a few questions about why you chose Cedarville University (mention unique interests) and what you plan to do after completing your degree. Your visa is likely to be rejected if the consular official believes you wish to stay in the U.S. permanently after graduating. Intentions to stay for temporary purposes/programs (like practical training, etc.) are acceptable, but you should be able to explain how the practical training would help you when you return to your home country.
- At the port-of-entry, the immigration official will request your passport and Form I-20AB. The Customs official will create an I-94, an electronic record of your your arrival, which you will later be able to access on the Customs and Border Protection webpage and print for your records. The official will return your passport and I-20 with a stamp to you. This is your I-20ID copy and must be kept throughout your entire stay in the US.
- Upon arrival at Cedarville University, please bring your passport and I-20ID to the Office of International Student Services located in the Stevens Student Center, Registrar's Office.
For more information, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Length of Stay/Program Extension
Duration of Status for F-1 Students (D/S)
F-1 students are normally admitted into the U.S. for the entire period of one academic program plus authorized post-completion practical training plus a 60-day grace period. This is noted on the I-94 as D/S (Duration of Status). To be "in status" means that 1) you are pursuing a fulltime course of study and that 2) you are making normal, reasonable progress toward your degree objective. Please note on your I-20 in item 5 the anticipated date of "program completion." Status may be extended 1) by moving into a higher level of studies and receiving a new I-20 for the new program, 2) by making a timely application for post-completion practical training following completion of all program requirements, and 3) by getting permission from Cedarville University for additional time to complete the current program, if required. At the final conclusion of your studies in the U.S., you have 60 days to remain on the F-1 status in order to arrange for your travels back to your home country. Please note that program completion is not always the same as graduation.
If you are an F-1 student and plan to travel outside the U.S. to study abroad, on a missions trip, or during a break from the University, please visit the consulate page for the country or countries you will be visiting to verify whether you need an additional visa to enter and stay in that country.
Be mindful of the expiration date of your visa. Remember, the visa is what allows you to enter the United States, your I-20 and current enrollment at Cedarville University is what allows you to remain in the United States. Examine the visa stamp in your passport to determine if it will be valid on the day you plan to return to the U.S. If not, be sure to consider the additional time you may require to make the visa application at a U.S. consular office overseas. Carry with you evidence that you have been maintaining your immigration status while in the U.S. Visit the Office of International Student Services for assistance.
Student Employment (while in F-1)
F-1 students in good academic standing and maintaining student visa status may be eligible for certain forms of employment, training, academic internships, and professional externships. These are not "work visas." See section titled Employment Options for F-1 Students for more information.
Always consult with the the office of international student services if you have questions about employment opportunities or plans.
If F-1 students transfer to Cedarville from another school or intend to transfer elsewhere from here, they must contact the Office of International Student services at Cedarville and the DSO at the other institution to complete the transfer. The new school must issue an I-20, and the old school must release the student from its program and assign a "release date" in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval is not required.
The following procedures must be followed if you are not leaving the United States prior to your transfer to Cedarville University:
- Once you are accepted to Cedarville University, notify the SEVIS designated school official at your current school of your intention to transfer and seek their assistance in identifying a "transfer release date." As soon as you arrive at Cedarville University, bring previous I-20 forms to the Office of International Student Services in Stevens Student Center, Office of the Registrar along with your passport.
- Enroll at Cedarville University in the first term after leaving previous school or the first term after an authorized vacation period.
- Obtain your Cedarville University I-20 form within 10 days of the academic semester for which you were admitted.
SEVIS Fee for F-1 Non-immigrant Students
Directions: Please read through the information below explaining how to pay the SEVIS fee. This fee must be paid in advance of your application at the U.S. Consulate for the F-1 Visa.
Who pays the fee?
Those who apply to enter the United States as an F-1 visa status student visitor with a Form I-20 dated on or after September 1, 2004.
How much is the fee?
For students F-1 visa it is $200.
Methods of Payment
METHOD ONE: Electronically, by completing Form I-901 using a credit card. Be sure to pay at least three business days before the scheduled visa interview. This will allow time for the fee payment to be confirmed in SEVIS. Print out a payment confirmation and submit a copy with your visa application.
- OR -
METHOD TWO: Through the mail, by submitting Form I-901, together with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency. Note that this is considerably slower than the electronic alternative above.
- OR -
METHOD THREE: Western Union Quick Pay T Service where available. If you use this method, retain your receipt and attach a copy to your visa application.
When must the fee be paid?
- A minimum of three business days prior to the visa interview date for electronic fee submissions (Method One).
- A minimum of 10 business days before the scheduled visa interview (if you submit the fee by mail) to allow for delivery at the DHS address listed on the Form I-901. This time frame allows the fee payment to be deposited and recorded in SEVIS (Method Two).
- DHS will issue an official paper receipt (I-797) acknowledging every payment regardless of payment method. This receipt (Form I-797) will be the most acceptable proof you can use to show the U.S. Consulate that you have paid the SEVIS Fee.
- Anyone who submits an individual fee electronically will be able to print out an electronic receipt immediately at the time of payment for use in advance of the mail delivery of the official paper (Form I-797) receipt.
For more information and alternative methods of payment, please review the two web pages identified below:
At Cedarville University we understand that applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa can be a challenging process so we have compiled this list of 10 tips to help the process go more smoothly.
Tips to Remember When Applying for Visa
1. TIES TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY
Under U.S. law all applicants for nonimmigrant visa, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. Ties to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter that can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the U.S. previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation if available.
Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches. If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
3. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF
Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a program and need your parents there in case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room.
4. KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS
If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.
5. BE BRIEF
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
6. ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION
It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you're lucky.
7. NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the U.S.
Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependent cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work and attending school part time are permitted activities.
9. DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME
If your spouse is remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how he/she will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
10. MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. Try to get the reason you were denied in writing.