College minors really matter

F-1 visa to study in the USA

You want a privately financed studies enroll in a US university or college or take a language course in the US? In all of these cases you need one F-1 visa to study in the USA. You need that for the application Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) 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

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The most important document for studying in the USA: the F-1 visa.

To apply for an F1 visa to study in the United States, you must met several requirements be:

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 in good time.

For Family members applies: Spouses and unmarried minor children have the opportunity to travel to and from the USA F-2 visa to apply. 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 respectively I-20 is a kind Pre-document for the visa. Important: You can only get an F-1 visa for studying in the USA with Certificate of Eligibility apply for. After receiving the certificate, it is advisable to check all the information. A wrong 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 US on an F-1 visa are eligible not affected.

There are several steps involved in applying for an F-1 visa to study in the USA.

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 photothat 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

There is a fee for applying for a visa for the USA 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: write them down 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.

If you apply for an F-Visa to study in the USA, you are also obliged to pay the so-called SEVIS fee (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) to be paid. This is currently US $ 200.

3. Make an appointment for a visa interview

After you have paid the visa fee, you have the option of getting one on the CGI Stanley website Appointment at the embassy in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich to agree. Alternatively, an appointment can be made by telephone via the CGI Stanley hotline.

To make an appointment, you will 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 it comes to making appointments, it can come to 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)
  • Signed Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (I-20) in the original
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Printed confirmation of the appointment
  • Color photo - preferably on photo paper

In addition, you can other documents helpful be. 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 submit it by scanning:

  • 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 confirming 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 provisional one Transcript of Records, Results of language tests or admission tests

Also Need family members certain documents, for example your own, issued by the US university 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 start of the conversation, but first and foremost the entry into the embassy and the start of the entire procedure.

In the visa interview, the so-called Proof of commitment 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 in advance at home what you want to tell and how best to formulate the content in fluent English.

After a successful visa interview, students receive the Passport including 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 up to 30 days before the start of the program to enter the USA. After the end of the program students have the opportunity to 60 days maximum to stay in the country. In this so-called Grace Period 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 the US university.

Sometimes it happens that an F-1 visa is issued for a period that exceeds the study period. Nevertheless: That visa is earmarked and only in combination valid 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 to get a optional practical training (Optional practical training) to apply for. 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. During the semester break, you are allowed to work full-time.
  • Post-completion OPT for a maximum of twelve months following the study program. Mathematics students and students of technical, engineering and natural science subjects 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 universitythat you can file with the US Immigration Service (USCIS). In the case of a permit, you will receive a work permit card (Employment Authorization Card). For more information on optional hands-on training, see the USCIS website.

Curricular Practical Training

Another option is that Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Again, this is a work permit for the USA, which is issued prior to the completion of the study program. In contrast to the Pre-completion OPT must be the CPT compulsory part of the course or make a significant contribution to the research for the thesis. At the Pre-completion OPT only the technical reference to the course is required.

The Curricular Practical Training is part and full time for a maximum of twelve months during the course possible. Students who complete a CPT full-time over a period of twelve months can no longer apply for optional practical training.