Immigration Law Associates
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The F visa for academic students

Qualifications for the F visa:
To be eligible for an F-1 or F-3 student visa, a foreign national must meet the following criteria:

To search for a DHS-approved school, please visit (Note: a different criterion applies to F-3 students; see below for details).

What is "full-time enrollment"?
To be designated as a full-time program, a course of study must meet one of the following criteria:

It should be noted that in all cases, online classes are limited to three credit-hours, and no online language study programs are allowed.

What is SEVIS?
SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a nationwide, Internet-based system that the U.S. government uses to store information on non-immigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents. You are first entered into SEVIS (by a Designated School Official) when your initial I-20 is created.

When your initial I-20 is printed out, it comes with a barcode and a unique SEVIS ID number. This SEVIS ID should stay with you for as long as you study continuously in the U.S. even if you change your major or transfer to a new school. (If you are out of the U.S. for more than five consecutive months, then you will need a new I-20 to re-enter the U.S.).

When you enter the U.S., your arrival is recorded in SEVIS at your port of entry. After you begin your studies in the U.S., SEVIS maintains personal information about you and your academic status. In other words, SEVIS tracks whether you are maintaining F-1 status. 

F-2 visas for the spouse/minor children of an F-1 student
The spouse and minor children of the F-1 student may join the student in the U.S. by obtaining F-2 visas.  The spouse of the F-1 student may not accept employment or attend school, unless the studies are recreational in nature. Children in F-2 status are eligible to attend public or private schools in the U.S. from elementary through 12th grade.

F-3 student visas for Canadian and Mexican nationals 
The F-3 visa category was created for citizens and residents of Canada and Mexico who live within 75 miles of the U.S. border and commute to the U.S. temporarily to engage in full- or part-time academic studies.  Students in F-3 status may not reside in the U.S., and their spouses and children are not eligible for dependent visas.

Additional information:


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