Study Abroad: How to get an F1 Student Visa
With such diversity, culture, and natural resources, it’s no surprise international students flock to Florida to complete their studies. But what should you know if you’re looking to continue your higher education, or study abroad in the Sunshine State?
We’ve complied some of the most common questions and concerns for international students, so you can reference the basics and take the plunge to study abroad in Florida.
How Do I Know if my School is Eligible?
Repeat after us: schools need to be SEVP-approved! The SEVP, or Student Exchange Visitor Program, manages schools and nonimmigrant F and M visa students on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security. Think of them as academic customs. When participating schools get their green light, international students are then eligible to apply for F or M visas in order to complete their studies in Florida.
That said, the most important step in deciding what school to select is checking for SEVP certifications. We recommend starting with this nifty website from the Department of Homeland Security.
What are the Visa Requirements?
Like most major international transitions, the first and most important part of the process is applying for your visa, specifically the F-1 student visa.
An F-1 allows you to remain in the U.S. up to 60 days after the completion of your studies or degree. Though the F-1 visa is the most popular, the type of student visa you’ll need is determined by the type of school you plan to attend.
If you’re attending a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or a language training program, you’ll need the F. If you’re headed to a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, your visa is the M, which also includes culinary and beauty programs.
How do I Apply for my Student Visa?
First, fill out your SEVP-approved school’s application. After you’re accepted, you’ll be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, and receive Form I-20.
Once you’ve received your I-20, you can officially head to your nearest U.S. Embassy and begin the visa application process, which requires online submission of a DS-160 form, and a photo. (Check out the requirements before you say cheese.)
Finally, schedule an interview at your nearest U.S. Embassy, hand in your Form I-20, and pay a $160 application fee. You may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Click here for the full application process rundown.
What if I’m Looking to Transfer Schools?
If you’ve already begun your studies and are instead looking to transfer to an SEVP-approved school in Florida, you’ll first want to contact your designated school official (DSO). Once you find your point of contact, you’ll need to hand them your confirmation or letter of acceptance to your desired SEVP-approved school.
They’ll also need the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) school code for the school you’ll be transferring to. Your DSO will then work with you to choose a transfer date. When the date arrives, your new DSO at your transfer school will assist you with creating a new Form I-20. Read more about school transfers under F1 visas here.
When you’re looking into Florida study abroad programs, the process can feel a little intimidating. But the key is to take it take it step by step. Follow our visa tips to find the right one for you, reference the requirements and steps, and make a trusty checklist so you don’t miss a beat. You’ll be embarking on the sunny opportunity of a lifetime in no time.