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F1 Visa Renewal in the U.S.
F1 visas allow students to come into the U.S. from foreign countries and study at any of its educational institutions. This has been a great option for students for whom the level of education in their country is not up to par or simply not available. But it has limitations, one of which is validity. If your F1 visa status is nearing expiration, here is all you need to know about the renewal process.
What Is an F1 Visa?
An F1 visa is a type of nonimmigrant visa issued specifically to international students who are entering the U.S. for their education, at any university, college, high school, private elementary, conservatory, seminary, or language training program. It doesn’t matter as long as it is accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
There are exceptions, but generally speaking, anyone who wants to study or gain an education from any institution should get an F1 visa. Getting an F1 visa is relatively simple, and you can do so on your own.
Does an F1 Visa Expire?
An F1 visa allows you to enter the U.S. and stay for a specific period, usually until the completion of your program. After this, the visa is considered expired, and visa status ineligible. So yes, the F1 visa does have expiration dates that vary from program to program. Post expiration, you have the option of renewing it to continue your stay in the U.S.
Since F1 visas are issued to students of all categories, not every F1 visa is renewable. You have to cross-check with your program and verify if the visa can be extended. If not, then you should go for a change of status and not F1 renewal.
F1 Renewal Checklist
F1 visas can be renewed, given that they are eligible for it. If so, then you should follow proper guidelines laid out by the USCIS. Just like other immigration-related processes, you’re required to follow and comply with them. Here’s a brief checklist of what you’d need to renew your F1 visa:
This is the CEAC or Consular Electronic Application Center form, which you will have obtained during your F1 visa application process. When you renew your F1 visa, you will be asked to submit a copy of Form DS-160. This is the main document that officials will look at while verifying your educational background in the U.S.
You need to have a passport with a validity of at least six months from the date of the F1 visa renewal application date. Officials will check you have a valid passport and can extend it if required.
You’ll be required to submit two recent passport-sized photographs of yourself. They should meet the specifications of a passport photo, which you can find here.
Known as the Arrival/Departure report, you’ll have to submit a copy while applying for F1 renewals. Submit the most recent one if you’ve visited outside of the U.S.
All international students receive Form I-20 from their designated school official when they are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program or SEVP. This is required when applying for a nonimmigrant F1 visa. You’ll be required to submit a copy for renewals as well.
School Attendance Records and Other Transcripts
A record showing your school attendance and overall performance should be submitted for consideration. This signifies that you’re serious about your education and have been following the curriculum and schooling activities closely. You can get it from your college, with or without submitting any form, which varies from school to school.
Bank Documents Showcasing Your Financial Health
The USCIS needs to know that you have sufficient monetary funds in your account so that you can take care of yourself during your stay as a student. Tuition fees, living expenses, project expenses, and other costs are added when calculating the total cost of the program. Your bank history should satisfactorily indicate that you can afford these over time.
Documents Validating That You Have No Intentions of Staying in the U.S.
Since the F1 visa is a temporary, conditional visa, it does not allow anyone to reside in the U.S. permanently. Its temporary nature is the foundation of this visa. So just like when applying for an F1 visa, you should showcase that you will be leaving the country after the completion of your program unless you are eligible for any other visa.
Depending on your situation and program, you might also be required to produce other documents. So, be flexible and cooperate with officials.
How to Renew an F1 Visa
Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, you can move ahead with the application process. Here’s a step-by-step procedure.
Apply in Your Home Country
U.S. visas aren’t issued in the U.S. You have to apply for it at a U.S. consulate outside of the country. So you will be required to visit your home country. But before you leave, you must carry the aforementioned documents with you. The consular will provide you with the necessary documents to fill out and sign, which will start your F1 visa extension application. If you’re visiting Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, you can reenter the U.S. without an F1 visa.
I-901 SEVIS Fee
For F1 students, the SEVIS fee is $200. This will be paid to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But not every F1 student is required to pay this fee. Whether or not you should pay depends on the following:
- You’re not required to pay the fee if your I-20 was issued before 2004, and you have maintained your lawful F1 status since then. You can carry your I-20(s) copies showing that you have made multiple entries into the U.S. based on your I-20 that was issued before 2004.
- You’re not required to pay the fee if you have already paid it before. You just need to bring your SEVIS fee receipt with you.
- You’re required to pay the fee if you have paused your educational commitments for five months or more.
- You’re required to pay the fee if you’re applying for reinstatement to regain the F1 visa status that you had abandoned for some reason.
Applying for a Visa in a Third Country
If you’re visiting a country other than your home country, you can still renew your F1 visa. Just visit the U.S. consulate in that country and proceed with your renewal application. But be aware that certain consulates do not accept such applications during peak seasons and prioritize their native applicants.
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Once you have renewed your F1 visa, you can continue your education in the U.S. While you can do it by yourself, you shouldn’t shy away from seeking legal help from a qualified attorney in case you become perplexed anywhere in the application process.