People who are not citizens of the United States need special documents, called visas, to enter the country legally. The government issues many types of visas to those who wish to spend time in the United States for various reasons. One commonly utilized document for legal entry is the F1 visa for college students.
Non-citizen students who wish to study in the United States and anyone who wants to financially sponsor such a learner should learn about the regulations regarding the F1 visa.
What Is an F1 Visa?
F1 visas allow people from other countries to study full-time in the United States. These documents are non-immigration visas, meaning that the person holding the visa should have no intention of living in the United States after they complete their education. People who hold F1 visas must leave the country within 60 days after the expiration date.
To qualify for an F1 visa, an applicant must be enrolled full-time in an academic program approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These include accredited universities, colleges, seminaries and high schools. Students who enroll in vocational programs can apply for a similar type of visa called an M1.
F1 visa applicants must also prove they have the financial resources to pay for their first year of school without working. Sometimes, students secure sponsors to meet this requirement.
Types of Student Visa Sponsors
Sponsors are the individuals or organizations that provide financial security for students on F1 visas. Students who have enough money on their own can be their own sponsors. However, other students must rely on help from others to make ends meet during their time in the United States.
Sometimes, parents or other relatives sponsor students on F1 visas. Other times, the university that the student will attend acts as a sponsor. This may be through scholarships or stipends.
Employers in the students' home countries can sponsor F1 visa recipients with the promise of a job once they have the skills they need. Finally, some foreign governments sponsor citizens on their educational journeys.
Proving Financial Security
Whether students choose to self-sponsor or secure an outside sponsor for their F1 visas, they will need to prove financial security before gaining approval. The government needs sufficient evidence that the applicant not only has enough money to cover one year of expenses, but also that they didn't borrow any of that money.
First, applicants must provide official bank statements and other financial records. If they are self-sponsoring and have adequate money, this may be enough. Students who use other sponsors also need letters that explain how and why the sponsor chose to give the student the money.
During the interview portion of the F1 visa application process, the interviewer will try to understand the relationship between the applicant and the sponsor. If the interviewer believes the applicant may have borrowed the money or that the story seems false, they may deny the application.
Ties to Home Country
Because the F1 visa is not intended for people who wish to stay in the United States long-term, immigration officials want to make sure applicants do not intend to overstay their visas. As such, F1 visa applicants must prove they have significant ties to their home country that would make them want to return.
Some examples of significant ties include:
- A job offer after the student acquires a U.S. education.
- Property such as a home or land.
- Family members.
Without ties like these, applicants may need to apply for another type of visa.