With thousands of institutions of learning, ranging from universities to community colleges to specialized schools, the United States boasts a variety of educational opportunities for students from around the world. If you are interested in coming to the United States to pursue education, it is necessary to understand how student visas work in the country. There are over a million international students currently studying in the U.S., and it is possible for you to join them with careful preparation and legal guidance.
At Diaz Law Firm, our team of Los Angeles student visa attorneys understand the application process for obtaining an F-1 or M-1 visa, and work with students from all corners of the globe to secure student visas for their studies. To learn more about how we can help, consider connecting with us at (626) 261-0402 today.
Our Practice & Core Values
At Diaz Law Firm, we center our practice around our clients. By listening to their stories, understanding their needs, and providing the most comprehensive legal advocacy possible, we have helped countless individuals navigate their immigration issues. Attorney Cheryl Deptowicz-Diaz is an immigrant to the United States herself, and she and her team understand the unique challenges that individuals face in the U.S. immigration system. Through this knowledge and experience, Diaz Law Firm has shaped a legal practice that upholds our four core values:
- Equality. Every person we represent deserves to be treated with respect, and we see our clients as our equals.
- Partnership with Justice. Upholding our clients’ rights is our main priority. Through our extensive knowledge of U.S. immigration law and precedence, we ensure that justice is achieved in every case.
- Peace. Navigating your immigration issue should not be stressful or overwhelming. We manage our clients’ cases so that they can maintain a sense of peace.
- Self-Criticism. We constantly reflect on our services and the systems we use to serve our clients. We strive to continuously improve and grow.
What Are Student Visas?
Recent data indicates that approximately one million international students are currently in the United States to pursue an education. All prospective students must apply for a student visa to study in the U.S. unless they are already U.S. citizens or permanent residents. A student visa allows a person to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited university, college, seminary, elementary school, high school, or other institution of education. There are two different categories of student visas, the F-1 visa and the M-1 visa.
What Is the F-1 Visa?
The F-1 visa is designed for academic students. For this category, you must be enrolled in a program that results in the conferral of a diploma, degree, or certificate. Students in language-learning programs are also covered under the F-1 visa. This is the most popular student visa for students seeking to study in the U.S., and a person can only apply for an F-1 visa after they have been accepted into a qualifying program.
As an F-1 visa holder, the duration of your stay will depend on the length of your educational program. To remain in good legal standing, you must secure your degree, diploma, or certificate before the visa’s expiration date. Following your graduation, there are other visa options that may be used so that you can remain in the country for the purpose of work. Your Los Angeles student visa attorney can provide more detail about such opportunities and what to do with your F-1 visa after graduation.
What Is the M-1 Visa?
Another option for students is the M-1 visa, which is designed for vocational students who are enrolled in specific nonacademic programs other than language training. This is a much more specific visa category, and you cannot enter the U.S. on an M-1 visa to enroll in general studies.
What Are the F-1 Student Visa Requirements in the United States?
There are specific eligibility requirements that must be met in order for a student to apply for an F-1 visa in the United States. According to these requirements, you must:
- Be enrolled in an academic, vocational, or language-learning program at an institution that is approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program
- Enroll as a full-time student
- Be proficient in English or be enrolled in English learning courses
- Have sufficient funds to support your time in the United States
- Maintain a residence abroad that you have no intention of abandoning
Specific documentation must be produced to show that you meet these eligibility requirements, including financial records, an English language test, and proof of your home in your country of origin. Compiling these documents is key to successfully applying for and obtaining an F-1 visa, so it is important to navigate these issues carefully. An experienced Los Angeles student visa attorney at Diaz Law Firm can help you identify all necessary documentation and file your application according to the standards set forth by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the State Department.
Can a Relative of an F-1 Visa Holder Join Them in the U.S.?
Yes, as an F-1 visa holder, a relative can join you in the United States. Only certain relatives are permitted to travel with you as a dependent, however. Dependents are defined as spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. Siblings, parents, cousins, and children who are married or over the age limit cannot travel with you as a dependent. Your dependents can apply for the F-2 visa at the same time that you apply for the F-1 visa.
What Is the F-2 Visa?
The F-2 visa is a dependent, nonimmigrant visa that allows the dependents of F-1 visa holders to travel to the United States. On the F-2 visa, a person may enter the United States with their spouse or parent and remain in the country for the entire duration of the F-1 visa holder’s stay in the U.S. While an F-2 visa holder cannot seek employment on this visa, they may change their visa status if they take up new activities.
How Do You Apply for a Student Visa in the United States?
There are several steps in the process of applying for an F-1 visa in the United States. While the order of these steps may vary depending on your location, the general framework of the process can be summarized in the following way:
- Complete the non-immigrant visa application. This application is completed entirely online. You will be required to submit a photograph with your application that meets the stringent requirements set forth by the State Department.
- Schedule your visa interview. The interview will take place at the embassy or consulate closest to you. Before this interview, ensure that all fees are paid and that all necessary documentation is organized. You must bring your passport, confirmation of your visa application, receipt of payment, and Form I-20 provided by your school. Additional evidence regarding your academic program, financial stability, or intention to depart the U.S. upon the completion of your degree may be required.
- Attend the interview. At your interview, you will be asked questions regarding your application. A consular officer will determine whether or not you qualify for a visa. Digital fingerprints will be taken at this stage as well.
- Travel to the United States. If your visa is approved, you may travel to the United States to begin your program!
How Long Does it Take to Get a Student Visa?
The process to get a student visa is relatively fast compared to other visa categories. In fact, in some cases, the visa is approved during the visa interview. Generally, it takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to obtain a student visa, depending on your location and the quality of your application. It is important to note that mistakes during the application process can delay the timeline, and working with an experienced Los Angeles student visa attorney can help you avoid costly errors.
Hiring an Experienced Los Angeles Student Visa Attorney
For many hopeful students around the world, the United States offers valuable educational opportunities that can be critical to advancing their careers. Sometimes the only issue standing in the way of this opportunity is the visa application process. If you are interested in studying in the United States, or if you have been offered a place at an American academic institution, it is important that you fully understand the requirements of the F-1 student visa.
At Diaz Law Firm, our team of experienced Los Angeles student visa attorneys has worked with numerous F-1 visa applicants to help them successfully obtain a student visa to study in the U.S. To begin strategizing your case with our team today, consider contacting our office at (626) 261-0402.