Student F1 Visa Lawyer, Boston MA

F1 visa lawyer Dayna Lally, helps foreign nationals obtain student visas to study in the United States.

Student F1 Visas

An F1 student visa attorney prepares Form DS-160 on behalf of foreign nationals so that they may enter the United States temporarily to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or other academic institution.

As an immigration lawyer for international students, Dayna Lally advises students on issues relating to consular procedures, course load requirements, transfer procedures, on-campus employment, curricular practical training, optional practical training, post-completion OPT, STEM OPT extensions, unemployment during OPT, reinstatement, and cap gap relief.

Overview: What is a Student Visa?

Student visas are nonimmigrant visas for foreign nationals who want to enter the United States temporarily to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or other academic institution as a full-time student.


Student visa applicants must seek to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursing a full-time course of study at an established institution in the United States.

Student visa applications are most commonly denied when applicants fail to establish:

  1. Sufficient academic credentials to attend a particular institution;
  2. Adequate financial resources to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of intended study;
  3. Intent to depart the United States at conclusion of studies; and/or
  4. A foreign residence, which they do not intend to abandon.

Required Documents

  1. Passport;
  2. Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, confirmation page;
  3. Application fee payment receipt; and
  4. Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

Student visa applicants may also be required to produce documentation concerning their academic preparation (transcripts, diplomas, degrees, test scores, etc.), their intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study, and/or their ability to pay all educational, living, and travel costs. 

Student visa applications may be rejected or denied for failure to submit required evidence or supporting documents. All required evidence should be submitted with the initial application.

Application Process

  1. Step 1: Apply to SEVP-approved school in the United States;
  2. Step 2: Pay I-901 SEVIS Fee;
  3. Step 3: Submit DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application; and
  4. Step 4: Attend Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Student visa application processes vary by U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Consult the instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate Website for more specific instructions.


Student visa costs generally include:

  1. $160 – Form DS-150; and
  2. Reciprocity fee/visa issuance fee (if applicable)*.

* Student visa applicants from certain countries may be required to pay a visa issuance fee after their application is approved.

Visa issuance fees are based on the principle of reciprocity; meaning, if the government in a specific country imposes fees on U.S. citizens for similar types of visas, the United States will likewise impose a reciprocal fee on a foreign national of that country for that type of visa.

Costs of applying for a student visa vary from country to country. Visit the U.S. Department of State Reciprocity Page and select your country of nationality from the list of countries on the left side menu. Under “Visa Classifications,” click the “F” button. Look for an amount indicated in the F-1 fee section.

Processing Time

Student visas are processed at varying speeds depending on a variety of circumstances.

Estimated wait times for student visa interview appointments are available at the Department of State website. You can visit the Department of State website here.

Validity Period

F-1 students have a certain amount of time to arrive in the United States, complete their studies, and return to their home country.

Initial F-1 students are generally admitted a maximum of thirty days before their program start date. F-1 students may remain in the United States so long as they are maintaining their student status and making normal progress toward completing the educational objective.

F-1 students have sixty days to depart the United States after their program or optional practical training ends, unless they are changing status or starting a new program of study.

F-1 students who remain in the United States longer than authorized may be barred from returning and/or may be removed (deported) from the United States.


F-1 students are not required to apply for an extension of stay so long as they are maintaining status and making normal progress toward completing the educational objective.

F-1 students seeking a transfer or change to another educational level should contact their current Designated School Official (“DSO”).

F-1 students who remain in the United States longer than authorized may be barred from returning and/or may be removed (deported) from the United States.

Change of Status

F-1 students may request a change in their nonimmigrant status while in the United States.

An approved change of status from USCIS does not require former F-1 students to immediately depart the United States and apply for a new visa.  A former F-1 student is only required to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad if and when they depart the United States.

Family Members

Spouse and minor children accompanying an F-1 student are eligible for admission in F-2 status. Each family member must be issued a dependent Form I-20.

F-2 dependents may study at an SEVP-certified school in the United States so long as they are enrolled in less than a full course of study.

F-2 dependents may not apply for work authorization. F-2 dependents cannot accept employment.

Work Authorization

F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:

  • Curricular Practical Training (“CPT”);
  • Optional Practical Training (“OPT”); and/or
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“STEM OPT”).

Acceptable types of employment during pre- and post-completion OPT include:

  • Multiple employers;
  • Short-term multiple employers;
  • Work for hire;
  • Self-employed business owners;
  • Employment through an agency or consulting firm; and/or
  • Unpaid or volunteer work.

F-1 students cannot accrue more than ninety days of unemployment during the first twelve months of post-completion OPT.

STEM students cannot accrue more than one hundred fifty days of unemployment for thirty-six months.

F-1 students must work at least twenty hours to be considered employed.

“Cap Gap”

Cap Gap is a form of relief available for F-1 students who wish to extend their OPT employment while waiting for a change of nonimmigrant status from F-1 to H-1B.

In order for an F-1 student’s OPT to be automatically extended until September 30, the F-1 student’s OPT must have expired April 1 or later.

If the F-1 student’s OPT expired before April 1, the F-1 student cannot be employed again until the H-1B begins on October 1. The F-1 student may, however, remain in the United States during the period between the end of the OPT before April 1 and the start of the H-1B on October 1.


F-1 students who fail to maintain F-1 student status must request reinstatement by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Along with the Form I-539, the F-1 student must submit a properly completed SEVIS I-20 indicating the Designated School Official’s recommendation for reinstatement.

F-1 students denied reinstatement are not barred from seeking another visa, but the consular officer will consider why the F-1 student ceased full-time study and lost status.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/21/2021

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