When you have received an acceptance letter and an I-20 from Concordia, you may apply for an F-1 student visa. You will need several documents to support your visa application from a U.S. embassy or consulate. Visa procedures vary slightly from one consulate or embassy to another. Before you apply, check with the office where you plan to apply to determine exactly what you need to do. Several standard items are required for application:
- A current, valid passport
- An I-20 form
- Evidence of financial support for the period of time and amount indicated on the I-20 form
- Proof that you have permanent residence outside of the U.S.
- One or more passport-type photos
- A nonimmigrant visa application
Additional application materials may be requested by the visa officer to prove your eligibility for an F-1 student visa. These may include evidence of English proficiency, school records to verify academic preparation, and additional strong ties to your home country or of your ability to support yourself while in the U.S. An application fee or a short interview may be required. Visa officers assume that the person applying for a visa will want to immigrate permanently to the U.S. The person applying needs to show they only want to reside in the U.S. for a temporary amount of time as a student.
When you applied for a visa, you received an F-1 student visa. It's very important that you maintain your status as an F-1 visa holder. Duration of Status (D/S) is the period in which the F-1 Visa student "is pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) or engaging in authorized practical training following completion of studies, plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the United States. The student is considered to be maintaining status if he or she is making normal progress toward completing a course of study." F-1 visa students are admitted to the U.S. for duration of status and must complete their academic program by the completion date on the I-20 or apply for a program extension.
You can remain in-status as an F-1 visa student by:
- Keeping your passport valid for at least 6 months. You should apply for a new passport if it will expire in less than 6 months.
- Maintaining full-time enrollment and normal full-time progress toward your degree.
- Being enrolled for at least 12 credit hours (6 for graduate students) except for last semester before graduation.
- Finishing an average load every year (30 credits can include summer).
- Advancing regularly towards graduation in you declared major.
- Completing two consecutive semesters before a break.
- Accepting no employment of any kind off campus.
- Obtaining extensions, as needed, of your permission to stay in the United States.
- Obtaining a new I-20 when changing programs/majors.
- Making sure you meet eligibility criteria before you transfer to another school in the United States.
- Having your I-20 signed by a Designated School Official, as needed, before leaving the U.S.
- Understanding and following U.S. law and INS regulations.
- Making copies of your passport, I-20, I-94 and financial documents and keep in a separate place from originals.
- Attending the school you are authorized to attend (school that issued most current I-20).