The F1 student visa allows people from foreign countries to study in the U.S. These can be students in colleges, universities, or conservatories. They will be in the U.S for the duration of their programs, but cannot stay permanently. The F1 visa is a U.S nonimmigrant visa and does not grant the students permanent residence.
However, a lot of students want to know whether renewing the F1 visa is possible. This article will go through the F1 visa renewal and F1 visa extension processes.
F1 Visa Renewal Process
To renew F1 visa you must follow the same process as the initial F1 visa application. You should apply for F1 visa renewal outside of the U.S, preferably at the U.S Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
After a student gets their F1 visa, the U.S Embassy usually issues it for the duration of the academic program. If your program takes 1 year to graduate, the Embassy will most likely give you the visa for 1 year. However, in some cases when a program is longer, the Embassy will issue a visa that is valid for less.
For example, many educational programs take 2 or more years to complete. So the U.S Embassy could give you a visa for only 1 year. After that 1 year has passed, your F1 visa expires and you must renew it. You can stay in the U.S with an expired F1 visa as long as your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status is valid. But if you travel out of the U.S, you might have trouble entering again.
That is why, it is best to renew your F1 visa, rather than stay with an expired one. There are two main ways that you can renew your F1 visa:
- Go to your home country or another country and apply to a U.S Embassy for renewal;
- Use the Automatic Visa Revalidation option;
It is important to note that you cannot renew or extend your F1 visa if your academic program has ended.
Applying for an F1 visa renewal
If you visit your home country or another country (except for Canada and Mexico), then you can apply for an F1 visa renewal. You must follow the application process in the country you are visiting.
The U.S Embassy suggests that you apply from your home country since it is more likely that other countries could deny your visa. If your visa is denied, you cannot enter the U.S anymore even if your program has not yet ended.
To renew the visa, you must file the Form DS-160, Online Application for Nonimmigrant Visa to the U.S Embassy. After completing the form, you must save your confirmation page and number. Since you have already applied once, the U.S Embassy might not need an interview.
You will still have to submit supporting documents though. The supporting documents must be enough to convince the Embassy that they should renew your F1 visa. Some examples of supporting documents could be:
- A letter describing your academic program;
- A letter describing your research activities in the U.S;
- Your resume and official university transcripts;
- Proof of your funding for the program you are enrolled in;
- Letters from your academic advisor or program director confirming you are currently enrolled in an academic program;
- Proof that you have paid all fees related to the F1 visa;
- Proof that you have not been involved in any criminal activities during your time in the U.S;
- Proof that you will return to your home country after your program ends.
After you submit the documents, you must wait for processing. During processing, you must stay in the country you applied and you cannot travel to the U.S.
The Embassy will notify you of their decision. If you got an approval, you can return to the U.S. If your visa was denied, you must return to your home country.
Automatic Visa Revalidation
An easier alternative to renewing your F1 visa is to take advantage of the automatic visa revalidation option. This option allows students to travel to Canada, Mexico, or the U.S territories for less than 30 days and get their visa automatically revalidated once they enter the U.S.
So right before your visa expires or after it has expired, make travel plans to one of the above-mentioned countries. If you need a visa to enter Canada for example, try to obtain it before your F1 visa expires.
Then travel to one of the countries. You have the option of staying there as a vacation or you can immediately try to enter the U.S.
Once the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials verify your status as a student in the U.S, your F1 visa will be automatically revalidated. The revalidation will only be for the period that you are enrolled in your academic program.
For more details about this option, visit the Automatic Visa Revalidation article.
Applying for an F1 Visa Extension
There are few opportunities to extend the F1 visa beyond its validity and the duration of your academic program. However, one common option is to complete a post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT).
The OPT is a program which allows F1 visa students to work in the U.S for a maximum of 12 months. The student can work for these 12 months during their academic program or after. If you want to extend your F1 visa, it is better to do your OPT after your program ends.
While you are on OPT, you have the option of working part or full time for a U.S employer. When the 12 months are over, the employer can choose to sponsor you for an H-1B visa and change your status. If you have a STEM-related field, you can extend your OPT for another 24 months.
For all other students, once the 12 months OPT is over, your F1 visa expires and you cannot renew or extend it.
What If My F1 Visa is Expiring and I Cannot Renew or Extend it?
Once your academic program and OPT are over, you have 60 days to leave the U.S and go back to your home country. During your application period, you had to submit proof that you plan to return home once you were done with the program.
However, there are a few ways through which you can try to stay in the U.S even if the F1 visa will no longer be valid and you will not be able to extend it. The only solution is to change your status.
The easiest route that most F1 visa students follow is to get an H-1B visa sponsorship. This changes your status to a nonimmigrant visa and you can stay and work in the U.S for up to 6 years.
The benefit of the H-1B visa though is that it is a dual intent visa. This means that after 6 years, you can also try to petition and get a Green Card. This will be an Employment Based Green Card which will allow you to live and work in the U.S permanently.
If you could not get an employer to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, you can either return to your home country or try more difficult and complicated options.
One option is to self-petition for an Employment Based Green Card. You can make your case that you have extraordinary abilities in the arts, science, business, or athletics and get an EB-1 visa. This is extremely difficult and most of these petitions fail because of extensive requirements.
The second option is to become a U.S investor. You can invest in a U.S commercial enterprise and create jobs. This could make a case that you are contributing to the economic development of the U.S and you might get an Investor Green Card or EB-5 visa.
The difficulty in getting this visa is that the requirement for the amount of the investment is too large. You must invest between $500K and $1 million in the commercial enterprise to qualify for an EB-5 visa. As a student who was on an F1 visa until that point, it is highly unlikely that you will have that amount of money saved.
The final route is to marry a U.S citizen. A lot of F1 visa students meet someone and start a relationship with that person which leads to marriage. Once engaged, the F1 visa student would qualify for a fiancé visa and after marriage, they get the IR-1 visa. The IR-1 visa is the spouse of a U.S citizen visa and it allows you to live and work in the U.S permanently.
This option is easier than the two previous ones, but you must be careful to not create a fake relationship. The U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires extensive proof of your relationship to the U.S citizen. They do this to prevent fake Green Card marriages.
You will have to know the person you are in a relationship with and prove that you have been together for some time. Additionally, once you are married, you need to provide proof that the marriage was legal. You will have to submit your marriage certificate, declarations from your ceremony witnesses, pictures of the wedding, and receipts from your wedding reception or honeymoon.
Will I Get Access to American Healthcare With a Renewed F1 Visa?
As a student living in the United States you will get access to the American healthcare system, however, the costs of getting treatment may be unbearable.
The treatment of a broken leg or broken arm will cost you $2,500, while staying at a US hospital may cost over $10,000, on average. Avoiding these costs is not hard at all. Purchasing appropriate health insurance could prove to be a thoughtful investment because getting ill or involved in an accident in the United States is not something a student can afford.
You should pick a health insurance plan that fits you best, which overall is also affordable and covers your needs.
Where can I get an affordable health insurance plan for students?
Comparison marketplaces such as VisitorsCoverage, offer affordable health insurance coverage plans for students in the United States.
Why do we advise to purchase a health insurance plan through VisitorsCoverage?
The United States is the country with the most expensive healthcare services in the world.
For instance, a broken leg or broken arm will cost you $2,500, while staying at a US hospital for one night may cost over $10,000, on average.
- With over 10 years of experience, they specialize in offering health insurance plans to international visitors in the United States from more than 175 countries.
- Since the insurance industry in the US is government-regulated, no other company can offer you a lower or higher premium for the same plan.
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- You will get the lowest rates and will get the necessary information on choosing the plan that suits you best.
- With over 1 million satisfied customers and 97% customer satisfaction rate, VisitorsCoverage offers a wide array of health insurance plans tailored to your needs.
- With VisitorsCoverage you can get a quote, compare plans, buy your favorite policy and print it out. It’s that simple!
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