This is the most common type of student visa. If you wish to engage in academic studies in the United States at an approved school, such as an accredited U.S. college or university, private secondary school, or approved English language program then you need an F-1 visa. You will also need an F-1 visa if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week.
U.S. Public Schools
U.S. law does not permit foreign students to attend public elementary school (kindergarten to 8th grade) or a publicly funded adult education program. Hence, F-1 visas cannot be issued for study at such schools.
An F-1 visa can be issued for attendance at a public secondary school (grades 9 to 12), but the student is limited to a maximum of 12 months at the school. The school must also indicate on the Form I-20 that the student has paid the unsubsidized cost of the education and the amount submitted by the student for that purpose.
For more information about F-1 legal requirements, visit the Department of State website.
Note: Holders of A, E, F-2, G, H-4, J-2, L-2, M-2 or other derivative nonimmigrant visas may enroll in public elementary and secondary schools.
Student Assistance, Finding a U.S. School
Students who hope to enroll in an American educational institution are encouraged to contact and visit https://hk.usconsulate.gov/education-culture/study-usa/
When to Apply
120-day rule: Please note that an F or M visa can only be issued within 120 days prior to the designated start/report date indicated on the Form I-20.
30-day rule: All recipients of an F or M student visa should be aware that Department of Homeland Security regulations require all initial or beginning students enter the US 30 days or less in advance of the program start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Visa holders traveling to the US before this date may be denied entry at the port of entry. Please consider this date carefully when making your travel plans to the United States. If your program start date specified on the I-20 is already past or you will be unable to meet that date, please request your school to change the program start date in the SEVIS system.
Please note that the 120-day and 30-day rules do not apply to continuing students. Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining status in the United States and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes/programs start.
To apply for an F or M visa, you must pay your $160 application fee and submit the following:
- A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
- One (1) 2″x2″ (51x51mm) photograph taken within the last six months. This web page has information about the required photo format.
- A receipt showing payment of your US$160 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee, paid in local currency. This web page has more information about paying this fee. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State’s website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
- An approved Form I-20 from your U.S. school or program.
We remind all students (F-1 or M-1) and exchange visitor (J-1) visa applicants that in addition to the visa application fee, they must also pay a SEVIS fee before their interview. Information about SEVIS fee can be found on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website. Additionally, they must bring financial documents showing sufficient funds for their first year of study.
In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.
How to Apply
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
Pay the visa application fee.
Schedule your appointment on this web page. You need the following three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:
- Your passport number.
- The receipt number from your Visa Fee receipt. (Click here if you need help finding this number.)
- The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page.
Visit the Consulate General on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph taken within the last six months, and your current and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.
Please note: visa applicants applying for F-1, M-1 and J-1, including under age 14 applying for F-1, M-1 and J-1 visas, are required to appear in person for an interview.
Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural, and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.