Our Location (Click for Map & Directions):

161 West Harrison Street, Ground Floor (C-102), Chicago, Illinois 60605 (312-704-8000) Free Consultations with our attorneys on the First Saturday of each month
from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Non-Immigrant Visas: Student Visas

Non-Immigrant Visas: Student Visas

This visa is issued to full-time academic or language students and is valid for the time period in which you expect to complete your studies. To qualify for a student visa, you must first be accepted by a school in U.S. and must be able to speak, read, and write English well enough to understand the course (some schools offer special tutoring to help overcome language barriers). Also, you will have to be able to support yourself through the entire course without working and show evidence that you intend to leave the U.S. when your studies are completed. Work authorization may be granted in some cases, as discussed below.

You may come to the U.S. as a tourist for the purpose of locating a school that you want to attend; however, you must be sure to tell the consul your intentions so that the appropriate annotation may be made in your passport.

When you enter the U.S. you will be given a small card called an I-94, with a stamp of the date that you enter the country. Once you arrive the U.S., you may remain in the student status without requesting an extension, for up to the date indicated on the paperwork from your school, plus a 60 day grace period. If you received the school’s permission to withdraw from your studies, your grace period will be 15 days. If your student status expires because your maximum stay has expired, you can apply to a school official for an extension of stay. You will have to show that you are still enrolled in an approved program, and that there is a good reason why you are taking extra time to complete yours studies. You must request an extension before the expiration date.

Filing Procedure

Form SEVIS I-120 & Form I-539 (U.S. filing only). You must submit a completed form SEVIS I-120 that will be completed by your school. Applicants must be accepted, meet any special requirements, and prove their ability to pay for their education without working. If you are physically present in the U.S., you may apply without leaving the country on the following conditions:

  • you have been accepted as a student
  • you entered the U.S. legally
  • you have never worked in the U.S. illegally
  • your date in the I-94 card has not passed
  • you are not inadmissible

If you have a spouse and child coming with you, you should also complete the I-539 Supplement.


If your application is denied, you will receive a written decision by mail explaining the reasons of the denial. If the problem is too little evidence, you may overcome this obstacle by adding more documentation and resubmitting the entire application, together with a written request that the case be re-opened at the same USCIS office that you previously dealt with. If the application is turned down because you are ineligible to file in the U.S., you may leave the U.S. and change your application to a consular filing.

Accompanying Relatives

When qualify for a F-1 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under age 21 can get F-2 visas as accompanying relatives by providing proof of the family relationship and by showing that you have sufficient financial resources to support them in the U.S. so that they do not need to work. Family members may also enroll in elementary or secondary school or in any avocational or recreational studies. You may arrive the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of classes.

Application to Transfer – Changing Courses

You must be a full-time student at the time of transfer and must notify the USCIS of the change, as well as the school officials at both your old and new schools. Applicants must submit form I-120, together with your I-120 ID copy, with new school officials who will, in turn, forward the paperwork to the USCIS. Paperwork must be submitted to the designated school official no more then 15 days after enrolling in the new school. A letter must be sent by certified mail to the school official at the school you are leaving, telling them that you have transferred. A copy of the letter should be included when you submit form I-120, and will eventually be returned to you by USCIS with a written notification showing that you have been authorized to transfer schools. Students can change their courses of studies within the same school as long as they remain in qualifying programs. No formal permission from USCIS is required to change major areas of studies.


Students visas may be extended to allow a necessary continuation of your studies, and must be extended if your studies exceed the time limits stated on the form I-120. The new period will extend to the end of the revised estimated completion date of your academic program. The authorized stay, as indicated in the form I-120 may last longer than the expiration date of your visa or it may expire before your visa expires. Therefore, depending on your situation, you may need to extend your I-120 date, your visa, or both. It is permissible for your visa to expire prior to the duration of status, but if you leave the U.S. for some reason after your visa expires, you must have a new visa issued at a consulate in order to return. Extensions are not automatic and can be extended only at consulates.

Work Permission for Students

Students can work only under limited circumstances and in many cases these privileges do not come automatically with the visa. You are often expected to file a separate application. There are different types of work permissible for students, and different rules apply to each one.

(1) On-Campus Employment: Students are permitted to work in an on-campus job for up to 20 hours. per week when school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. No special permission is required.

(2) Employment as Part of a Scholarship: You may also be employed as part of the terms of a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship. The job duties must be related with your field of study, and no special work permission is necessary even when the actual location of the job is off campus.

(3) Practical Training: Practical Training can be either curricular or post-completion. Curricular practical training occurs before graduation as part of your study program, while post-completion takes place afterward. All requests for curricular practical training are approved by the designed school official, who notifies USCIS, and only the following types of work qualify:

  • alternate work/study programs
  • internships (whether or not required by course)
  • cooperative educational program
  • practicums offered though cooperative agreement with school

However, students, are not eligible for post-completion practical training if they have already worked for more than a year in curricular practical training. Post-completion practical training may be approved for up to one year.

(4) Economic Necessity: Students are eligible for work permission based on economic necessity, but will never be granted it during the first year of study. After the first year if there has been an unforeseen change in your financial situation, you must meet the following conditions:

  • maintained a F-1 student status
  • have a good standing in your school
  • are a full-time student
  • will continue as a full-time student
  • will not work more than 20 hours a week
  • have tried but failed to find on-campus employment

Work permission can be granted for one year at the time and must be renewed each year. You should consider your situation carefully before deciding to file a request of employment for economic necessity. If the application is denied, USCIS can decided that you are not eligible to continue in your F-1 status, since your informing the USCIS that you do not have sufficient funds to support yourself.