Question: First of all Thank you so much for this helpful blog. If possible can please post an article explaining the difference between F1 Visa stamp on the passport and F1 Status?
Most student don’t the difference between F1 Visa and Legal Status.
People don’t know that they can also be in the U.S. by maintaining F1 status with an expired F1 visa.
Only problem they are having is if they step out of US they have to go for F1 visa stamping to re-enter US.
Even if an F1 visa expires then apply for OPT right before your graduation and be on OPT and apply for STEM OPT extension (if you are eligible). Through this whole process, that student is maintaining legal, valid F1 status.
Now, let’s get into nitty gritty details.
F1 Visa Stamp
How to get a F1 visa to enter the United States?
- Receive I-20
- Pay SEVIS Fees
- Apply for F1 Student Visa at American embassy or consulate before you leave for the United States
You must have a student visa to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa.
After F-1 Visa is approved, U.S. Consular post would stamp your passport with the Visa Stamp. It would indicate the Type and Duration of validity.
This visa stamp on your passport gives you the option to enter till the Port of Entry.
Maintaining F1 Visa Status
As an F or M student, you will often hear the phrase “maintaining status” because it is very important! Maintaining status means that you are doing everything you are supposed to do to keep your records up-to-date in our SEVIS database.
While studying in the United States, it is important to maintain your F or M student status. Your visa says that you are coming to the United States to study. You should not consider any action that detracts from that purpose.
- Enter the United States no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.
- CBP Officer would enter D/S on your passport. That’s when you are getting your F1 Visa status to remain in the U.S.A.
- Once you get that D/S entry on your passport, there’s real use of F1 Visa stamp in your passport.
- Immediately contact your designated school official (DSO) when you enter the United States. When you arrive at school, you need to contact your DSO again, no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status”
- If you believe that you will be unable to complete your program by the end date listed on your Form I-20, talk with your DSO about requesting a possible program extension.
- You must take a full course of study each term; if you cannot study full-time, contact your DSO immediately.
- Do not drop a class without speaking first with your DSO.
- Curricular practical training (CPT) at either the undergraduate or the graduate level is only available if this employment is an integral part of an established curriculum and if the position directly relates to your major area of study. Your DSO can give you the school’s policy on this option.
- Do not work without authorization. An F or M student may work only when authorized.
- If you want to work in the United States, talk with your DSO about your options. Your DSO may authorize certain work; other employment may require your DSO’s recommendation and authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You are going out of staus when you work without authorization. That’s going out of status.
- If you choose to work without authorization, you could be forced to leave the United States immediately.
Upon Program Completion
- Take action to maintain legal status after completing your program of study.
- Once you complete your program of study and any authorized period of practical training, you may wish to learn about doing one of the following:
- Transfer to another school
- Change your education level (e.g. Bachelor’s to master’s)
- Apply to change status to another visa status (e.g. H-1B-temporary worker; O-extraordinary ability in science, art or business; P-athlete)
You have 60 days after completion of your program (the program end date on your Form I-20) to leave the United States or apply for OPT or change your visa status.
Talk with your DSO first
Your DSO should be the first person you talk with if you have any questions regarding the legal requirements of your stay in the United States. Your DSO can assist in answering your questions or help you find someone who can help. Talk with your DSO if you are planning to do any of the following:
- Change your major, program, or degree level
- Change your education level
- Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence
- Take a break from school
- Travel outside the United States
- Move to a new address
- Request a program extension
Visa Stamp is About to Expire in Passport
- If your I-20 is valid, then your visa stamp can expire.
- Valid Visa stamp gives you the option to fly till the Port of Entry
- Once you enter into the USA your status is determined by your expiry date on your I-20
- If your date on I-20 expires, then you are out of status. Even if F1 stamp is valid on your passport.
- You can continue to stay in the USA with an expired visa stamp and valid I-20
- To get F1 Visa stamp, you would have to leave the country and get stamping in the U.S. Consulate
- If your I-2o is valid, there is no need to leave the country just to visa stamping.
- After your graduation, your DSO would issue new I-20 for OPT and STEM OPT with new expiry dates.
- If you can’t complete your degree on time, DSO can also extend your I-20.
The same logic applies to H1B Visa and H4 Visa. One can continue to work in the USA with expired H1B visa stamp on the passport, but with valid I-797 approval notice and I-94.