In the United States, the F visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education (academic studies and/or language training programs) in the United States. F-1 students must maintain a full course of study. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States.[citation needed] Prospective F-1 students must apply at the schools and receive a form I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa.[1] F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the U.S., as their opportunities for legal employment are quite limited. F-2 visas are given to dependents of an F-1 student. F-2 visa-holders are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools.

Three types of F visa


  • F-1 visas are for full-time students.
  • F-2 visas are for spouses and children of F-1 visa holders - these are technically called "dependents."
  • F-3 visas are for "border commuters" who reside in their country of origin while attending school in the United States. These are granted to nationals of Mexico or Canada only and these visa holders may study part- or full-time. However, unlike F-1 visa holders, they may not work on campus, although they may still be authorized for Curricular Practical Training; Optional Practical Training may only be used after graduation. While the Border Commuter Student Act was signed into law on November 2, 2002, the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for all F and M regulations (8 CFR 214.2), has never published a rule discussing F-3 commuter students. Previously, part-time students from Canada and Mexico were permitted to enter the United States as visitors, but after the September 11 attacks the Department of Homeland Security found such students ineligible for admittance as visitors (since their purpose was educational) and also ineligible for F-1 (academic) or M-1 (non-academic or vocational) visas (because those classifications require students to attend full-time). The Border Commuter Student Act of 2002 was passed in response to these issues.[2]


In Fiscal Year 2012:[3]

TypeTotal ApplicantsIssuedRefusedWaived/Overcome
F-1 657,714 486,900 170,814 64,829
F-2 39,237 27,561 11,676 5,759
F-3 895 792 103 86


Except for on-campus employment of 20 hours a week or less, F-1 students are generally not permitted to work in the U.S. without prior authorization from Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, the USCIS may grant work authorization for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students are permitted to work for a total of 12 months towards practical training (e.g. internship), which can be distributed between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).[4] An interim order was passed on April 8, 2008 allowing students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to legally work under OPT for 29 months.[5] During the period of OPT, an F-1 student is not permitted to accrue more than 90 days of unemployment.[6]


F-1 visa holders are exempt from paying Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes (for Social Security and Medicare) while considered a non-resident alien for tax purposes, which is usually the first five calendar years of their F-1 status: these years can be excluded from the Substantial Presence Test.[7] However, they are subjected to other applicable federal, state, and local taxes. Students on F-1 filing their federal income taxes who have been in the United States for five years or fewer need to use the non-resident 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ tax forms. Some F-1 visa holders may be eligible for certain tax treaty provisions based on their country of origin.