In terms of specific student visa programs, a foreign national can use an F-1 Visa for the purpose of entering the U.S. to enroll in a full time curriculum at a wide variety of institutions such as a college, university, seminary, high school, elementary school, or a language school. To qualify as an accredited program, the host institution must be certified by the U.S. government and curriculum or program offered by lead to the issuance of a degree, diploma, or certificate.
In general, a foreign national is prohibited from participating in an educational program while in the U.S. as visitor for pleasure or business, although certain exceptions apply. For instance, programs involving recreational education which do not lead to credit or a certificate/degree are permissible.
In terms of specific steps involved in the F-1 visa application process: 1) apply for acceptance in a SEVP accredited U.S. program. 2) Once accepted, the applicant gets registered in Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and will pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, 3) the educational institution issues the intending student a Form I-20 and 4) the foreign national schedules a visa appointment at their nearest U.S. consular post, completes the online visa application DS-160 and once at their interview presents their I-20 along with other required supporting documentation, i.e. evidence of financial ability, ties to their home country. Etc.
Foreign nationals already in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant visa status, such as B-2 or H-1B, may indeed be eligible to submit an application with DHS/CIS to change their status to that of F-1 student and without having to depart to appear at a U.S. consular post outside the U.S. Such a change of status process however involves a variety of requirements and limitation, some of which can prove prohibitive and may very well lead the foreign national to reconsider proceeding with the option.
Foreign nationals in the U.S. as F-1 students can qualify for various employment authorization options, whether in the midst of their program (such as Curricular Practical Training) or after completion and degree issuance (such as Optional Practical Training). To facilitate issuance of employment authorization, F-1 student are advised to consult with the office of their school’s Designated School Official (DSO).
For the big picture on the F-1 student visa application process and requirements, speak with a seasoned immigration lawyer such as Richard Hanus of the Law Offices of Richard Hanus. Mr. Hanus will put to work the knowledge he has gained in this context to provide guidance to those looking to navigate the sometimes complex path F-1 student visa applicants face.