6.3.3 Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Allowed to Study in the United States?
A nonimmigrant is someone admitted to the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. People who are coming to the United States to pursue full-time academic are admitted in the F-1 categories. The F-1 category includes academic students in colleges and universities.
What Does the Law Say?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the admission of all people to the United States. For the part of the law concerning temporary admissions to the United States, please see INA Section 214: Admission of Nonimmigrant. The specific eligibility requirements and procedures for applying for academic student status are included in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8CFR Section 214.2(f): Students in colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academic high schools, elementary schools, other academic institutions, and in language training programs.
How do I apply if I am outside of the United States?
You first must apply to study at an INS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students. If you are accepted, the school should give you INS Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for Academic and Language Students). If you require a visa, then you should take the INS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the INS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. See the State Department Website for more information on visa processing.
When you arrive in the United States, you should receive an INS Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) that will include your admission number to the United States. An INS inspector will write this admission number on your INS Form I-20 A-B/ ID. The INS inspector will then send pages one and two of this form, known as I-20 A-B, to your school as a record of your legal admission to the United States. You are expected to keep pages three and four, known as the I-20 ID. This document is your proof that you are allowed to study in the United States as an F-1 student. You should see your designated school official (DSO) if you need a replacement copy of your I-20 ID. You should also keep safe your INS Form I-94, because it proves that you legally entered the United States. If you need a replacement copy of your INS Form I-94, please see How Do I Get an Arrival-Departure Record?.
Can I bring my spouse and children with me to the United States?
Your spouse and children may come with you to the United States in F-2 status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student (F-1) visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your INS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status for Academic Students) and proof of their relationship to you. The F-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the F-1 academic student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status. (For more information on changing status, please see: How Do I Get Permission to Change to a New Nonimmigrant Status?)