Sign In

Applying for a Nonimmigrant F1 Visa


After being admitted, new students will be issued a Form I-20 - Certificate of Eligibility. Further instructions and details are enclosed in the SCC International admission packet. The Form I-20 is required prior to submitting an online DS-160 application to apply for an F-1 nonimmigrant visa. It is highly recommended that students refer to the Travel.State.Gov website for full, accurate details on the application process. Students are able to apply for a nonimmigrant visa on their own or use an educational consultant​ for assistance. 

Travel.State.Gov --> Student Visa

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require visas to enter the United States as students, although they must present a valid Form I-20 at the time of admission. For more information see information for Ci​tizens of Canada and Bermuda.​

EdUSA Logo.PNG​​EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 425 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries. The network promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. EducationUSA also provides services to the U.S. higher education community to help institutional leaders meet their recruitment and campus internationalization goals. EducationUSA is your official source on U.S. higher education.

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa


1. Ties to Your Home Country – Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country.

Each person’s situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the United States previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available.

2. English – Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.   

3. Speak for Yourself – Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there is case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room. 

4. Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans – If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.

5. Be Brief – Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point.

6. Additional Documentation – It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are lucky.  

7. Not All Countries are Equal – Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States.

8. Employment – Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities.

9. Dependents Remaining at Home – If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa. 

10. Maintain a Positive Attitude – Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

Source: NAFSA – Association of International Educations

Now That I Have an F-1 Visa... How Do I Maintain My Status?

USCIS Regulations

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency within the Department of Justice. The USCIS governs the laws and regulations which affect individuals of different visa classifications. Please follow these simple guidelines so you will comply with USCIS regulations:

  • You must be a full-time student at the school that you are authorized to attend by USCIS. This means completing at least 12 units each semester.
  • You must have a permanent home address outside of the United States. That address must be on file with the school granting your I-20.
  • You must keep your passport valid at all times, up to six months into the future.
  • You must be able to support yourself without working illegally during your entire stay in the United States.
  • You should make photocopies of: Your passport, your I-20, your I-94 card (both sides). Keep the photocopies of these documents in a safe place. If your original documents get lost or stolen, having copies will make the replacement process much easier for you.
  • You must not travel outside the United States without first consulting with the International Student Advisor at least 2 weeks before you travel. The DSO will check your documents and sign your I-20 so that you will not have any difficulties re-entering the United States. International students from certain countries may need to obtain special “visitor visas" to enter Canada. If you have a family emergency and need to leave immediately, contact the Advisor for immediate assistance.
  • Travel during your application request for Optional Practical Training (OPT): If you are eligible and would like to apply for Optional Practical Training, you will be advised that you should not travel outside the USA until you have been issued the work permit from DHS.
  • VISA OVERSTAYS: Nonimmigrant visa stamp in your passport will now be void in the United Stated beyond the period of authorized stay. You cannot seek a new visa other than from your country of citizenship. (Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996)
  • PERIOD OF AUTHORIZED STAY extends to the expiration date on your I-20, plus your grace period. (Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996)

Any International student who is UNLAWFULLY IN THE UNITED STATES FOR MORE THAN SIX (6) MONTHS BUT LESS THAN ONE (1) YEAR IS NOT ADMISSIBLE TO THE UNITED STATES FOR THREE (3) YEARS. If the student is unlawfully present for MORE THAN ONE YEAR, THE INDIVIDUAL CANNOT BE ADMITTED FOR TEN (10) YEARS. (Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996)​

  • BE AWARE OF THE DATES ON YOUR I-20. Plan your education program so that you will not be out-of-status. Be enrolled in twelve (12) or more units, this means the completion of twelve (12) or more units at the end of Fall or Spring semesters. (Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996)
  • Plan your extension of stay in a timely manner to meet the immigration deadline. (Illegal Immigration Reform & Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996)

For additional information please call the International Student Program at (714) 628-5050 and schedule an appointment.​

Santiago Canyon College is a SEVP certified institution and is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant F-1 students.