Foreigners who want to study in the United States need F-1 visa to achieve this objective. The F-1 visa holder can stay in the United States to attend the university/college. However, they can’t live in the country after their visa expires. The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that doesn’t allow people to stay in the U.S. permanently. However, it might be possible to get a visa extension on genuine grounds. This article will describe the F-1 visa renewal process and tips to get the extension.

F-1 Visa Renewal Process

The U.S. Embassy in your home country will issue an F-1 visa for the duration of your academic program provided that you fulfill the F-1 visa requirements. If it is going to take you 2 years to complete your academic program, you’re likely to get the visa for 2 years. It’s also possible that you get the visa for one year and you have to renew it after one year. However, if something changes and you need to stay longer than the allowed time period, you can apply to renew your F-1 visa.

You can stay in the country with an expired visa provided that you have a valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. However, it’s advisable to renew your visa rather than staying in the country with an expired visa. Here are two ways you can get a renewal:

  • Go back to your home country or another country and apply for F-1 visa renewal
  • Utilize the Automatic Visa Revalidation option, if applicable

Note: It’s not possible to get the F-1 visa renewal if your academic program has concluded and that there is no valid reason why you should stay in the U.S. after your visa expires.

Understanding F-1 Visa Renewal

You can apply for F-1 visa renewal after you leave the United States. There is a process every applicant has to follow. It’s advisable to apply for the renewal from your home country as your chances to get a visa renewal decrease when applying form other countries. If your F-1 visa renewal application has been rejected, you can’t enter the U.S. even your academic program is still in progress.

You have to start the process by filing the Form DS-160, Online Application for Nonimmigrant Visa. You will receive a confirmation page after completing and submitting the form. You might not need to schedule or attend the interview again for visa renewal.

However, you have to provide the documents supporting why you need a visa renewal. The documents you submit must be sufficient to establish that you truly deserve a visa renewal. Here are some of the documents that can strengthen your case and get you an approval:

  • A letter from the institute you’re attending
  • A letter describing your academic program
  • Official university transcripts
  • Academic fee receipts
  • A letter from your program director explaining why you need a renewal
  • A document showing that you’re not involved in any criminal activity
  • Proof that you’ll return to your home country after your visa expires

There is a waiting time after you submit the document for review. You will get a notification from the U.S. Embassy. If your request for renewal is approved, you can travel to or stay in the U.S. to complete your program.

What Is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

Automatic visa revalidation is another way to renew your F-1 visa. It allows students to visit Mexico, Canada, or the U.S. territories for less than 30 days and get their F-1 visa automatically renewed upon their entry to the U.S. You can plan to visit these countries before or after your visa expires. If you need a visa to enter these countries, obtain it before your F-1 visa expires. You can stay in one of the mentioned countries for 30 days or return to the U.S. immediately.

You’ll get a visa revalidation after the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials examine your documents. The revalidation will allow you to stay in the U.S. for the period you’re enrolled in your academic program. You can read our article about Automatic Visa Revalidation to learn more about your options.

How to Apply for an F-1 Visa Extension?

There are certain ways you can extend your F-1 visa beyond its validity. Optional Practical Training (OPT) is one of the opportunities you can get a visa extension beyond your academic program. OPT allows F-1 visa holders to work in the United States for a year. You can use this opportunity during or after your program ends.

You can work part-time or full-time for an employer in the U.S. Once your OPT is over, your employer might consider sponsoring you for an H-1B visa, or you can extend your OPT for another 12 months in some cases. For most F-1 holders, when their OPT is over and visa expired, there is no way they can get an extension.

What if Your F-1 Visa Has Expired and You Cannot Extend or Renew It?

An F-1 visa holder has 60 days to leave the United States once your academic program is completed and OPT is over as well. Typically, it’s not possible to stay in the U.S. when the visa expires and you have to return home. However, there are some cases in which you can stay in the U.S. even if your F-1 visa has expired or you’re no longer able to extend it. Changing your status is the solution. Here are your options when it comes to changing your status:

  1. Get an H-1B visa sponsorship

Getting an H-1B visa sponsorship is probably an easy way for F-1 visa holders to change their status to a nonimmigrant visa and extend their stay in the United States for up to 6 years. H-1B is a dual intent visa, which means you can make an attempt to get a green card after 6 years. This is going to be an employment-based green card which will allow you to stay and work in the U.S. permanently.

If any employer in the U.S. is not willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, you can consider returning to your home country or you may try other complicated ways to get a visa extension. Self-petition for an employment-based immigrant visa is also an option. A successful demonstration of your capabilities in science, arts, business, etc. can get you an EB-1 visa. However, it’s difficult to get success with these options due to a number of rigid requirements.

  1. Become a U.S. investor

If you have resources to invest in the U.S. economy, you might qualify to get Investor Green Card or EB-5 visa which will allow you to stay in the U.S. permanently. To avail this option, you have to make a considerable contribution towards economic development in the U.S. The only issue with this option is the minimum requirement for the amount of investment. To qualify for an EB-5 visa, you have to invest between $500K and $1 million. Students usually don’t have this much money. However, if you have resources, you may consider this option.

  1. Marry a U.S. Citizen

Marrying a U.S. citizen might enable you to change your status. There are many cases where F-1 visa holders start a relationship with a U.S. citizen which often leads to marriage. If you’re planning to marry a U.S. citizen, it will make you eligible for the IR-1 visa which is for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. This option seems easier than the above-mentioned ways. However, getting an IR-1 visa involves complexities and extensive process. Since many people try to create a fake relationship in order to get the green card, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires solid proof of your relationship.

You can produce many supporting documents to ensure the USCIS that your relationship is not fake. Marriage certificate, pictures, declaration from ceremony witnesses, or anything that strengthens your relationship being genuine should be provided.

If you need assistance to get an F-1 visa extension or renewal, feel free to contact Visa Help.