Student Visas

Summary of Foreign Student Regulations

Foreign National Students can enter the country to study as foreign students while holding a student Visa. There are several student visa categories such as F-1, J-1 and M-1, but the principals regarding obtaining and maintaining student status are similar. Unlike other non-immigrant visas which give a specific period of authorized stay, foreign students visa holders are allowed to remain in the U.S. for "Duration of Status" or until they complete their course of study, as long as they continue to remain full time students.

The foreign student must first obtain admission to an educational institution in the country which will furnish a Form I-20 so the student can obtain his or her Student Visa. The visa can be obtained abroad at the U.S. Consulate or can be applied for while the foreign national is present in the U.S. in another valid non-immigrant status. Caution should be taken when filing a change of status application from Visitor Status to Student Status due to issues dealing with fraudulent intent.

Optional Practical Training

Foreign students are eligible for a one-year period of optional practical training ("OPT") after the foreign student completes his or her course of study. OPT must be requested prior to the completion of the course of study. Furthermore, Employment Authorization cards must be requested and obtained by the foreign student before he or she can start working for the OPT employer sponsor.

Foreign students are eligible for OPT after completing each academic level, i.e., after the student completes his or her Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree and Doctoral Degree.


F-2 dependents are not given many benefits as they are not employment authorized, nor may they be enrolled full-time in school. However, F-2 dependents may be enrolled in elementary and secondary school or any vocational or recreational studies.

SEVIS Obligations

The school has strict obligations with USCIS to keep close track of its foreign students and must report within three weeks the student's failure to maintain student status or the completion of his or her educational program. Each semester, schools must report whether the foreign student has enrolled, identification of any foreign student who has dropped below a full course of study without authorization and the current address of the foreign student.

Reinstatement of Status

Should the foreign student fall out of status, the student must apply for reinstatement within 5 months after being out of status. If the student applies for reinstatement more than 5 months after falling out of status, he or she must establish that failure to timely file was the result of exceptional circumstances, such as severe illness. In the reinstatement application, the student must prove either that the violation of status was not willful; it resulted from circumstances beyond the student's control; that the violation relates to an approved reduction in the student's course load by the school; or that failure to approve reinstatement would result in extreme hardship to the student.

Grace Periods

There is a 60 day grace period after expiration of their student status for students who have completed their course of study and any authorized practical training. The student must either change his or her status, adjust his or her status, or must depart the United States before the expiration of the 60 day grace period.

How Do I Apply for a Student Visa?

The Law Offices of Nishan C. Mahendran, P.A. will be pleased to assist you in securing your student visa. Please contact our office to schedule an in person appointment or telephonic consultation to discuss obtaining your student visa.

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