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SoCalHoops High School & Recruiting News

Charlie Rodriguez & US Student Visas:
More Than You Ever Wanted To Know--(Sept. 14, 2000)

charlierodriguez150.jpg (6383 bytes)If ever a player was caught between a rock and a hard place, Charlie Rodrigeuz (6'-7" Jr. PF) from Clovis West. . . or should we say the Dominican Republic, would be the prime example.   Here's the latest in the saga:

We spoke with Ann Knowlton, Charlie's legal guardian last night by telephone.  Ann told us that Charlie remains at home in the Dominican Republic, waiting to hear from someone at the US State Department and hoping against hope that he will be granted a visa to return to the United States.

"Charlie is simply sitting at home right now, and he's doing a lot of crying, trying to figure out what happened and what to do.   I tell him that we're trying to do everything we can, but it's really up to the State Department at this point and they are not moving,"  Knowlton said. 

"What we really need to find is Janet Reno's best friend, someone who can tell the people in Washington, D.C., that this is a special kid, a bright kid, who should be allowed to return here, if only for humanitarian reasons."

"Seriously, if Charlie was told 'You can't play basketball' he'd be fine with that.  My husband and I are his legal guardians.   We pay for every cent of his expenses, and we'd gladly pay for tuition, if the local school district charged us.  They never have, but we'd pay it in a minute," Knowlton said.  "Really, this is not about basketball, but about a young man who wants to get an education in the United States."

"We thought we'd done everything to insure that he could return," Knowlton said.  Then Knowlton repeated for us something she told the Fresno Bee last month:  "But we're finding out that this is just an incomprehensible situation.  It's making me embarrassed to be an American."

The situation is indeed difficult to comprehend, and the rules pertaining to non-immigrant student visas can be seemingly complex.  They really aren't that tough (at least not when you read the statutes applicable), and Charlie Rodriguez now finds himself in the unenviable predicament of having to try to convince a US consular official in the Dominican Republic, that he really does intend to (a) pay for his education in the US, (b) return to the Dominican permanently and that he's just "visiting" the U.S., and (c) that he should be permitted to study abroad for a period longer than 12 months, despite a seemingly clear law to the contrary.

And here's the scary part:  The US Consulate officer making the decision is granted the sole authority to decide what the facts are.  The State Department in D.C. can review his or her decision, but only for errors of law, not incorrect factual determinations.

The bottom line, as far as we can ascertain, is that Charlie Rodriguez won't be playing at Clovis West this season unless a miracle occurs.

Factually, here's the problem:

Charlie was granted a one-year student visa. That made him an F-I visa holder, as far as we can tell.  He attended Clovis West and finished his sophomore year in June.   Charlie then spent the summer with the Double Pump "Pump N Run" team, played in the Best of Summer tournament, and returned home to the Knowlton household in Fresno for one day, and then on July 25 left for a one month stay in the Dominican to visit his mother at home. "Charlie was going to go back to the Dominican to stay with his mother, just as he had done the year before.   I had his round-trip ticket paid for, and I even gave him some money so he and his mother could spend some time in Santo Domingo, in a nice hotel," Knowlton told us.   "It was very important for Charlie to see his mother, but it was just as important for him to be able to return to Fresno to finish his education.  He just doesn't have the kind of opportunities there that he would have here."

It seems that the real problems started when he began to make preparations for his scheduled return to Fresno on August 25.  A few days before his return, he went to the US Consulate in Santo Domingo to obtain a new student visa for the return trip.  "That's when they told him he couldn't return," Knowlton said.    "They told him that he had already been in the US for one year, and that he couldn't come back.  They told him and me by phone that we were all in violation of the law.  It was scary.  But then they told him he could apply for another visa, but he had to have a letter from the school saying he was enrolled.  He got that letter.  Then he had to have something else from the school.  We got that too.  But they still refused to give him the visa.   Basically, it's just more and more red-tape, and they won't let him come back, at least not yet," Knowlton told us.  "It looks like the only way he'll be able to come back, from what everyone has told me, is through some kind of special exemption and we just can't get anyone's attention.  We've talked to senators, congressmen, but no one seems to be able to get the State Department to move."

In an effort to try to understand what the real problem is for Charlie, from an immigration law point of view, we did a little digging around on our own.  Here's what we discovered:

The US State Department puts out bulletins about how to get a student visa.  These are available on the web.   What we found at least partially explains why the State Department is taking the position they appear to be taking.  And all the talk of Charlie wanting to stay in the US for high school and college, may be doing more to hurt his cause than to help it.   Here's why:

The United States government views every alien who enters the country as a possible immigrant (i.e., someone who is intending to settle here and eventually reside and become a citizen).  Unlike many other countries, the US does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, aliens have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad.   In other words, to get a visa, you have to prove to the State Department that you actually don't intend to stay in the US permanently, that your visit, whether as a worker or a student, is just temporary. Immigration laws require consular officers, in the country of origin (in this case the Dominican Republic)  to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.

In Charlie's case, clearly he intends to graduate high school, which means that he's going to live in the US for at least two more years.  There's also been a lot of talk that Charlie wants to stay in the US for college. This of course starts bells and whistles with the folks at the US Consulate in the DR, and, in addition to other requirements pertaining to high school students under some changes in the law enacted in 1997 (below) Charlie finds himself in a situation where his application for a visa is being refused.

The real problem may be that Charlie is having difficulty proving that he intends to return to the Dominican after his temporary stay in the US ends.  Factually, his mother has given up all control over him, and he's the legal wards of the Knowlton's who obtained legal guardianship of him last year.  His legal residence is thus in the US, not in the Dominican.  Of course he has "strong ties" there too, and likely could convince enough people that he does intend to return there permanently, and that he has no plans to stay in the US permanently, but emotions and events seem to be working at cross-purposes.  Everyone in Fresno involved is saying "we want Charlie to finish school here and attend college in the US" which is perhaps suggesting more than just a temporary visit. . .

Along these lines, we searched around the US State Department's website and never shy about offering some free (and likely misguided legal advice. . .very misguided likely since we don't specialize in immigration law)   discovered quite a lot of legal resources on the subject, including the following somewhat helpful (but not entirely on point) discussion of visa application denials from the US State Department:

Visa Denials

Liza was excited. In three days her friend Timothy would come visit her in the United States. Suddenly, the phone rang. Liza
couldnt believe her ears! Sadly, Timothy told her, "I cannot come...the consul said I am 214(b)."

On any given day throughout the world some visa applicants find themselves in Timothys situation. They hear the consular officer say, "Your visa application is refused. You are not qualified under Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." To be refused a visa when you are not expecting it causes great disappointment and sometimes embarrassment. Here is what a 214(b) visa refusal means and what applicants and friends can do to prepare for a visa reapplication.


The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, aliens have a responsibility to prove they are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise.


Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status...

"To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning.   Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents.


Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of resience: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.

As a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, imagine your own ties in the United States. Would a consular office of a foreign country consider that you have a residence in the United States that you do not intend to abandon? It is likely that the answer would be "yes" if you have a job, a family, if you own or rent a house or apartment, or if you have other commitments that would require you to return to the United States at the conclusion of a visit abroad. Each person's situation is different.

Our consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.


No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Your friend, relative or student should contact the embassy or consulate to find out about reapplication procedures. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.


You may provide a letter of invitation or support. However, this cannot guarantee visa issuance to a foreign national friend, relative or student. Visa applicants must qualify for the visa according to their own circumstances, not on the basis of an American sponsor's assurance.


First encourage your relative, friend or student to review carefully their situation and evaluate realistically their ties. You can suggest that they write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?

Your acquaintances should also bear in mind that they will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.


Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.

You may wish to send this brochure to your relative, friend or student abroad. We hope that a better understanding of section 214(b) will prepare them for successful visa interviews.

The phone rang. "Liza, its Timothy. I went back to the Embassy for another interview! I showed the consul more information about my job and family. This time I got my visa!" Liza was overjoyed. "Great!" she exclaimed, I'll see you next week!"

U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Publication 10485
June 1997
Visa Services

There is more. . . of course there always is in situations like this.   As we alluded to above, there were some special changes to the law with respect to student visas for high school students enacted in 1997.   The US State Department website also has this helpful question and answer on foreign student visas.  We've highlighted the sections we think are applicable to Charlie's situation (the whole thing is long, so you can just skip through to the highlighted stuff if you're bored).  Oh, and in case you want to know one of the likely specifics which may have resulted in the three Artesia kids having their visas declared invalid (assuming the INS and State Department ever got around to that), just read the highlighted portion of Section 625 below regarding "abandoning a course of study at a private school and taking up a course of study at a publicly funded school.   We don't believe that's at all applicable to the Charlie Rodriguez situation, but it does shed some light on the problems with Amaury Fernandez and Jack Martinez saying they were going to attend Mater Dei and then switching to Artesia after they got into the country. . . and it may also explain why during the first 12 months of Fernandez' stay, his name was "Apolinar" and during his next 12 month stay he became "Amaury":

New Legal Requirements for F-1 Foreign Students in Public Schools
U.S. Department of State
Office of Visa Services
March 1997

Congress recently enacted new limitations on certain foreign students planning to study in U.S. public elementary and secondary schools. Section 625 of Public Law 104-208, which took effect on November 30, 1996, places the following restrictions on foreign students in F-1 immigration status:

-- Prohibits their attendance in public elementary schools (grades K through 8) or publicly-funded adult education programs;

-- Limits their attendance in public secondary schools (grades 9 through 12) to a maximum of 12 months; and

-- Requires them to reimburse public secondary schools for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of education for the intended period of study.

The new provisions affect only foreign students in F-1 immigration status, or who obtain F-1 student visas - in other words, those to whom Form I-20 would be issued. The provisions do not affect foreign students in any other immigration status, for example J-1 exchange visitors, or dependents of foreign nationals in the United States on long-term visas.

Likewise, the new provisions do not affect foreign students attending private schools or private training or language programs. F-1 students who wish to transfer from private schools or programs into public schools or programs must meet the new public school requirements.

F-1 students who were attending public schools or programs before the legislation took effect on November 30, 1996, can remain in school without penalty. If those students travel outside the U.S. after November 30, however, they will have to meet the new requirements in order to return.

Suggestions for preparing Form I-20

Public secondary schools issuing Form I-20 should list the full unsubsidized per capita cost of education under "tuition" in item 7. The student's payment should be noted under "Remarks." Because F-1 foreign students are now limited to a maximum of 12 months in U.S. public secondary schools, the program duration listed in item 5 should not exceed the student's 12-month limit.

The full text of Section 625 follows.

From: Public Law 104-208, Omnibus Authorization Bill for the Commerce, State and Justice departments, signed into law on September 30, 1996. The bill contained provisions entitled the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Provisions dealing with foreign students in public schools follow:


(a) Limitations.--

(1) In general.-- Section 214 (8 U.S.C. 1184) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

"(l)(1) An alien may not be accorded status as a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) in order to pursue a course of study--

"(A) at a public elementary school or in a publicly funded adult education program; or

"(B) at a public secondary school unless--

"(i) the aggregate period of such status at such a school does not exceed 12 months with respect to any alien, and

"(ii) the alien demonstrates that the alien has reimbursed the local educational agency that administers the school for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of providing education at such school for the period of the alien's attendance.

"(2) An alien who obtains the status of a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15)(F)(i) in order to pursue a course of study at a private elementary or secondary school or in a language training program that is not publicly funded shall be considered to have violated such status, and the alien's visa under section 101(a)(15)(F) shall bevoid, if the alien terminates or abandons such course of study at such a school and undertakes a course of study at a public elementary school, in a publicly funded adult education program, in a publicly funded adult education language training program, or at a public secondary school (unless the requirements of paragraph (1)(B) are met).".

1. Conforming amendment. -- Section 101(a)(15)(F) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(F)) is amended by inserting "consistent with section 214(l)" after "such a
course of study".

(b) Reference to New Ground of Exclusion for Student Visa Abusers. -- For addition of ground of inadmissibility for certain  nonimmigrant student abusers, see section 347.

(c) Effective Date. -- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall apply to individuals who obtain the status of a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act after the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, including aliens whose status as such a nonimmigrant is extended after the end of such period.

Here's the Q&A: 

Questions and Answers on the New Public School

Provisions for F-1 Foreign Students
U.S. Department of State
Office of Visa Services
March 1997

Can our school waive the tuition requirement for a deserving F-1 foreign high school student?

No, the new law does not allow a foreign student in F-1 status to attend public secondary school on a tuition waiver. It requires payment of the full unsubsidized per capita cost of education in all cases.

Do the new provisions affect all foreign students?

No, they only affect students in F-1 status, or applicants for F-1 visas, who plan to attend public schools or publicly-funded adult education. Other foreign students -- for example exchange students (who hold J-1 status) or students whose parents are here as diplomats, researchers or foreign workers -- are unaffected by the new provisions.

How do the provisions affect F-1 students in private schools?

Foreign students attending private schools, or in privately-funded adult education or language programs, are not subject to the requirements in Section 625. However, if a private school student wishes to transfer into a public school or publicy-funded adult education or language program, he or she will have to comply with Section 625 in order to maintain F-1 status.

Will F-1 students who are already attending our public school have to leave?

The new law applies to students who obtain F-1 status on or after November 30, 1996. Students who were attending public schools in F-1 status before that date can continue in school. However, if they travel outside the United States, they will be required to conform to the new rules to be readmitted.

Can our adult education program continue issuing I-20s if we charge full tuition?

The new law prohibits the issuance of F-1 visas to attend publicly-funded adult education programs. The Immigration and Naturalization Service's interim guidance defines publicy-funded adult education as "education, training or English-as-second-language programs operated by, through or for a local public school district, system, agency or authority, regardless of whether such a program charges fees or tuition." Programs falling under this definition can no longer accept students in F-1 status, even if tuition is charged.

Do we have to re-issue I-20s we provided before learning about the new law?

An I-20 issued for public elementary or publicly-funded adult education can no longer be used to obtain an F-1 visa. It is not necessary to replace an I-20 issued for public secondary school, unless it indicated a program duration greater than 12 months. If full payment is not indicated on the I-20 (with a notarized signature from the responsible school official), the school authority should provide the student with a notarized letter as evidence of payment. If the student is otherwise eligible, overseas consulates will generally accept this as proof and will not ask for a new I-20.

If a foreign student attended public school before the new law, does that time count against his or her 12-month limit?

No. Only public secondary school attendance after November 30, 1996 counts toward the 12-month maximum. And only attendance while the student was in F-1 status should be counted. Attendance in other immigration categories, such as J-1, are not considered.

Can organizations or individuals sponsor an F-1 foreign student to attend public secondary school?

Yes. Nothing in the new law would preclude an organization or individual from reimbursing the school authority on the student's behalf, so long as payment does not come from public funds. In addition, previous requirements that a foreign student have sufficient funds to cover education and living expenses while in the United States have not changed.

What about students who come here to live with U.S. citizen relatives while attending public school?

If the student would require a Form I-20 and F-1 status in order to study at your school, he or she must still meet the new requirements, like any other F-1 student.

The U.S. Department of Education has provided the following information on calculating the cost of education under Section 625:

What is meant by "the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of providing education?"

Each Local Eduational Agency (LEA) is responsible for determining "the full unsubsidized per capita cost of providing education," for the purposes of Section 625. The determination should be made in accordance with applicable policy in the LEA's state, if any. A variety of approaches are acceptable, as long as they arrive at a reasonable estimate of the full, unsubsidized per capita cost. Two examples follow:

-- The per capita (per student) cost may be determined by dividing the sum of all public expenditures (see below) of the school or school district by the number of students in the school or school district.

-- If the LEA has established a tuition charge for students attending public secondary schools located in a district outside the district in which the student resides, the LEA may use this charge as the basis for determining the per student cost -- if the LEA believes that the tuition reflects the "full per capita cost" of education for the school or LEA in question. If the tuition does not cover all public expenditures, it must be adjusted to do so for the F-1 student.

What does "unsubsidized" mean with respect to the cost of providing education?

The unsubsidized cost is the LEA's total expenditure per student, excluding any fees and charges to the individual student. It includes expenditures from all public revenue sources including local, state and federal funds. All public expenditures would include all operating and capital expenditures (such as for instructional, support and non-instructional services; equipment acquisition; and facilities and construction), from all public revenue sources.

Does a K-12 district need to compute a separate per student cost for secondary students?

No. Unified school districts may utilize the K-12 per student cost, rather than computing a separate per student cost for secondary students. Alternatively, the LEA may choose to compute cost on a school-by-school basis.

What is the per student basis to be used in calculating the unsubsidized per capita cost for F-1 students? Is it fall membership, average daily attendance or average daily membership?

The per student basis used should be the same as that used by the LEA, in accordance with state law or policy, for calculating per student cost or non-resident tuition for students from other school districts.

Lastly, and this should probably be one of the first places actually to start, rather than finish if you are interested in finding out about becoming a foreign exchange student, or plan to obtain an F-1 visa, the State Department also has issued an informative bulletin on the subject of obtaining a visa.   Here it is:

Visa to Study or Do Research in the U.S.

Foreign students can study in the US under F-1 student visas or J-1, exchange visitor visas. The applicant must be accepted by a school or institution approved by the INS to issue I-20 forms, or by the US Information Agency to issue IAP-66 forms. You can find out from the school or institution whether it has the necessary approval. 

The school or institution will send the I-20 or the IAP-66 form directly to the student or exchange visitor. The student or exchange visitor can apply for the visa at the nearest embassy or consulate. 

To apply, he or she must present a valid passport, one recent 1.5 inch square photograph, the I-20 or the IAP- 66, and a completed application form. The application form may be obtained from the embassy or consulate. 

The applicant must also present evidence that all expenses can be paid. In addition, he or she must show serious intent to study or do research and that he or she has strong and binding ties that will compel departure from the US after the study or exchange visitor program has been completed. 

The applicant must also have enough knowledge of English to be able to study here, or proof that English language training here has been arranged. 

A student's or exchange visitor's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, also can apply for visas to come with him or her. 

If you are in the US on a student or exchange visitor visa and wish to change school or institution, or obtain work permission , you must contact your foreign student advisor, responsible officer, or your local immigration service. 

If your visa has expired and you need a new one to travel outside the US and return, you should apply for the visa at an American Embassy or Consulate while overseas. 

The Department of State does not issue or renew student or exchange visitor visas in the US. 

Finally (really this is the final stuff we'll add) here are some helpful definitions on the subject of Visa, and a bulletin for foreign students trying to get a visa:


1. F 1 Visa--business : F1 visa holder generally you cannot own a business. A nonimmigrant (F1 included) generally cannot work unless one is paid the "prevailing wage".  

A F 1 student cannot engage in business because there are restrictions against off campus employment and against unauthorized employment. 

2. F1 Multiple entry visa : There is a certain risk because the US Consular official is allowed the discretion under law to refuse a nonimmigrant visa (F1) if she/he suspects that the applicant may permanently reside in the US. There is a presumption under immigration law that all nonimmigrants are intending immigrants! Therefore, the burden is on the applicant to negate that presumption (Matter of Brantigan-- a 1966 case). Appeals to the US State Dept. in visa denial cases are possible but it is expensive, time consuming and there is no guarantee of success.

3. F-1 Off Campus Work & Nominal Payment : You need authorization for off-campus work. 

4. F1 Practical Training : There is a 12 month limit on the duration of PT. Must complete training within 14 months of graduation. There is an O.I. (Operating Instruction) that any unused portion of PT cannot be used at a later time unless "reserved" in accordance with O.I. 

5. F1 Expiration of : Usually F1 is valid for 60 days after expiration date. 

6. F2 Visa procedures : a. Adequate funds to support the applicant and family. b. Should show that applicant and family intend to return home after completion of studies. c. Strong Papers to support the above. 

Foreign Students

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is for academic studies, and the "M" visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies.  



Changes in U.S. immigration law, effective November 30, 1996, require that no alien may be issued an F-1 visa to attend a U.S. public elementary or middle school (K-8). Any alien who wishes to attend public high school (grades 9-12) in the United States in student visa (F-1) status must submit evidence that the local school district has been reimbursed in advance for the unsubsidized per capita cost of the education. Also, attendance at U.S. public high schools cannot exceed a total of 12 months. Please note that these changes do not affect other visa categories such as the J-1 exchange visitor program or the qualified school-age child of an alien who holds another type of nonimmigrant visa (i.e., A, E, H, I, L, etc.).

No alien may be issued an F-1 visa in order to attend a publicly-funded adult education program.

Scholastic Preparation 

The student visa applicant must have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment. The student, unless coming to participate exclusively in an English language training program, must either be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school must have made special arrangements for English language courses or teach the course in the student's native language. 

Financial Resources 

Applicants must also prove that sufficient funds are or will be available from an identified and reliable financial source to defray all living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study in the United States. Specifically, applicants must prove they have enough readily available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study, and that adequate funds will be available for each subsequent year of study. The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay. 

Acceptance Form 

An applicant coming to the United States to study must be accepted for a full course of study by an educational institution approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The institution must send to the applicant a Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students. The nonacademic or vocational institution must send to the student a Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status For Vocational Students. Educational institutions obtain Forms I-20A-B and I-20M-N from the INS. 


The nonimmigrant visa application Form OF-156 lists classes of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a student, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. 


Applicants for student visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. 

Required Documentation 

Each applicant for a student visa must pay a nonrefundable US$45 application fee and submit: 

1) An application Form OF-156, completed and signed. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices;  2) A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application; 
3) One photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm) for each applicant, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background; and
4) For the "F" applicant, a Form I-20A-B. For the "M" applicant, a Form I-20M-N.
5) Evidence of sufficient funds.

Other Documentation 

Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States when they have completed their studies. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly. 


Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The INS has authority to deny admission  Also, the period for which the bearer of a student visa is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by the INS, not the consular officer. At the port of entry, an INS official validates Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. 



An F-1 student may not accept off-campus employment at any time during the first year of study; however, the INS may grant permission to accept off-campus employment after one year. F-1 students may accept on-campus employment from the school without INS permission. Except for temporary employment for practical training, an M-1 student may not accept employment.

Family Members 

A spouse and unmarried, minor children may also be classified for a nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the student. Family members must meet all visa eligibility requirements, including evidence that they will have sufficient funds for their support, and that they will depart the U.S. when the student's program ends. Spouses and children of students may not accept employment at any time. 


Questions on how to obtain Forms I-20A-B and I-20M-N should be made to the educational institution. If the institution does not have the forms, it needs to contact the local INS office. Questions on visa application procedures at the American consular offices abroad should be addressed to that consular office by the applicant. 

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Visa Services
February 1998
Visa Services

Now you know more than you ever wanted to on this subject. . . .at least we do.

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