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The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa specifically for foreign nationals undertaking full-time, academic studies at a University, College, Language School, Conservatory, or any other accredited institution. Students studying at vocational schools do not qualify for an F-1 visa, and must instead apply for an M-1 visa. Individuals on an F-1 visa are allowed to live and study in the U.S., but employment is usually restricted to work which is connected to their area of study.
Students who complete their academic requirements are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows for work authorization in a field connected to the area of study for a maximum of one (1) year. Students receiving a degree in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) are eligible for a 17-month OPT extension, as long as their study was part of the USCIS’s STEM Designated Degree Program List. For more information on qualifying STEM degrees, click here.