F-1 Student Visas
F-1 status is granted to individuals who enter the U.S. for the sole purpose of study.
Students must enroll full-time in order to maintain their F-1 status. To request an application or information regarding admission to UT Southwestern Medical Center, visit Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences admissions information.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented a $200 fee for all F-1 applicants. The fee is used to cover the cost of the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information) System. SEVIS is the government database that is used to issue F-1 student documents (I-20 forms) for prospective international students.
Obtaining an F-1 Visa
To apply for an F-1 Visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, an applicant must first obtain a Form I-20 from the school s/he plans to attend. International Affairs will issue an I-20 to a prospective student after s/he:
- Is accepted into a UT Southwestern academic program and the Admissions Office submits the necessary documents to the International Affairs Office, and
- Provides evidence of adequate financial support to meet expenses in the US
For more information about applying for an F-1 student visa stamp abroad, please see Applying for an F-1 Visa Abroad and Anticipated Consular Wait Times. Click here for information on applying for a visa at a specific U.S. embassy.
Security checks during application for a visa stamp are very common for all people studying or working in scientific fields. They are even more common in specific countries such as China, India, Korea, and Middle Eastern countries. These checks are usually completed within 3-4 weeks, sometimes longer, and there is nothing UT Southwestern can do to shorten the period of time it will take. Please plan accordingly and remain in contact with your UT Southwestern mentor and the Office of International Affairs regarding any delay in your arrival.
Entering the U.S.
After you obtain an F-1 visa stamp in your passport, the consular official will return the Form I-20 to you. You will be required to present it with your passport to the U.S. Immigration Service inspector at the port-of-entry. The inspector will date stamp the I-20 and return it to you along with the I-94 "Departure Record."
Be sure the inspector has noted "F-1" and "D/S" (Duration of Status) on both documents. The "D/S" notation permits you to remain in the U.S. for the period you are pursuing a full course of study or engaging in practical training following completion of studies, plus 60 days to prepare for departure from the U.S. If your spouse and/or child(ren) accompany you, their I-94s should be noted "F-2" and "D/S," thereby allowing them to remain in the United States for the same period as the F-1.
You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20.
To travel abroad and re-enter the U..S after you begin your studies, an International Affairs Office representative must sign your current I-20 before you depart. This signature verifies you are in good standing at UT Southwestern. Failure to obtain this signature could result in problems at the US port-of-entry upon your return. In addition to the signed I-20, you will need a valid passport and visa stamp. Information regarding the renewal of your visa stamp is available from the International Affairs Office.
Mandatory Health Insurance
The University of Texas System requires all international students to maintain health insurance coverage which meets the four standards listed below. Students are required to present proof of coverage before registering for classes.
- Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness;
- A deductible (the amount for which you are responsible) not to exceed $500 per accident or illness;
- Repatriation-of-remains coverage in the amount of $7,500; and
- Expenses associated with medical evacuation of the visitor to the home country in the amount of $10,000.
Below are some popular companies that provide medical insurance plans with evacuation repatriation coverage that can be purchased online:
- Compass Benefits Group International Student Scholar Health Insurance Plan
- Trawick International underwritten by MEGA LIfe and Health Insurance Company
Students in the Graduate School who are paid for at least 20 hrs/week are eligible for UT Southwestern employee health insurance. Health insurance for dependents may be fairly expensive. You can get some information about coverage and potential costs at www.utsystem.edu/egi/. Graduate students eligible for UT Southwestern employee health insurance must still purchase additional repatriation and medical evacuation coverage through policies offered at the International Affairs Office or the Registrar's Office.
Students in any program who are not paid for at least 20 hours/week may:
- Bring insurance from their home country. In order to satisfy the insurance requirements. The policy must be in English and insurance amounts must be provided in U.S. dollars.
- Obtain information from International Affairs about private insurance policies available to students.
Mandatory Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Insurance Coverage
All International Students are required by law to have Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Insurance Coverage. This coverage is included in the Compass and Collegiate Care Policies mentioned above. If a student has a UT Southwestern employee health insurance policy, they will need to purchase this additional coverage.
Trawick International is one option for purchasing this coverage. The 2011-2013 rate is $42 per person per year. Both the F-1 student and his/her spouse and children (if any) must also be covered under this insurance. To enroll, visit Trawick International Medical Evacuation and Repatriation Coverage Enrollment. (Please note: This link is different from the Collegiate Care link although they look the same).
In most cases, a program transfer from one academic institution to another is permitted. Prior to issuing an I-20 for transfer, the International Affairs Office will request visa status information from the school the prospective student is attending.
US law usually restricts F-1 students to working on their own campus and for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Under special circumstances, F-1 visa holders may be allowed limited employment off-campus if authorization is granted by the International Affairs Office or the US Department of Homeland Security. Unauthorized employment is illegal and will seriously jeopardize your stay in the US.
Students awarded a full assistantship are not eligible to seek additional employment. Students with partial or no assistantships are not usually eligible for off-campus employment. However, if you believe your case warrants special consideration, please contact International Affairs.
Optional Practical Training
Upon completing your studies, you may be eligible for “Optional Practical Training” employment authorization to get practical experience in your field of study. In order to receive your “Optional Practical Training” work authorization when you need it, it is very important that you contact the International Affairs Office at least 3-4 months prior to your program completion date (e.g., thesis/dissertation defense date or end of final term) to apply for optional practical training.
F-1 students may bring their spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 to the U.S. if financial resources for their support are adequate. Dependents are issued F-2 visas and may arrive with the F-1 or join him/her at a later date.
Dependents (F-2) are not allowed to work in the U.S., but may attend school. An F-2 may also change status to F-1 without leaving the U.S. Application for a change of status is made to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The International Affairs Office can assist you with this process.