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US Student Visas: F1 & J1 Visas

There are a variety of ways you can live, study, and temporarily work in the United States if you’re from Canada. Canadian students can qualify for and obtain student visas in the United States, known as F1 and J1 visas. As long as the school or program you have been admitted to is authorized to sponsor international students, Canadian citizens are normally eligible for F1 or J1 student visas.

Immigration and visa requirements can be complicated, but you do not have to file your applications alone. Our immigration lawyers at Border Solutions Law Group understand laws and regulations on both sides of the border. If you require assistance obtaining a study visa as a Canadian citizen, schedule a consultation with our team today. 

What is an F1 Visa?

An F1 Visa is a student visa that Canadian students can use to study in the United States. Schools registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program can provide F1 study visas and sponsor international students in the U.S. For a school to be eligible for sponsorship, it must have been evaluated and accredited by the American government.

How Can I Apply for an F1 Visa as a Canadian?

Applying for an F1 visa is usually more straightforward for Canadians than for students from other international countries. Once you have been admitted to an accredited university in the United States, they will issue you an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility form that breaks down your fees, cost of room and board, and confirms your enrollment. You will also have to pay a registration fee to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). With your I-20 form, you become visa-exempt as a Canadian citizen. This means that you will not have to go to the US consulate for an interview for your visa to be approved.

To obtain your F1 visa, you must bring all necessary documentation with you to a border crossing into the United States. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will then decide whether to approve your visa or not. Documentation you must bring to the port of entry includes:

  • Your Canadian passport
  • Your I-20 Form provided by your school
  • Proof that you have paid the SEVIS registration fee
  • Proof that you can pay for your studies and living costs while you reside in the United States, including;
  • A bank account statement, investment account statement, tax return, or other proof of funds
  • Proof of ties to Canada

If the documentation you have brought is satisfactory, the CBP officer will stamp your passport with an F1 DS (duration of stay), and you will automatically receive your student visa. Your F1 visa will remain eligible for the duration of your enrollment at the school.

Can I Extend an F1 Visa?

Although the application process for Canadian students is relatively straightforward, matters may become more complicated if you wish to extend your student visa into employment.

Once you have completed your studies as an F1 student, you may be eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) status. OPT is a form of temporary employment you can carry out in the United States as an international student and must be relevant to your field of study. F1 students can apply for up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before or after completing their academic studies. If you graduated from a STEM program, you may be eligible to apply for a second year of OPT status.

It is also possible to move out of the F1 program and obtain a full-time work permit in the United States as a Canadian. For example, if you have graduated in the U.S., you may be eligible for professional status or other kinds of work visas. For more permanent solutions, it can be helpful to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer. Our team at Border Solutions Law Group can assist with your transition from a study visa to a long-term work visa. Contact us today for advice on your situation.

How is a J1 Visa Different From an F1 Visa?

The J1 visa program is a foreign exchange program for international students and visitors admitted to accredited courses in the United States. J1 differs from F1 in that international exchange visitors are eligible to participate in work-and-study-based exchange programs recognized by the United States Government. Typical programs can include study, work, research, or teaching. A J1 visa can be valid for a few weeks or several years depending on the program a visitor is admitted to.

J1 visas may involve additional requirements compared to F1 visas. For example, at the end of your J1 exchange program, you must typically leave the United States for a minimum of 2 years. Whether you may remain in the U.S. will depend on the country you are from and the program you were enrolled in during your stay. You should consult with an immigration lawyer to assess your options, as visa applications and extensions are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Contact Our Team of Immigration Lawyers Today

Although Canadians may be exempt from additional requirements when applying for an F1 or J1 visa in the United States, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. Whether you have questions about your eligibility, schools that provide sponsorship, or your employment options after graduation, our lawyers at Border Solutions Law Group are here to help. Schedule a consultation with our team today to find out what may be possible for you.

Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your immigration law matter, please consult with an immigration lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.