At any given time, there are an estimated 650,000 international students in the US, studying on an F-1 visa. People come to the US from all over the world to take advantage of the many excellent colleges and universities the country offers. Many students also travel to the US to study English. The F-1 visa allows people from outside the US to travel here in order to study The visa is a non-immigrant, full-time visa which gives students the right to study and live in the US.
In addition to the F1 student visa, there are also other F visas which help students pursue their education in the US. For example, the F-2 visa authorizes the children and spouses of students with F-1 visas to travel and stay with the F-1 visa holder while the student completes their education.
As well, the F-3 visa is granted to Canada and Mexican nationals, which allows them to study in the US while still living in their own country. The visa permits these students to commute across the border while pursing their part-time or full-time studies.
Students with F-3 visas are not allowed to work in the US, expect for practical training which is part of their education. TF-1 US student visa holders, however, are usually allowed to work on-campus for about 20 hours a week. In order to work off-campus or in order to work for longer hours, F-1 US student visa holders need to get authorization from the USCIS. As well, the USCIS sometimes allows authorization for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) for US student visa holders, and this authorizations gives students a little more leeway in where they work and how long they work. This type of authorization allows students to work for 40 months, as long as the work counts as practical training. For example, students with this type of authorization may seek an internship or another similar type of work in their field.
In some cases, you may not require an F1 student visa at all. If you are traveling to the US generally for tourism but want to take a short course which is not related to your work or career opportunities, you may be able to simply use a visitor visa, provided that the course takes fewer than 18 hours a week. If you are studying towards a degree or even traveling to the US for a conference or seminar which is part of your degree, you will need a US student visa.
If you decide to apply for an F-1 visa, you will first need to get enrolled in a school which is certified by SEVP. As soon as you get information about enrollment or an acceptance letter, it is important to apply for your US student visa, using the forms on the USCIS website. It is important to apply early, since it can take 120 days or more to get your US student visa and you may be denied entry into the US without your visa.