The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant, full-time, student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the United States. “F” visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs.
F-1 visas are given only through “academic” institutions. Vocational education is not included in F1 visa; for vocational education, an M visa should be obtained. Further, F-1 visa applicant must be able to establish the intent to return to his/her home country upon completion of studies in the U.S.
Except for on-campus employment of 20 hours a week or lesser, F-1 students are generally not permitted to work in the US without prior authorization from Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). However, the USCIS may grant work authorization for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students are permitted to work for a total of 40 months towards practical training (eg. internship), which can be distributed between Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training (OPT). An interim order was passed recently, allowing students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to undergo OPT for 29 months.
F-2 dependent visas are given to families of an F-1 student. F-2 visa-holders are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools.