Can I get an F1 visa for an online degree?

Commo question: Can I get an F1 visa for an online degree?
Short answer: No

Most universities in the United States offer online degrees. However, online programs do not meet the minimum requirements for F1 visas. If you are interested in completing an online degree in a US institution, you can definitely do so. However, you won’t be able to obtain an F1 visa. You will have to complete the degree remotely, where ever you are located.

International students in the US must obtain an F1 student visa before starting their program. Then, during their studies, international students must comply with several student visa requirements, such as a minimum course load. Undergraduates must complete 12 credit hours each semester with a minimum of 9 credits of in-person classes. The reminding three can be completed online or in-person.

The requirements are more lenient for graduate school. Graduate students must complete 9 credit hours each semester. At least six of them must be in-person. And the reminding three can be completed online.

  • Undergraduate minimum courseload: 12 credit hours (maximum 3 credits online)
  • Graduate minimum courseload: 9 credit hours (maximum 3 credits online)

Do I need a visa for an online course or degree from a US institution?

You do not need an F1 visa for online degrees or courses. You won’t be able to live in the US during your studies, but you can still complete the program. The first step is the application process. Research different institutions and find the program that matches your interest. You do not have to complete a whole degree. Many US universities offer online certifications that only take a few months or a couple of semesters to complete.

The application process for online programs is the same as standard programs. You will need all the required application materials, including proof of English proficiency. The only main difference is that you won’t need to submit immigration details as you will stay at your current residence.

Benefits of completing a US online degree – no F1 visa

You can’t get an F1 visa for an online degree. Yet, you can still complete the degree remotely. This approach offers some key benefits:

The Cost-savings:

Online classes have a few additional fees; however, those fees do not compare to the room and board costs in the US. If you move away from your home country, you will have to pay for your living expenses. Housing is usually the most significant burden on a student budget. Also, in some cases, universities require international students to live on-campus, and on-campus housing is a lot more expensive than off-campus housing. Aside from necessary living expenses, you will have additional traveling and transportation expenses. Depending on where you are coming from, visiting your family can cost you over a thousand dollars. This list includes the most common budget items associated with completing an in-person degree abroad.

          • Visa application and renewal fees
          • Housing and utilities
          • Food
          • International insurance
          • Local transportation
          • Transportation to home country

A Good Balance:

Online degrees allow you to work through a degree at your own pace and desired location. With an online degree, you can continue living at home, keep holding your current job, and do not worry about long commutes and leaving your family and friends. All in all, online degrees provide a good balance between gaining academic knowledge and keeping a healthy and comfortable lifestyle.

Work Opportunities:

International students in the US can work on-campus and off-campus. However, there are some restrictions. For example, the job must be directly related to your degree. Also, you can’t work fulltime (another F1 visas requirement). Even though you can work, there are several restrictions. When you pursue an online degree, you will have the opportunity to keep your current job or get any job you can. There is a lot more flexibility.

The degree is worth it.

When you complete a degree from a university, regardless if it is an in-person or online program, you still receive the degree. If you earn a degree from a prestigious institution through an online program, you will still earn the degree at full merit.

You can't get an F1 visa for an online degree, but you still get the diploma

Cons of US online degrees for international students

If you are considering getting a degree in a US institution, but are unsure if online is a viable option, you should also consider the drawbacks of online education.

Limited Professional Network:

College is a great place to build your professional networks. You get to interact with hundreds of classmates and dozens of faculty members. Even if you are not close friends with everyone, you still build meaningful bonds through the shared experience. Online degrees allow some interaction with classmates and faculty, but the extent is a lot more limited. When studying abroad and online, you will have to put a lot more effort and thought into building your network.

Post-degree Work Experience:

F1 visas allow international students to work during their studies. Then, once they graduated, they can complete Optional Practice Training or OPT. The OPT will enable them to work in the US for a few years (1 or 3 depending on the field of study) and gain valuable experience. Young professionals value the OPT opportunity greatly, as they build up their resume.

Online Resources Only:

US institutions characterize by out of the norm on-campus resources. Some large university campuses are like small cities, with gyms, housing, dining options, post office, and even hotels. And some of the most valuable on-campus resources focus on academics. Career services, tutoring, and shadowing opportunities are just a few examples. Unfortunately, with online degrees, you will have access to limited resources. Some institutions are better prepared than others to offer online support. Before you make a decision, make sure you ask an advisor about online academic resources.


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