Watch Out: Older Than Average Applicants Have Trouble Getting F-1 Student Visa, Due to USCIS Fraud Indicators

The immigration officers deciding on your student visa application are trained to look for people who don't fit the profile of a typical student, including with regard to age.

In the real world, it's not uncommon for people who are well past their teens or twenties to want to obtain a college degree. Perhaps they weren't able to before due to the expense or other personal matters. But if you are hoping to do so as a foreign student in the United States, expect to have a little more trouble than others getting a visa for this purpose. Your age, and any other indicators that education was not previously high on your priority list, may work against you.

Applicants for an F-1 visa are always up against the tendency of the U.S. government to believe that most people are just looking for a way to come to the U.S. in order to stay permanently. In fact, an intent to return home at the end of your studies is part of the basic eligibility requirements for the F-1 visa.

It's up to the applicant to prove that he or she is genuinely interested in and qualified to pursue the activities for which the particular visa was designed and will leave the U.S. at the end of the permitted stay. (For more information on student visa eligibility and the application process, see the "Student and Exchange Visitor Visas" section of Nolo's website.)

As if that weren't difficult enough, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has specifically listed, among its student visa fraud indicators, "age is not commensurate with education sought" and "education request doesn't correlate with beneficiary's employment background."

(Actually, you would be applying through the U.S. State Department rather than USCIS, because you're coming from abroad, but this USCIS statement likely reflects a common pattern seen by the State Department as well.)

And if expense was the reason for your delay, your ability to afford your period of time as a student in the U.S. could be an issue, as well. Remember that you will need to cover tuition, room, board, and living expenses. This will require a hefty amount of savings at most U.S. colleges and universities, and you will not be allowed to count on working in the U.S. to help cover these costs. (An on-campus job is acceptable to U.S. immigration authorities, and you can probably qualify for paid training work, but these don't tend to pay much.)

This doesn't mean that getting an F-1 student visa will be impossible. You are, however, likely going to need an attorney's help in strategizing your arguments and preparing your visa application. You will ideally want to provide actual, documentary evidence, as opposed to your own oral statements, showing the depth of your interest in studying in the U.S. and the reasons you were unable to pursue a college education before now.

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