If you are a citizen of Mexico or Canada and want to enroll in an academic program in the United States, you may have the choice to be admitted under either the F-1 or F-3 nonimmigrant student visa category. It is important to understand the differences between these two visas so that you can choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
If you live on the border and are interested in commuting to the
United States to attend school, consider the F-3 nonimmigrant student
visa. The F-3 visa was created specifically for Mexican and Canadian
citizens to commute to the United States to study at a U.S. institution
of education. See F-3 Visa for Border Commuter Students.
F-3 visa holders are commonly referred to as “border commuter
students.” In order to be eligible for this visa category, you need to
be enrolled in a SEVIS-approved school that is located within 75 miles
of the border of your home country, where you must actively maintain a
If the F-3 visa is an option for you, the primary advantages of this visa category over the F-1 visa are that you can continue to reside in your home country and you are not required to be enrolled as a full-time student. You will also be eligible for curricular practical training (CPT) and post-completion optional practical training (OPT).
The disadvantages of the F-3 visa category that you need to be aware of include the following:
If you begin your program with an F-3 visa but later decide that you want to take advantage of some of the benefits provided to F-1 visa holders, you always have the option to apply for the F-1 visa at a later date.
If you do not maintain a residence on the border with the United
States, or you are interested in attending a school that is not within
commuting distance, you will want to apply for the F-1 nonimmigrant
student visa. The F-1 visa is issued to citizens of any foreign country
for the purpose of enrolling in a full-time course of study in the
The F-1 visa category has additional benefits that aren’t available to F-3 visa holders, including the following:
The disadvantages of the F-1 visa category that you need to be aware of include the following:
See Eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa for more on the rules for this visa.
If you have been admitted to an academic program and you qualify for both the F-3 and F-1 visa categories, you can consult with your Designated School Official (DSO) about which option is best for you and your circumstances.