In 2002, the U.S. Congress passed the Border Commuter Student Act. The Act added a new, F-3 visa specifically for people commuting to the United States from Mexico or Canada in order to study. Students with F-3 visas are referred to as Border Commuter Students.
Before the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, part-time students attending school in the United States while living in Mexico or Canada were allowed to cross the border as visitors, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended this policy for security reasons.
In order to qualify for an F-3 visa, commuter students must meet many of the same criteria as other students, including that they:
Unlike the standard academic student visa (F-1), however, the Border Commuter Students’ course of study need not be full time, but can instead be part time. Also, Border Commuter Students must attend a U.S. institution within 75 miles of the U.S. border. And they have fewer options to work in the U.S. than regular F-1 students.
In addition, Border Commuter students cannot obtain visas for their family members to accompany them.
In order to apply for an F-3 visa, a commuter student must collect the following:
Mexican students must take these to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate. See the website of your local consulate for further instructions. Canadian students can proceed straight to the U.S. border to request the F-3 visa. Your school may also give you useful advice on this process.
At the U.S. border, the inspecting officer will stamp page 1 of your I-20. You will be issued a I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, valid though the end of the semester. You must present the stamped I-20 and a copy of your I-94 every time you cross the border to the U.S. to attend classes.
In order to keep an F-3 visa, a commuter student must be sure to remain in status, including by:
If you violate your visa terms, your visa status will be automatically revoked.
As of 2017, the F-3 visa costs include a $200 fee for Form I-901 (SEVIS) and a visa application fee of $160. For the latest visa application fees, see the "Fees for Visa Services" page of the State Department website.
Depending on which country you’re from, you may also have a pay what’s called a reciprocity fee. The above website will give you details on this.