F-3 Visa for Border Commuter Students

The Border Commuter Student Act added a new, F-3 visa for people commuting to the United States from Mexico or Canada in order to study.

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.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for an F-3 visa, commuter students must meet many of the same criteria as other students, including that they:

  • have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning
  • are bona fide students qualified to pursue a course of study
  • seek to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing such a course of study
  • are sufficiently knowledgeable in the English-language to pursue their studies effectively (unless the school offers a course of studies in their native tongue)
  • will be able to support themselves financially during the course of study, and
  • will be attending an established college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or a language training program that has been approved by DHS.

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.

F-3 Visa Application Process

In order to apply for an F-3 visa, a commuter student must collect the following:

  • Certificate of Eligibility, I-20 Form (issued by the school)
  • proof of payment of the SEVIS fee at a
  • two photos
  • a bank statement or other proof of financial resources
  • proof of your Canadian or Mexican citizenship plus a valid photo ID (a valid passport will work for both of these).

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.

Maintaining Status on an F-3 Visa

In order to keep an F-3 visa, a commuter student must be sure to remain in status, including by:

  • continuing to take classes in the U.S. in pursuit of a degree or certificate program
  • remaining in good academic standing
  • following all immigration laws and regulations
  • getting a renewal of Form I-20 from the school every semester before it expires
  • refraining from working on or off campus unless the student has meets the eligibility requirements for curricular training, in which the employment is directly related to the student’s course of study.

If you violate your visa terms, your visa status will be automatically revoked.

Fees and Costs

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.

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