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I am a Russian citizen, staying in the US on an F1 visa. Unfortunately, the F1 expires after a year for Russian nationals, so it seems that I must fly back to Russia annually to apply for a visa every year. I was wondering if I could somehow avoid the flight back to Russia.

I know that if I had permanent residency in a third country, say Canada, I could just go to Canada and apply for a new F1 there.

However, currently my permanent residence is in Russia (according to my Russian internal passport and so on), even though I spend most of my time living in the States.

The website of the US consulate in Toronto says:

It is generally advisable for short-term visitors to Canada to apply in their home country for a U.S. visa

From this I conclude that I am not forbidden to apply for a visa in Toronto. They do not advise this, but okay, I'm not obligated to follow their advice. They also say:

It is usually more difficult for short-term visitors to Canada to demonstrate that they qualify for a visa and are often refused.

Again, okay, fair enough. But what does "more difficult" mean? I have gotten the same visa, and others, several times before without any issue. I can provide documentation demonstrating my application's legitimacy in considerable excess of what appears to be necessary. Would the consulate in Canada simply refuse a perfectly good application, just because I'm a foreign national, and leave me stranded in Canada with no choice but to buy a hasty ticket back to Russia (so I can try applying there)?

I've used Canada here just for the sake of a concrete example, but for the purposes of this question it can be any nearby country, such as Mexico. The point is that it is much easier for me to go to a nearby/neighboring country (Canada, Mexico, etc), than it is to go to my home country (Russia).

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US immigration officials are constantly on the watch for people who are using repeat temporary visas as a way of staying permanently in the US. They probably view being unwilling, or unable, to return to your country of residence as an indicator of that, and a sign that you don't have strong ties with your official country of residence. –  DJClayworth Jul 7 at 13:43
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Isn't an F1 a student visa? Usually they last the duration of the educational program. –  CGCampbell Jul 7 at 16:17
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Assuming you are a college or university student, I'd suggest a talk with your institution's international student office. They tend to be very well informed on visa issues. –  Nate Eldredge Jul 7 at 23:30
    
@CGCampbell For Russian nationals, F1 visas are issued with a duration of 1 year. –  Wasely Jul 8 at 12:40

1 Answer 1

Unfortunately, the F1 expires after a year for Russian nationals, so it seems that I must fly back to Russia annually to apply for a visa every year. I was wondering if I could somehow avoid the flight back to Russia.

A U.S. visa is only for entering the United States. You would only need to get a new visa if you need to leave and enter the United States again. Do you? If you do, then you can apply for a U.S. visa at whatever place you need to go.

A U.S. visa has nothing to do with staying inside the U.S., which is governed by your status (the I-94, and for F1 students, the I-20). You do not need a valid visa to stay in the U.S. (as long as you have valid status), and conversely, having a valid visa does not mean you can stay in the U.S. (if your status has expired).

Going to Canada to get a U.S. visa would only make sense if you need to leave the U.S. to go to a third country (not Russia) for which you need a visa, and they want to see a valid U.S. visa as a prerequisite for getting that country's visa.

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+1 This is a fact which is constantly confused by almost everyone internationally. –  Aditya Somani Jul 8 at 0:52
    
Aren't I-94s done away with ? –  happybuddha Jul 8 at 2:17
    
@happybuddha: No. They're just electronic now. –  user102008 Jul 8 at 4:56
    
"if you need to leave and enter the United States again. Do you?" - Yes. I may need to travel from US to a third country and back to the US multiple times. –  Wasely Jul 8 at 12:42
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well, if all of the above is true, then as long as the OP has a valid status (I-20) from his educational institution, and has no personal NEED to leave the US, then the fact that the F1 has expired should have no effect. This sounds like s/he needs to talk to someone official though. –  CGCampbell Jul 8 at 12:49

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