There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. These visas are commonly known as the F and M visas.
F-1 Visa – Academic Student
The F-1 Academic Student visa allows a foreign national to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.
- During the first academic year: the F-1 visa holder may not work off-campus, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions;
- After the first academic year: the F-1 visa holder may engage in the three following types of off-campus employment:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT);
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion);
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
The off-campus employment must be related to the F-1 visa holder’s area of study and must be authorized by the Designated School Official and USCIS, prior to starting any work.
Period of Stay:
Upon arriving in the U.S F-1 visa holders are usually admitted for the duration of their student status. As such, students may stay as long as they are enrolled full-time in a school to complete their academic program. After the program ends, they have 60 days to depart the U.S.
Family of F-1 Visa Holders:
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an F-1 visa holder can obtain F-2 status. They are not eligible to engage in employment, but F-2 child may engage in full-time study though twelfth grade. However, a spouse in F-2 status may not engage in full-time study and may only participate in vocational or recreational programs without having to apply for a change of nonimmigrant classification to F-1.
M-1 – Vocational Student
The M-1 Vocational Student visa category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.
M-1 visa holders may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies.
The off-campus employment must be related to the M-1 visa holder’s area of study and must be authorized by the Designated School Official and USCIS, prior to starting any work.
Period of Stay:
Upon arriving in the U.S M-1 visa holders are usually admitted for the time necessary to complete their courses plus 30 days after the program ends, or for one year, whichever is the less.
Family of M-1 Visa Holders:
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an M-1 visa holder can obtain M-2 status. They are not eligible to engage in employment, but may attend school. However, a spouse in M-2 status may only participate in vocational or recreational programs.
F and M Visas: General Information
To qualify for the F-1 or the M-1 visa:
- The school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students;
- The visa applicant must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
- The visa applicant must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;
- The visa applicant must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study;
- The visa applicant must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up;
- For an F-1 visa: The visa applicant must be enrolled in an “academic” educational program or a language-training program;
- For an M-1 visa: The visa applicant must be enrolled in a vocational program.
For more information about this visa category contact us today to schedule a professional consultation with an Immigration Attorney. Call (305) 515-VISA (8472) or click here.
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