F-1 & M-1 Student Visas
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two
nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the
The "F" visa is for academic studies, and the "M"
visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies.
Changes in U.S. immigration
law, effective November 30, 1996, require that no alien may be issued
an F-1 visa to attend a U.S. public elementary or middle school
(K-8). Any alien who wishes to attend public high school (grades
9-12) in the United States in student visa (F-1) status must submit
evidence that the local school district has been reimbursed in advance
for the unsubsidized per capita cost of the education. Also, attendance
at a U.S. public high school cannot exceed a total of 12 months.
Please note that these changes do not affect other
visa categories such as the J-1 Exchange
Visitor program or the qualified school-age child of an alien
who holds another type of nonimmigrant visa.
No alien may be issued an F-1 visa in order to
attend a publicly-funded adult education program, or public elementary
or secondary school.
The student visa applicant must have successfully
completed a course of study normally required for enrollment. The
student, unless coming to participate exclusively in an English
language training program, must either be sufficiently proficient
in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school
must have made special arrangements for English language courses
or teach the course in the student's native language.
Applicants must also prove that sufficient funds
are or will be available from an identified and reliable financial
source to defray all living and school expenses during the entire
period of anticipated study in the United States. Specifically,
applicants must prove they have enough readily available funds to
meet all expenses for the first year of study, and that adequate
funds will be available for each subsequent year of study.
M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence
that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition
and living costs for the entire period of their intended stay. An
applicant coming to the United States to study must be accepted
for a full course of study by an educational institution approved
by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.
The institution must send to the applicant a Form
I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student
Status for all Academic and Language Students. The applicant takes
the Form I-20A-B to the appropriate U.S. Consulate for visa issuance.
The nonacademic or vocational institution must
send to the student a Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for
Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status For Vocational Students. The applicant
takes the Form I-20M-N to the appropriate U.S. Consulate for visa
VISA INELIGIBILITY / WAIVER
Certain classes of persons are ineligible under
U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances, an applicant who is
ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a student,
may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa, if
the waiver is approved.
APPLYING FOR A STUDENT VISA
Applicants for student visas should generally apply
at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place
of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any
U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify
for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Required
Documentation Each applicant for a student visa must pay a nonrefundable
application fee and submit:
1) An application Form DS-156, along with DS-157
for persons between the ages of 16 and 45 years of age;
2) A passport valid for travel to the United
States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the
applicant's intended period of stay in the United States. If
more than one person is included in the passport, each person
desiring a visa must make an application;
3) One photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm)
for each applicant,
showing full face, without head covering, against a light background;
4) For the "F" applicant, a Form I-20A-B;
5) For the "M" applicant, a Form I-20M-N;
6) Evidence of sufficient funds. Other Documentation
Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of
the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence
in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning,
and that they will depart the United States when they have completed
7) The appropriate filing fee.
PORT OF ENTRY
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not
guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border
Patrol, which inspects incoming aliens, has authority to deny admission,
for good cause and on lawful grounds. Also, the period for which
the bearer of a student visa is authorized to remain in the United
States is determined by the CPB, not the Consular Officer who originally
isssues the visa. At the port of entry, an CBP officer validates
Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of
stay permitted. Normally, students are given D/S, which means Duration
of Status. So long as the student remains enrolled in school full
time, the status does not need to be extended.
Employment: An F-1 student may not accept off-campus
employment at any time during the first year of study. F-1 students
may accept on-campus employment from the school without CIS permission.
Upon the showing of financial hardship due to changed circumstances,
off campus employment authorization may be obtained, upon a proper
showing, after one year of study. F-1 students may become employment
authorized in the United States for a perios of one year upon the
completion of their studies, as practical training in an occupation
that relates to their studies. Students wanting to remain employed
in the United States should consider the H-1B
Except for temporary employment for practical training,
an M-1 student may not accept employment.
A spouse and unmarried, minor children may also
be classified for a nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the
student. Family members must meet all visa eligibility requirements,
including evidence that they will have sufficient funds for their
support, and that they will depart the U.S. when the student's program
ends. Spouses and children of students may not accept employment
at any time unless they independently qualify for an employment
authorized visa status.
We advise consulting a qualified immigration
lawyer for assistance.
Please see our
for our email address.
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