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The Differences Between the F1 Visa and M1 Visa

March 17th, 2011 by Romona Paden

F1 visa and M1 visa are the two categories of visas that are issued to international students who wish to study in United States. A student visa is a non-immigrant visa because it is issued to people who do not intend to stay in the US permanently. International students who come to the US to pursue full time academics or gain professional skills are generally given one of these two non immigrant visas.

F1 Visa

F1 visa is for students attending a full-time degree or academic program at a school, college, or university approved by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

M1 Visa

M1 visa is for students enrolled in non-academic or “vocational study”. Mechanical studies, technical studies, cooking classes, language programs, flight school or cosmetology program are a few that come under “vocational study”. The M1 visa is valid for only one year. Students may apply for extensions for up to three years.

Unlike the F1 visa, M1 visa holders are only authorized to reduce their course of study below full time for medical reasons and for a maximum aggregate period of six months. While F1 visa holders have freedom to transfer schools, M1 students are generally only free to transfer schools within the first six months of the program.

Student Visa Application

The first step in applying for a F1 visa or M1 visa is getting a SEVIS generated I-20 form from the university or college that the student intends to attend.

With the exception of citizens of Canada and Bermuda, other students should apply for an F1 or M1 student visa at a U.S. consulate in their place of residence. You should show that you have been accepted at a SEVP certified institution and also prove that you have the financial means to pay for your course of study. You should also have required English proficiency. You should also ensure that you will return to your home country at the end of the academic or vocational program.

On your arrival in US, you will get a special Form I-94 which will contain your admission number to US. This admission number will be written on USCIS Form I-20 A-B/ ID by the immigrant officials. The first two pages of this form, known as I-20 A-B/ID will then be sent to your institute as a proof of your legal admission to US. The third and fourth page known as I-20 ID will be in your custody which will work as the proof of your admission to US under the student category. You should also keep your I-94 form as it is the proof of your legal entry to US.

When you enter US on a student visa application, your entry is usually legal for as long you possess the student status. This means that you can live in US even after you F1 visa has expired but you are still a student in the institute. Once your course mentioned in I-20 or any authorized practical training is completed, you still get 60 days to prepare for the departure from US or get enrolled in another program. If you leave the U.S. before your status expires and want to return, you need to present only the I-94 card and Certificate of Eligibility at the port of entry and you will be admitted again.

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