There are two non-immigrant student visa types for individuals desiring to come to the United States to study.
The M-1 student visa applies for non-immigrants hoping to pursue non academic or vocational studies.
Student visas are referred to as non-immigrant visas because they are issued for individuals who do not intend to stay in the United States permanently. This means that students who are applying for M-1 student visa are indicating to the United States government that they only will remain in the United States for as long as it takes to complete their studies. A non-immigrant student visa may not be used as a way to enter the U.S. expeditiously and to obtain permanent residence. The U.S. Department of State is the U.S. Government agency responsible for issuing a student visa. The State Department's guidelines and policy is adhered to around the world by U.S. consulates and embassies. If as a student you are applying for M-1 visa overseas you will be dealing with a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency with jurisdiction over persons who apply to change status to student from inside the U.S.
The M-1 visa is for students enrolled in non-academic or "vocational study". Some examples of "vocational study" would be mechanical studies, technical studies, cooking classes, a language program, flight school or cosmetology program. Unlike the F-1 visa, the M-1 visa is valid for only one year. Students may apply for cumulative extensions for up to three years. Also unlike the F-1 visa, M-1 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 F-1 visa holders have fairly broad freedom to transfer schools, M-1 visa students are typically only free to transfer schools within the first six months of the program. Like the F-1 visa, the M-1 gives the student the opportunity to earn paid practical experience after graduation. USCIS employs a formula whereby it authorizes one month of employment authorization for every four months in which the M-1 visa student was enrolled in the vocational program. A maximum of six months of employment authorization for practical training is available. This means that the maximum time students could stay in the U.S. on an M-1 visa is three and a half years. The M-1 visa does not, however, allow students to work while they are in school. The M-1 visa also allows students 30 days after the completion of their program in which to prepare to leave the U.S.