Visas for immigrant students in the U.S.

There are two main visas available for students who want to further their education in the United States. These visas are known as the F1 and M1 visas, and the type of school and course of study the applicant is interested in determines which visa option is appropriate. F1 visas are made available for students who want to enter the U.S. to study at a university or college, a high school, a private elementary school, a seminary, a conservatory or another academic institution, such as a language training program. M1 visas are granted to students enrolled in a vocational or other officially recognized, nonacademic institution, other than a language training program.

Immigrant students seeking an F1 visa must prove Availability of Funds before they apply. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or an officer at the local U.S. Embassy is required to be sure that the student can afford to live in the U.S. and pay tuition without working. Under very rare circumstances, immigrant students are permitted to work in the U.S. to support their education. The Proof of Availability of Funds can be provided by either the prospective student or through sponsorship from their educational institution.

The M1 visa is reserved for students pursuing a degree from a technical or vocational school. For immigrant students to receive an M-1 visa, they must provide a signed Form I-20 at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. After the prospective student has completed the school’s admissions requirements and presented proof of financial resources, they can receive this form from a designated school official (usually the international student adviser). Students with M1 visas are permitted to study in the U.S. or a temporary period of time – the length of their training program plus any Optional Practical Training, and a 30-day grace period at the end of their schooling. These students may not exceed the one year time frame unless they are allowed an extension for medical reasons. Violations of M1 status include not maintaining a full course of study, which results in the student being ineligible for the 30-day grace period.