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The Immigration and Nationality Act offers two non-immigrant visa categories for individuals wishing to study in the United States. The F1 visa is for non-immigrants wishing to come to the United States to seek out academic studies and/or language training programs and the M-1 visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.
Student visas are considered non-immigrant visas because they are issued to people who do not intend to stay in the United States permanently. This means that if students are applying for F-1 Visa they are telling the United States government that they only wish to remain in the United States for as long as it takes to complete their studies. An F1 visa (non-immigrant visa) may not be used as a way to enter the U.S. quickly and pursue permanent residence. The U.S. Government agency responsible for issuing a student visa is the U.S. Department of State. State Department policy is carried out around the world by U.S. consulates and embassies. For this reason, if students are applying for student visas overseas, they will be dealing with a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the agency with jurisdiction over individuals who apply to change status to student from inside the U.S.
The 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). The F1 visa is valid for as long as it takes the student to finish his or her course of study. An F1 visa also allows students to work on campus and in some situations even off campus. In addition, F1 visa students are eligible to apply for employment-authorized practical training after the completion of their academic program. This training is usually limited to twelve months but may be extended to as much as 29 months for students who are pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. F1 visa students are able to transfer schools and change their focus of study while pursuing a degree in the U.S. Once they have completed their course of study or practical training (if applicable), they have sixty days in which to depart the U.S.