What type of visa do I need to study at a university or a vocational school in the United Stated?
A student wishing to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States requires a student (F-1) visa; those wishing to attend a vocational or non-academic institution require an M-1 visa.
Who qualifies as a student?
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States to pursue a full course of study in an approved program in either an academic (college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other institution, or language training program) or a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution.
Who is Allowed to Study in the United States?
A nonimmigrant is someone who temporarily comes to the United States for a specific purpose. People who wish to pursue full-time academic or vocational studies are usually admitted to the United States in one of two nonimmigrant categories. The M-1 category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training. The F-1 category includes academic students and students in language training programs.
Can I quality as a full time student if I entered the U.S. with a tourist visa or without a visa?
No. Holders of visitor (B-2) visas and those who have entered the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program are prohibited from entering into full-time study.
Academic (F-1) Visa
Do I need an academic visa to attend a language school? Do I need an academic visa to attend primary or secondary school?
A student wishing to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States, including primary and secondary schools, or a language training program requires an F-1 visa. Section 214(l) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), prohibits the issuance of F-1 visas to students who are going to the United States to attend public elementary schools (grades K through 8, approximately ages 5 to 14) and publicly funded adult education programs such as foreign language classes. Students applying for F-1 visas to attend public secondary schools (grades 9 through 12, approximately ages 14 to 18) are limited to a maximum of 12 months of public high school in F-1 status and must show proof that payment has been made for the full, unsubsidized cost of the education before a visa can be processed. Students attending private elementary and secondary schools are not affected by this ruling.
Nonacademic (M-1) Visa
What type of visa do I need for a business or vocational school?
A student wishing to pursue a course of study which is not principally academic in nature at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution such as a post secondary vocational or business school requires an M-1 visa.
Work Is it possible to work if I hold an F-1 visa?
It is possible in certain limited circumstances for the holder of an F-1 visa to obtain permission to work in the United States. Holders of M-1 visas may only engage in employment if it is a required part of their practical training and the employment has been approved in advance by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Entry & Length of Stay
How long may I stay in the U.S. if I hold an F-1 or M-1 visa?
The holder of a student F-1 or M-1 visa may enter the United States up to 30 days before the designated registration date on the I-20A-B or I-20M. The 30 day limitation does not apply to students returning to resume studies; they may enter the U.S. at any time. The holder of an F-1 visa may remain in the United States for up to 60 days following the completion of the course or practical training. Note: The duration of status of an F-1 student in a publicly funded secondary school cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months schooling.
The holder of an M-1 visa may remain in the United States for the period of time it will take to complete the course of study as indicated on the I-20M plus 30 days, or for one year, whichever is less.
Is it possible to extend my length of stay?
If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for an adjustment of status or extension of stay from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services having jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States.
What type of visa do my wife and children need if I hold an F-1 or F-2 visa?
Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative F-2 or M-2 visas. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.
F-2/M-2 verses F-1
There is no requirement that the spouse and/or children of an F-1 or M-1 visa holder apply for an F-1 visa if they wish to study in the U.S.; they may study on an F-2 or M-2 visa. However, if they are qualified, they may apply for the F-1 visa. If you have school age children, you should refer to the regulations governing the issuance of F-1 visas.
Working on an F-2 or M-2 Visa
May I work in the U.S. if I hold and F-2 or M-2 visa?
No. The holder of a derivative F-2 or M-2 visa may not work. If he or she is seeking employment, the appropriate work visa is required.
I believe I qualify for an F or M visa, what do I do next?
You are required to obtain from the school or academic institution the Form I-20A-B Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - For Academic or Language Students or I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status Form. Schools and institutions which have received United States government approval to enroll foreign students have the authority to issue these forms. The I-20A-B or I-20M-N is not valid for travel unless accompanied by a valid visa. How Do I Become an Academic Student in the United States?