F-1 Academic and M-1 Vocational Student US Visas

What do I have to demonstrate to be eligible for a student visa?

The main criteria for entry under the F-1 and M-1 visa categories are that you:

  • Are accepted at a school;
  • Possess sufficient funds;
  • Are prepared for the course of study; and
  • Have the present intent to leave the United States at the conclusion of your studies.
Should I apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa?

An F-1 visa is the appropriate selection if you intend to enter the US temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing an academic course of study at an established institution of learning or other recognized place of study in the United States, whereas M-1 is appropriate if the study is vocational or non-academic and qualifying.

The following schools are considered to be academic institutions and may be approved for attendance by F-1 students:

  • A college or university (i.e., an institution of higher learning which awards recognized bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or professional degrees);
  • A community college or junior college which provides instruction in the liberal arts or in the professions and which awards recognized associate degrees;
  • A seminary;
  • A conservatory;
  • An academic high school;
  • A private elementary school (K-8);
  • An institution which provides language training, instruction in the liberal arts or fine arts, instruction in the professions, or instruction or training in more than one of these disciplines.

Qualifying vocational or non-academic institutions which may be approved for attendance by an M-1 student include:

  • A community college or junior college which provides vocational or technical training and which awards recognized associate degrees;
  • A vocational high school;
  • A school that provides vocational or nonacademic training other than language training.

What must my school provide?

SEVIS I-20 Form.


How far in advance of my course of study should I apply for a student visa?

Students may be issued a visa for a period of up to 120 days ahead of the program start date and be allowed entry to the US for a period of up to 30 days in advance of studies. These rules do not apply to continuing students who maintain status.


What do I do if I want to enter more than 30 days in advance of my course?

You may enter the US on VWP or a B-2 visa in order to accomplish what you need to prior to relocating for your course. For example, you could enter on VWP or B-2 to view apartments. You must however re-enter on your student visa prior to commencing your studies.


What if I withdraw from my school?

You will be given 15 days to depart if the school authorizes you to withdraw; if you fail to obtain permission to withdraw, no 15-day grace period is afforded.


Can I change status while on a student visa (F-1 and M-1)?

Yes. Provided you are eligible for the visa for which you would like to change. Most popular tends to be H-1B following a period of OPT.

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