Student Visas - U.S. Immigration for Students F & M Visas

The F-1 and M-1 student visas were designed to allow aliens to enter the United States in order to attend U.S. schools, colleges, and universities. Students that will be attending an elementary school, high school, college, university or other similar institution must apply for F-1 visas, whereas students that intend to study at vocational or nonacademic institutions must apply for the M-1 visa. Learn more about how an immigration lawyer from our office can assist you in your student visa applications.




U.S. Student Visa Classification & Differences

Academic Student Visas (F Visas)


Academic students


Spouses and children of F-1 


Canadian or Mexican national academic commuter students

Vocational Student M Visas


Vocational students


Spouses and children of M1


Canadian or Mexican national vocational commuter students

Exchange Visitors (J visas)


Exchange visitors


Spouses and children of J-1

Student Visa Application Process

Students that wish to obtain a student visa must first be accepted into a college, university, or other institution of learning that is SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified.
In order to qualify for the student visa, the applicant must show that they:

  • Have a foreign permanent residence, and have no intention of remaining in the United States after their visa expires
  • Intend to leave the United States after their student visa expires. Applicants may provide information on social and economic ties that they have with their country of permanent residence
  • Have the sufficient funds to cover their expenses and education costs

Applicants ages 14-79 are required to attend an interview at the embassy. Interview waiting times vary between embassies, and therefore applicants should apply well in advance of their intended date of arrival to the United States.

Student Visa Required Documentation

  • A completed Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status, in the case of F-1 applicants, or a completed Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students in the case of M-1 Applicants. The SEVIS ( ) generated I-20 must be signed by the applicant as well as a school official
  • Applicants must submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
  • A completed copy of your passport with an expiration date at least 6 months after your you intend to leave the country
  • A 2x2 color photograph
  •  A receipt of the visa application fee (MRV fee) of $140 USD for F-1 and M-1 student visas
  • Students must provide a copy of their SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) I-901 fee receipt. The SEVIS I-901 fee for F-1 and M-1 visas is $200 USD
  • All standardized test scores such as SAT, ACT, GRE, TOEFL, etc.
  • Official transcripts from previous schools
  • Parents tax returns and other financial statements showing that the student’s parents have the sufficient funds to cover all the student’s expenses while in the United States

Spouse and Children of Student Visa Holders

Spouses and dependent children of F-1 and M-1 student visa holders may obtain F-2 or M-2 visas in order to accompany the F-1 or M-1 visa holder in the United States. F-2 status is given to spouses and children of F-1 visa holders, whereas M-2 status is given to spouses and children of M-1 visa holders. Spouses and children should ideally apply for the visas at the same time as the primary student visa applicant; however, they may apply afterwards as long as they can provide the appropriate documentation, including a complete copy of the F-1 or M-1 visa holder’s passport, including the visa obtained.

F-1 and M-1 Visa Period of Stay

Student visas will typically remain valid until the end of the student’s duration of study. If an F-1 student’s visa expires while they are still a full-time student in the U.S., then they may remain in the U.S. until they have completed their studies. If an F-1 visa expires and the student leaves the country but maintains full-time student status, then they will need to obtain a new F-1 visa. Students will not be allowed re-entry into the United States unless they have a valid visa.

M-1 visas are valid for the student’s duration of study or one year, whichever is less. M-1 students may obtain extensions for up to a total of 3 years.

Student Visa Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do I apply for a Student Visa Extension?

F-1 and M-1 students must file Form I-539 in order to apply for a student visa extension. The expiration date of your visa can be found in the lower right corner of your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. All students are urged to apply for extensions at least 45 days before their visas expire.

When must F-1 and M-1 Visa Holders Leave the United States?

F-1 visa holders are allowed up to 60 additional days to leave the United States after they have completed their studies. F-1 visa holders are also allowed to transfer to another school within this grace period.

M-1 visa holders are allowed up to 30 additional days to leave the United States after they have completed their studies, as long as they have maintained M-1 status and full-time enrollment.

Can I Work with a Student Visa?

Student visa holders are authorized to obtain employment that is directly related to their field of study as long as they are approved for Optional Practical Training (OPT), provide an I-20 which is endorsed for OPT, and obtain a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by the USCIS.

Can a B-1 visa be used instead of an F-1 or M-1 visa?

Aliens entering the United States primarily for travel and tourism purposes may study in the U.S. without obtaining a student visa, as long as the area of study is recreational/non-academic and the period of study is less than 18 hours per week.

Written by:Mark Carmel