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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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