F-1 and M-1 Students


A citizen of a foreign country, who wishes to enter the United States, generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.


The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is for academic studies, and the "M" visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies.

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

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 law.

Nonacademic (M-1) Visa

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.


In order to qualify for a student visa, an alien must meet the following requirements:


To apply for a student visa for academic or language study, an alien must have been accepted for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in an academic institution approved by the Attorney General. The student must present to the consular officer a Form I-20A-B, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students," properly completed and signed by the alien and the designated school official. To apply for a student visa for vocational studies, an alien must have been accepted for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in a nonacademic institution approved by the Attorney General. The student must present a form I-20M-N, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status -For vocational Students," properly completed and signed by the alien and the designated school official.


The F-1 student visa applicant must present documentary evidence that sufficient funds are, or will be available from a specifically identified and reliable financial source to defray all living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study in the United States. Specifically, the applicant must present credible documentary evidence that he or she has enough readily available funds for each subsequent year of study. The M-1 student visa applicant must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.


The student visa applicant must have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment at the level of study contemplated. The student, unless coming to participate exclusively in an English language training program, must either be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school must have made special arrangements for English language courses, or teaching the course in the student's native language.


Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States upon termination of their student status.


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).


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.
If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for an adjustment of status or extension of stay to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.


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) visa, or if qualified, travel visa free under the visa waiver program.

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.
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.

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