The M-1 visa is available to individuals coming to the U.S. for vocational study. (This visa is authorized by the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act; see I.N.A § 101(a)(15)(M), 8 C.F.R. § 214(m).) There is no limit on the number of people who can receive student visas in any one year.
You may not need to go through the whole process of applying for a student visa. If you come to the U.S. as a tourist, it may be fine to take a class or two for recreational purposes but check with an immigration lawyer for advice. Similarly, people who have a spouse or parent in the U.S. with an A, E, G, H, J, L, or NATO visa or status, or workers in H status can attend school so long as they don't do anything that interferes with the other terms of their visa or nonimmigrant status.
Key Components of the M-1 Student Visa
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages and important elements for beneficiaries of an M-1, vocational student visa:
- The application process is straightforward and not that complicated
- M-1 student visa holders can enter the U.S. as a full-time vocational or nonacademic student enrolled in a program of study that leads to a degree or certificate
- M-1 visa holders can arrive the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of classes
- Transferring from one vocational school to another is doable but only if you apply for and receive authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in advance. Once you are six months into your program of studies, you are restricted from transferring except under truly exceptional circumstances
- You are not allowed to change your course of study
- You may not work while going through an M-1 vocational program in the U.S
- After you have completed your vocational studies you may get permission from USCIS to work for up to six months. The job you are applying for must be considered practical training for your field of study
- You can travel in and out of the U.S or remain there until the completion of your studies, up to one year. If you have not completed your program within a year or by the time it was scheduled to end, whichever is less, you must apply for an extension
- M-1 entry visas are typically issued for the estimated length of stay it will take to complete the proposed program of studies. Consulates will use their judgment in deciding the expiration date of the visa
- Extensions are granted for up to three years from the start date of the program
- M-1 visas are available for accompanying relatives (in category M-2), although relatives are not allowed to work.
Am I Eligible for an M-1 Student Visa?
To be eligible for an M-1 vocational student visa:
- The applicant must have been accepted at a school that has received advance approval from the U.S. government
- You must also enter the U.S. as a bona fide student seeking a full course of study. This means that 18 hours per week of study must be attended at a minimum but 22 hours weekly if the courses include mostly classroom instruction or if the courses consist mostly of laboratory work
- The intended school program must result in a vocational objective such as obtaining a diploma or certificate
- You must have already been accepted by a vocational school and have enough funds to support yourself while you study full-time without working. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate deciding on your visa will ask you to provide evidence that you can financially support yourself for a year
- You must be proficient in English enough to speak, read, write and understand the course work. Alternatively, the school can offer special tutoring or instruction in your native language to help overcome any linguistic limitations
- Lastly, besides having the necessary background and financial resources to pursue your studies, you must prove that you intend to return to your home country when your program is over. This is the same requirement for all nonimmigrant visas (except for a few that allow dual intent).
Will I Need an Immigration Attorney to Help Me?
If you are uncertain about what steps to take when applying for an M-1 vocational student visa it is important that you retain the services of an immigration law specialist. Call Gambacorta Law Office at 847 443 9303 for a consultation.