If you are making plans to take a few courses or classes in the United States, the first visa you are likely to look into is a student visa. But you will quickly find out that the F-1 Student Visa is for academic students pursuing a full-time program, usually at a college or university, which must have received U.S. government approval through the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The lesser-known M-1 visa, for vocational students, also requires full-time study at an approved program. But what if you decide you want to have a more casual or do a fun study such as a few weeks of cooking, yoga or art classes? Or maybe you just want to take a short or part-time academic course and spend the rest of your time traveling in the U.S.
When a B-2 Visa May be Appropriate
For the purposes detailed above, a B-2 tourist visa may be enough. (See 22 C.F.R. § 41.31.) Preferable than applying for an F-1 or M-1 student visa. The application process will be shorter and easier.
One of the most important things to consider is which visa you qualify for and whether or not your planned course of study lasts 18 hours or more per week. If so, you will need a student visa; if not, you might just qualify for a tourist visa. It is best to speak with the school or program as they would have information about the experience of foreign students attending their school. If you are unable to get the right answers, talk to an immigration attorney for advice.
Going the Route of a B-2 Visa
If you decide the most likely strategy is for you to travel to the U.S. with a tourist visa, you will need to meet the normal eligibility requirements for a tourist visa. After completing the DS160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, you will need to prove that the purpose of your trip is for pleasure and that your plan is to stay in the U.S. temporarily. The maximum amount of time you will be allowed to stay is normally six months as soon as you are admitted into the U.S. at any port of entry.
Taking Advantage of Your Tourist Visa
When you first receive your tourist visa, the consulate should put a special notation in it regarding your study plans. For example: “Study incidental to visit: I-20 not required.” Review your visa as soon as you get on hand and request such a notation if it’s not visible on the visa. The notation should help in avoiding confusion at the border and in the U.S. by showing that you are not misusing a visa that is solely used for tourist visits. (The I-20 is a form that academic and vocational students must receive from their school before applying for their visa).
Take note of the U.S. Consulate if it does not put a notation on your visa; regardless this should not stop you from traveling to the U.S. When you arrive at the airport, border or other type of port of entry, be very sure to state that the main purpose of your trip is to be a tourist. Just do not say that you are coming to study as the immigration officers will ask you questions as to why you did not get a student visa.
Schedule An Appointment with an Immigration Attorney
If you want to do some recreational or part-time courses in the U.S. and you do not know which visa might be best for you, call your nearest immigration lawyer. The Gambacorta Law Office can be contacted at 847 443 9303.