Non-Immigrant Visas: Student/Non-Academic Study (F-1/M-1)
To apply for an F-1 visa, you will need the original form I-20 A-B from your school signed by you and a school representative. To receive an M-1 visa, you will need the original form I-20 M-N from you school. In addition, you will need to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Students must also prove access to sufficient funds to cover all expenses while studying in the United States. Study visas are usually valid for the duration of the course of studie of your F-1 (academic studies at institutions of higher learning) or M-1 (vocational or other nonacademic studies).
F-1 (elementary and high school studies):
Students studying at primary or secondary schools will also need an F-1 visa. A child may not study at a public elementary school with a nonimmigrant F-1 student visa. Study at a public high school with an F-1 visa is limited to one year, and full reimbursement for the total cost of the education must be confirmed ahead of time. Enrolling a child in public school while in visitor (B1/B2) status can result in the child's visa revocation and permanent visa ineligibility for the child's parents. Students attending private elementary and secondary schools are not affected by this law; they may study in the United States on F-1 visas. Students studying on derivative visas, such as F-2, J-2, H-4, or L-2, are also not affected.
Immediate Family Members of F-1 Visa Holders (F-2 visa):
Family members may stay in the U.S. as long as the principal F-1 visa holder maintains valid status. Family members are not allowed to work or study with the exception of children who may engage in full time elementary or secondary school study.
F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment, after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment, after they have studying for one academic year. These three types of employment are:
• Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
• Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
• Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
M-1 students may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies. Like F-1 student they can also work part-time at an on-campus job.
For both F-1 and M-1 students any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.
For more information on the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, see the “Student & Exchange Visitor Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement” link to the right.