M-1 Student Visa
Overseas students wishing to travel to the U.S to study a vocational course must apply for an M-1 Visa.
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- What is the M-1 Student Visa?
- What are the M-1 Visa requirements?
- Documents you will need when applying for an M-1 Visa
- Applying for an M-1 Visa
- What are the costs and processing times?
- How long is an M-1 Visa valid for?
- What is the difference between the F-1 and M-1 Visas?
- Including dependents on your M-1 Visa
- Switching from an M-1 Visa to a different visa
What is the M-1 Student Visa?
Overseas students who wish to travel to the U.S to undertake vocational studies will need to obtain an M-1 Student Visa before they can make the trip.
The M-1 Visa is granted to students only, therefore anyone in the United States on this type of visa is not permitted to work during the course of their studies.
Similar to the F-1 Visa, the requirements for the M-1 Student Visa are also pretty much the same. The main difference is while the F-1 Visa is for those studying academic subjects, the M-1 Visa is for those travelling to the United States to enrol in non-academic studies, so if your course falls under this category then this is the visa you’ll need to apply for.
What are the M-1 Visa requirements?
If you’re looking to travel to the U.S to enrol in studies, you’ll need to establish which visa you should apply for. If you believe it’s the M-1 Visa, before you begin your application you should first check whether or not you’re eligible for this type of visa.
While a cap exists on some types of U.S visas, for the M-1 Student Visa there’s no limit to the number offered each year. That means that as long as you’re eligible, your application will be accepted and you’ll receive your visa straight away.
If you wish to obtain an M-1 Student Visa, first you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Must have been accepted at a SEVP educational institution
- Knowledge of English must be at a sufficient level to allow you to study a vocational course. This can be demonstrated with an accredited test such as the TOEFL or IELTS
- Must have paid the cost of your studies in full before they commence
- Must intend to return home once your studies are complete. This can be proven with proof you have strong ties to your home country
- Must prove you’re financially stable and can support yourself while you’re in the U.S. This can be done with bank statements or other documents demonstrating financial stability
Documents you will need when applying for an M-1 Visa
Before you start your M-1 Visa Application you’ll need to be in possession of an I-120. For those unfamiliar with this document, it’s basically proof you’ve been accepted onto a course of study by an educational study. Only schools approved by USCIS can issue I-120s.
In addition to the M-1 application form and the I-120, you’ll also need to provide various supporting documentation. This should include the following:
- A passport, valid for at least 6 months after the expiration of your visa.
- Evidence of your English competency (unless the applicant is from a country where English is a recognised language).
- Bank statements, tax returns and any other documents showing you’re financially stable.
- Proof of educational qualifications
Applying for an M-1 Visa
Once you’ve ascertained you meet all the M-1 Visa requirements and you’re certain you’re applying for the correct visa, it should now be time to begin your application. After all, you might have a deadline you need to obtain your visa by, so it’s always best to get your application completed and sent off as soon as possible in case of any delays.
Before you can start your application for an M-1 Visa, you must have your I-120 Form from your chosen education institution that proves to the USCIS that you’ve been accepted onto a course of study.
Some people mistakenly believe that receiving approval from their chosen school or college means they’re guaranteed a visa, but that’s actually far from the truth. In actual fact, as with all U.S visas, the USCIS always has the final say on any M-1 Visa application, and while it’s unlikely your application will be rejected if you’ve been accepted onto a course of study and you meet the requirements, bear in mind they have the power to refuse ay application they receive.
Once you’ve cleared that stage of the application process, you’ll then need to fill out and submit your application form, also known as the DS-160 Form. This form should include all your information, as well as your reasons for travelling to the U.S
Next, you should pay the mandatory application fee and arrange your interview, which you should try to do as soon as possible. This should be treated with extra urgency if you’ve already received a start date for your studies.
When you attend the interview, you’ll be asked a series of questions to determine why you plan on travelling to the U.S. To strengthen your application, where possible you should demonstrate your intentions to return home once your studies are complete.
What are the costs and processing times?
Before making an application for an M-1 Student Visa, you might be wondering how much it’ll cost. After all, visa applications can be expensive, so it’s understandable you’ll want to know how much this particular visa will cost.
At the moment, anyone needing an M-1 Visa will need to pay an initial $160. As well as the application fee, you’ll also need to pay a further $350 to register in the SEVIS, which manages all overseas students’ data.
Bear in mind the USCIS won’t process your forms until these fees are paid, and if your application is rejected you won’t be eligible for a refund.
Processing times Although many U.S visas can take several months to process, you’ll be glad to know the M-1 Visa takes considerably less time to process. In fact, you can usually expect the whole application process to be concluded in a matter of weeks.
You should usually receive a decision soon after your interview, so once you’ve attended that you shouldn’t have long to wait. Most people usually receive a decision in around a months’ time, however please keep in mind this is an estimate, and some applications may take slightly longer.
How long is an M-1 Visa valid for?
While the M-1 Visa can be granted for the entire duration of your studies, the I-120 Form can only be issued for a year at a time. This means those who are enrolling on a course of study that lasts longer than a year will need to extend their I-120 every 12 months.
Bear in mind the I-120 can only be extended for a maximum of 3 years. Once you finish your studies, you’ll then need to return home, although in some cases it might be possible to switch to a different type of visa if you meet the requirements.
What is the difference between the F-1 and M-1 Visas?
The M-1 and F-1 Visas are similar in nature, and both have similar requirements. Thus, many people confuse the two, and in some cases this can lead to students applying for the wrong visa. To avoid this nightmare scenario then you should familiarise yourself with the two to ensure you apply for the right one.
The main difference lies in the type of studies each visa caters for. The M-1 Visa is only for students who’ll be studying vocational, non-academic studies. These include subjects like animal care, cooking, construction and so on.
Alternatively, the F-1 Visa is for academic studies, which covers subjects such as languages, economics and social sciences.
So to sum it up simply, if your course falls under the academic category, you’ll need an F-1 Visa. On the other hand, anyone who will be studying on a vocational course should apply for the M-1 Visa instead.
Those who are still unsure which category their course of study comes under should check with the educational institution before making an application as they’ll be able to tell you.
Including dependants on your M-1 Visa
If you’re looking to bring family members with you to the U.S then you’ll be glad to know it’s possible. Although you won’t be able to include dependents on your M-1 Visa, your immediate relatives can still travel to the U.S with you while you undertake studies on a vocational course.
Any family member you bring with you to the U.S can stay for the duration of your studies. Once your visa expires, they will then need to return to the UK with you.
Remember that the rules around working will be the same for any family members you bring with you, so they too will not be permitted to undertake any work while in the U.S.
Switching from an M-1 Visa to a different visa
During the application process for an M-1 Visa, you’ll need to prove you have no immigration intention. With that being said, you may be able to switch to a different type of visa, although it’ll usually need to be one with similar conditions.
You won’t be able to transfer to an F-1 Visa, and you’ll also find it extremely difficult to switch to a visa that offers permanent settlement such as a Green Card. With that said, there may be a number of routes available to you, although any decision the USCIS makes on your visa application will depend on your individual circumstances, and we would always advise seeking professional help with matters such as this.
How can our immigration lawyers help?
Now you’ve read this guide for the M-1 student visa, you should now have all the information you need to determine whether this is the correct visa for you and whether you meet the requirements. However, we understand that applying for visas can be a confusing and complex process, so if you require any further assistance then we’re always ready to assist.
We’re experts in all aspects of immigration law, and we can give you a clear understanding of your options and help come up with a plan to get you the result you’re looking for.
We offer a wide range of comprehensive services, from untimed one-to-one advice sessions, right through to full application packages where we assist you every step of the way. So, to find out how we can help, speak to us today.
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re considering making an application for an M-1 Visa, there are a number of ways we can help. If you just have a few questions, we offer one-to-one advice sessions that are untimed, and for those who would prefer us to lead them through the application process every step of the way, we can do that too.
Each of our packages is flexible and bespoke, so speak to us today to see how we can help with your application for an M-1 Visa.
Remember that an M-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa designed purely for those who intend to study in the U.S before returning home.
With that said, there may be some avenues you can pursue with regards to eventually obtaining a Green Card, although be under no illusion that it’s difficult to acquire permanent residence if you’re in the country on a student visa, and you’ll likely need professional help to explore your options.
When making an application for a student visa, many people get confused between the M-1 and F-1 visa types. This can be hugely problematic, particularly if you’ve got a deadline you need to meet, as applying for the wrong visa may mean you miss it.
To avoid confusion, only apply for the M-1 Visa if you’re undertaking non-academic studies. If you’ll be studying an academic course, it’s the F-1 Via you’ll need.