M-1 Visa, Vocational Student

M-1 Visa, Vocational Student

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What is a M-1 visa?

M-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa issued to vocational or non-academic students. 

The M-1 visa is specifically designed for students who want to enroll in a program that is not primarily academic in nature, such as vocational training or a program that focuses on practical skills.

Key points about the M-1 visa:

  • Purpose: The M-1 visa is intended for those  pursuing nonacademic studies. This includes vocational training programs, technical courses, or other non-degree courses.
  • Duration: The M-1 visa is typically granted for the duration of the program of study. The student is expected to complete the program and return to their home country upon completion.
  • Employment: M-1 visa holders are generally not allowed to work off-campus during their studies. There are limited opportunities for on-campus work, and practical training may be available after the completion of the program.
  • Dependents: While the M-1 visa is for the student, spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may be eligible for derivative M-2 visas to accompany the M-1 visa holder.

M-1 visa requirements

M-1 visa requirements:

  • Acceptance to an SEVP-Certified School: The applicant must have an acceptance offer from a U.S. school that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The school should issue a Form I-20, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
  • Payment of SEVIS Fee: Before applying for the M-1 visa, the applicant is required to pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee of $350.
  • Completed DS-160 Form: The applicant must complete the DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application form and pay the associated visa application fee of $185.
  • Visa Interview: The applicant needs to schedule and attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. During the interview, they will need to provide necessary documents and answer questions about their intended course of study, ties to their home country, and other relevant details.
  • Valid Passport: The applicant must possess a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond their intended period of stay in the U.S.
  • Proof of Financial Funds: Applicants must demonstrate that they have the financial means to cover the costs of tuition, living expenses, and any other associated expenses during their stay in the U.S. This may include bank statements, affidavits of support, or other financial documents.
  • Intent to Return: Applicants should be able to demonstrate their intent to return to their home country upon completion of the M-1 program. This is to show that they do not intend to immigrate to the U.S.

How to apply for a M-1 visa?

The process for applying for an M-1 visa involves the following steps:

Step 1. Receive Acceptance from an SEVP-Certified School:

  • Apply and be accepted into a U.S. school that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The school will issue a Form I-20, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

Step 2. Pay the SEVIS Fee:

  • Pay the SEVIS fee of $350, which is required to support the SEVIS program. You can pay this fee online, and you will need the SEVIS ID from your Form I-20.

Step 3. Complete the DS-160 Form:

  • Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form DS-160. Be sure to upload a passport-sized photo as part of the application.

Step 4. Pay the Visa Application Fee:

Step 5. Schedule Visa Interview:

  • Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Visa interview wait times can vary, so it’s advisable to schedule the interview well in advance.

Step 6. Gather Required Documents:

  • Prepare the required documents for the visa interview. These typically include:
    • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
    • Form I-20 issued by the SEVIS-certified school.
    • DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Visa application fee payment receipt.
    • SEVIS fee payment receipt.
    • Passport-sized photos.
    • Financial documents demonstrating your ability to cover tuition and living expenses.
    • Your dependents’ documents (marriage certificate and birth certificate(s), if your family members will be applying for M-2 visas)
    • Any other documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate.

Step 7. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Attend the scheduled visa interview. Be prepared to answer questions about your intended course of study, your ties to your home country, and other relevant details. Present all required documents during the interview.

Step 8. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, the consular officer will determine whether to approve or deny the visa. If approved, you will receive the visa in your passport. In general, passports with stamped visas are returned 1 week after the interview date.

Step 9. Travel to the U.S.:

  • Once you have the M-1 visa, you can travel to the U.S. However, keep in mind that admission to the U.S. is determined by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry.

M-1 visa application fees

M-1 visa application fees include two main components: 

  • SEVIS Fee of $350:
    • The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee is required for all F and M visa applicants. The fee supports the SEVIS program, which tracks and monitors students and exchange visitors in the United States.
    • The SEVIS fee must be paid before you can apply for a visa. You can pay the fee online through the SEVIS website.
    • The amount of the SEVIS fee can vary depending on the type of program. Check the SEVIS website for the most up-to-date fee information.
  • Visa Application Fee of $185:
    • The visa application fee, also known as the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee, is a non-refundable fee paid when you submit your visa application.
    • The amount of the visa application is subject to change. Check the most current visa application fee on the US Department of State website.

What is the earliest date I can enter the US on an M-1 visa?

You are allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date as indicated on your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

It’s important to note that while you can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date, you are not allowed to engage in the M-1 program (i.e., attend classes, start training, etc.) until the program start date indicated on your Form I-20.

When you arrive at the U.S. port of entry, the CBP officer will inspect your documents, including your passport, visa, and Form I-20. 

They will determine your eligibility for entry and the duration of your authorized stay. 

Make sure to carry all the necessary documents, including your Form I-20, SEVIS fee payment receipt, and proof of financial support, as the CBP officer may request to see them.

M-1 visa duration of stay

The duration of stay for M-1 visa holders in the U.S. is typically tied to the length of their program of study or vocational training. 

M-1 visa holders are admitted for the duration of their program, plus a period known as “practical training” or “optional practical training” if applicable.

Here are some key points regarding the duration of stay for M-1 visa holders:

  • Program Duration: M-1 visa holders are generally admitted for the length of their vocational or non-academic program as specified on their Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
  • Practical Training: Some M-1 students may be eligible for practical training after completing their program. Practical training allows students to gain practical experience related to their field of study. The duration of practical training varies, but it is typically limited and must be completed within a specific timeframe.
  • Grace Period: After the completion of the program, M-1 visa holders are granted a grace period of 30 days to prepare to depart the United States. During this period, they are not allowed to engage in the program-related activities.

M-1 visa grace period

M-1 visa holders are typically granted a 30-day grace period after the completion of their program. 

During this grace period, M-1 visa holders are allowed to remain in the United States, but they are not permitted to engage in program-related activities.

Here are some key points regarding the M-1 visa grace period:

  • Duration: The grace period is generally 30 days, starting from the program end date indicated on the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
  • Activities During Grace Period: During the grace period, M-1 visa holders are expected to prepare for departure from the United States. They cannot continue to participate in the program or engage in employment.
  • Departure: M-1 visa holders should depart the United States within the 30-day grace period unless they have obtained authorization for a change of status, transfer to another school, or have applied for a change of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Can M-1 students work in the US?

M-1 visa holders in the U.S. are generally not allowed to work off-campus during their studies. 

The primary purpose of the M-1 visa is for students to engage in vocational or non-academic programs, and the focus is on practical training and skill development.

However, there are limited opportunities for M-1 students to engage in on-campus employment under specific conditions:

  • On-Campus Employment: M-1 students are generally allowed to work on the premises of the school that issued their Form I-20, but the employment must be related to their program of study. The total hours of on-campus employment must not exceed 20 hours per week while school is in session. During scheduled breaks, such as the summer vacation, M-1 students may be eligible for full-time on-campus employment.
  • Practical Training: After completing their program, M-1 students may be eligible for practical training. Practical training allows students to gain practical experience related to their field of study. The duration of practical training is limited, and specific rules and requirements apply.

Difference between F-1 student and M-1 vocational student visa

Both the F-1 and M-1 visas are nonimmigrant student visas that allow foreign nationals to study in the U.S. 

However, they are designed for different types of academic programs:

      • Purpose: The F-1 visa is for individuals who want to pursue academic studies and language training programs at U.S. universities or other academic institutions.
      • Programs: F-1 visa holders typically enroll in degree programs, academic certificates, or English language programs at universities, colleges, high schools, or other academic institutions.
      • Duration: F-1 visa holders are admitted for the duration of their academic program, plus a period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completion of their studies. OPT allows for temporary employment related to the field of study.
  • M-1 Vocational Student Visa:
    • Purpose: The M-1 visa is specifically for individuals who want to pursue vocational or non-academic programs, focusing on practical training and skill development.
    • Programs: M-1 visa holders typically enroll in vocational or technical training programs, such as those related to automotive technology, culinary arts, cosmetology, or other non-degree programs.
    • Duration: M-1 visa holders are admitted for the duration of their vocational program, with a limited 30-day grace period after program completion. They may be eligible for a period of practical training after completing their program.

How to apply for M-2 visa for dependents of M-1 student

If you are an M-1 student and you want to bring your dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old) to the United States, they may be eligible for M-2 dependent visas. 

Here are the general steps to apply for an M-2 visa for dependents:

Step 1. Complete the M-2 Visa Application:

Step 2. Pay the Visa Application Fee:

  • Each dependent needs to pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $185. The payment instructions and fee amounts can usually be found on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where they will apply.

Step 3. Schedule Visa Interview:

  • Each dependent must schedule and attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. Visa interview wait times can vary, so it’s advisable to schedule the interview well in advance.

Step 4. Gather Required Documents:

  • Each dependent should gather the required documents, including:
    • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay in the U.S.
    • M-1 student’s Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
    • DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Visa application fee payment receipt.
    • Passport-sized photos.
    • Marriage certificate (for spouses) or birth certificate (for children), plus English translation

Step 5. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Each dependent should attend the scheduled visa interview. The consular officer may ask questions about the relationship with the M-1 student and the purpose of the visit to the U.S.

Step 6. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, the consular officer will determine whether to approve or deny the visa. If approved, the dependent will receive the visa in their passport. Typically, passports with stamped visas are returned 1 week after the interview date.

How to renew an expired M-1 visa?

Renewing an expired M-1 visa involves a process similar to obtaining the initial visa. 

You need to renew an M-1 visa ONLY if you will travel outside the U.S. and re-enter the U.S.

Otherwise, you don’t need to renew a visa as long as your I-20 is valid and you are complying with your M-1 program.

Here are the general steps you can follow to renew an expired M-1 visa:

Step 1. Check Visa Expiration Date:

  • Determine the expiration date of your M-1 visa. If your visa has expired, but you are still in the U.S. and maintaining your status, you may not need to renew the visa until you plan to travel outside the country.

Step 2. Maintain Status:

  • Ensure that you are maintaining your M-1 status by attending classes and complying with all the regulations related to your visa.

Step 3. Schedule interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

  • Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Visa interview wait times can vary, so it’s advisable to schedule the interview well in advance.

Step 4. Complete DS-160 Form:

Step 5. Pay Visa Renewal Fee:

  • Pay the visa renewal fee of $185, also known as the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. 

Step 6. Gather Required Documents:

  • Prepare the required documents, including:
    • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay in the U.S.
    • DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Visa renewal fee payment receipt.
    • Form I-20 from your school.
    • SEVIS fee payment receipt (if applicable).
    • Passport-sized photos.

Step 7. Attend the Visa Interview:

  • Attend the scheduled visa interview. Be prepared to answer questions about your program of study, ties to your home country, and other relevant details. Present all required documents during the interview.

Step 8. Wait for Visa Processing:

  • After the interview, the consular officer will determine whether to approve or deny the visa. If approved, you will receive the renewed visa in your passport. Typically, passports with stamped visas are returned 1 week after the interview date.

How to change status from M-1 visa to another status?

Changing status from M-1 visa to another nonimmigrant status in the U.S. requires careful planning and adherence to specific procedures.

 Here are general steps to change status from M-1 visa to another nonimmigrant status:

Step 1: Understand Eligibility and Restrictions

  • Review the eligibility criteria and restrictions for the specific nonimmigrant status you intend to change to. Each visa category has different requirements, and not all status changes are allowed.

Step 2: Maintain Status

  • Ensure that you maintain your M-1 status while in the U.S. Attend classes, comply with program regulations, and stay within the authorized period of stay.

Step 3: Identify the Desired Status

  • Determine the specific nonimmigrant status to which you want to change. Common options include changing to F-1 student status, B-2 tourist status, or another eligible category.

Step 4: Complete Form I-539

Step 5: Gather Supporting Documents

  • Collect the necessary supporting documents, including:
    • Form I-539 and filing fee.
    • Copy of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
    • Copy of your M-1 visa and I-20.
    • Evidence of financial support.
    • Any additional documents required for the specific status change.

Step 6: Submit the Application

  • Mail or file online (if eligible) the completed Form I-539 along with the supporting documents and the required filing fee to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) address.

Step 7: Wait for USCIS Processing

Step 8: Receive Decision

  • You will receive a decision from USCIS regarding your change of status application. If approved, your status will be changed and you will receive Form I-94 record indicating your new status.

Green card options after M-1 visa expires

If you are on an M-1 visa and are exploring green card options after your M-1 visa expires, here are some general options to consider:

Employment-Based Green Card Categories:

  • Employment-Based Immigration (EB) Categories:
    • If you have specialized skills, education, or work experience, you may explore employment-based green card categories such as EB-2 or EB-3. Employment sponsorship is typically required, and the employer must complete a labor certification process.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) to H-1B to Green Card:
    • If you are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing your M-1 program, you may work in your field of study. Subsequently, you could transition to an H-1B visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa for specialty occupations. Many employment-based green card categories require prior H-1B status.

Family-Based Green Card Categories:

Diversity Visa Lottery:

  • Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery:
    • The U.S. government conducts a Diversity Visa Lottery program annually, providing a limited number of green cards to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. Participation in the lottery is based on eligibility and is not guaranteed.

Asylum or Refugee Status:

  • Asylum or Refugee Status:
    • If you fear persecution in your home country, you may be eligible to apply for asylum or refugee status, leading to a potential path to a green card.

Special Immigrant Categories:

  • Special Immigrant Categories:
    • Some individuals may qualify for green cards under special immigrant categories, including religious workers, certain international broadcasters, Afghan and Iraqi nationals who worked for the U.S. government, and others.

Related Links:

Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility

F-1 Student Visa