F-1 Student Visa
The “F” visa is reserved for non-immigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs. F-1 Visa is given only through “academic” institutions. Vocational education is not included in F-1 visa. For vocational education, an M Visa should be obtained.
F-1 students are not authorized for employment except for on-campus work of less than 20 hours per week (full-time permitted during school recess periods). Where economic hardship is present, off-campus employment authorization of less than 20 hours per week may be obtained after the first year. Otherwise, F-1 students can obtain practical training employment authorization “Optional Practical Training (OPT)” for a period of one year, usually after completing their degree program. OPT employment is not limited to a specific employer, but must be related to the student’s field of study. Additionally, students who have completed nine (9) months of an undergraduate degree program, or students pursuing a graduate degree program, may obtain authorization to participate in an internship or cooperative training program that is part of their curriculum (“Curricular Practical Training”).
Spouses and children of an F-1 student may be issued F-2 Visas so they may accompany the student. Spouses cannot engage in full-time studies at any level. Children may attend primary and secondary school, but cannot pursue post-secondary education, unless they too obtain an F-1 visa.
Neither spouses nor children can be employed while in F-2 status.
M-1 Student Visa for Vocational and Technical Schools
M1 Visa a type of student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. To obtain an M-1 Visa for traveling to the United States, a student must present a signed Form I-20 at a United States embassy or consulate in his home country. The I-20 is issued by a designated school official, typically the international student adviser, after the student has fulfilled a school’s admissions requirements and presented proof of financial resources.
M-1 students are admitted into the United States for a fixed time period. When they cross the border, their I-94 departure cards are stamped with a date, unlike students with an F-1 visa. They may stay for the length of their training program plus any Optional Practical Training, plus a thirty-day grace period at the end of their training. Their stay may not exceed one year unless they are granted an extension for medical reasons. If a student violates his status by, for example, not maintaining a full course of study, he is not eligible for the grace period.
Students in M-1 status may not work on or off campus while studying, and they may not change their status to F-1.