Study In The USA: F-1 And M-1 Visa For International Students

To Study in the USA, and become a full-time international student, you will need either an F-1 or an M-1 student visa. Each of these students visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to study in the US provided you meet a set of requirements. Read through as we take you to step by step

F-1 and M-1 Requirements To Study In the USA.

The United States has become desired academic destination for every lover of education, this is because of its exceptional university and high levels of the education system for both international and home students. For this reason, many international students apply each year to study abroad in the US.

To full qualify for an F-1 or M-1 visa, USCIS states that you must meet the following conditions:

  • Get admitted into a SEVP-accepted institution: The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a list of schools, universities, and other institutions which meet the conditions and accept international students. That is to say, you must first and foremost gain admission acceptable in the SERP list. The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has a list of schools, universities, and other institutions which meet the conditions and accept international students.
  • Be enrolled as a full-time student: It’s very important you enrol as a full-time student. This will increase your chances of getting the F-1 type of visa, take note.
  • Have strong ties to your home country: If you don’t prove it, it’s better not to try now. Submitting documents that show you have strong ties to your home country and intend to go home after your educational program ends, will help reduce the difficulty to get an F1 visa.
  • Proof of financial sufficiency: You should be able to prove that you have sufficient funds in your bank accounts to cover the expenses of studying and living in the United States. This does not mean that F1 students are not eligible for scholarships. In fact, you are encouraged to apply for scholarship funds and organizations to lower your financial burden.
  • Bing proficient in English: One of the conditions is that you must prove that you can speak and understand English at a level that enables you to enrol in an academic program. Students can prove their language proficiency by taking standardized English proficiency tests such as the TOEFL or the IELT.

F1 And M-1 Visa Validity

When your visa is approved, it might be for the full time that you will be in school in the US, or for less. If your study program takes 1 year to graduate, the Embassy will most likely give you a visa that is valid for 1 year If your degree program is 2 years and you only get the visa for 1 year, you should then later apply to renew it. In this case, it is the best option to renew the F1 visa.

The validity of your F1 visa is for as long as it is stated on your I-20 form and I-94 form which are given to you when you enter the US.

If you are renewing your visa you should follow the same procedure. You might be able to waive the interview for the reason that you have already done it once and your intent is to continue your education for the remaining years to get your degree.

If your visa is approved, you are allowed to depart for the US 30 days before your program begins. You cannot enter the US any earlier than that.

Visa Type to Apply For As a Nonmigrant Student

There are too many types of visas to apply for but for the purpose of studying, visas F-1 and M-1 are commonly recommended.

F-1 Student Visa:

The F-1 visa is a student visa that is given to international students who want to attend educational institutions in the United States. It covers levels from elementary school to university and graduates school, including other degrees. F-1 “Academic Student” visa is mostly meant for individuals who plan to study at an academic institution be it at accredited colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, and academic high school and elementary schools or language training programs. To qualify, the program in which you are enrolled must culminate in the receipt of a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the US government to accept international students

M-1 Student Visa:

The M-1 or “Vocational Student” visa as often called in the US is meant for students in vocational or other non-academic programs, other than language training.

The needed Documents For Student Visa Application

Here are 12 documents required to apply for an F1 and M-1 Visa:

  • Your valid passport.
  • Form DS-160 for non-immigrant visa applications.
  • Two photographs, that meet the US Visa Photo Requirements.
  • Proof of paid F1 visa fee.
  • Form I-20. Your Form I-20 states the money amount,
  • of funds, you need to finance your education and live in the US. You must submit documents which prove you have that amount readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
  • Bank statements for the last 3 years.
  • Tax records for the last 3 years.
  • Pay stubs of previous employment, if any.
  • If you have received a scholarship, you also need to submit proof of it.
  • Paying a semester’s or a year’s worth of tuition is also a good idea, but not mandatory.
  • If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the US, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and bank statements for the last three years of that person.
  • If you are funding your US education through a loan, you must also show proof of the approved loan.

Educational Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications such as:

  • Original transcripts
  • Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
  • Acceptance letters from the educational institution which accepted you

Previous degree diplomas

Fees and Interview

Once you are accepted into the SEVP-approved school, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). From here, you will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. You will then be provided with the Form I-20 by the school, which you will present to the consular officer at your visa interview. You will also be required to pay a fee of $160 for the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, or Form DS-160. Next, you will schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. At your interview, you must establish that you meet the criteria to receive the visa for which you are applying.

US Student Visa Processing Time

The US student visa (F-1 visa) is one of the fastest visas to process. In fact, the study permit is often processed directly before your embassy interview. The interview is the last step of the application process. By the end of the interview, the consular officer should tell you whether or not your application was approved. Some F-1 visa applications will take several days to process, in which case your approval will come several days after the interview.

US Student Visa to Green Card

While studying in the US is not a direct pathway to immigration, there is potential to work in the United States post-graduation. An individual is expected to leave the state following graduation unless they apply to participate in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). This allows F-1 visa-holding students to work part-time or full-time in a role that must be directly related to their major area of study for up to 12 months. Certain STEM students may be eligible for a 24-month extension if they meet eligibility requirements. To apply for OPT, a student must request that the designated school official at their academic institution recommend them. The student will then file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, through USCIS.

F-1 Visa holders may be eligible to petition for an H-1B visa and request a change of status, which is known as a “Cap-Gap.” Doing so fills the gap between the time when the F-1 visa expires and the H-1B visa and employment begins. However, the application must be completed in a timely fashion, as the dates of effect are very specific. While an H-1B visa is temporary, after the 6-year period it is valid, the beneficiary may be eligible to apply for a Green Card.

Students Can Work in the US with a Study Visa

Many students wish to work part-time while working in the US so that they can support themselves to some extent. In this case, a few restrictions will apply. F-1 students who want to work are not permitted to work off-campus during their first academic year, but may work in certain on-campus jobs. After the first academic year, F-1 students may work off-campus as long as the employment is Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Training Extension.

An M-1 student who wishes to work may only work in practical training positions after they have completed their studies. However, M-1 students may work on or off-campus in certain positions as well, as long as they are authorized positions. Both F-1 and M-1 students must ensure any off-campus employment they procure is related to their area of study and is approved prior to the start date by the Designated School Official who manages SEVIS, and USCIS.

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