The Immigration and Nationality Act provides nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is reserved for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs, the "M" visa is reserved for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies and "J" Visa is reserved for nonimmigrants who wants to participate, and intends to participate, in an exchange visitor program designated by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor visa. You should inquire at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa.
In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.
Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.
Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.
M-Vocational Students Requirements
Foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. may enter in the F-1 or M-1 category provided they meet the following criteria:
- The student must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program;
- The school must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
- The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
- The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;
- The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and
- The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.
All applicants for a student visa must provide:
- Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students.You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form. All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F/M-2 visa holders). Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. Students will also have to pay an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study. Questions regarding your exchange program should be directly to your program sponsor;
- A completed application, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant, Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's passport. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic "e-form application." Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the DS-156.
- An interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
- A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States. One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements; A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable (Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Table ) and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.While all F visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.
This section focuses on articles and reports related to M visas from government agencies such as the USCIS, DOS, DHS, CBP and ICE.
- USCIS -Student and Exchange Visitors
- USCIS -Student and Exchange Visitor Information System - (SEVIS) - USCIS Website .
- U.S Department of State (DOS) - EducationUSA website
- U.S Department of State (DOS) - Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
- U.S Department of State (DOS) - What is SEVIS and SEVP? What should you know about it?
- USCIS - How Do I Get a Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document)?
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