Comparing Your Student Visa Options: F-1 Student Visas & M-1 Student Visas

International students who wish to live and study in the United States have two different options when they choose a student visa: the F-1 visa and the M-1 visa. It is extremely important that foreign students understand the two major differences between the two visas as they are applying to school and applying for a visa. 

  • What kind of education are you pursuing? An F-1 visa is for students pursuing an academic degree. An M-1 visa is for students who are looking to take non-academic, vocational classes such as cosmetology school, mechanical school, or language lessons. 
  • How long is your program? F-1 students may stay in the United States until they finish their program—and sometimes longer, to train or work. M-1 students have only a year to take classes, with the option of renewing their visa for up to three years. 

However, the F-1 student visa and the M-1 student visa have several features in common: 

  • Both visas are non-immigration visas and do not traditionally lead to permanent residency or a green card. 
  • Both visas allow you to bring your dependents (your spouse and minor children) with you to the United States. 
  • Both visas allow you to transfer schools. 
  • Both visas allow you limited opportunities to work – either part-time on campus or part-time off campus (if related to your field of study). 
  • The school you attend must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 
  • You must attend school full time and take a full load of courses (with some limited exceptions for M-1 visa students). 
  • You must either be able to speak English proficiently or be actively learning English in a language course. 
  • You must be financially stable enough to support yourself and any dependents during your course of study. 
  • You must prove that you plan on returning to your home country after studying abroad, for example, by maintaining a residence. 
  • You must continue attending school to maintain your student visa status. 
Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney