M-1 Visas for Non-Academic Training Students

An M-1 visa allows foreign students to enter the United States temporarily for vocational or other nonacademic study.

An M-1 visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa permitting a foreign national to enter the United States for vocational or other nonacademic study, aside from language training. For example, an M-1 student might come for a certificate course in cooking, martial arts, or a healing art.

This is not the same type of visa as is used by academic students, such as those applying for U.S. private high schools or to colleges and universities. Those students should instead apply for an F-1 visa.

There are no limits on the number of M-1 visas that can be obtained each year.

Note: While a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does allow the foreign citizen to seek entry to the United States.

M-1 Visa Rights and Restrictions

The M-1 visa allows you to come to the U.S. as a full-time vocational or nonacademic student in a program that leads to a degree or certificate. The initial visa term will last until your studies are completed, up to a maximum of one year. If you haven’t finished the program by then, you may apply for an extension of your M-1 status. The maximum time you can stay in the U.S. on an M-1 visa, with extensions, is three years.

You may not work while on an M-1 visa, though after your studies are done, you may qualify for a work permit to do six months of paid practical training in your field of study.

Visas are available for your accompanying spouse and minor, unmarried children, but they may not accept employment in the United States.

While in the U.S. on an M-1 visa, you may not change your course of study. You may, however, transfer from one school to another within your first six months if you have first applied and received permission to transfer from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

M-1 Visa Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for an M-1 visa, you must:

  • have been accepted by a program in the U.S. that has been approved to accept foreign students
  • be coming as a bona fide student pursuing a full course of study, which will lead to an objective such as a degree, diploma, or certificate
  • possess sufficient funds to pursue your intended studies in the U.S. without having to work here
  • be able to prove that you intend to leave the United States following the completion of your studies and return to your residence abroad
  • be proficient in English (able to handle the course work) or be enrolled in English proficiency courses.

In addition, as with all U.S. visas, you will need to prove that you are not "inadmissible" to the United States. The grounds of inadmissibility include things like having committed a crime, been a member of a terrorist group, or contracted a disease of public health significance.

For more on qualifying for this visa, see Eligibility for an M-1 Student Visa.

M-1 Visa Application Process

First, you will need to be accepted by a program in the United States.   The school or other program provider will then send you the form known as a certificate of eligibility or SEVIS I-20. With that in hand, you will assemble or prepare the following and go to a U.S. consulate in your home country to apply for a visa:

  • Receipt for having paid the I-901 SEVIS fee.
  • Printout of State Department Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which you will prepare online.
  • Receipt showing that you have paid the visa application fee.
  • Payment for the visa reciprocity fee, if any.
  • Your passport, and passports for each of your family members, valid for at least six months.
  • One photo of you, and one of your spouse and each of your children, passport style.
  • If you’re bringing a spouse and children, proof of their relationship to you, such as marriage and birth certificates.
  • Transcripts, diplomas, and results of any tests required by the school you’ll be attending that show your previous education and qualifications to pursue the course of study.
  • Documents proving your intention to return to your home country at the end of your permitted stay, such as proof of ownership of real estate and relationships with close family member staying behind, or a letter from your employer stating that your job will be waiting for you upon return.
  • Proof of sufficient funds, such as bank statements, evidence of ongoing sources of income, a letter from a friend or relative offering support, or a USCIS Form I-134 Affidavit of Support filled out by a U.S. friend or relative.

M-1 Visa Fees and Costs

M-1 costs include a nonrefundable application processing fee and possibly a reciprocity fee upon visa issuance, depending on which country you are from.   See the State Department “Fees for Visa Services” page for the latest amounts. Additionally, you will need to make a payment through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), using Form I-901, available online at fmjfee.com/i901fee/.

M-1 Visa Grace Period

As an M-1 student visa holder, you will have thirty (30) days beyond the completion of your course of study in order to prepare to leave the United States. However, this grace period will be cancelled if you fail to maintain your M-1 status, including by pursuing a full course of study.

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