The M-1 Visa – Want to Learn a Trade or Vocation? Get a Vocational Student Visa!

Dev B. Viswanath, Esq. (Photo courtesy of Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.)

The M-1 visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that is available to individuals who wish to come to the United States for nonacademic or vocational studies. Some examples of vocational studies are: mechanical studies, technical studies, cooking classes, flight school, videography, editing, or cosmetology classes. In order to qualify for an M-1 visa an individual must meet the following requirements:

* Must be enrolled in a vocational program or a nonacademic program;
* The school which the individual plans to attend must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program;
* The individual must be enrolled full time at the institution;
* Must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses to learn English;
* The individual must have enough financial support to finance themselves while in the U.S.; and
* Must maintain a foreign residence which the individual does not intend on giving up.

Only schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can enroll nonimmigrant students. Once the school determines that the individual’s application is complete and they are academically eligible, the school will issue an I-20 form to allow the individual to obtain the student visa. Students are only allowed to reduce their course work below full time for medical reasons and for a maximum combined period of six months. Students are also usually only allowed to transfer schools within the first six months of their program.

Students on an M-1 visa may only participate in practical training after they have completed their studies. Any employment that an M-1 student finds off-campus must be related to their area of study and must be authorized by the Designated School Official and USCIS before they start working. The Designated School Official is the person who is authorized to sustain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Under a M-1 visa an individual may stay in the U.S. for only one year but may apply for extensions for up to three years. And work authorization under the M1 Visa is limited in duration far more drastically than for an F1 visa. Generally, its 1 month of work authorization for every 3 months of studies.

While there are some limitations to the M1 visa which are less appealing than a student visa, it is still a very useful and appropriate visa to apply for individuals who are interested in pursuing studies in a skill or trade which may not require academics so much as they require hands-on practical knowledge and understanding.

For any questions or concerns, please do contact an experienced immigration professional.



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