Any foreign national that is looking to study in the US must obtain a student visa before entering the country. There are three different types of student visas, so it is vital that you check the criteria for each visa to ensure that you apply for the correct one, to avoid getting it declined and delaying the process.
The M-1 visa covers students that will be enrolling in vocational studies, as opposed to academic studies (F-1 visa). The range of vocational studies include courses related to vocations such as cooking or attending a technical college at a SEVP institution. The student must be taking a minimum of 18 hours classroom instruction, or 22 hours if the course is shop or laboratory based.
How to apply for M-1 visa
The first stage is to apply for the course of study at the SEVP approved school and pay the SEVIS fee. If your application is successful, then the school will send the applicant a form I-20 that allows them to apply for the M-1 visa. The form includes the details of the applicant, the course details and it also requires information regarding the financial details i.e. how you will be able to afford the course and living expenses throughout the duration of the study.
The M-1 visa does not permit any kind of employment whilst studying in the US, which is why the Embassy wants to ensure that the appropriate funds are available to pay for the student’s time in the US.
The applicant will be required to submit a DS-160 form and attend an interview at their home country’s US Embassy during which they will be asked a number of questions related to their course and their motivation behind choosing the US as the country they wish to study in. They will also be asked about their intention to return to their home country after their course has been completed.
If the Embassy is happy with the information provided by the applicant and they grant the M-1 visa, the student will be able to enter the US no more than 30 days prior to the start date of their study program. The visa will usually be issued for the same length of time as the duration of the course and the M-1 visa holder must exit the US within 60 days of completing their vocational course.
Dependents of M-1 visa holders
For applicants that have families, they are usually able to live in the US with them under the M-2 visa status. The M-2 visa is for any children under 21 years old and the spouse of M-1 visa holders, allowing children to attend schooling but not allowing spouses to attend schooling.