Student Visas Allowing Foreign Nationals to Legally Enter the U.S.
Every year, a number of people from around the world come to the United States for educational purposes. There are specific federal requirements that foreign students must adhere to in order to apply for a student visa. There are several types of visas that a student may pursue, depending on his or her specific circumstances, including F Student Visas, M Student Visas, and J Visas for Exchange Visitors.
Student visas may require an in-person interview before being approved. Additionally, a person applying for a student visa must meet a number of other criteria to obtain a student visa. These include full-time enrollment at an institution approved by the USCIS, a sufficient amount of money for self-support for the entire duration of the educational program, proficiency in English, and more.
F visas = foreign national academic students M visas = foreign national vocational students J visas = foreign nationals participating in educational and cultural exchanges
F Category Visa
To enter the United States to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or another academic institution, including a language training program, an individual can seek an F visa. The “F” visa is a non-immigrant visa. The F-1 visa is the most common type of student visa in the United States. F-1 students are not permitted to seek employment in the U.S., except for part-time work on campus. Part-time work means less than 20 hours per week. Full-time work is permissible during school recess periods. After the F-1 student completes his or her educational training, the individual may be able to seek practical training employment authorization, “Optical Practical Training (OPT),” for a period of one year after completing his or her degree program.
To enter the United States to attend vocational or recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program, an individual can seek an M visa. To obtain an M-1 visa for traveling to the United States, a student has to show a signed Form I-20 at a United States embassy or consulate in his or her home country. The I-20 Form is issued by the educational institution that the individual is enrolled in after the student has fulfilled a number of other requirements, including qualifying for admission at the school and presenting proof of financial resources.
The J visa is an Exchange Visitor non-immigrant visa category managed by the U.S. Department of State, along with many designated sponsors in each area. It is designed to foster mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and individuals of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. According to the U.S. State Department, each month you can find more than 170,000 participants in the United States, working, studying, or teaching through the J-1 program. The processing time for a J-category visa varies from country to country and is based on the individual’s specific situation. It is important to note that exchange visitors cannot enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the date their programs begin.
Obtaining a student visa is a multi-step process and can be quite a complicated process, so it is best to hire an effective immigration attorney in your area to ensure that your case runs smoothly.