Non-Immigrant Student Visa for Attendance at Technical or Vocational Schools
To enter the United States to attend a vocational or recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program, an individual can seek an M-1 visa. The non-immigrant M-1 visa is ideal for students to learn and improve technical and non-academic skills. Vocational programs encompass things like cooking, dance, music, design, animation, photography, art, and mechanical training. Students seeking the M-1 visa must be pursuing full-time study at a vocational or non-academic course of study in the U.S. The program must be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In most instances, M-1 visas are offered to individuals enrolled in community and junior colleges that have technical training programs.
To qualify for an M-1 visa, you have to enroll in a program that has at least 12 hours a week of study. The school must be approved by Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is a U.S. government body. The student must be enrolled as a full-time student in the program. The student has to be proficient in English or be enrolled in classes that lead to English proficiency. The student must demonstrate that he or she has sufficient funds to cover expenses over the proposed course of study. The M-1 student also has to show that he or she has a residence abroad, to which he or she intends to return after the course of study is over.
The M-1 student visa process includes being registered as a full-time student for an educational program with a USCIS-approved school and obtaining the USCIS Form I-20 M-N issued by the academic institute. An M-1 applicant must submit his or her visa application along with the Form I-20M-N and other necessary documentation to the U.S. Consulate, Consular Office, or U.S. embassy with jurisdiction over his or her permanent residence.
An M-1 visa holder can bring certain qualifying dependents to the United States for the duration of study. These dependents include a student’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. These dependents come to the U.S. under M-2 status and are not allowed to work. Children may attend primary and secondary school but cannot enroll in post-secondary education while on M-2 status.
The M-1 visa is valid for up to one year and can be extended for an additional two years, allowing an individual to study in the U.S. for a total of three years. Typically, an extension is granted if the studies will last longer than the date listed on the I-20, or if the vocational program is longer than one year. At the end of your course of study, you have 30 days to depart the country.
An individual in the U.S. under M-1 status may travel outside the U.S. and be readmitted after temporary absences. Students will need to have a current SEVIS I-20 endorsed for travel, and a Designated School Official (DSO) will need to verify that an individual’s SEVIS record is current and accurate. Upon returning to the United States, the M-1 student should provide the following documents to the immigration officer: a valid passport, a current SEVIS Form I-20ID signed by the student’s DSO, and proof of financial support.
Foreign nationals who are in the U.S. on an M-1 visa sometimes fall out of status, which means that they stay in the U.S. after the visa expires. However, they can file a reinstatement application, which will be considered timely if it is filed no more than five months after the foreign national's status expired. They will not accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. while USCIS is reviewing the application.