Immigration laws and regulations can change very quickly,
and you should not rely upon this article to reflect the
latest changes in the law. Obtaining a non-immigrant visa
can be complicated, and visa applications may be denied.
While many individuals successfully navigate the application
process on their own, it is often beneficial to utilize
a qualified immigration attorney.
Foreign students who wish to study in the United States may apply for
two different types of visas:
- The "F" visa, for academic studies; and
- The "M" visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies.
Qualification for a Student Visa
In order to qualify for a student visa, you will be required to establish
- That you can pay for your education and all living expenses associated
therewith from an identified and reliable financial source - Specifically,
that you have enough readily available funds to meet all expenses for
the first year of study, and that adequate funds will be available for
each subsequent year of study. An M-1 student visa applicant must be
able to evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to
pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.
- That you have successfully completed the course of study normally
required as a prerequisite to enrollment in the U.S. educational program
you wish to attend;
- Unless coming to participate exclusively in an English language training
program, either that you are sufficiently proficient in English to pursue
the intended course of study, or that the school you will attend has
made special arrangements for English language courses or will teach
the course of study in your native language;
- That you have been accepted for a full course of study with a U.S.
educational institution; and
- You must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that
you have binding ties to your residence in a foreign country which you
have no intention of abandoning, and that you will depart the United
States when you have completed your studies.
F-1 visas are not available for students below the high school level,
and are also not available for students who wish to attend publicly funded
adult education programs. To attend a public high school (grades 9 - 12)
on an F-1 visa, the applicant must submit evidence that the local school
district has been reimbursed in advance for the unsubsidized per capita
cost of the education. High school attendance under an F-1 visa is limited
to 12 months. (Please note that this rule does not affect other visa categories,
such as the J-1 exchange visitor program, or programs for qualified school
aged children of aliens holding other nonimmigrant
Waivers of Ineligibility
If you fall into a category of persons ineligible for U.S. visas under
current law, you may be able to apply for a waiver of ineligibility, such
that you can obtain a student visa if the waiver is approved.
Entry Into the United States
Possession of a valid student visa does not of itself guarantee entrance
into the United States. An immigration officer at the U.S. point of entry
will make the final determination as to entrance. Also, the ultimate determination
of the length of the student's authorized stay in the United States will
be determined by the BCIS, not by
the consular officer who reviews the applicaiton.
Eligibility for Employment
An F-1 student may not accept off-campus employment at any time during
the first year of study. The BCIS may grant an F-1 visa holder permission
to accept off-campus employment after one year. F-1 students may accept
on-campus employment from the school without BCIS permission.
With the exception of temporary employment for practical training, an
M-1 student may not accept employment.
Visas for Family Members
The spouse and unmarried, minor children of a student visa holder may
also be classified for a nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the
student to the United States. Family members must meet all visa eligibility
requirements, including evidence that they will have sufficient funds
for their support, and that they will depart the United States when the
student's program ends. Spouses and children of students are not eligible
for employment at any time.