International students who wish to live and study in the United States have two different options when they choose a student visa: the F-1 visa and the M-1 visa. It is extremely important that foreign students understand the two major differences between the two visas as they are applying to school and applying for a visa.
- What kind of education are you pursuing? An F-1 visa is for students pursuing an academic degree. An M-1 visa is for students who are looking to take non-academic, vocational classes such as cosmetology school, mechanical school, or language lessons.
- How long is your program? F-1 students may stay in the United States until they finish their program—and sometimes longer, to train or work. M-1 students have only a year to take classes, with the option of renewing their visa for up to three years.
However, the F-1 student visa and the M-1 student visa have several features in common:
- Both visas are non-immigration visas and do not traditionally lead to permanent residency or a green card.
- Both visas allow you to bring your dependents (your spouse and minor children) with you to the United States.
- Both visas allow you to transfer schools.
- Both visas allow you limited opportunities to work – either part-time on campus or part-time off campus (if related to your field of study).
- The school you attend must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- You must attend school full time and take a full load of courses (with some limited exceptions for M-1 visa students).
- You must either be able to speak English proficiently or be actively learning English in a language course.
- You must be financially stable enough to support yourself and any dependents during your course of study.
- You must prove that you plan on returning to your home country after studying abroad, for example, by maintaining a residence.
- You must continue attending school to maintain your student visa status.