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M-1 Technical/Vacational Visa

Are you a nonimmigrant full-time vocational student?

Would you like to continue your vocational program in the Unites States?

If you responded “Yes” to both of the questions above, then the M visa is likely to be an excellent choice for you! The M Visa is a nonimmigrant visa and is a part of the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The M visa is meant for full-time, vocational students who wish to study in the U.S. and intend to return to their home country after the completion of their program. The M visa applicant’s intended school must be on the list of approved vocational schools issued by the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).

M Visa Categories:

  • M-1 visa: The M-1 visa category is the primary category for foreign vocational students entering the U.S. The M-1 visa is limited to only full-time study in the United States and the applicant must be working towards a specific degree or academic objective. Full-time study is usually defined as 12 or more academic credits per semester.
  • M-2 visa: This visa is granted to spouses and unmarried children (under the age of 21) of the M-1 visa holder.
  • M-3 visa: The M-3 visa is the alternative visa for Mexican and Canadian vocational students who live in Mexico or Canada and commute to study at a U.S. school. The school must not be more than 75 miles away from the U.S. land border. An M-3 visa holder lives abroad, and therefore he or she can also be a part-time student. Part-time study usually means less than 12 academic credits per semester.

What are the requirements for the M visa?

For both an M-1 and M-3 visa, a person has to show that he or she:

  1. Has been accepted by an approved vocational school in the U.S.;
  2. Has the financial resources to complete the course of study without working in the U.S. and;
  3. Has the intent to return abroad after the completion of the program.

What is the basic process for obtaining an M visa?

In general, the process for obtaining M visa is as follows:

  1. The first step is for you to contact the approved vocational school that you are interested in attending. Admission procedures vary between schools. For a list of approved schools, please visit the official ICE website or view the list of schools directly here.
  2. If an approved vocational school accepts you, the school will issue you a Certificate of Eligibility for nonimmigrant (M-1), commonly known as an I-20 form. If you are located outside the U.S. when you receive your approved I-20 form, you can apply for the M visa at the American Consulate. If you are already in the U.S. upon receipt of your approved I-20 form, you may be eligible to apply for a change of status and become a nonimmigrant, M-1 student.
  3. Once you receive the I-20 form from the vocational school, you must pay the applicable U.S. visa fees associated with the M visa. Nonimmigrant visa application processing fees vary.
  4. When you apply for an M-1 visa or, if applicable, a change of status (if you are in the United States), you will have to prove that you have sufficient assets and income to pay for school and all related costs for the entire course of study. You must also show that you have a residence abroad that you intend to return to upon completion of the program.
  5. When you are admitted to the U.S. at the port of entry, the immigration inspector will send the applicable part of the I-20 to your approved school to notify them that you have been admitted. The immigration inspector will also provide you with additional documents as proof of your status and proof that you are allowed to pursue your vocational study in the U.S.

How long can I stay in the U.S. on an M visa?

You can stay in the U.S. on an M-1 visa for the length of your vocational program, which will be reflected on the I-20 form, with a maximum of one year. You have a grace period of thirty (30) days to leave the U.S. after its expiration.

Can I work while I am in the U.S.?

If practical training is not available in your home country, your school can recommend practical training after you complete your vocational studies. The training is limited to one month for every four (4) months of the vocational program that you have completed, limited to a maximum of six (6) months. If you intend to train in your program of study, you should contact your foreign student advisor who will guide you accordingly.

Can I change schools when I get to the U.S.?

If you are in good academic standing with your current school, it is possible to transfer to another school with the same type of vocational program. However, you must transfer schools within the first six (6) months of being admitted to the U.S.

Can my family come with me?

Yes. As an M-1 visa holder, you may bring your spouse and unmarried children (under 21) while you are studying in the U.S. Your family members will have to apply for M-2 visa status which is usually approved for the same amount of time as the M-1 visa student. Your spouse and children cannot work in the U.S. as M-2 visa holders, but children are allowed to attend school up to the 12th grade. Your spouse may also be able study in the U.S., but only if he or she can qualify for an F-1 visa or M-1 visa.

Please note: If you are an M-3 visa student, you may not bring your family to the U.S. since you are viewed as a commuter.

Conclusion

If you are a vocational student and would like to continue your studies in the U.S. temporarily, you may be able to enter the U.S. on an M visa. It is required that your intended school must be on the approved list of vocational schools, and you must have been granted acceptance prior to obtaining your M visa. For the M visa, you must also prove that you will be able to support yourself throughout the duration of the program, because you will be unable to work in the U.S., except for a possible practical training. Spouses and children may accompany the M visa holder to the U.S., but are not allowed to work. The M-3 visa allows those living in Mexico and Canada (within 75 miles of the U.S. land border)

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