M-1 Visa - US Student Visa for Vocational Study in the US
- What is the M-1 Visa?
- Am I Eligible for an M-1 Visa?
- How Do I Apply for an M-1 Visa from Outside the U.S.?
- M-1 Visa Denials
- When Do I Need to Apply for My M-1 Student Visa?
- Admission through a U.S. Port of Entry
- Changing My Status to Become a Student If I Am in the U.S.
- Applying for Permission to Transfer Schools
- Bringing My Spouse and Children to the U.S.
- How Long Can I Stay in the U.S.?
- Extending My Stay as a Student in the U.S.
- Will I Be Able to Work?
- Can I Travel Outside the U.S.?
- How Can I Get USCIS Forms?
- HELP! with M-1 Student Visas
- Additional Information for International Students
What is the M-1 Visa?
The M-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) US Visa for international students (foreign students) wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies, other than language training.
You will need a different visa if you wish to pursue academic studies or language training (see F-1 Visa - US Student Visa for College & Academic Study in the US) or if you are planning to study in the United States as an Exchange Visitor (see J-1 Visa - US Exchange Visitor Visa for US Exchange Programs).
Am I Eligible for an M-1 Visa?
For eligibility criteria, please see Student Visa: Student Visas for International Students, College Study in US and More.
How Do I Apply for an M-1 Visa from Outside the U.S.?
You first must apply to study at an USCIS-approved school in the United States, a school approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for accepting international students (foreign students). When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students (international students). If you are accepted, the school should give you USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - for Vocational Students). You should also be prepared to prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. For more information on eligibility, see Student Visa: Student Visas for International Students, College Study in US and More.
If you require an M-1 Visa, you should generally apply at the US Embassy or US Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although you may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the M-1 Visa outside your country of permanent residence.
As part of the M-1 Visa application process, you must have an interview at the embassy consular section if you are from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by the embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment can vary, so apply for your M-1 Visa early. Visa wait times for interview appointments, and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide, is available on our website at Visa Wait Times. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the US Embassy or US Consulate website where you will apply.
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing , which takes additional time after the interview by a Consular Officer. You should be informed if this situation applies in your case. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different additional documents.
M-1 Visa Documentation
Each applicant for an M-1 Student Visa must submit these forms and documentation:
- Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status-For Vocational Students. You will need to submit a Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
- Online Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application. Some US Embassies and US Consulates that have not converted to this new online process may require older nonimmigrant application forms. See Form DS-160 for more information.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
- One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements;
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
You should be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor owns a business, bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.
- Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee - For current fees for Department of State government services, see Fees. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
- Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is. If there is a fee for issuance for the visa, it is equal as nearly as possible to the fee charged to United States citizens by the applicant's country of nationality.
Additional Requirements for the M-1 Visa
You must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that you have binding ties to your residence in your country that you have no intention of abandoning, and that you will depart the United States when you have completed your studies. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since circumstances vary greatly.
Visa Ineligibility / Waiver
There are categories of persons ineligible to receive visas under U.S. law. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a student, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. If you are found to be ineligible, the consular officer will advise you of any waivers.
M-1 Visa Denials
For an explanation of the most common circumstance under which a visa is denied, as well as your right to reapply, see Visa Denied, Visa Refused Under 214b (Nonimmigrant Visa Denials, Visa Refusals).
- Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
- Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing.
- Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
- A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain approval for a change to Exchange Visitor status, filing USCIS Form I-539 , Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status and pay the fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that one can not begin studies until the change of classification is approved.
- Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their (SEVIS) records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes start.
Admission through a U.S. Port of Entry
You should be aware that a US Visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa is issued by a Department of State Consular Office abroad, but a separate U.S. agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has authority to deny admission at the port of entry. Also, the period for which you are authorized to remain in the U.S. is determined by the CBP, not the Department of State Consular Office.
At the port of entry, a CBP official must authorize your admission to the U.S. At that time, the CBP official will provide you with a stamped Form I-94 (Record of Arrival-Departure), which will include your admission number to the U.S. and which will note how long you are permitted to stay in the U.S. A CBP inspector will also write your admission number on your USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ ID. The CBP official will then take pages one and two of this form, known as I-20 M-N. The USCIS will receive the first page (I-20M) and your school will receive the second page (I-20N) as a record of your legal admission to the United States. You are expected to keep pages three and four, known as the I-20 ID. This document is your proof that you are allowed to study in the United States as an M-1 Student.
The date of departure stamped on your Form I-94 will probably be marked with the notation "D/S", which means duration of status. This notation essentially means you are welcome to stay in the United States for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in an educational program and making normal progress toward completing your course of study.
You should see your designated school official (DSO) if you need a replacement copy of your I-20 ID. You should also keep safe your Form I-94, because it proves that you legally entered the United States.
For more information, see:
- Inspection Process for U.S. Entry
- I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card) (which also explains how to obtain a replacement)
- Length of Stay is Determined by My I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card) -- NOT My Visa
Changing My Status to Become a Student If I Am in the U.S.
If you are already in the U.S. on another US Visa (nonimmigrant visa), and you would like to change your status to a student, you first must apply to study at an USCIS-approved school in the United States. When you contact a school that you are interested in attending, you should be told immediately if the school accepts foreign national students (international students). If you are accepted, the school should send you USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - for Vocational Students). You must submit this form and USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) to the USCIS. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. For more information, please see Change Visa Status - How to Change to a New Nonimmigrant Visa Status.
Applying for Permission to Transfer Schools
You must file USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) with the USCIS. You should also submit your current USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students), a complete USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID from your new school, and the USCIS Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Documents) of your spouse and children. You may transfer sixty days after filing this application. However, if your application is denied after you transfer, you will be considered to be out of status. This means you may be required to leave the country.
Please note: To be eligible to transfer to another school, you must currently be a full-time student, and you must intend to be a full-time student at the new school. You must also prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. In addition, you may only transfer to another school within the first six months from the date you were admitted to the United States to begin your studies or from the date you changed your nonimmigrant status to become an M-1 student. You are not allowed to change your educational objective.
Bringing My Spouse and Children to the U.S.
Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may come with you to the United States in M-2 nonimmigrant status. They should go with you to the U.S. embassy or consulate when you apply for your student M-1 Visa. They should be prepared to prove their relationship to you. If your spouse or children are following to join you at a later date, they should provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your USCIS Form I-20 ID and proof of their relationship to you. The M-2 status of your family will be dependent upon your status as the M-1 vocational student. This means that if you change your status, your family must change their status as well. If you lose your status, your family will also lose their status. (For more information on changing status, see How to Change to a New Nonimmigrant Status).
Your 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 U.S. when your program ends. Spouses and children of students may not accept employment at any time.
How Long Can I Stay in the U.S.?
You are allowed to stay in the United States for one year or for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in a vocational program (plus thirty days to prepare to leave the country), whichever is shorter. You should be allowed to stay in the United States 30 days beyond the departure date on your USCIS Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) and USCIS Form I-20 ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - For Vocational Students), as long as your stay does not exceed one year.
You may also apply to stay in the country after the completion of your studies to pursue practical training. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time. Your designated school official (DSO) is able to assist you in the application process.
- It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Information on successfully maintaining your immigration status while a student or exchange visitor can be found on the Department of Homeland Security website.
- Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the DHS causes you to be out-of-status in the United States, which is a violation of U.S. immigration laws. This may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S. Select Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas to learn more.
- Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized, even by one day, results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with immigration law, INA 222(g). In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.
Extending My Stay as a Student in the U.S.
You should apply to extend your stay in the United States if your studies will take longer than the date listed on your I-20 ID or your vocational program lasts longer than a year. You should complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and send it to USCIS at least 15 (but not more than 60) days before your authorized stay in the country expires. You should also submit your USCIS Form I-20 ID to the USCIS at the same time. For more information, see Extend US Visa Status (I-94 Form I-94 Card): Visa Extension to Stay Longer on My Visit to USA
Will I Be Able to Work?
You and your spouse and children may not accept employment. However, you may apply for practical training after you complete your studies. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you have completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time.
You should submit USCIS Form I-538 (Certification By Designated School Official) to the USCIS. Your school official should certify on USCIS Form I-538 that 1) the proposed employment is for the purpose of practical training; 2) the training will be related to your studies; and 3) you cannot receive the same type of training in your country of residence. You must also submit USCIS Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), and your I-20 ID, signed by the designated school official (DSO). You should send your application to USCIS no more than 60 days before your student status expires and no later than 30 days after your studies are completed. You may wish to discuss practical training with the appropriate officials at your school.
Can I Travel Outside the U.S.?
Students may leave the United States and be readmitted after temporary absences. When making your travel plans, remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your M-1 student status. Upon your return to the United States, you should provide immigration inspectors with:
- A valid passport
- A valid M-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary)
- A current USCIS Form I-20 ID signed by your designated school official (you should have the designated school official sign your USCIS Form I-20 each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the United States)
- A new USCIS Form I-20 M-N/ID if there have been any substantive changes in your course of study or place of study
- Proof of your financial support
How Can I Get USCIS Forms?
You should be able to pick up immigration-related forms from your designated school official (DSO). Only your designated school official (DSO) can give you an USCIS Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status - for Vocational Students) or an USCIS Form I-538(Certification By Designated School Official). If you would like other immigration forms, they are available online, or by calling 1-800-870-3676, or by submitting an online request to receive forms by mail. Further information on forms, filing fees, and fee waivers is available in USCIS Forms / INS Forms and Other US Immigration Forms, Fees & Filing Locations.
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- Your school will have a designated school official (DSO) to help you with immigration issues (however, you are solely responsible for following U.S. immigration laws). Questions on how to obtain Form I-20M-N should be made to the school. If the school does not have the forms, it should contact its local USCIS office.
- For assistance in your country, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate. You may also wish to contact a U.S. Educational Advisor in your country. See Assistance in Your Country, in the area of our website called College & University Study in the US - A Guide for International Students
- For inquiries on visa cases in progress overseas, contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case.
- For assistance within the U.S., contact the State Departmentís Visa Office at 202-663-1225. You may also email a general inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to indicate the general subject of your inquiry on the subject line (e.g., student visa), and do not expect an immediate reply. You may also write to:
- For assistance within the U.S., you may also contact your nearest USCIS District Office or Sub Office. This link provides telephone numbers, addresses, directions, office hours, local filing procedures, and more.
- In the U.S., you may also call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520-0113
For eligibility criteria, see:
Student Visa: Student Visas for International Students, College Study in US and More
For information on sources of financial aid, on applying to schools, and on organizations in your country that can assist you, see:
College & University Study in the US - A Guide for International Students
If you are already in the U.S. on another nonimmigrant visa, and you would like to change your status to a student, see:
Changing My Status to Become a Student If I Am in the U.S. (above)
For an explanation of the most common circumstance under which a visa is denied, as well as your right to reapply, see:
Visa Denied, Visa Refused Under 214b (Nonimmigrant Visa Denials, Visa Refusals)
If you wish to pursue academic studies or language training, you will need a different visa. See:
F-1 Visa - US Student Visa for College & Academic Study in the US
If you will be participating in an exchange program, you will need a different visa. See:
J-1 Visa - US Exchange Visitor Visa for US Exchange Programs