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What is an M-1 Visa?

An M-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for non-academic or vocational studies. The visa is issued by the US Department of State after you have been accepted to study at a community or junior college, post-secondary vocational school, or post-secondary business school, with at least 12 semester or quarter hours.

How do you get an M-1 Visa?

The first step, and the most lengthy, is applying and receiving acceptance to a non-academic or vocational program. Once you’ve been accepted by the school of your choice, you will be officially enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and must pay the SEVISfee. After all fees are paid and your account is in good standing, an I-20 form will be generated and sent to you (either electronically or via mail). The I-20 allows you to schedule an interview with a local US embassy or consulate in order to become an international student, and contains detailed information about you and your program of study.

Working on an M-1 Visa

If you are on an M-1 visa, you are not permitted to work during your studies. After your vocational studies are over, however, you are able to work full-time in a practical training setting. This means that you can work in a role directly related to your vocation in order to gain training in your field — only after you complete your studies.

For every 4 months of study, M students are permitted 1 month of practical training up to a maximum of 6 months. To obtain work authorization, you must apply for the Designated School Official’s permission, as well as a visa extension for the period of training.

Transferring Schools with an M-1 Visa

If you begin a program at one school in the US and need to transfer to another US program, you may. Keep in mind, though, that M students can transfer only during their first 6 months of a program. After your first 6 months, you can transfer only if you can prove the following:
  • You have maintained your nonimmigrant status for the previous 6 months.
  • You are unable to continue at your current school due to circumstances beyond your control.
  • You are still capable of supporting yourself financially.
  • You plan to be a full-time student at the new school you are transferring to.

Returning Home

For those on an M-1 Visa, you have 30 days to depart after the end of your studies. After 30 days, your visa will no longer be valid. If you stay past the time allotted, you would be considered “out of status” and would technically be in the country illegally.

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