M Visa

What is an M-1 Visa?

  • M-1 student visa is reserved for vocational and technical schools.
  • Some examples of M-1 vocational courses are cooking, mechanical or technical training, dance, music, photography, animation, and art and design.
  • M-1 course study is atleast 18 hours/week if predominantly classroom, and 22 hours if predominantly shop/lab.

How do I obtain an M-1 Visa?

  • An I-20 is issued by a designated the international student adviser at the vocational school, after you have qualified with the school’s admissions requirements. You will also have to present a proof that you have the financial resources for pursuing the particular program at that school.
  • Based on the signed and approved I-20, you will have to apply at a United States embassy or consulate in your home country to obtain an M-1 visa.
  • Consulate may issue an M-1 visa 120 day in advance, but will inform the student that he may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days in advance.
  • M-1 students are part of the “Visa Interview Waiver Pilot Program”, and many not need an interview to renew their visa if they are continuing the same program or attending the same institution.

Key Facts

  • M-1 students are admitted for time necessary to complete the course plus 30 days, or for one (1) year, whichever is less. If a student violates his status by, for example, not maintaining a full course of study, he is not eligible for the grace period.
  • Distance education or online courses do not count towards an M-1 student’s full course of study unless the course requires the student’s physical presence.
  • Commuter students from adjoining countries Canada and Mexico can attend school part-time or full-time on M-3 status as long as they do not reside in the U.S.
  • M-1 students are admitted into the United States for a fixed time period. When they cross the border, their I-94 departure cards are stamped with a date, unlike students with an F-1 visa.
  • M-1 students may not work on or off campus while studying, and they may not change their status to F-1.
  • M-1 students will be subject to “3/10 year bars” if they stay beyond the designated period without an extension.
  • M-1 students can cumulatively obtain extensions up to 3 years from the original stat date to complete the program.
  • M-1 students can reduce their course load, but only if they have a valid medical reason, and that too for a maximum aggregate period of 5 months.
  • M-1 students can only transfer schools in first 6 months, unless they cannot remain at present school due to “circumstances beyond the student’s control”.

M-1 students and Optional Practical Training (“OPT”)

  • M-1 students can only work by obtaining an Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) after completion of study. OPT period will be “equal to 1 month for each 4 months”, not exceeding 6 months.
  • In order to work on OPT, Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) must be applied not more than 60 days before or 30 days after study completion.
  • M-1 students have a 30 day grace period beyond completion of program or OPT to depart the country.