This page contains general information for M-1 international students. You will find links to other valuable immigration related information for international students on special topics.
The focus of this section is on the specific obligations the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) says M-1 students must follow in order to maintain their non-immigrant status and qualify for other benefits such as practical training, change of status, etc.
Please contact our International Student Office (ISO) and ask to speak to an International Student Adviser.
What is M-1 visa?
- The M-1 student visa is a non immigrant visa which allows foreign students wishing to pursue vocational or non-academic studies, other than language training, to enter into the U.S.
How do I qualify for M-1 visa?
To qualify for an M-1 visa, you must:
- Prove your intention to enter into the U.S. temporarily
- Attend an approved vocational study program
- Engage in a full course of study
What privileges do I enjoy on M-1 visa?
On M-1 visa, you may:
- Enter the U.S. as a full time vocational or non-academic student
- Transfer from one school to another
- Work legally on-campus on a part-time basis
- Work legally off-campus on an assignment that’s related to your field of study
- Travel in and out of the U.S.
- Apply for M-2 visas for dependents accompanying you to the U.S.
What are the limitations of M-1 student visa?
On M-1 student visa, you may:
- Transfer from one school to another only with the permission of the USCIS
- Never be permitted to change your course of study
- Work legally off-campus only with the permission of the USCIS
- Take dependants to stay with you in the U.S. but they may not work
Note: Once you are six months into the program of studies, you are prohibited from changing your course of study except under truly exceptional circumstances.
Can I work on M-1 visa?
No, you may not work on M-1 visa. 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.
How to apply for Employment Authorization on M-1 visa?
While applying for Employment Authorization the documents required are: Form I-539, Certification by Designated School Official, to the USCIS certifying that the:
- Proposed employment is for the purpose of practical training
- Training will be related to your studies
- Same type of training is not available in your country of residence
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization ($495.00)
- Form I-20M-N signed by the Designated School Official (DSO)
- Form I-539, Application for Extension of Status ($370.00)
Note: You should send your application to the USCIS no more than 60 days before your student status expires and no later than 30 days after your studies are completed.
How long can I stay in the U.S. on M1 visa?
You may stay in the U.S. on M-1 visa 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. Maximum of three years at the institute
Can I apply for extension of stay on M-1 visa?
Yes, you may apply for extension of stay on M-1 visa 45 days prior to the completion of your studies. If you’re wishing to pursue practical training, you must apply at least 90 days prior to completing your course of study. 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.
How do I extend my stay on M-1 visa?
To extend your stay you must:
- Complete Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status, and send it to USCIS at least 45 (but not more than 60) days before your authorized stay in the U.S. expires
- Submit your Form I-20M-N to the USCIS at the same time
Are there any travel restrictions on M-1 visa?
No, there are no travel restrictions on M-1 visa. M-1 students may leave the U.S. and be readmitted after temporary absences. When making your travel plans, please remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your M-1 student status. Upon your return to the U.S. you should provide the immigration inspectors with:
- Valid passport
- Valid M-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary)
- Current Form I-20M-N signed by your designated school official. You should have the Designated School Official sign your Form I-20M-N each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the U.S.
- New Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant M-1 Student Status, if there have been substantive changes in your course of study or place of study
- Proof of your financial support
How do I apply for M-1 visa?
While applying, the M-1 visa documents required are:
- A valid passport and any previous passports you have held which are still in your possession
- Fully completed and signed application Form DS-156 and Form DS-158
- Recent passport-size photographs of you taken on a plain white background. Face must be thumb size, full face, without glasses or head covering
- A police certificate issued within the last year if you are 14 years or older
- Original Form I-20M-N issued by the school you will attend
- Electronic verification received at the Embassy from your school that you have been accepted for enrollment
- Evidence of sufficient funds
Note: All male students between 16-45 years must also complete Form DS-157 Supplemental Non immigrant Visa Application
How can I change my non immigrant status to become a student if I am already in the U.S.?
To change status to an M-1 student visa, you must:
- Apply to study at a USCIS-approved school in the U.S. that accepts foreign students
- Receive Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant M-1 Student Status, from the school
- Submit Form I-20M-N, your I-94: Arrival-Departure document, and a completed Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change
Non immigrant Status, to the USCIS
- Prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the U.S.
- If on a J1 visa: Submit copies of your form DS-2019, passport, I-94, and financial sponsor form.
- If on an F1: Submit copies of all forms I-20A-B from previous institutions you have attended, I-94, passport, and financial verification forms.
Can I enter the U.S. on my M-1 visa before school begins?
Yes, you may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the commencement of your study program.
What is the eligibility to transfer schools on M-1 visa?
To be eligible to transfer to another school on M-1 visas, you must:
- Currently be a full-time student
- Intend to be a full-time student at the new school
- Prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the U.S.
- Maintain the same educational objective in the new school
Note: You may only transfer to another school within the first six months from the date you were admitted to the U.S. to begin your studies or from the date you changed your non immigrant status to become an M-1 student.
How do I apply for USCIS permission to transfer schools?
To transfer schools on M-1 visa, you must:
- File Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status, with the USCIS
- Submit your current Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant M-1 Student Status
- Submit a complete Form I-20M-N from your new school
- Submit Form I-94, Arrival-Departure documents, of your spouse and children (if applicable)
Note: You may transfer to another school 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.
What duties must I fulfill to remain in good M-1 status?
To remain in good M-1 status, you must:
- Pass your course work every semester
- Pay tuition fees on time
- Maintain an international address to which you intend to depart upon completion of studies
- Always maintain the same educational objectives
Can I change status from M-1 following the completion of my course of study?
Yes, you may apply for change of status to most other categories of non immigrant visas. However, you may not change to F status or H-1B status if the job offered is based on skills gained through studies while in M status.
Can I bring my dependents on M-1 visa?
Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may come with you to the U.S. on M-2 non immigrant visa.
What is the procedure to bring my dependents on M-2 visa?
To bring your dependants on M-2 visa, your dependants must:
- Visit the U.S. embassy or consulate with you when you apply for your M-1 student visa
- Be prepared to prove their relationship with you
- Provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your Form I-20M-N and proof of their relationship with you if they plan to follow you at a later date
Can my dependents work on M-2 visa?
No, your spouse and children may not accept employment on derivative M-2 status.
Can my dependents study on M-2 visa?
Your M-2 spouse may not engage in full-time study and your M-2 child may only engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade).
Note:Your M-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is vocational or recreational in nature.
Can I take a holiday in the U.S. on M-1 visa after I have completed my study program?
While on M-1 visa you may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after the completion of your study program, or in total one year from your date of admission, whichever is shorter. If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for Change of Status from M-1 to B-2 with the USCIS.
What should I do with the I-94/I-94W, Arrival-Departure document, from my last visit to the U.S.?
You should complete the back of the I-94/I-94W, Arrival-Departure document, and return it to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Do I need any vaccinations to be eligible for M-1 visa?
Vaccinations are no longer required for temporary travel to the U.S. However, if you are intending to study or work, you should contact the school or prospective employer as they may have specific requirements.
What is the difference between F-1 and M-1 Visa program?
The F-1 visa gives you the option to transfer to a university after you have completed your community institute studies. On M-1 visa, you study a vocational program for two years maximum of three years and then you must return to your home country. M-1 students are not allowed to continue on to the university level.
How can I obtain a copy of the I-94/I-94W Arrival-Departure Document?
The airline or shipping company will give you the I-94/I-94W, Arrival-Departure document, when you check in for your flight or in the case of a cruise, aboard the ship.
What can I do to expedite my application for M-1 visa?
Your patience is highly appreciated. According to the latest U.S. Department of State regulations, applications for studies and research in certain academic fields need advisory opinions from Washington. It takes a minimum of four weeks. Once the review is complete, the Consular Section will notify you of the outcome. You may call the Consular Section to check on the status of your case or leave your best phone number of contact. However, it is not possible to adjudicate your case before the review is complete.
Are services performed by foreign students and exchange visitors covered by Social Security?
No, if you are performing work connected to your studies on M-1 status, you are not subject to Social Security coverage.
How can I speak with a Tysons Institute representative?
You can reach an International Student Adviser by calling the office at 703.506.1300, via fax: 703.506.0854, and via e-mail: email@example.com