If you reside outside the United States and are a student, teacher, or worker who would like to study, teach, or work for an extended period of time in the U.S., you can apply for a student visa. There are three types of student visas; the J-1, F-1, and M-1. Choosing which student visa is right for you depends on to the type of academic studying you are pursuing. The F-1 visa is for students who are attending an academic program or English language program, the J-1 visa is for exchange students, and the M-1 visa is for students who plan to attend a non-academic (technical) or vocational school. To help you make the decision on which student visa is right for you, reach out to an immigration attorney for more information and to schedule a consultation.
The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that is issued to research scholars, professors, and exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange. This allows these individuals to visit the U.S. for a longer period of time in order to complete school, research, or a particular job. You must be approved by the Department of State to teach, study, receive training, or use a special skill to be eligible to enter the Exchange Visitors Program. Typically, the Department of State approves au pairs, camp counselors, college students, government visitors, interns, physicians, professors or research scholars, high school students, specialists, short-term scholars, specialists, teachers, trainees, or summer work travelers. To be eligible for this visa, you must demonstrate that you have residence in your home country and that you do not intend to abandon that country. You must meet the English language requirements, and be sponsored by a university, private sector, or government program. Some J-1 programs will require that you return to home country for two years following the expiration of your J-1 visa.
This visa is for students who are enrolling in a full course of study at a U.S. university. This visa allows you to reside in the United States for the duration of your studies. The F-1 visa also allows students to access Optional Practical Training, or OPT. While you may not work in the U.S. during your first year, beginning your second year of studies you may apply to work for an organization that directly relates to your course of study on a temporary basis. This means you must be able to financially support yourself without relying on U.S. employment. Like the J-1 visa, you must be able to prove that you have strong ties to your home country and have no plans to permanently leave it. During the required interview, you must be prepared to answer questions regarding your education, financial support while studying, and plans to return home to your country.
If you are interested in pursuing vocational or non-academic studies in the U.S. then you will want to apply for the M-1 student visa. You must be enrolled in a full course of study that has a defined goal and that considers 12 semesters full-time enrollment. For a school to be DSO certified, their credits must be accepted by at least three institutions of higher learning and require 18 hours of weekly attendance, or follow a vocational curriculum and require class attendance that will help you graduate on time. Just like the F-1 visa, M-1 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S. during the course of their studies so they must be able to support themselves financially. You must also prove that you have medical insurance. As with the other student visas mentioned, you will be required to prove that you plan to return home to your country at the completion of your studies.
How to Apply for Student Visas
To apply for a student visa, you have to begin by submitting the Online Nonimmigrant Visa application or Form DS-160. Following this, an interview at your U.S. embassy or consulate is required. Receiving a student visa actually has a much shorter processing timeline than other visas. Most of the processing time is going to be waiting for your application to be approved to move into the interview stage. Waiting for this approval can take about 2-3 weeks. Once your application is approved, you must schedule your interview which could have a waiting period of 2-4 weeks depending on how busy they are. The interview is the final step in your application process, and within a week of the interview, you should know whether you have been approved for the visa or not. Overall, the process can take from between 5 weeks to 2 months.
For assistance in determining which of the student visas is right for you and to learn more about the application process, reach out to an immigration attorney for more information.