Students, teachers, and workers who reside in countries outside of the United States and would like to visit the country for an extended period of time to study, teach, or work have several options when it comes to entry visas. The J-1, F-1, and M-1 visas each have different qualifications, restrictions, and benefits, and it is important to understand the differences among them to select the correct visa and properly complete the application process for each.
The J-1 visa was established as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, which was designed to promote cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries. Through the Exchange Visitor Program, people residing in foreign countries may obtain sponsorship to visit the U.S. for a longer period of time in order to complete school, research, or a particular job.
People who are approved by the Department of State to teach, study, receive training, or use a special skill are eligible to enter the Exchange Visitor Program. These people are generally 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.
In order to receive a J-1 visa, applicants must demonstrate that they have residence in their home country and do not intend to abandon that country. Documentation to support this can include documentation showing that the applicant has assets in their home country, such as a car, or proof that they have immediate family living in the country. They must also have a Certificate of Eligibility for an Exchange Visitor (Form DS-2019). Some J-1 programs require that the recipient return to their home country for two years following the expiration of their J-1 visa, though this stipulation can be waived in certain instances.
Students who are enrolling in a full course of study at an approved U.S. university are eligible for an F-1 visa, which allows them to remain in the country for the duration of their studies. The visa also gives students access to Optional Practical Training, or OPT. After completing their first year of studies, students who have an F-1 visa can apply to work on a temporary basis for an organization that directly relates to their course of study in the U.S.
Each eligible academic institution has a designated school officer who can assist students who would like to receive or extend their OPT.
To receive this type of visa, students must show that they are qualified for the course, have strong ties to their home country with no desire to permanently leave it, have a desire to study at an established academic institution, are fluent in English, and are able to financially support themselves for the duration of the program, as they will be unable to work while they are in the U.S.
Students wishing to acquire an F-1 visa must apply to a U.S. academic institution with Form I-120, which includes information about the university selected and the student’s housing plans. Once accepted, students will be issued an I-120 document and can move on to the interview portion of the application. The interview must be scheduled with a U.S. embassy or consulate, and there is a $200 fee for the interview. During the meeting, students must show their I-120, passport, and financial documentation. They will also answer questions about their plans regarding their education, financial support while in school, and return to their home country.
After a student has received their F-1 visa, they may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the date listed on their I-120 form.
People who would like to visit the U.S. to pursue vocational or non-academic studies can apply for an M-1 visa. However, M-1 visa holders cannot work during their studies in the U.S. and must therefore demonstrate that they have enough financial support to maintain their living costs and tuition.
M-1 visa recipients must be enrolled in a full course of study that has a defined goal and takes place at at a school where 12 semesters constitutes full-time enrollment. One example of an approved course of study would be obtaining a degree on a specific topic from a community college. Schools whose credits are accepted by at least three institutions of higher learning, are DSO certified and require 18 hours of weekly attendance, or follow a vocational curriculum and require class attendance that will help the student graduate on time can also qualify for M-1 visas.
To apply for an M-1 visa, students must show that they have medical insurance and are able to financially support themselves while studying. They must also meet the eligibility requirements of the school they would like to attend. Meeting these requirements will enable the student to receive an I-20 form from the school, which is necessary to receive an M-1 visa. Students will also need to fill out a number of other forms, provide a photo, and pay a nonrefundable application fee. As with the J-1 visa, applicants will need to prove that they have strong ties to their home country and intend to return after their studies are complete.
Immigration Attorney Assistance
Applying for a visa can be a difficult and sometimes confusing process, and it can therefore be helpful to consult with a licensed attorney who can help you choose the correct visa, correctly complete the necessary forms, and collect the necessary supporting documents for each type of visa. The attorneys at Johnson & Masumi have years of experience and can assist you with the application process for each type of student visa.
The firm can also work with clients on cases involving naturalization and citizenship, asylum or refugee immigration, deportation, and fiance visas. Johnson & Masumi serves clients in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. areas, as well as clients currently located overseas. Call an attorney at Johnson & Masumi today to get more information and discuss your student visa needs.