Student Visas for studying in the United States
What are two kinds of student visas?
There are two categories of student visas. There is the F-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa that nationals and
citizens of foreign countries can apply for if they wish to enroll in a university or college in the United
States. It can also be used to take a language training program. There is the M-1 visa for taking studies
that are not academic but are vocational in nature. The course of study must be a post-high school or
post-secondary school vocational or business course.
Who can apply for an F-1 visa?
A foreign national who is eligible for acceptance or admission into any certificate, diploma or degree
program in any university, college or academic institution is eligible to apply.
A person who is aged 14-18 and who wishes to enroll and study in a secondary school or high school,
may apply for an F-1 visa, but they cannot study for free at a public high school. Generally, children aged
5- 14 cannot apply for an F-1 visa, however, if the child will enroll at a private elementary school, then
they can be issued an F-1 visa.
Why cannot an elementary or high school student applying for a student visa not study at a US public
US public schools are funded and subsidized by the federal or state government. Students who study at
public schools do not pay tuition or other fees. Students who wish to apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa must
show proof of payment of the cost of education at the time they apply for the visa.
If I travel to the US as a tourist but I want to enroll in a short course of study, can I still apply for a
No. If the main purpose of the visit is to tour the United States and during the tour, the applicant will
take a short course of study; or the course of study is recreational or vocational, then the applicant is
not eligible for a student visa.
If I will attend a seminar or conference or take examinations, can I apply for a student visa?
If the applicant seeks to earn academic credit toward a degree, they must apply for a student visa.
Otherwise, if the course, seminar or conference is not necessary to earn an academic degree, then they
are not eligible for a student visa.
If I will take religious studies, can I apply for a student visa?
Yes, but the applicant must show that the school where he or she will study is a recognized academic
institution. The applicant must show that the course he or she will take will earn him or her academic
credit that can result in obtaining a certificate, diploma or a degree. The applicant must show that he or
she has been accepted or admitted into the academic program he or she has applied for and has paid
the cost of studying at the academic institution.
If I am enrolled in an online or distance learning course and will travel to the US only to take
examinations or to present a paper, can I apply for an F-1 visa?
Yes. If the certificate, diploma or degree program is an online-course but it requires a period of study in
a campus in the United States, you must apply for an F-1 visa.
What kind of academic institution must I enroll in to qualify for an F-1 visa?
You must apply and be accepted in a school that is approved and certified by the US Department of
Education as an academic institution that can offer a Student an Exchange Visitor Program.
What documents will I need to present?
If you have been accepted by an academic institution in the United States, the academic institution will
enroll you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). There is a form I-901 that
must be filled and submitted. There is also a fee to be paid.
Once enrolled in the SEVIS and the fee has been paid, the US school will provide the student with a Form
I-20. This is the document that the applicant will present to the embassy or consular officer during his or
her visa interview.
The applicant must also fill out an Online Non-Immigrant Visa application form (DS-160). Once
submitted, the confirmation page must be printed and brought to the interview as well.
Be prepared to present your academic records such as transcripts of record, diplomas, report cards. You
must also be prepared to present an Affidavit of Support from your parents or from people who will
fund your studies. For this, you may need to bring proof of funds or deposits such as bank statements.
What do I need to prove during the visa interview?
You must prove the purpose for the visit: that is to study. You must prove that you have the necessary
funds to undertake the study and support yourself while completing your studies without working while
in the United States. You must also prove that you intend to depart from the United States upon
completion of your course of study. You must prove that you have binding ties to the country of your
residence, nationality or citizenship that you do not intend to abandon and that you are coming to the
US only for a temporary stay.
Can I work while I am in the US on an F-1 or M-1 visa?
You are not allowed to work off-campus while on an F-1 or M-1 visa. You may work on-campus. This
includes work that is affiliated with a grant or as a research or teaching assistant. You may work only
part-time, up to 20 hours a week while school is in session. You can work full-time on campus during the
holidays or breaks if you intend to register for the next academic term. Your employment must not
displace a US worker or resident.
You may also work off-campus under an Optional Practical Training work or a Curricular Practical
Training work. The work must be directly related to your major field of study (if you are studying to be a
physical therapist, you can work in a physical therapy clinic). You can only apply for an Optional Practical
Training work after you have finished all the academic work toward your degree. The OPT or CPT must
not exceed 12 months in total. If you wish to do OPT or CPT while completing a degree, you will only be
able to work part-time while school is in session.
You can also work for a recognized international institution like any of the agencies of the United
Nations or the Red Cross, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.
What if I experience economic hardship while studying, can I work then?
If you have a valid F-1 visa for at least nine months in one academic year and you have good academic
standing, you may work off-campus part-time for up to 20 hours each week while school is in session
and full time during school breaks or holidays.
You must provide evidence of economic hardship. The economic hardship must be based on unforeseen
circumstances that are beyond your control such as sudden fluctuation of the exchange rate of currency
between your country and the United States. You must prove that there is no on-campus employment
available or sufficient. You must maintain good academic standing and must make good faith efforts to
find employment on-campus prior to applying for off-campus employment.
Do you need help?
Our lawyers can help you and give you advise in applying for a student visa. Contact
us today at Lluis Law.