STUDENT VISAS/EXCHANGE VISITORS
The Law Office of Brian T. O’Neill can counsel you through the process of assisting Students applying with the US Consulate to collect Student, Exchange Visitor and/or Vocational Non-immigrant Visas for travel to the USA.
The Immigration Regulations offers 2 non-immigrant visa categories for individuals wishing to study in the USA. The F-1 student visa is for non-immigrant's wishing to come to the USA to seek out academic studies and/or language training programs and the M-1 visa is reserved for the non-immigrant wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies. If you are the dependent of a spouse or parent who is extending his or her non-immigrant visa status in the USA, then you should be aware that you are required to file an application to extend your dependent status. This applies to the spouse and children of E-1, E-2, E-3, F-1, H-1, L-1, O-1, P- 1, R-1 and TN visa holders. If you fail to timely file an application to extend dependent status, you will fall out of status and become removable from the USA.
Student visas are considered non-immigrant visas because they are issued to people who do not intend to stay in the USA permanently. This means that if students are applying for F-1 Visas they are informing the US government that they wish to remain in the USA for only as long as it takes to complete their studies. An F-1 visa is a ‘non-immigrant visa’ and may NOT be used as a way to enter the USA quickly and pursue a green card. The US government agency responsible for issuing student a student visa is the US Department of State. State Department policy is carried out around the world by US Consulates and Embassies. For this reason, if students are applying for student visas overseas, they will be dealing with a US consulate or embassy in their home country.
F-1 Visa, Academic Student Visa
The F-1 visa is for students attending a full-time degree or academic program at a school or university approved by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The F-1 visa is valid for as long as it takes the student to finish his or her course of study. An F-1 visa also allows students to work on campus and in some situations even off campus. In addition, F-1 student visas are eligible to apply for employment authorized practical training and after the completion of their academic program. This training is usually limited to 12 months, but may be extended to 29 months for students who are pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. F- 1 visa students are able to transfer schools and change their focus of study while pursuing a degree in the USA. Once they have completed their course of study or practical training, the student has 60 days in which to physically depart the USA.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
The J-1 visa is designed to facilitate a cultural exchange between the J-1 visa holder and the US organization that hosts the visitor. J-1 visas are issued to individuals who seek to enter the USA for a temporary period in order to serve in one of the following capacities: teacher, professor or research scholar; short term scholar; trainee or intern; secondary-school children; college or university student; nonacademic specialist; foreign physician; camp counselor; au pair; or summer student in a travel/work program.
J-1 visa applicants must obtain sponsorship from an agency designated as a J-1 sponsor by the US Department of State. The sponsor is not the organization or agency where the J-1 visa holder will work, or serve as the trainee or intern. The J-1 sponsor is the agency that communicates the Department of State requirements to the J-1 applicant and approves the applicant to participate in the J-1 program. There are hundreds of sponsors in the USA, each of which specializes in a limited number of J-1 exchange programs. For example: there are sponsors who specialize only in au pair programs, and sponsors who specialize on in business trainees and intern programs. The sponsor issues a special form to an approved J-1 applicant, the DS-2019 Form, and the applicant used the Form to apply for the J-1 visa at a US consul post overseas.
M-1 Student Visas
The M-1 student applies for non-immigrant's hoping to pursue non academic or vocational studies. Student visas are referred to as non-immigrant visas because they are issued for individuals who do not intend to stay in the USA permanently. This means students who are applying for M-1 student status are indicating to the US Government, they will only remain in the USA for the period of time to complete the studies. A non-immigrant student visa may not be used as a way to enter the USA quickly or to obtain a green card. To apply, the M-1 student will be applying with the US Consul Post overseas in the student’s foreign country.
The M-1 visa is for students enrolled in a non-academic or ‘vocational study.’ Some examples of vocational study would be mechanical studies, technical studies, cooking classes, language program, flight school or cosmetology program. Unlike the F-1 Student, the M-1 is Valid for ONLY 1-Year. Students may apply for cumulative extensions for up to 3-years. Also unlike the F-1 visa, M-1 visa holders are only authorized to reduce their course of study below full time for medical reasons and for up to a maximum aggregate period of 6 months. While F-1 visa holders have fairly broad freedom to transfer schools, M-1 visa students are typically only free to transfer schools within the first six-months of the program. Like the F-1 visa, the M-1 gives the student the opportunity to earn paid practical experience after graduation. USCIS employs a formula whereby it authorizes one- month of employment authorization for every four- months in which the M-1 visa student was enrolled in the vocational program. A maximum of six-months of employment authorization for practical training is available. This means that the maximum time students could stay in the USA on an M-1 visa is three and one half years. The M-1 visa does NOT allow students to work while they are in school. The M-1 allows students 30 days after the completion of their program in which to prepare to leave the USA.
Call the Law office of Brian T. O’Neill at 617-722-4000 or contact us online. We will gladly answer your questions or schedule a consultation.