M Visa – Vocational Student Visa

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M Visa – Vocational Student Visa

M Visas are for students who have been accepted at a SEVP Certified Vocational or other nonacademic institution, other than a language training program, their spouse, and unmarried minor children who will live with them during their studies in the US.  M Visas are “Nonimmigrant Visas.”   Applicants are expected to return to their country of origin after they complete their studies, and may be asked to show proof of residence outside the United States.

In order to apply for the M Visa the student and any family traveling with them must each have an I-20 form from the school the student will attend.  The student must be fluent in English and may have to prove proficiency by taking a standardized test like the TOEFL or IELTS.  Applicants must also prove that they have sufficient finances to cover living expenses and tuition for the duration of their study.

Culinary Schools, Technical, Flight and Trade Schools in the United States who have been certified with ICE can issue the I-20 form for an M Visa.

There is no limit to the number of M Visas issued in a year, and the wait time for Embassy or Consulate interviews is generally very short.  The M Visa cannot be issued more than 120 days prior to the beginning of the course of study, and the student cannot enter the country with the M visa more than 30 days prior.



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Vocational school student in chemistry class

M-1 Visa Basics

An M-1 visa allows you to:
  1. Enter the United States to attend a vocational school or similar training program
  2. Receive an associate degree or similar degree from that vocational school
  3. Transfer schools within the first six months of the program (to, say, a similar vocational program at a different school)
  4. Open a bank account, get a driver’s license, etc.
  5. Work in certain on-campus jobs or related employment opportunities
M-1 visa holders have certain restrictions, including some restrictions that aren’t faced by ordinary F-1 student visa holders. Restrictions on an M-1 visa can include all of the following:
  • Cannot work full-time out of campus
  • Cannot complete programs as part-time students
  • Cannot change programs or transfer to another institution more than six months after starting the program
  • Cannot continue onto higher education in the United States, like to a Bachelor’s Degree (you can re-apply for an ordinary F-1 student visa if you wish to continue your studies)
  • Cannot enroll in language courses

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to be accepted to a Vocational or Technical School to apply?

Yes. All applicants must be accepted and enrolled as full-time students and have an I-20 form from a SEVP-certified school before they can begin the application process. A list of certified schools can be found here. The student must be enrolled, pay the SEVIS fee and obtain the I-20 form. Family members traveling with the student must also have I-20 forms from the school but are not required to pay the fee.

How long does it take to get an M Visa for Vocational Study in the United States?

It varies.The process begins with applying for and being accepted to a SEVP certified Vocational or Technical School. Once accepted and enrolled the student (and dependents) should obtain an I-20 from the school, the student must pay the SEVIS fee, and all travelers must submit a Visa application. After submitting the application, you can schedule your interview(s) with the Embassy and determine if you need to pay the fee prior to or at that interview. Student Visa interviews are given priority, so the wait times are generally short. Keep in mind that you cannot be issued an M Visa more than 120 days before the program you are enrolled in begins, and once you visa is granted you cannot enter the United States more than 30 days before you begin courses.

Can I work while completing my vocational program?

Yes, but there are very strict requirements. The work must be part of a practical training program related to your studies, all required coursework must be completed, and you must apply for and be granted an Employment Authorization Document. Dependents who travel to the US with the student on M-2 Visas are NOT eligible to work while in the United States.

What is the difference between the F Visa and an M Visa?

Students in the United States on an F Visa are enrolled in academic or language training courses, while M Visa students are enrolled in technical or trade education that cannot count toward an academic degree.

If the M Visa – Vocational Student Visa isn't right for your situation,

Check out our other immigration options, or speak to an On-Call Attorney to find the best route for you.