What is M1 Visa?

What is an M1 Visa? 

Wondering what is an M1 visa? It is a student visa mainly for vocational or non-academic studies in the US. Holders are not allowed to work throughout the M1 visa duration. Over that, visa applicants have to provide evidence of  sufficient funds available for living and tuition costs for the entire period. 

M1 Visa Eligibility:

Now that you know what the M1 visa is, you should check the following eligibility guidelines:

  • Foreign nationals visiting the US to attend a complete vocational course. 
  • Foreign nationals visiting the US for attending non-academic courses at universities, colleges, or conservatories in the country. 

M1 Visa Benefits:

There are several benefits for holding the M1 visa. They are: 

  • You can enter the United States as a vocational training student (full-time). 
  • You can work part-time (legally) on-campus or off-campus with prior  approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. 
  • You can travel in and out of the country freely with your visa. 
  • Your dependents may stay with you if you maintain the M1 status. 
  • These visas are issued swiftly. 

M1 Visa Requirements:

There are multiple  M1 visa requirements that applicants should be aware of.

  • The course program should have an objective and the aspirant should enter a ‘full course of study’.
  • This requires studying in a junior/community college with a minimum of 12 quarter or semester hours. This should be in a school where people attending at least 12 quarter/semester hours will be charged the full tuition fees or be perceived as full-time students.
  • Exceptions can be made where a shorter course duration is required to complete the course. Courses undertaken at a post-secondary vocational or business school which offers associate or similar degrees can come within the ambit of the M1 visa.

If a school can prove that its credits have been unconditionally accepted by at least 3 higher learning institutions, it may qualify for the M1 visa. If this isn’t possible, the course has to be taken at a non-academic or vocational curriculum with certification from a DSO (Designated School Official) and with at least 18 weekly credit hours or 22 clock hours every week (if done at a workplace). If this is not possible, the last option is to study in a non-academic or vocational high school curriculum certified by a DSO and with regular attendance.

M1 Visa Application Process:

The M1 visa duration is one year. However, it can be extended up to three years. The admission criteria differ across institutions and the college/university will inform you about the eligibility requirements. You will need to prove that you have sufficient money to support yourself while studying without having to work. You may also have to show your health insurance for covering medical costs. 

Once the application is complete and you have academic eligibility, the institution will issue the I-20 form for enabling the student visa application. Student visas should be applied at the US Embassy or the US Consulate with permanent residence jurisdiction.

You should keep the following pointers in mind while applying for a student visa at the consulate: 

  • Payment of an application fee is non-refundable.
  • All applicants have to complete and submit the DS-160 form which is an online application for the non-immigrant visa. 
  • The DS-157 form is required for male applicants between 16-45 years of age. 

Documents Needed:

The key documents required for application include:

  • A passport with a validity of more than six months from the intended period of residence in the US.
  • You should upload a colored digital photograph, with the head between 1 to 1 3/8th inch (22 mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the total height of the image from the bottom of the chin towards the top of the head. The photograph should have been taken in the last 6 months for indicating current appearance. The background should be plain white/off-white with the person facing the camera with a neutral expression and open eyes.
  • Proof of ties to home country. You have to submit documents like property ownership and proof of immediate family in your home country (brothers, parents, sisters). You can also provide evidence of mortgage payments, job offer letters from a future employer at home, and assets like cars or other items showing your intent towards returning to your home country. 

Difference between M1 and F1 visas:

The F1 visas are used by non-immigrant students for academic and language training courses. On the other hand, the M1 visa is used only to pursue non-academic or vocational courses.

F1 visa holders have the option to transfer to a university after completing the community vocational program. But, a candidate living in the US on an M-1 visa can only attend a vocational program for one year before returning to the home country. Students holding M1 visas cannot continue to the university level.

The M1 visa cost is approximately $160 (Rs 12,000 and it is non-refundable. There could be additional charges, depending on the embassy. The F-1 student visa costs approximately $510 (Rs 38,000). Applicants may also have to pay additional SEVIS maintenance and processing charges. They also have to retain the I-901 SEVIS fee receipt for the visa interview.

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