What is M-1 Visa
The M1 visa is a student visa granted to international students who wish to travel to the United States for Vocational studies in vocational schools and technical schools. Cosmetology, cooking classes, flight schools, technical courses are considered vocational studies.
The US M-1 student visa has no cap,hence any student who meets all the necessary requirements could be granted the M-1 visa mindless of the numbers of applicants at that moment.
What can you do with an M-1 visa in the US?
The M-1 visa holders are permitted to complete their vocational training program full -time and then acquire another kind of degree or associate. They are allowed to transfer schools within the first 6 months of their training program, get a drivers license, get access to healthcare, have a bank account and work in some instances.
It is also important to note that M-1 students are nor permitted to do the following:
M-1 visa restrictions
- They can not finish their training programs as Part-time students
- Not allowed to work full-time outside the school campus
- Should not try to get higher education in the United States in order to acquire a bachelor’s degree or any degree of a sort.
- They can not change their training program or move to another institution following 6months of the training period.
When comparing the M-1 student visa with the F1 student visa you can notice some considerable differences. With the F1 student visa students can travel from one institution to another at any given point in time even after 6 months of studies, and also work on practical training programs out of the school campus. They are free to register for academic and degree bearing education such as the Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. With the F1 visa, students are allowed to register for language courses but all these are not the case with M-1 visa holders.
Qualifications for the M-1 visa
It is important to note that the M-1 visa application for vocational training programs is not opened to everybody. There are some conditions and requirements to be met before you are permitted to apply for the US M-1 student visa.
M-1 students must be accepted by a SEVP Institution
The Student Exchange Visitors Program(SEVP) has a list of non-bearing degree institutions and vocational schools from which the applicants can apply to get their admissions. One of the main requirements to apply for the M-1 student visa is that you apply to a SEVP institution and get admission, only then will you be permitted to apply for the M-1 visa.
You could have a list of schools which you would prefer to attend, do well to check that they are SEVP institutions, if not your you can not apply for the visa. The institution will enroll you into the Student Exchange Visitor Information System(SEVIS) after you have been granted admission. they will also provide you a FormI-20, Certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant students status.
Have a high level of English Proficiency
M-1 student visa holders are expected to have a good comprehension level of the English language. Students English Proficiency should be high enough to enable them to speak, understand and write as needed by the vocational and technical schools. They should be able to understand lectures and be able to interact in class concepts. To prove their English proficiency level, students should take the standardized English proficiency test like the TOEFL or the IELTS.
Prove of Firm Connection to Your Home Country
For all student visas, the students must show proof of strong connections to their home country to ensure that they plan to return to the country after their study period, the M-1 student visa is not an exception to that. In the case where sufficient proof is not provided, the US Embassy might reject your visa with the suspicion that you do not plan to return after the completion of your training program. To prove strong links to the home country, you could present an apartment lease, property deeds, family ties, and foreign address.
Be able to Finance your education and stay in the USA.
Before you are granted the M-1 student visa you will have to prove that you have sufficient funds to finance your training program and also cover all your expenses during your stay in the United States. Your I-20 form contains an estimated amount for all your expenses in the United States for a period of 1 year.
So you are expected to present financial documents like bank statements and bank records for at least the last 3 years to show that you the funda are readily available for the trip. In the case where you will have to travel with your relatives, your financial records should be up to date showing that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses and theirs while in the USA.
The M-1 Application Process: How to apply for M-1 visa
The M-1 student visa application process is almost similar to the F1 student visa application process. Explained below are the required steps you need to follow if you wish to travel and study in a vocational or technical school in the US with an M-1 student visa.
Get your I-20 Form
The I-20 form is a form which will be provided to you by the vocational or technical institution that granted you admission. After getting the form then you can proceed with your application process.
Submit DS-160 form online
Following the reception of your Form I-20, you can then proceed with the normal application process. This process includes completing the DS-160 form online with the necessary information about your visa status. You would need to provide information concerning your objectives, background and all you plan to do while in the US. After you submit the form, you will get a confirmation letter and code which you will use later during the interview and for the document file.
Payment of the M-1 visa application fee
The M-1 student visa application fee is $160. You are required to pay this amount and get a receipt of payment,this receipt will later be used during the interview as part of the documents needed. You may incur additional fees depending on your country of origin and the US Embassy you are applying from. It is worthy of note that this fee is non-refundable, which implies that, once payment had been made you can not have the money again, no matter the conditions.
Payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee
After getting admission from your preferred SEVP institution, the school will immediately register you in the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS). To complete your registration, there is the SEVIS I901 fee. For the US student visa, the fee is $200. You advised to keep the receipts because they will be needed later.
Schedule your Interview
After completing the DS-160 form and making payment for the fees, the next step is to schedule your interview. The M-1 visa interview is a compulsory step before you can get your M-1 student visa. It is always advised that you try to schedule your interview as early as possible. This is because delays might be encountered during the processing time as a result of the heavy workload of the US embassy you are applying from. After scheduling your interview you will receive an interview confirmation letter which you will need later on in the application process.
Compile your Document file
You are expected to prepare your document file with all the M-1 visa required documents before you go to attend your interview. You are required to submit a list of standard required documents for every US visa, and also the required documents for an M-1 visa include:
- A valid Passport, with expiration not less than 6 months after your visa
- Documents to back your previous education and present qualifications
- Results for the standardized English Test(TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT etc)
- Acceptance letters from the educational institution which granted you admission
- Previous Degree Diplomas.
- Two photographs meeting the US visa photo Requirement
- Documents to prove that you have the amount readily available to finance your living and studying in the USA. The Form I-20 states the number of funds which you will need to finance your education and stay in the USA.
- This can only be done by submitting various documents, such as
- Bank statements for the last 3 years
- Payslips of previous Employments
- Tax record for the past 3years
- Prove of payment for a semester or year’s worth of tuition will be an added advantage but its not mandatory.
- In case you received a scholarship, you will need to submit proof of it
- In the case where you are funding your education through a loan, you should have documents to show that it is an approved loan.
- If you have a sponsor or you are supported by someone else in the US, you will be required to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and bank statement of the person for the last 3 years.
Attend the Interview
Most of the times when you go to attend the visa interview the interview questions will always revolve the reason for going to the United States and the institutions you are going to attend. the US embassy authority will try to deduce if you have plans of returning to your home after you are done with your studies.
When the M1 visa has been granted, you are allowed to leave for the US 30 days before the beginning of your program. you will not be allowed to leave for the YUs before or earlier than that.
If you have to come along with your relatives such as spouse or kids, you will have to prove your relationship with them.
Do You Need to Have Proof of Purchased Health Insurance Policy?
With the M1 student visa, you do not necessarily need to present proof of purchased health insurance policy to the consular officers. Still, it is advisable you get one because of the high cost of healthcare in the United States, you can be covered in case you will be needing the healthcare services.
The American system is considered the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Staying in the hospital for a night in the US may cost about $10000 and treatment for a broken arm or leg costs about $2500. it is however not difficult to avoid these costs. It is best for you to purchase the appropriate health insurance cover. It would, however, be considered a very thoughtful investment.
You could pick a health insurance plan that fits you best which overall is also affordable and covers your needs.
Where can you get an affordable health insurance plan for students?
There are private companies in the US that offer cheap health insurance coverage plans for international students in the United States. VisitorsCoverage is a good example.
Why do we advise to Purchase a Health Insurance plan through VisitorsCoverage?
- They are very well established in the healthcare insurance domain with over 10 years of experience.
- VisitorsCoverage is rated highly for their attention to details,hassle-free online experience and impeccable customer service with more than 2 million satisfied clients
- VisitorsCoverage is a company that is specialized in health insurance plans to international immigrants into the United States
- You are opened to full assistance from the dedicated customer service representatives of the company all week round
- You will be provided all the necessary information on choosing the plan that suits you best with the lowest possible cost.
M-1 Visa Processing Time
The M-1 visa processing time is much shorter other visas. Most of the processing of this type of visa is usually done before the interview. The interview is the last step, it is for the US embassy to asses whether they should give you an M-1 student visa or not.
In most of the cases, you will get the results of the interview immediately after the interview. After the interview is completed, the consul might congratulate you for getting the visa or will give you a document to let you know the reason for the denial.
You are expected to wait for a processing period of less than 4 weeks but there might be cases where the response and the M-1 visa processing takes a few more days, you are encouraged to be patient if that occurs.
M1 Visa Duration: How long can you stay in the US with an M-1 visa
The validity of your M-1 student visa depends on the length of your vocational or technical training program. sometimes you can be given a visa to cover the total period of your studies or for a lesser period of time. The validity is always the same as on your I-20 form. The I-20 has a validity period of 1 year. this implies you will need to get a new one every year.
In the case where your visa is unable to cover your training period, you will need to apply for a visa extension. ths can be done by either completing the form I-539 or apply to change or extend non-immigration status to USCIS and on your form I-20
However, visa extensions and visa renewals are only granted after you have shown proof that the reason for the renewal is to enable you to complete your study program and that you will return to your home county after completion. The M-1 visa The maximum number of times that the M-1 visa and the I-20 form can be extended is for 3years.
M1 visa to Green Card: Can you change your status to Another US visa or a Green Card?
It is very possible for the M-1 visa holder to change their status to another non-immigrant visa. There are however some challenges that you may face to change to an H-1B if you are able to get a job with the skills you acquired from your training program and you are not allowed to change your visa to an F visa.
Some persons may want to change to a Green Card from the M-1 visa. This is almost impossible because to have an employment-based Green Card you need to show proof of extraordinary abilities, have at least $500,000 to invest in the economy of the United States or you get married in the USA.
Can you work on an M-1 visa?
Even though you were granted a vocational training visa, you may be allowed to work but for a short period of time since your visa says you came for training and not work. It is possible for you to work part-time on campus during the school sessions and Full time during breaks or holidays. You are allowed to work for a maximum period of 6 months. To be permitted to work you are required to have your Employment Authorisation Document(EAD) or the M-1 visa work permit.
This can be done by completing the Form I-538, certification by the designated school to USCIS. The Form I-538 is to be signed by the Designed School Official (DSO). You are also to complete the Form I-765, application for employment authorization. All the work that will do after your EAD is accepted must be related to your field of study.
M2 Dependents Visa
The M2 visa is a visa granted to the relatives of the M-1 visa holder. So if the spouse or unmarried children under 21 years of the M-1 visa holder need to travel to the US with them then they will use the M2 visa. The M2 visa permits the relatives to accompany the M-1 visa holder to the Us for the duration of their study period. The M2 visa holders are to have personal I-20 forms, yet as soon as the M-1 visa expires, they are expected to return to their home country.
The M2 dependents can register for recreational courses but are not permitted to take up degree programs or work. Children can, however, be allowed to complete their elementary and middle school till the 12th grade.