THE M-1 VISA FOR NON-ACADEMIC OR VOCATIONAL STUDENTS
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The U.S. issued just under 10,000 M-1 visas in 2017. It allows qualified, full-time students to complete a program at a vocational or other recognized non-academic institution (other than a language training program). Full time means twelve credit hours a semester, at a more traditional-style school (community or junior college), or twenty-two clock hours of practical instruction/work. The program has to be pre-approved by the U.S. government (there is an exhaustive list online). You must show that you can support yourself financially, whether that is with your own assets, or with financial help from your parents or a group/organization. You cannot work while on an M-1 visa, so this is important. The visa is valid for up to one year, with extensions for up to three years. You can further extend your status, for up to six months for practical paid experience (you need at least four months in the program, for every month of authorized work). So technically you could stay in the U.S. for three and half years on an M-1 visa.
What are the initial steps?
First, you must apply and be accepted to a school or program. The immigration process cannot start until you have an offer of acceptance, that you have accepted (congrats!). Then, the institution will issue you an I-20. This form will contain all the information the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) will need to keep track of your visa, throughout your time in the U.S. This information includes biographical information about you (name, birthdate, citizenship, etc.), program details (start and end dates, program name), and how the student (you!) will pay for tuition and living expenses for either the year; or the end date (whichever comes first).
Next, it depends on where you currently live! If you are already in the U.S. and are transitioning to another status, you will possibly need to fill out an I-539. However, it may even be possible to become a student without filling out any additional forms! You should click here (for more information on student visas generally), and click here (for more information on changing or extending your status). However most M visas are issued to people who are currently living abroad. If you are outside of the U.S., you apply at your local embassy, interview (within 120 days of your start date), and then enter the United States. You can enter no earlier than thirty days before your program starts, and you can only stay up to thirty days after your program ends (after your program ends plus any optional training).
Maintaining your status is critical. Once you receive your visa, there are a few conditions in order to keep your visa, but they should be manageable.
- Have a full course load: At a community or junior college this would mean at least twelve credit hours per semester. At a more hands-on program (where most of your hours are spent in a shop or a lab), you need at least twenty-two clock hours per week. Sometimes you can get permission from your institution for a reduced course load, but only for an illness or a medical condition.
- Have an accurate SEVIS record: If you realize your graduation date will be later than listed on your I-20, or if you need a medical extension, then you have to update that in the SEVIS system.
Can your family come? Your spouse and children can! They will get an M-2 visa, which is linked to your visa. If you get an extension, so do they; if you go out of status, so do they. M-2 spouses cannot work or enroll in an academic course load, but they can attend recreational or vocational classes. M-2 minor children can go to school K-12 (either public or vocational).
Optional Practical Training, what is it? It is a way for you to get paid, practical experience (in the subject matter you studied), for a limited amount of time after you graduate. You are eligible for one month of authorization for every four months you were studying in your program, up to six additional months. For example if your program was exactly one year, or twelve months, you would be allowed three months of authorization for paid work.
M-3 Visa for Commuter Students: If you are a Mexican or Canadian student who has been accepted to attend a non-academic or vocational school in the U.S., this visa might be better than an M-1 depending on where your school is. The idea behind this visa is to allow students who live close to the border, to commute to school in the United States. There are additional limitations, you cannot live in the U.S. at any time on this visa, and you cannot apply for status for family members. However it is an easier visa to obtain, since you do not need to prove financial support (because you will not be living in the U.S.), and you can even attend school part-time on the M-3.
If you want to learn new practical skills for a career or profession in the U.S., then an M visa might be the best way! Please contact us to help make your process quick and smooth.
Can I leave the country and return on a student visa?
Yes! You should make sure you have all your documents with you (passport and I-20 at least). You will also need a travel endorsement signature. That is a signature from the International Student Affairs staff at your school on the second page of your original I-20 or DS-2019. The signature proves that you are maintaining your status, and this will be checked by an immigration official when you re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad.
Will I and my dependents have to be interviewed?
What if my English needs some improvement?
Can I drive in the U.S.?
Is there a limit on how many people can get a student visa per year?
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Your Attorney Compiles your Case, you Sign, and your Attorney Submits. Your attorney prepares all necessary USCIS forms and any supporting materials in their power. If there is supporting documentation that only you as the client have access to (ex: former employer letters), they will tell you exactly what you need to do and provide you with samples, so you can get the correct documentation. Once everything is ready, your attorney will compile your case into a professional legal petition, with a cover letter and a table of contents that will please USCIS and/or the other immigration authorities. They will check everything again, and send it to you to print and sign, via our secure online system. You will print and sign your completed case, and mail it to us in the envelope we provide. Your attorney will verify that you signed in the correct places, and they will send it off to the correct USCIS Dropbox, processing center, or other authority. It is possible that USCIS or other immigration authorities may request additional documentation/clarification regarding your petition. Your attorney will handle any such requests, communicating with you as required. Please visit our How our Legal Services Work page.*
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She was perfect! It was such a luck to have Julia Greenberg referred to me by my acquaintance. She is the most caring and helpful attorney I have ever worked with. She is very professional and knowledgeable in the immigration law, and she gave me great advice! I appreciate most that she is always available by phone or returns missed calls shortly – this is something that many attorneys in NYC do not do or have their assistants do who never give the correct answer. I approached Julia to help me prepare for my citizenship interview since I had, frankly speaking, not an easy case, and she did the best job I could expect. I could not imagine how my interview would have gone without her; her support was significant! If I ever have a question about any immigration matter I would definitely ask Julia for help again. Awesome
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Julia is very professional, competent and knows how to get the best deal for her clients. What we appreciated about her service was that she always answered our calls or got back to us in a very short amount of time. We had a very stressful issue with the officer but Julia was able resolve it and have our case successfully processed the same day. We could have not done it without her. She is a smart lawyer and a great negotiator with a wonderful personality. Hire Julia Greenberg if you want to get a real result!
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