M-1 Visa – Vocational Student or Other Non-academic Student

The M visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign students to pursue a full course of study at a vocational school or other recognized non-academic institution. This visa category authorizes foreign students to engage in practical training or study related to a specific trade, occupation, or skill that is not primarily academic in nature. These could include vocational programs, technical schools, and other non-academic institutions that offer training in fields such as healthcare, industrial technology, aviation*, mechanical, legal services, cooking, cosmetics, plumbing, welding and more.

* M-1 visa students who wish to be trained on an aircraft with a takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or more may have to get security clearance from the US Attorney General. Flight school trainers must provide the US Attorney General with the identification of any M-1 Visa Student who wishes to do so.

Students from Canada or Mexico national commuter students who wish to attend vocational or other nonacademic programs in the U.S. must use M-3 visa category.

An M-1 and M-3 Vocational / Nonacademic Visa student may not change his or her educational objective after entering the in the respective category. The students are usually required to be enrolled in a full-time vocational program. However, the specific requirements and definitions of “full-time” can vary based on the institution and program.

The duration of stay for M visa holders is generally limited to the length of stay defined as the period necessary to complete the course of study indicated on Form I-20, including any practical training following completion of the course of study. An additional 30 days is allotted for the M-1 student to depart. The student’s stay may not exceed a total period of one year. Also, if he/she fails to maintain a full course of study or otherwise fails to maintain status is not eligible for the additional 30-day period of stay.

Students in this category may extend their stay. The cumulative time of extensions that can be granted is limited to a period of 3 years and 30 days.

M-1 students may not accept employment, except for temporary practical training after completion of the student’s course of study. The OPT allows them to work in a related field.

M visa holders can travel outside of the United States and re-enter as long as they have a valid visa and I-20.

Family of M-1 Student:

Dependents of M visa holders (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21) can accompany them to the U.S. on M-2 visas.

M-2 visa holders are not allowed to engage in full-time academic studies while in the U.S. and may not accept employment.

The M-2 spouse may not engage in full time study. However, the M-2 children may only engage in full time study in an elementary or secondary school.

M-2 spouses and children can only obtain an extension of status if the M-1 student obtains an extension.

Period of Stay/Extension of Stay:

Initial Period of Stay: Typically issued for the duration of the student’s program of study

Extension of Stay: Students in this category may extend their stay. The cumulative time of extensions that can be granted is limited to a period of 3 years and 30 days.

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