Student Visas


Foreign students are an economic asset to private education and introduce a welcome diversity to the lives of fellow students. A student is a temporary non-immigrant and is issued one of three types of visas for the purpose of coming to the United States to pursue a course of study. Students pursuing academic degrees generally have F-1 visas. Those enrolled in vocational institutions have M-1 visas. There are also special exchange visitor programs available which involve study. These students receive J-1 visas. Spouses and children of F-1, M-1 and J-1 students may be eligible for F-2, M-2 or J-2 visas and entry for the same period of time.

Often there is a two year home resident requirement imposed on anyone who has been in the U.S. on a J-1 visa. This means that absent a waiver at the end of the exchange visitor program, the J-1 student must return to his or her home country for at least two years. Eligibility for the waiver is a very complex issue in the law.

To obtain a student visa, you must first be accepted by an accredited institution, obtain an I-20AB from the institution and document your financial ability to attend school without employment. There is a relatively complex set of rules which apply only to students and these rules must be closely adhered to in order to maintain your status. Usually your foreign student advisor at school can provide assistance.

Admissions to the United States as an F-1 student will generally be for the period during which you are pursuing a full course of study in any education al program and any periods of authorized practical training, plus 60 days within which to depart the United States.

Your foreign student advisor has the authority to approve periods of practical training. Most students are eligible for a period of 12 months of post-graduate practical training.

An M-1 student will be admitted to the U.S. for the period of time necessary to complete the course of study plus 30 days to depart the U.S. or for one year, whichever is less. Change of schools or education objectives, employment and practical training are more restrictive for M-1 students.

Readmission to the U.S. requires a valid visa. If your visa has expired or you do not have a student visa in your passport, you must apply at the U.S. Consulate prior to returning to the U.S. There is an exception if you are returning to the U.S. after an absence of less than 30 days from a contiguous territory and you possess a valid passport and visa.

Remember, this is very general information and should not be used to plan your case. Please seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in this area of law.