F and M Student Visas

There are two nonimmigrant student categories which allow you to attend full-time academic or vocational schools in the U.S.  The F-1 category is for academic students and the M-1 category is for vocational students.  There is another category, the J-1 Exchange Visitor, which includes student exchange visitors.

Steps for F-1 or M-1 visa

To start:

  1. Apply to a school in the U.S. which is Student and Exchange Visitor (SEVP)-certified.
  2. Once accepted to an SEVP-certified school, the school will give you a document called a Form I-20.  The Form I-20 is a paper record of your  information in a database called SEVIS. Each school that accepts you will  mail you a Form I-20.  Before you apply  for your visa, you must select one school’s Form I-20.
  3. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee – this is required for all F and M students as well as J exchange visitors.

If outside the U.S.:

  1. Complete the online Form DS-160 to apply for the nonimmigrant visa.
  2. Schedule an appointment with a U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live.
  3. Gather the required documents for the interview.  The website of each embassy or consulate will list the specific documents required.
  4. Attend the visa interview.  The consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive the visa.
  5. Once approved for visa, obtain F-1 or M-1 visa stamp in your passport
  6. Enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the official program start date.

If inside the U.S. on another status:

  1.  File Form I-539 along with required documents to apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1 category.

Note: M-1 category is not allowed to change status to F-1.

Family Members

Spouse and unmarried, minor children may accompany the F-1 or M-1 student by applying for the F-2 or M-2 nonimmigrant visa.