Student Visas (F-1 & M-1 Visas)
A student wishing to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States requires a student (F-1) visa; those wishing to attend a vocational or non-academic institution require M-1 visas. Holders of visitor (B-2) visas and those who have entered the United States visa free under the Visa Waiver Program are prohibited from entering into full-time study. Contact the Fulbright Commission Educational Advisory Service for information about studying at colleges and universities in the United States.
Academic (F-1) Visa
A student wishing to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States, including primary and secondary schools, or a language training program requires an F-1 visa. Section 214(l) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), prohibits the issuance of F-1 visas to students who are going to the United States to attend public elementary schools (grades K through 8, approximately ages 5 to 14) and publicly funded adult education programs such as foreign language classes. Students applying for F-1 visas to attend public secondary schools (grades 9 through 12, approximately ages 14 to 18) are limited to a maximum of 12 months of public high school in F-1 status and must show proof that payment has been made for the full, unsubsidized cost of the education before a visa can be processed. Students attending private elementary and secondary schools are not affected by this ruling.
Nonacademic (M-1) Visa
A student wishing to pursue a course of study which is not principally academic in nature at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution such as a post secondary vocational or business school requires an M-1 visa.
Applying for the visa
You are required to obtain from the school or academic institution the Form I-20A-B Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - For Academic or Language Students or I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status Form. Schools and institutions which have received United States government appproval to enroll foreign students have the authority to issue these forms. The I-20A-B or I-20M-N is not valid for travel unless accompanied by a valid visa. Once you have this form, please review the following FIVE STEPS below before beginning your visa application.
Step 1: If you have ever been arrested and/or have a criminal conviction, have a medical ineligibility, or have been denied entry into or deported from the United States you will be required to furnish documents relating to your situation in support of your application. Please click on the relevant links for further information.
Step 2: Click on "How to Apply" on the left-hand Navigation bar for information on method of application.
Step 3: Pay the SEVIS fee
Step 4: Complete the online DS-160
Reminder: We always recommend that individuals apply for visas well in advance of their proposed date of travel. No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable ticket should not be made until a visa has been issued and you are in receipt of the passport.
Entry and Length of Stay
The holder of a student F-1 or M-1 visa may enter the United States up to 30 days before the designated registration date on the I-20A-B or I-20M. The 30 day limitation does not apply to students returning to resume studies; they may enter the U.S. at any time. The holder of an F-1 visa may remain in the United States for up to 60 days following the completion of the course or practical training. Note: The duration of status of an F-1 student in a publicly funded secondary school cannot exceed an aggregate of 12 months schooling.
The holder of an M-1 visa may remain in the United States for the period of time it will take to complete the course of study as indicated on the I-20M plus 30 days, or for one year, whichever is less.
If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for an adjustment of status or extension of stay from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services having jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States.
U.S.-UK Fulbright Commission: Information & Scholarships for U.S. Study
EducationUSA : Guide to U.S. Higher Education
Additional resources on study in the United States can be found at the following websites: http://www.edupass.org/ & http://www.iie.org/
Student Visa FAQs - (PDF 117Kb)
Spouses, Children, Partners
Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative F-2 or M- 2 visas. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
More information for partners and common-law spouses.
F-2/M-2 verses F-1
The spouse of an F-1 or M-1 visa holder may not engage in a full course of study on an F-2 or M-2 visa, but may engage in study that is merely avocational or recreational in nature. A child may attend school in grades K through 12 (ages approximately 5 - 18) on a derivative F-2 or M-2 visa. However, if they are qualified, they may apply for the F-1 visa. If you have school age children, you should refer to the regulations governing the issuance of F-1 visas.
Working on a F-2 or M-2 visa.
The spouse or child of a student visa holder may not work in the United States on a derivative F-2 or M-2 visa. If he or she is seeking employment, the appropriate work visa is required.