The M-1 visa is almost like a little brother to the main F-1 Student visa that allows a foreign student to study in the US in a technical or vocational capacity like with foreign language, hospitality, flight training, trades, etc. This is different to the F-1 visa which is mostly used for University education and even the J-1 visa which is used for Internships and High School Exchange programs.
The M-1 Visa has a lot of restrictions in that you can’t transfer to either the F-1 visa or the H-1B for workers within the US and while it has an Occupational Practical Training (OPT) program, it is far more restrictive than the one for F-1 visa students. The M-1 visa is for a maximum of one year although it can be renewed and they have a 30 day grace period for leaving following any approved OPT period.
The OPT period for M-1 Visa holders allows them to work/train for 1 month for every four months of study completed up to a maximum of 6 months with an employer. No other work can be done on or off campus while under M-1 visa status. To be eligible for the M-1 visa they need a signed I-20 form by usually the International Student Officer at the educational institution which they would present at the US Consulate during their interview. This means that during the US Consulate interview, proof of the student’s assets and ability to support themselves must be shown as part of the visa approval process.
To file for OPT within the US, the following is needed as well as the appropriate fees;
- Cover letter explaining the student’s situation
- Form I-765
- $380 filing fee made out to Department of Homeland Security
- Copy of visa and passport photo page
- 2 passport photos
- Copy of original I-20 and original financial documents
- Current bank statement
- Form I-539 (to do change of status)
- Signed I-20 with OPT request (copies not permitted)
- $290 filing fee made out to Department of Homeland Security
- Copy of I-94 card, front and back
The M-1 visa often faces extra scrutiny as it has a known history of their students overstaying in the US, used by foreigners from countries that the US view as high risk and because of the flight training aspect is viewed as a security risk. However it is a good visa for a lot of people to experience life in the US temporarily without the onerous restrictive criteria.