Student Visa Lawyer
A student visa is a specific type of nonimmigrant visa designated for citizens of other countries who wish to pursue an education or course of study in the United States.
The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant student is being accepted for enrollment in an established school which is Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified . Our student visa attorneys will be able to tell you if your school is certified. In general, for academic students, including those in language training, F visas are the appropriate category, and for nonacademic vocational students, an M visa is the appropriate category.
If you are going to the United States primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study which is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor visa. If your course of study is 18 hours or more a week, you will need a student visa. When traveling to the United States to attend seminars or conferences for credit towards a degree, then you will need a student visa.
Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so. Working with a student visa lawyer will help eliminate mistakes in your petition, helping to ensure your petition is accepted. Students should note that embassies and consulates can issue your student visa 120 days or less in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the embassy or consulate will hold your application until it can issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing. Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the United States at any time before their classes start.
The Immigration and National Act is very specific with regard to the requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Speaking with a student visa lawyer will help to make sure you meet student visa requirements including:
- Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
- Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
- Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study.
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger and 80 and older generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides three categories of student visas:
- F Visa – a student visa for nonimmigrants wishing to enroll in academic institutions or language training programs
- F-1 Visas are granted by academic institutions to those wishing to pursue their studies in the United States
- F-2 Visas are granted to dependents of F-1 student visa holders. Nonimmigrants with an F-2 Visa status are not allowed obtain compensated employment in the United States; however, minor children with F-2 status are allowed to attend public school.
- F-3 Visas are granted to “border commuters” living in Mexico or Canada and commuting to the United States for study.
An applicant for a United States student visa must come to the United States to pursue an academic program in an institution recognized by the United States government. The foreign citizen must have a valid educational purpose for coming to the United States and be a full-time student. Our student visa attorneys will check to make sure your school is recognized and that you are taking enough credits to be considered a full-time student. It is not possible to be a part-time student on an F-1 Visa. The student can stay in the United States for as long as he/she is enrolled in school. The F-1 student visa is normally issued at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the student’s home country.
Foreign students may enter the United States multiple times if they hold a valid F-1 Student Visa. The passport must also be valid for a certain amount of time in order to be granted entry. F-1 Visa holders can also travel freely within the within the United States.
- Students may work on campus as long as they are enrolled in school. Students may apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to gain work experience in their field of study while being a full time student.M Visa – a student visa for nonimmigrants wishing to enroll in vocational or technical study programs in the United StatesM-1 Visas are granted to those pursuing a vocational course of study and are valid for one year or for as long as the holder is enrolled full-time in the course of study. The M1 visa is suitable for foreign students wishing to attend a full vocational or non-academic course, other than language training, at colleges, universities, or conservatories in the United States. A student visa lawyer will help you determine if you should apply for a F-1 visa or M-1 visa.M-1 visa holders can apply for change or adjust status to other categories of U.S. temporary visas, but they cannot change to H-1B visa or F1 visa status if the employment offered is based on knowledge gained through studies while in M-1 status. The M-1 visa holders can travel in and out of the country (on short trips and return) or remain in the country continuously until the completion of their study program; transfer from one college to another by notifying the alteration to the USCIS; work lawfully on-campus on a part-time basis; work lawfully off-campus on a project study that’s related to their area of study; and apply for a visa, commonly known as M-2 visas, for family members accompanying them to the United States.
- M-2 Visas are granted to dependents of M-1 student visa holders. Those with M-2 Visas may enroll in elementary or secondary school or may study in vocational programs. They may not, however, seek admission to a university or accept gainful employment. These dependent visa holders can stay in the United States as long as the principal visa holder remains in legal status.
- J Visa enables applicants to enter the United States to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program. It may also be an option for trainees, students, professors, or research scholars, physicians, and summer students in travel/work programs.
- The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant exchange visitor is to be accepted to an established exchange visitor program that is Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified. Visit the Exchange Visitor Program, administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to learn more about program requirements, regulations, and much more. At the conclusion of their program, Exchange Visitor program participants are expected to return to their home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the United States.
- Traditional college and university students are typically on F1 visas, not J1 visas, though research scholars and visiting professors may be J1. The period of stay differs according to the different categories – most work and travel programs are three to four months, and most trainee/internship programs are up to 18 months. Spouses of J-1 applicants may be employed, provided employment is not for the support of the J-1 and the spouse is not a J-1 visa holder themselves. Employment may be authorized for the duration of the J-1 validity or 4 years, whichever is shorter.
- J-1 Visas are granted to those sponsored by a designated public or private entity who are striving to complete the objectives of one of the following Exchange Visitor Program categories: Au pair, Camp Counselor, College/University Student, Secondary Student, Government Visitor, International Visitor (for U.S. Department of State use only), Alien Physician, Professor, Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, Specialist, Summer Work/Travel, Teacher, Trainee. J-2 Visas are granted to dependents of J-1 exchange program visa holders. Those with J-2 Visas may request work authorization from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and may enroll in academic institutions. If their course of study is not completed by the time the J-1 Visa holder’s status expires, a J-2 visitor may apply for an F-1 student visa.
Please contact our experienced student visa lawyers for assistance with your student or exchange visitor visa.
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