The M-1 Visa: Enter the U.S. as a Vocational or Non-Academic Student

Posted by Ife Ashabo|Global Immigration
Dec 13


The M-1 non-immigrant category permits students to enter the U.S. to participate in a technical or vocational study program.  A vocational/technical school is one where students are taught skills and practical knowledge needed to perform a specific type of job as opposed to academic or theoretical knowledge.


  • To enter the U.S. as an M-1 student, you must meet the following requirements:
  • You must be admitted and enrolled in a full-time course of study in a qualified institution, such as a community college, vocational school, or business school that grants associate degrees
  • You must be entering the U.S. to learn a particular trade and/or skill, which means you may not participate in a general studies program
  • You must be able to demonstrate that you have the financial capacity to cover your schooling expenses, residence, and cost of living while in the U.S.

What are the Limitations of an M-1 Student Visa?

The M-1 visa has numerous limitations compared to its F-1 counterpart, which include the following:

  • You may not transfer from one school to another without authorization from the USCIS
  • You are not permitted to change your course of study
  • You are not permitted to work legally off-campus without authorization from the USCIS
  • You may not transfer over to F-1 status

As an M-1 student, you are also prohibited from working while in the United States, but you may participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) upon completion of your studies. However, unlike with F-1 status where you may work for 12 – 29 months under OPT, as an M-1 student you may only work one month for every four months of schooling you completed while on your M-1, and for no more than 6 months in total.

Length of Stay

M-1 students are admitted into the United States for a fixed time period rather than the duration of their status.  Thus, unlike with F-1 status, M-1 students are given a set date of departure.

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