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 The M-1 "Vocational School Student" Visa

This visa is for students who have been accepted for full-time study at an established vocational or other recognized non-academic institution. In order to apply for an M-1 visa, you must have:

A valid passport issued to you by your home-country government
Form I-20 M-N (original copy. not a facsimile). "Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant M-1 Student Status." issued by the institution at which you plan to enroll. Read this document carefully and write in the required information;
Two 5 cm x 5 cm photographs of yourself signed by you in ink on the reverse side;
Evidence (in English) of financial support. Any one of the following may be acceptable: actual requirements depend on consular practice in your country:

1. A certificate, issued by an officer of your own bank, explicitly stating the amount of money available to support you during your stay in the United States.
2. If someone other than you will be paying your expenses a certificate issued by a bank officer of this guarantor's financial ability.
3. A statement from a sponsoring organization institution or person outlining the terms of sponsorship. If the sponsor is a person an affidavit of support or a certificate issued by an officer of the sponsor's bank indicating the sponsor's financial ability and intention to support you. If the sponsor is the U.S. educational institution that you will be attending this information will be included on the Form I-20.

Form I-20 M-N "Certificate of Eligibility"

When a U.S. vocational or other recognized non-academic: institution accepts a foreign student it sends to the student Form I-20 M-N "Certificate of Eligibility" as proof of acceptance. The student then takes the Form I-20 M-N along with the other required documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate in his home country.

There, the student will apply for an M-1 non-immigrant visa. The student can also use the Form I-20 M-N to change to M-1 from another non-immigrant visa status or to transfer to a new institution if he is already in the United States.

Form I-20 ID Copy

If you are admitted to the United States in M-1 status or change to M-1 status while in the country pages 3-4 of the Form 1-20 M-N will be returned to you as the Form I-20 ID Copy by a U.S. immigration officer at your port of entry. All matters pertaining to your M-1 nonimmigrant status will be recorded on this document. You should retain this document at all times. You should not surrender it, even when you temporarily leave the country.

Your Form I-20 ID Copy shows your name, country, date and place of entry into the United States, M-1 non-immigrant status and the institution you are authorized to attend.

The identifying number on your I-20 ID Copy is the same number as the one on your Form I-94 "Arrival-Departure Record", which is also issued when you enter the United States. No one else will ever receive this ID number, which is also called an "Admission Number." 

The immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will create a computer record file for you using this number. The INS will then record all immigration actions (extensions of stay school transfers, etc.) in this file during your stay in the United States. This ID number must be used whenever you correspond with the INS. Your school will also use this number as part of their record-keeping requirements.

Protect your 1-20 1D Copy. You are required to have it with you at all times. Even after you leave the United States, if you ever want to return in M-1 visa status, you will need the I-20 ID Copy number and record that you were assigned on your first visit.

Maintaining M-1 Visa Status

While you are in the United States, in order to maintain M-1 visa status you must:

Attend the vocational institution, which issued your Form I-20 M-N. You may not attend a different institution without written permission From the INS.

Engage in a full course of study leading to attainment of a specific educational or vocational objective. According to INS regulations, a full course of study varies by the type of institution attended. The following definitions apply: 

Study of at least 12 semester or quarter hours of instruction per academic term at a community college or junior college or in a vocational or business school, which offers a recognized associate degree or coursework, accepted for transfer by academic institutions.

Study of at least I 8 "clock" hours a week or a non-academic vocational or technical school if the course consists primarily of classroom instruction or 22 "clock" hours a week if the course consists primarily of shop or laboratory work (not including a language-training program).

You must always keep your passport valid six months into the future.
You must not transfer to another school without the prior approval of the INS. 

Transferring to Another School

You may not transfer to another school during the first six months you are in the United States in M-1 status, unless you cannot remain at the school to which you were first admitted for reasons beyond your control. 

Otherwise as an M-I student you may apply to the INS for permission to transfer if you have been a full-time student and plan to enroll full-time in a new vocational school. You must also show that you can pay for your studies in the new school.

An application for transfer is made to the INS office with jurisdiction over the school that the M-I student was last authorized to attend. The application form (Form I-538) must be accompanied by a Form I-20 M-N from the new school and the student's I-20 ID copy. 

Application should be made as early as possible, preferable 60 days in advance of the opening day of classes at the new school. Any student planning to transfer should consult with the Foreign Student Adviser as early as possible since this process is complex.

Change of Educational Objective or Visa Status

If you enter the United States with an M-1 visa you cannot change visa status to any other visa type, including the F-1 student visa. You also cannot change your educational objective. For example, if you begin your studies seeking a certificate in welding, you will not be permitted to change at a later date to an associate degree program in data processing.

Extension of Stay: Form I-538

With an M-I visa, when you enter the United States you will be granted permission to remain for the period indicated on your I-20 M-N or one year whichever is less, as long as you remain in status. If your program is expected to take more than one year to complete, you will have to apply to the INS for an extension of stay by filing Form I-538 through the International Student Services Office. 

Remember that your passport must be valid at least six months into the future and you must allow time for the processing of your application. It is wise to apply for an extension of stay 60 days before your current authorized period of stay expires.

Returning to the United States After a Temporary Visit Outside the Country 

In order to return to the United States after a temporary visit outside the country, M-1 visa holders need Form I-20 M-N (either a complete document or a signed page 4 is acceptable issued by the authorized official at the institution in which you are enrolled and the Form I-20 ID copy.

The F-1 (Academic Student) Visa

The J-1 (Exchange Visitor) Visa

The F-2, J-2, and M-2 Visa

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