M (Non-Academic) Students
The laws governing M-1 students are similar to those for F-1 students. On this page, only the differences between F and M student visas are discussed.
Under INA 101(a)(15)(M) a student is defined as:
an alien having a residence in a foreign country that he has no intention of abandoning who seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution (other than in a language training program) in the United States particularly designated by him and approved by the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of Education, which institution shall have agreed to report to the Attorney General the termination of attendance of each nonimmigrant nonacademic student and if any such institution fails to make reports promptly the approval shall be withdrawn, and (ii) the alien spouse and minor children of any alien described in clause (i) if accompanying or following to join such an alien, and (iii) an alien who is a national of Canada or Mexico, who maintains actual residence and place of abode in the country of nationality, who is described in clause (i) except that the alien’s course of study may be full or part-time, and who commutes to the United States institution or place of study from Canada or Mexico.
To admit M-1 students, schools must obtain authorization to issue Forms I-20 to prospective students and must comply with similar reporting requirements to prevent the loss of authorization. Pursuant to 8 CFR 214.3(k), the following schools may accept M-1 students:
a community or junior college that provides vocational or technical training and that awards recognized associate degrees;
a vocational high school; or
a school that provides vocational or non-academic training other than language training.
Application for M-1 Status and Period of Stay
To obtain an M-1 visa, the student must be admitted into an authorized school and the DSO must have issued an I-20 in the United States. Compared to those with F-1 visas, M-1 students are granted “date certain” for the period of study, which is set on Form I-20 MN plus thirty days or one year whichever is less pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(m)(5).
Changing, Maintaining, Extending, and Reinstating Status. Transferring to a School
The M-1 student must be enrolled in a full course of study, namely take twelve credit hours if education is pursued at a community or junior college. For post secondary, vocational students, this generally requires eighteen hours of classroom instruction per week or, if education involves laboratory instruction at least twenty per week. At vocational schools, full-time enrollment requires a minimum number of hours required towards graduation. An extension of stay may be granted if the student failed to complete the course of study due to exceptional circumstances. The maximum time for extension is three years plus thirty days. To apply for an extension of M-1 status, the student and his dependents may apply on Form I-539 accompanied by an endorsement from the DSO on I-20 and his I-94 Arrival/Departure form. Changing schools is not permitted unless it is caused by circumstances beyond the student’s control. Change of status from M-1 to F-1 is also not allowed. Likewise, an M-1 visa holder cannot change status to that of an H-1B employment visa if his credentials for this visa are based on those gained as an M-1 student. The reinstatement procedure for an M-1 student is similar to that for an F-1 visa holder.
M-1 students may only engage in practical training after completion of their studies. An M-1 student must apply on Form I-765 together with I-20 endorsed by his DSO. In addition, the DSO’s certification that, to the best of his knowledge, comparable employment is not available in the student’s home country. The applicant must also demonstrate that training will be completed within the time allowed. M-1 students may only receive one month of training for every four months of schooling. The total training period shall not exceed six months under 8 CFR 214.(m)(14)(iii). M-1’s employment authorization may be suspended if DOL certifies that there is a strike or other labor dispute in progress in the occupational field in which the M-1 intends to work as stated in 8 CFR 214.(m)(14)(v).
An M-1 student’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may receive M-2 visas once an I-20MN is obtained from the school into which the M-1 holder has matriculated. An M-2 visa holder may remain in the United States for the duration of the M-1’s stay and engage in any lawful activity other than employment or full-time, post-secondary studies pursuant to 8 CFR 214.2(m)(17). As with F-2 dependents, a violation of the principal M-1’s status also results in that of the dependent M-2’s.