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STUDENT VISAS (F & M)
This visa is required for full time course of study at an educational institution approved by the Government. The institution must be approved and registered under the new SEVIS system and comply with on going reporting requirements. F-1 visas are available for private secondary schools, but not public schools unless for a period up to 12 months and the full cost of tuition is reimbursed. It is also not available for publicly funded adult education programs, except for community or junior college, which charge full tuition.
Non-immigrant intent is critical. Student must show they have no intention of abandoning foreign residence.
For undergraduate college students, this generally means 12 semester/quarter hours provided other students paying full tuition are also considered full time.
Generally must apply at an overseas consulate after receiving I-20 school approval. Change of status from other non-immigrant visa possible, but becoming more difficult. A proposed rule would eliminate change of status in many cases.
F-1 students who violate status must apply to the BCIS for reinstatement. New rules limit the ability of students to reinstate status and require schools to notify SEVIS of status violations.
Generally no work authorization is granted during first academic year, except for on campus or exceptional hardship.
This is permitted after first year, provided there is some educational affiliation with the school, such as a bookstore. During the school year, F-1 students may generally only work 20 hours.
It must be related to a course of study and employment must be for purpose of practical training.
This is generally for undergraduate, masters, or doctorate students and is only available after completion of course work.
This is available for a maximum of 12 months, generally after completions of course work. An application for OPT must be made 90 days prior to completion of study course and 30 days after.
Students must get EAD (employment authorization document) and notation on I-20 form. New rules allow OPT for additional periods after obtaining new level of education.
Students are admitted for duration of status (D/S). There is a 60 day grace period for determination of course or OPT. Change of status to a nonimmigrant classification is permitted provided student has maintained status.
Extension of stay may be permitted, but new rules limit discretion of school and the Government if student has fallen out of status, for example for dropping credits below a full course load.
The spouse and minor children accompanying an F-1 student are eligible for admission in F-2 status if the student is admitted in F-1 status. The spouse and minor children following-to-join an F-1 student are eligible for admission to the United States in F-2 status if they are able to demonstrate that the F-1 student has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies.
Requirements for M visa are similar to F-1 requirements, but at the vocational or community college level.
M students are admitted for a specific time to complete course plus 30 days. Stricter limits on changing school and on change of status to H-1B visa if M studies were used to gain eligibility for H status.