FAQ - Immigration

What is the Difference Between F and M Student Visas?

F student visas are reserved for international students who wish to attend an academic institution to pursue a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a doctorate or a professional degree. They also may be able to attend accredited junior and community colleges that offer associate degrees in liberal arts. Lastly, F visas may be obtained by international students seeking to attend language training programs or by students wishing to enroll in seminaries and conservatories.

M student visas are reserved for students seeking to apply to vocational or technical programs, typically at a junior or community college or a trade school. Some examples of these types of programs include: dental or physician assistants, optometry, massage therapy, interior design, graphic design, culinary arts, aviation, construction and criminal justice.

All international students wishing to enroll in a US educational program must meet the following requirements:

  • The student must be enrolled in a full-time program
  • The program must be approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • The student must be proficient in English, or enrolling in a program to gain the necessary proficiency
  • The student must have a passport issued by his or her home country that will be valid for a period of six months after the end of their intended period of study in the US

Students also must be able to show they have sufficient funding to pay for their education. Those applying for F visas need only to be able to provide evidence that they have actual funding to cover the first year of study. However, those applying for M visas must be able to provide evidence of actual funding to cover expenses for the entire course of study, which may be 1-3 years. Expenses include not only the cost of the academic or vocational program, but the costs of living as well, including housing, food and transportation.

Applicants for F and M student visas will have to provide evidence of this funding during their in-person interview with an officer at the US embassy or consulate in their home countries. Those who travel to the US with one of these student visas will have to provide this evidence for inspection again to an official at the US port of entry prior to be allowed to enter the country.

Students with F visas may remain in the United States for the entire time that they remain full-time students with current enrollment. Students with M visas are only permitted to remain in the US for one year initially, with the option of applying for an extension of status up to three years. Once the program is completed, the student must return to his or her home country. Generally, students with F visas have 60 days to depart the US while students with M visas are provided 30 days to depart. Failing to leave the US by the departure date will result in a student being out of status. Aliens out of status may be subject to fines, removal proceedings and other penalties.

To learn more about applying for a student visa or for more information about other immigration legal issues, speak with an experienced immigration lawyer in your area.

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