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Student Visa Types

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018

The following types of visas are granted to students, who come to the United States to pursue a course of study, and their family members. Each visa has it own terms and restrictions. It is very important you comply with the terms of your visa.

Description INA ยง
F-1 Foreign students 101(a)(15)(F)(i)
F-2 Spouses and children of F-1 students 101(a)(15)(F)(i)
F-3 Canadian and Mexican commuter students 101(a)(15)(F)(i)
J-1 Exchange visitors 101(a)(15)(J)
J-2 Spouses and children of J-1 exchange visitors 101(a)(15)(J)
M-1 Vocational foreign students 101(a)(15)(M)(i)
M-2 Spouses and children of M-1 students 101(a)(15)(M)(i)
M-3 Canadian and Mexican commuter, vocational students 101(a)(15)(M)(i)

F-1 and F-3 are nonimmigrant visas for academic students, i.e., students who are coming to the United States to study at an accredited institution such as a college, a university, a seminary, a conservatory, an academic high school, or an elementary school.

Image of a world map with students from all over the world

M-1 and M-3 are nonimmigrant visas for vocational students, i.e., students who are coming to the United States to study in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training programs.

F-3 and M-3 visas are designed for Mexican and Canadian students who live in their home country and commute to the United States to attend school. The school must be SEVIS-accredited and within 75 miles of the U.S. border with the student's country of residence. F-3 and M-3 students may attend school as part-time students.  Spouses and children of F-3 and M-3 students may not accompany them to the United States under F-2 or M-2 visas.

J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, administered by the U.S. Department of State, for exchange visitors (such as researchers, professors, students, etc.) who are admitted into the United States to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills, or receive on-the-job training. The length of a J-1 status may range from a few weeks to several years. J-1 visa is not available to candidates for tenure track positions.

If you are coming to the United States to study in an academic program and earn an academic degree, you should apply for F-1 visa. While it may be possible for you to obtain a J-1 visa instead of an F-1 visa, you should know that some J-1 visa holders are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. That means they cannot change status in the United States and are required to return to their home country, for at least two years, before coming back to the United States. See Who Is Subject to J-1 Two-Year, Home-Country Residency Requirement.  Under some circumstances, you may be able to obtain a waiver of this requirement.

Related Topics:

Dos & Don'ts for International Students


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