What do I need for an M-1 visa?

The M-1 Visa Is for vocational students, and it includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.

The criteria for the M-1 visa category is as follows:

•You must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
•Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
•You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
•You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
•You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
•You must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.

Can I work with my M-1 visa?

You may work in the United States only after you have completed your studies.

For M-1 students, any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS. 

Optional Practical Training

M-1 students are eligible for a relatively short amount of Optional Practical Training: one month for every four months of study (as laid out in Title 8, Code of Federal Regulations). While an F-1 student can simply file an I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, an M-1 student must also file an I-539 to extend status. The applications are adjudicated at various USCIS service centers around the country, which sometimes have varying interpretations of the regulations. An application for OPT should include:

  • cover letter explaining the student's situation
  • Form I-765
  • $380 filing fee made out to Department of Homeland Security
  • signed I-20 with OPT request (copies are not accepted)
  • copy of visa and passport photo page
  • 2 passport photos
  • copy of original I-20 and original financial documents
  • current bank statement
  • Form I-539
  • $290 filing fee made out to Department of Homeland Security
  • copy of I-94 card, front and back

It is also advisable to include a copy of each application, since the I-765 and I-539 will be adjudicated separately at the service center. The result of an approved I-765 will be an OPT card (also known as an employment authorization document). The result of an approved I-539 will be a new I-94 departure card, which the student surrenders upon leaving the United States, to prove that he has left. A student may begin paid work upon receiving the OPT card (and applying for a social security number) even if the I-94 card has not arrived.

If USCIS requires more information for either application, they will send a request for evidence. Occasionally these requests are for items that were sent in originally; nevertheless, it is best to send them in again immediately. Approvals or denials will arrive separately and after different amounts of time.