If you’re a citizen of a foreign country who plans to visit the United States usually you must have a valid visa. However, foreign citizens are not allowed to study for credit in the United States after entering on a visitor visa or under the Visa Waiver Program(nonimmigrant visas). If you plan to enter the United States to study for credit and for purposes that are not recreational, there are special visas that you need to apply for as a student. The visa you will need from the varying options of visas in this service category will depend on your particular circumstances, the purpose of your entrance to the United States, and the academic activities that you will be engaging in, once you are in the country.
Here, I will present a brief overview of the US visa options for Students. But if there is a visa or an objective that you are seeking to obtain, and you don't see it listed here, by all means contact me for a free legal consultation and I will most likely be able to handle and deliver your request.
The F1 visa is for students who will study a degree program: either an associate or a bachelor's degree, an academic program: master’s degree, postgraduate, diploma, or certificate, or a full time language program in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service approved school, university or college. In general, if If you’re planning to enter the United States to attend: University, College, High School, Private elementary school, a Seminary, or a Conservatory, this is the Visa that you will need to apply for.
The time that this visa will be valid for is conditioned by the I-20 issued by the institution you plan on attending. However, with this visa, as a student you can request as many extensions as you wish to change the type of program and/ or the educational institution you attend.
The M-1 visa is for students who will be entering the United States upon enrollment in a vocational or non-academic program (other than a language training), which are colloquially known as technical or mechanical studies. Some courses considered under this category are: Dance, Cooking, Music, Photography, Art, Design, Flight courses, and Cosmetology courses, amongst others.
The M-1 visa is valid for only one year, with a possibility of extension of a maximum of three years. Students who request to change the educational programs can generally only do so within the first six months.
If you’re planning to go to the United States for an academic or cultural exchange program, or to participate as a: Teacher, Researcher, Au pair, amongst others, then, the appropriate type of visa for you may be the J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.
This type of visa is granted only once in your life, and allows for you to practice for a maximum of 6 months for each study program.
The Q-1 visas are granted for individuals who are participants in an international cultural exchange program. A person with a Q-1 visa can enter the United States for practical training and employment where they’re sharing the history, culture and traditions of their home country through the participation in an international cultural exchange program. The Q non-immigrant exchange program is designed to provide practical training, employment, and to share culture, history and traditions of your home country with the U.S.
The Q-1 visa grants the permission to live and stay in the United States for a period of up to 15 months. After completion of the Q cultural exchange program, Q visa holders are required to spend 1 year outside the United States before can apply for participation in an Q cultural exchange program again.
The time that it takes to apply for a student visa varies with individuals and their circumstances. Of course, the visa category that you apply for will also influence on the processing time, as each visa requires and follows a different procedure. However, as a general idea, the entire process of application for a student visa can take as short as 1 week or may extend to a few months for more complex cases.