Can I work during my stay?

Yes, but only under specific conditions. The work must be part of a practical training program, and it must occur after the completion of your course load. You can work no more than 6 months, and prior to working, you must apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

If you obtain work, you will be asked to complete Form I-9 (officially titled “Employment Eligibility Verification”). You will need to provide the EAD information in section 2 of that form.

Note: M-2 dependents are not permitted to work on this visa.

Can I enroll in school if I’m in the United States on another nonimmigrant visa?

That depends on the visa. B-1/B-2 visa holders, for instance, are not permitted to enroll in school. But E visa holders are permitted, as long as they continue to satisfy the requirements of the existing visa. If you have a nonimmigrant status preventing you from enrolling, you will first have to change your status to M-1. Failure to do so would likely result in a violation, which means you would not be permitted to extend your stay or change status to M-1.

Is there any way to enter the United States more than 30 days prior to my start date?

Strictly speaking, you are not allowed to enter the country on an M-1 visa any more than 30 days prior to your start date. That being said, you may apply for a B visa in order to enter the country earlier. Once in the United States, you will then need to apply for a change of status to the M-1 student visa, which, it should be noted, could result in longer processing times. No matter what, you will not be able to start your program until you are granted the M-1 status. Alternatively, you could return to your country of residence and come back to the United States using your M-1 student visa.


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M-1 Requirements

In order to apply for an M-1 visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:

- You must be enrolled, as a full-time student, in a vocational or other non-academic program
- You must have a high level of proficiency in English, or alternatively, you must be enrolled in English-language classes
- You must be financially self-sufficient for the duration of your stay
- You must have a residence outside the United States
Your program must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP)

Note that, in order to apply for the M-1 visa, you must first be enrolled in a vocational (or other non-academic) program. Once accepted into a program, you may then proceed to the application process.

M-1 Student Vocational Visa

The M visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies. M-1 visa holders are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.

Application Process
Going to the US

Going to the US

When entering the United States, you will need to have your M-1 visa, passport, and Form I-20. Remember, having a visa does not necessarily mean you will be granted entry into the country. Ultimately, this decision lies with the U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agent. If allowed to enter, the agent will either stamp your passport or give you a Form I-94 (otherwise known as an Arrival/Departure Record).


Next, depending on the embassy, you may need to pay a $160 application fee prior to your interview. You should also be sure to gather the relevant supporting evidence, such as showing you’ll be able to pay costs related to your education, travel, and living and demonstrating your intent to leave the US once the program ends

Important: You will only need to pay issuance fees if your visa is approved (and if they’re required in the country where you’re applying).

At the interview, the consular officer will ask questions to determine whether you qualify for the M-1 student visa, as per the eligibility requirements. During the interview, the officer may take digital fingerprints (though this doesn’t occur at every embassy). If your visa is approved, you may have to pay an issuance fee, depending on where you’re located.

In some cases, more administrative processing may be required. If this is the case, the officer will tell you. You may also need to make plans to have your items returned to you.

M-1 Timeline

Appointment wait times will vary depending on the country you’re applying from. If you’re in London, you might expect to wait 14 days, but in Tokyo, you may only have to wait 3 days. 

Note: The M-1 visa can only be issued up to 120 days ahead of the start date for a course of study. You will only be able to enter the United States within 30 days of this start date.

M-1 Application Process

Once you’ve successfully enrolled in an SEVP-approved program, your information will be entered into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), at which point you’ll need to pay the SEVIS fee. 

After you’ve registered with SEVIS, you can expect to receive Form I-20 from the institution, which you’ll need to bring to your visa interview. You can then apply for an M-1 visa at your local U.S. Embassy or consulate.

First, you need to fill out the application form and print out the confirmation page when you’re done, as you’ll need this at your interview.

Unless you are under 13 or over 80, you will need to schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or consulate in your country of residence. While you are technically permitted to apply in another country, this could result in a much longer application process.

M-1 Cost

To apply for the M-1 student visa, you’ll need to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee of $330 and an application fee of $160. Based on the country you’re applying from, you may also need to pay an issuance fee (or "reciprocity" fee) upon visa approval.