F and M Visas
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is for academic studies, and the "M" visa is for nonacademic or vocational studies. In order to qualify for a student visa, an alien must meet the following requirements:
To apply for a student visa for academic or language study, an alien must have been accepted for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in an academic institution approved by the Attorney General. The student must present to the consular officer a Form I-20A-B, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students," properly completed and signed by the alien and the designated school official. To apply for a student visa for vocational studies, an alien must have been accepted for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in a nonacademic institution approved by the Attorney General. The student must present a form I-20M-N, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status -For vocational Students," properly completed and signed by the alien and the designated school official. All applicants must also submit a completed Non-immigrant Visa Application Form DS-160.
The F-1 student visa applicant must present documentary evidence that sufficient funds are, or will be available from a specifically identified and reliable financial source to defray all living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study in the United States. Specifically, the applicant must present credible documentary evidence that he or she has enough readily available funds for each subsequent year of study. The M-1 student visa applicant must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.
The student visa applicant must have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment at the level of study contemplated. The student, unless coming to participate exclusively in an English language training program, must either be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school must have made special arrangements for English language courses, or teaching the course in the student’s native language.
Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States upon termination of their student status.
A spouse or child of a student may also be classified for a nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the principal applicant. Family members must meet all visa eligibility requirements, including evidence that they will have sufficient funds for their support, and that they will depart the United States upon termination of the student program.
An F-1 student may not accept off-campus employment at any time during the first year of study. Under certain circumstances, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may grant permission to accept off-campus employment after one year. F-1 students may accept on-campus employment from the school without Immigration Service permission, even during the first year. Except for temporary employment for practical training, an M-1 student may not accept employment. Spouses and children of students may not accept employment at any time.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects a Congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs of administering the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the database that allows SEVP to track international students (F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3 visas), exchange visitors (J-1 visas)and their dependents during their entry to, stay in, and exit from the United States. In general, the fee will only be paid once, but in some cases the fee will be paid again. For example, persons who later participate in a different program will pay another fee for their new program. Certain exchange visitor programs sponsored by the U.S. Government are exempt from the fee.
The SEVIS fee applies to all students and exchange visitors with Forms I-20 or DS-2019. It may be paid by mail, on line or at Western Union Bank. It is extremely important to read the instructions on how to pay the SEVIS fee before completing the related I-901 form. Detailed information about the SEVIS program, the fee, the I-901 form, and methods of payment is available on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/
The SEVIS fee must be paid prior to visa issuance. A student or exchange visitor visa may not be issued without proof that the SEVIS fee has been paid. Three business days are required for the information to be recorded in the SEVIS file, available to the consular officer, which indicates if the fee has been paid. For this reason, students and exchange visitors are strongly advised to pay the fees at least three days prior to the visa interview. Paper SEVIS fee receipts only will not be accepted as proof of payment.
WHEN DO I NEED TO APPLY?
Applicants should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or reporting date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.
TO PROCESS YOUR STUDENT VISA YOU MUST PRESENT THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTATION:
- BNL receipt of payment of the non-refundable Machine Readable Visa application fee.
- The completed visa application form DS-160.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each individual desiring a visa must make a separate application;
- One passport size photo for each visa applicant, including infants (see the "Photo Requirements" webpage).
- For an F-1 Visa:
Original FORM I-20A-B, "Certificate of Eligibility of Non-immigrant
(F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students", issued by the
school in the U.S.A.
For an M-1 Visa: Original FORM I-20M-N, "Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students", issued by the school in the U.S.A.
Note: You must present all of the pages of the I-20 form, signed with the name and date in the appropriate spaces.
- The SEVIS receipt.
documentation that demonstrates the economic means to finance the
entire course of study and stay in the U.S.A. Examples of such
1) Letter from bank attesting that the person has the economic means to finance the amount indicated on the I-20 Form.
2) A bank statement declaring that the person has at least the amount indicated on the I-20 Form.
3) A customs declaration from the sponsoring organization.