Students: Maintaining Status And Work Options


F-1 Students in An Academic or Language Training Program


F-1 is a visa category for students who plan to pursue degree-granting academic studies in universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories, language programs and certain exam preparation review classes approved by the DHS’ School and Exchange Visitor Program (see SEVP certified schools). The student must apply for admission to an educational institution and granted the student status by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the US consular office abroad before being allowed to enroll in classes offered by the educational institution that issued the admission form I-20.

What are the requirements for a student visa? The student must demonstrate the ability to pay the tuition fee and support themselves during their stay as in the U.S.

Are students allowed to work? Students have very limited opportunities for legal employment. The F-1 student’s dependents on F-2 status are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools.

I do not plan to attend a formal academic program; do I still need an F-1 student visa? A foreign national who plans to take a short course of study, that entails a course with less than 18 hours per week, may enter on a visitor’s (B) visa. If the course of study is 18 hours or more a week, it will be necessary to secure a student visa. When traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences or a program of study for academic credit, a student visa will be required.

How long can I stay in the US on this visa? All students will be admitted a maximum of 30 days before program start date. If changing status s/he will be given duration of status for period needed to complete one educational program including progression to higher levels if accomplished in accordance with DHS transfer procedures (thus no extension of stay needed).

How do I maintain my student visa? The foreign student must study only at an institution that issued the I-20 and particularly designated by the foreign student in the application for student visa. Such institution must be approved by and in compliance with rules of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that administers the SEVIS program. SEVIS is an acronym for the student, exchange and exchange visitor information system. Maintaining student status also entails having sufficient financial support, possessing sufficient academic credentials to attend a particular institution, maintaining a full course of study and having the intention to depart the US.

M-1 Vocational or Nonacademic Students

The M-1 visa is given to students who wish to attend technical or vocational institutions, other than a language training program. The student must apply for Form I-20 issued by a designated school official after fulfilling the school’s admission requirements and submission of proof of financial ability to pay for the schooling.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? All students are allowed to stay in the United States until the completion of their training program including any optional practical training and a thirty-day grace period not exceeding one year. In some instances, extension of the program may be allowed while completing a program.
Are students allowed to work? M-1 students are prohibited from any form of compensated employment while completing a program and are not allowed to change their status to F-1.

J-1 Exchange Visitors and Waiver Program

J-1 is an exchange visitor visa granted to individuals participating in a broad spectrum of fields. It can be availed of by professor or research scholar, bona fide trainee or intern, college or university student, teacher, secondary school student, nonacademic specialist, foreign physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, au pair or summer student in a travel/work program. Applicants are required to maintain foreign residence.

How do I qualify for the visa? All applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet specific requirements. This includes the following:

    • Intention to return to the home country after completion of the exchange program.
    • Fluency in English
    • Evidence of funds to cover expenses in the U.S. including sufficient medical insurance for accident and illness
    • Evidence of social and economic ties to compel return abroad at the end of the exchange program.

How long can I stay in the US on this visa?

  • Post-Secondary student – time needed to complete the degree with additional 18 months of practical (academic) training.
  • Post-Doctoral Degree – time needed to complete the degree plus up to 36 months academic training, graduated for a period of 18 months at a time.
  • Business/industrial trainees – 18 months except for trainees of hospitality and tourism or agriculture, who are granted 12 months (some exceptions apply).
  • Internships – 12 months maximum
  • Professors and Scholars – limit of 5 years except if the applicant received a J-1 visa for 6 to 12 months prior to the start of the program. Applicants cannot participate in another professor/scholar program in two years at the end of 5-year program. However, a five-year maximum extension is granted to professor/scholar involved in research projects sponsored by Federally Funded National Research, and Development Center or US Federal Laboratory.
  • Short-term Scholars – 6 months
  • Flight School Trainees – 24 months
  • Summer Work/Travel – 4 months

Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa? Depending on the program attended, certain J-1 visa holders are required to return to their home country or last country of residence upon completion of their training in the U.S. before they are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa or change to H or L visa. In certain instances, J visa holders must apply for a waiver of their two-year foreign residence requirement before they are allowed to change to status in the U.S.

J-1 for Foreign Medical Graduates

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J-1 Waiver for Physicians

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No Objection Statement

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Waiver Based on Hardship

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Waiver Based on Fear of Persecution

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Visa Options for Physicians

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Q Cultural Exchange Participants and Irish Nationals

The Q-1 is a nonimmigrant visa granted to participants in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of practical training, employment, and the sharing of history and culture of other countries. Participants usually receive the same wages and working conditions as U.S. workers and participants are required to maintain their residence in their country.

How do I qualify for the visa? Participants must be at least 18 years old when the petition is filed, qualified to perform the work offered, and has the ability communicate the cultural attributes of their home country.

How long is the visa valid for? The participant can stay in the U.S for up to15 months and may be granted an extension for another 15 months. However, readmission under the same status is prohibited until physically outside the US for a year.

Q-1 Cultural Exchange Participants

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Q-2 Irish Nationals

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H-3 Trainees

H-3 visas are given to foreign nationals invited to the United States by an American organization or company for the purpose of receiving instruction and training. The trainee has no productive role unless it is incidental or necessary for the training and is pursuing a career outside the U.S.

How do I qualify for this visa? The applicant must have a foreign residence to return to and the proposed training should not be available in applicant’s home country. The training acquired will benefit the trainee’s career outside the U.S.

How long can I stay in the US on this visa? H-3 visa holders are allowed to stay for the duration of their training program (up to 2 years). To qualify for readmission, trainee should be present outside the U.S. for six (6) months. If the training is seasonal, alternating, or 6 months or less, this rule does not apply. Lastly, trainees in Special Education Exchange Program are eligible for extension of visa up to 18 months. There is a limit of 50 visas per year in this category.

Students: Maintaining Status and Work Options for Students and J-1 Exchange Visitors

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Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 and M-1 Students

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