The M-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by a United States Consulate abroad to an alien who plans to come to the United States to pursue full-time studies at a U.S. educational school or institution. Foreign students who wish to obtain an M-1 visa must plan to pursue a full-course of study at an approved community/junior college, vocational, or other nonacademic institution. Furthermore, M-1 visa recipients are typically admitted into the United States for the specific duration of the time required to complete the course of study plus a 30-day grace period, or for one year, whichever period is shorter.
M-1 Status is a non-immigrant status issued by the USCIS to the alien student who is pursuing studies in the United States. To obtain M-1 status, an alien who is outside of the United States needs to first apply for an M-1 visa at a U.S. consulate office abroad. On the day that the alien student is admitted into the United States on an approved M-1 visa, he/she becomes an M-1 status holder. For those who are already in the United States on another non-immigrant status (such as B-1/B-2, H-1, etc.), they may apply for a change to M-1 status while in the U.S. or outside of the U.S. through Third Country Visa processing. (For those who are subject to the J-1 two-year foreign residency requirement, the only option for a change of status is through Third Country Visa Processing).
The spouse and/or unmarried, minor children of M-1 holders are eligible to come to the United States on an M-2 Visa, if they are able to demonstrate that the M-1 student has been admitted and is, or will be within 30 days, enrolled in a full-course of study, or engaged in approved practical training following completion of studies. M-2 Visa holders are considered the dependents of M-1 students; furthermore, M-2 holders must be issued an individual SEVIS Form I-20 and may remain in the U.S. as long as the principle M-1 student maintains valid status.
Canadian and Mexican Commuter Students
In addition to the M-1 and M-2 visas, there is also a visa subcategory that applies to commuter students who wish to study in the U.S. The M-3 visa is designated to Canadian and Mexican citizens who wish to come to the United States to study at a community/junior college, vocational, or other non-academic institution that is located within 75 miles of a U.S. land border, as long as they do not reside in the U.S. The student must maintain an actual residence and place of abode in his/her country of nationality, and seek admission into the United States at a land border port-of-entry. (Special note: these rules do not apply to a national of Canada or Mexico who is: (1) residing in the United States as an M-1 student who is attending an approved school, or (B) enrolled in a full course of study as defined here)
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: 8 CFR §§ 214.2(m)(3), (5), and (19)
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