How long can an M-1 alien student remain in the United States?

Similar to the F-1 Visa/Status, a foreign national who obtains M-1 status is allowed to remain in the United States for the duration of status, which is the time it takes to complete the studies, in addition to any authorized practical training.  Furthermore, duration of status is defined as the time during which an M-1 student is pursuing a full course of study at an approved community/junior college, vocational, or other non-academic institution, or engaging in authorized practical training following the completion of studies.

Generally, an M-1 student is admitted into the U.S. for the fixed period of time that is necessary to complete the course of study, which is indicated on the student’s Form I-20, plus an additional 30 days to depart the United States, but not to exceed a total period of one year. The U.S. Consulate abroad may issue the M-1 visa 120 days in advance of the start date of the course of study; however, an M-1 student may only be admitted for a period up to 30 days before the start date of the course of study listed on the Form I-20.  

Furthermore, after the completion of the full-course of study, the alien may participate in employment for Practical Training. If the student is approved for practical training, he/she will be granted one month of employment of authorization for each four months of full-time study that the M-1 student has completed; however, the maximum amount of time that the student may participate is 6 months in aggregate.

Grace Period

Moreover, students who reside in the United States while on an M-1 Visa are provided a 30-day grace period that begins immediately after their course of study and any authorized practical training has been completed. The grace period is the time through which the foreign student may make preparations to leave the United States to return to their home country or to apply for a transfer to another institution, or a change of status to another non-immigrant status.

May an M-1 alien student apply for an Extension of Stay?

Although M-1 students are admitted into the United States for a specific period of time, typically not to exceed one year, an M-1 holder may be eligible to apply for an extension of their stay in the U.S. An M-1 student may be granted an extension for a cumulative period of up to 3 years from the original start date on the initial SEVIS I-20 Form, plus the 30-day grace period. It should also be noted that an M-1 student may be denied an extension if he/she cannot complete the course of study within 3 years of the start date on the original I-20; moreover, this limit also includes extensions that have been granted due to a reduction in course load, transferring schools, or reinstatement.

In order for an M-1 student to be granted an extension of stay, the student must establish that: (1) he/she is a bona fide non-immigrant who is currently maintaining student status; (2) compelling educational or medical reasons have resulted in a delay to his or her course of study; and (3) he/she is able and intends to continue to maintain status for the period for which the extension is granted. It should also be noted that delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for a student to receive a program extension.

If the student is able to meet the criteria listed above, he/she may then complete and submit Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant Status, with the appropriate USCIS service center that governs the alien’s particular area (specific filing locations can be found on Form I-539). The application should be filed at least 15, but not more than 60 days, before the current program’s end date and should be accompanied by the student’s Form I-20 and I-94 (and those of any dependents the student may have).

If the student applies for an extension of stay after the program end-date printed on the Form I-20, then the USCIS may not grant an extension to the student; therefore, it is pivotal that the student be mindful of the time periods allowed for the extension of stay application.  Those students who are unable to complete the course of study within the time listed on Form I-20, and who are ineligible for a program extension, are considered out-of-status. If eligible, the student may apply for a Reinstatement of Status.


Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: 8 CFR § 214.2(m)(5) and (10)

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