Overview: M-1 Visas for Foreign Students Engaging in Nonacademic or Vocational Studies

The M-1 visa classification is designed for the benefit of foreign national students who are coming to the United States for a temporary period to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies. Vocational studies are often referred to as job training programs, and include programs such as those for dental hygienists, beauticians, and machinists. Other nonacademic programs may include those such as flight schools.

Requirements for M-1

There are three basic requirements for admission as an M-1 student, which must all be met.

  1. One must be coming to the U.S. for a temporary period with the intent to return to the home country.
  2. One must be admitted to a full-time vocational or nonacademic course of study with an endorsed I-20 form from a SEVIS-certified school.
  3. One must show that the student has the financial resources to fund the cost of the program and living expenses in the U.S.

Family Members of M-1 Visa Holders

A spouse and child (unmarried and under the age of 21) of an M-1 visa holder can accompany the M-1 student to the U.S. in M-2 status. M-2 dependents generally are not authorized to work.

Admission Period

M-1 students may arrive in the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start of their program. Unlike F-1 students, M-1 students and their dependents are admitted for a fixed period of time. This is generally the time period necessary to complete the coursework, and, if applicable, any practical training following the completion of the program.

M-1 students and their dependents initially are admitted for one year at a time. If the M-1 student cannot complete the coursework in that one year, the M-1 student may apply for an extension of status. An M-1 student must complete the coursework and any practical training within three years. M-1 students and their dependents must depart the U.S. within thirty days after the program ends.

Limited Employment for M-1 Students

Once an M-1 student’s program is completed, the individual may be granted employment authorization for practical training for a maximum of six months. Generally, no employment authorization may be granted prior to this.

Limitation on Change of Status by M-1s

An M-1 student cannot apply in the U.S. to change to F-1 or H1B status. Rather, s/he typically would need to depart the U.S. after the program and apply for consular processing from abroad to reenter the U.S. in another status.


The M-1 program remains a useful option for foreign nationals interested in learning skills in the U.S. in a non-traditional academic setting. Those interested in finding a SEVIS-certified M-1 program may search the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Study in the States website.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.