Student Visas

Goel & Anderson helps qualified students pursue their education in the United States on a nonimmigrant basis. There are two types of visas designed for student visitors:

The F-1 visa is designed for individuals planning to attend an academic institution that awards diplomas, bachelors, masters, doctorate or professional degrees, such as a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school or language training program.

The M-1 visa used by students who will receive vocational training, for example at a community college or junior college that provides vocational or technical training and awards associate degrees; a vocational high school; a trade school or a school of nonacademic training other than language training.

An interagency program called the Student Exchange and Visitors Program (SEVP) facilitates the process used by foreign students to apply to study in the U.S. Whether academic or vocational, in order to be recognized and approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and SEVP, the school must be either operated as a public educational institution by federal, state, or local government or be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

To receive an F-1 or M-1 visa, or remain in status, an alien student must also meet these requirements:

  • Enroll as a full-time student
  • Be proficient in English or be taking English-language courses
  • Have sufficient funds available to support themselves completely during their entire proposed course of study
  • Maintain a residence abroad that he/she has no intention abandoning in favor of remaining in the United States after the course of study is concluded.

Before applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa, the applicant must determine if the school of choice accepts foreign students and obtain a formal acceptance. He/she must present the form I-20 sent by the institution to the nearest U.S. consulate, at which point proof must be presented that the applicant has the requisite financial resources to live and study in the United States.

The F-1 visa is good for the length of full-time study plus 60 days to prepare to leave the country. The M-1 visa is good for up to one year, plus 30 days to prepare to leave the country. Spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany the student visa holder using a F-2 or M-2 visa. Visa holders can leave the country temporarily for short periods of time and return as long as they remain full-time students and present their Form I-20 when they wish to re-enter the United States.

Student visa holders can change schools within the first six months of entering the U.S., and may transfer within 60 days of filing an application, but will have to leave the country, as will their family, and reapply if the application is ultimately denied. The same rules for transferring apply as for the original student visa, the applicant must intend to be a full-time student at an accredited institution.

Practical Training and Employment

F-1 students may not work off-campus during their first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment, subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are three programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year:

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT);
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion);
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT).

M-1 students may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies, although they can work part-time at an on-campus job during their program of study. Practical training for an M-1 student can be granted for up to six months, based on a formula of being eligible for one month of practical training for every four months of study. For both F-1 and M-1 students, any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS prior to starting any work.