Getting an International Student Visa: What You Should Know

By January 2, 2019Immigration Law Blog
getting an international student visa

Getting an international student visa is a necessary part of studying in the United States as a foreign national, but it can be a confusing process, particularly if English isn’t your native language. Fortunately, a well-versed immigration attorney can help you to determine what is the best process for you to obtain your student visa and guide you through step by step to ensure that you follow directions without any missteps.

Getting an International Student Visa

If you are a foreign national student looking to study in the United States, you must first obtain an international student visa. The best way to go about this is to hire an immigration attorney who has experience with this type of visa and who can oversee the process from within the United States.

Why You Need an International Student Visa

There are numerous reasons why you need to go about getting an international student visa when coming to study in the United States, these include:

  • Obtaining legal status within the U.S. while studying is necessary and making sure you get the right type of student visa ensures that you have access to all resources available to you as a student.
  • Securing and maintaining the appropriate financing for your student program.
  • Your college or school will require proof of your international student visa when you enroll.
  • If you plan on working in the U.S. as an international student, you must have the right type of international student visa to be able to work legally.

The Three Types of International Student Visa

There are three main categories of international student visa, when getting an international student visa to study in the U.S. it’s crucial that you apply for and obtain the right type of visa for your situation.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 visa is a student visa that is intended specifically for students who are undertaking academic studies. Eligible programs of study for the F-1 visa include academic programs and English as a Second Language programs. The F-1 student visa is the most common type of international student visa issued in the United States.

In order to gain and maintain an F-1 student visa in the U.S., a student must maintain full-time student status, meaning that they must take a minimum course load as required by the institution to be categorized as a full-time rather than a part-time student. This value varies from institution to institution, so you must contact the institution you will be studying with to determine the minimum hours required to be a full-time student there.

Students in the U.S. with an F-1 student visa are allowed to work part-time on-campus during their studies. A student is permitted to work less than 20 hours per week only.

Students with an F-1 student visa may also work on optional practical training for a maximum of 12 months after they have completed their academic program.

When you obtain an F-1 student visa, you will also be given an expiration date on your I-20 form. You are expected to complete your course of study by this date.

An example of an individual who should apply for an F-1 visa includes a Chinese student who has been offered the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree from Berkely University.

J-1 Student Visa

The J-1 student visa is designed for students seeking practical training that is needed to complete a field of academic study when this practical training is not available in their own country. Students studying in the U.S. under a J-1 student visa are permitted to seek employment under the same limitations as students under the F-1 student visa but only if they obtain permission from the exchange visitor program sponsor.

The J-1 student visa is also commonly used for students who are taking part in an exchange program.

Students who are studying in the U.S. under a J-1 visa may request an extension of their J-1 student visa if required and it is up to the U.S. sponsor officers to determine whether this extension will be granted and if their stay will be extended until the maximum allowable period allowed by law for their particular category of study or study program type.

An example of an individual who should apply for a J-1 student visa includes an Indian neurology student who is seeking training in a specific type of procedure that is only practiced in the United States at the time of their student visa application.

M-1 Student Visa

The M-1 student visa is designed for students taking part in non-academic studies or those seeking to study in vocational schools. Students who are in the U.S. on M-1 student visas are not allowed to work during their stay. Additionally, individuals seeking an M-1 visa must be able to provide evidence that they have funds immediately available to pay for their living costs and their tuition fees for the entire length of their stay in the United States.

To obtain an M-1 student visa, a student must have high English proficiency, have been accepted at a SEVP institution, be able to prove strong ties to their native country, and – of course – prove financial ability to support themselves for the entirety of their stay.

Students studying in the U.S. on an M-1 visa are allowed to get an associate degree while completing their vocational studies so long as they maintain their vocational studies as a full-time program. These students may not, however, continue their higher education to get their bachelor’s or another type of degree.

An example of an individual who should apply for an M-1 student visa includes a Canadian who is an aspiring pilot and seeking to attend flight school.

Need Help Getting an International Student Visa?

If you need help getting an international student visa to study in the United States, Nelson and Associates can help! Located in Pasadena, California, Nelson and Associates are led by attorney Franklin Nelson who has been advocating for the rights of immigrant groups in America since he first began practicing immigration law in 1994. To see how Nelson and Associates can help you with getting an international student visa, pick up the phone and give them a call at 626-683-3451 today!