Whether you want to come to the United States to study or get job training, you will need to have a student visa before you enter the country. Applying for a visa can be confusing and time-consuming, so it is important to learn about your options early.

The U.S. government offers two types of student visas: F-1 and M-1. If you want to enroll in an American university, you should apply for an F-1 visa. If you want to pursue training at a vocational school or attend a community college, you should apply for an M-1 visa.

Understanding the difference between F-1 and M-1 visas

An F-1 visa allows nonimmigrants to enroll for full-time study at an accredited college, university, seminary or another academic school. Students with F-1 visas may also choose to enroll in a language training program. When searching for a place to study, make sure that the institution has government authorization to allow international students. You should also keep in mind that, to qualify for an F-1 visa, your course of study should result in a diploma, degree or certificate.

An M-1 visa allows international students to attend a recognized vocational school or another non-academic place of study. Examples of vocational jobs that an M-1 student may train for include hair stylist, electrician, truck driver or chef. A student with this type of visa may also pursue an associate degree at a community college or business school.

Student visa qualifications

To qualify for either an F-1 or M-1 visa, you must meet several basic qualifications. First, the program you choose must have the approval of the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, and you must be a full-time student. Additionally, you will need to show that you speak English proficiently or that you have enrolled in an English mastery course. Finally, you will need to prove that you will be able to support yourself financially while in the U.S. and that you will be able to return to a home in your own country once you have finished your studies.