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The United States is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the world and every year the United States attracts talented individuals from across the world looking to achieve higher education. Visas for students include F-1 for academic students, M-1 for vocational students, and J-1 for exchange students. See below for a breakdown of the differences.



The F-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing a student to temporarily live in the United States for a defined period of time while studying at a school, college, seminary, or conservatory. The academic institution in which you have been accepted and plan on attending must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP). Basically, it needs to be accredited to be able to accept foreign students on F-1 visas.

The good news is that you will be able to work, but because this is a nonimmigrant visa, so, there will be restrictions on where you can work and the type of work. Lastly, your spouse and children can come with you, however, they will not be permitted to work, but your children can enroll in schools. Your children and spouse will be on F-2 visas and linked to your visa status.

The requirements for an F-1 visa are the following:

  • Apply and be accepted into a course of study at a SEVP-approved school in the United States. These can include high schools, seminaries, private elementary schools, conservatories, or a language program.
  • Be enrolled as a full-time student
  • Be proficient in English or enrolled at an institution learning English to become proficient
  • Proof of enough funds to support your education
  • Demonstrate ties to your home country to show an intent to return
  • Living outside the United States when applying



The M-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing a foreign student to study full-time at a technical, vocational, or other nonacademic program in the United States. In order to apply for an M-1 visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled, as a full-time student, in a vocational or other non-academic program
  • You must have a high level of proficiency in English, or enrolled in English-language classes
  • Proof of financial self-sufficiency for the duration of your stay
  • Proof you have a residence outside the United States
  • Your program must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program



The J-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing nonimmigrants to travel to the United States as part of an officially approved exchange program in the arts, education, or sciences. Beneficiaries of a J-1 typically include professors, researchers, students, teachers, au pairs, or specialists of various kinds. J-1 students must be accepted in a program that has been approved by the United States Department of State.

J-1 visa classification incorporates a number of different categories of visitors, so, the specific requirements may differ. However, all programs do require the following:

  • Ability to demonstrate that one has a residence in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning
  • A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (Form DS-2019) obtained from the program sponsor
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English