What Visas Do I Need to Study in the United States?

International Student University Programs

If you have considered studying abroad in the U.S., the first step you must take is to apply for a U.S. student visa. But before you can even apply for an education visa, you must first apply and be accepted by a U.S. institution of higher education that is certified by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP). Once you have applied and been accepted by an SEVP-certified school of your choice, then you may apply for a student visa. The U.S. government offers three different types of non-immigrant student visas.

F Visa

The F student visa is for international students who wish to study at an accredited U.S. college or university, or to study English at a university or English language institute. There are three types of F visas:

  • F-1: A visa for full-time students
  • F-2: A visa for dependents of F-1 visa holders, spouse or children under 21 years old, including same-sex couples
  • F-3: A visa for students that commute across the Mexican or Canadian border to attend school part-time or full-time in the U.S., but maintain residence in their country of origin

The F-1 college visa allows students to work on-campus for 20 hours a week or less. Students who wish can request permission for off-campus employment, or more work hours, through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training may also be requested.

M Visa

Another type of visa for international students is the M visa. The M visa is for students who wish to study non-academic or vocational training or education at a U.S. institution. There are three types of M visas:

  • M-1: A visa for students studying non-academic or vocational subjects
  • M-2: A visa for dependents of M-1 visa holders, similar to F-2 visa holders
  • M-3: A visa for students who commute across the borders of Mexico and Canada, similar to those with F-3 visas, but with the purpose of studying non-academic or vocational subjects

M-1 students are allowed in the U.S. only for the duration of their program training plus any Optional Practical Training. M-1 students cannot be employed while studying in the U.S. and may not change their status to F-1.

J Visa

The last type of international student visa is the J visa. When considering a university visa application, the J visa is good for students if they wish to participate in a cultural exchange program, although it applies to high school and university. All applicants for this type of visa must be sponsored by a private sector or government program and meet eligibility requirements. J visa holders usually stay for one or two semesters. There are two types of J visas:

  • J-1: A visa for exchange students in an exchange program
  • J-2: A visa for dependents of J-1 visa holders (similar to F-2 and M-2 visas)

J-1 students are required to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after they complete their educational training if they are part of a government-funded exchange program.

Stratford University has a dedicated International Student Office to provide help and support to international students in all of their academic needs. We provide assistance with visa applications, Certificate of Eligibility, travel advice, issuing authorization and recommendations for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. Earning your degree has never been more attainable than now with Stratford offering day, evening and weekend classes; online classes; and programs starting at different times throughout the year.

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