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M Visa

Student Visa and Employment

If you would like to study as a full-time student in the United States, you will need a student visa. There are two nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. These visas are commonly known as the F and M visas.

You may enter in the F-1 or M-1 visa category provided you meet the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program
  • Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
  • You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution
  • You must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency
  • You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study
  • You must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

M-1 Student Visa

The M-1 visa (Vocational Student) category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.


F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment, after the first academic year. F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment, after they have been studying for one academic year. These three types of employment are:

  • 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. 

For both F-1 and M-1 students any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.

Special Instructions

If you are a B-1 or B-2 Visitor who wants to enroll in school, please click here "Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors<</a>" .

Please visit Rajiv's Blog<</a> and Podcasts and Video<</a> section for more information.

Can You Do Business in USA on your current Visa?

Can You Do Business In the USA on Your Current Visa?

Hello, everyone.  This is Rajiv S. Khanna for the Law Offices of Rajiv S. Khanna, P.C, immigration.com

You can post comments and questions on immigration.com.  I usually respond within three or four days, sometimes a week.  I’m going to answer one of the questions someone asked us on immigration.com. 

Can I start a business on an H-1 visa?

The bottom line is yes, as long as you are in a situation where, even though you are working for your own company, somebody in the company can file.  It must be a true employer/employee relationship.  How does that work?  What if you have a board of directors or if you have a CEO to whom you report, even though you are a stockholder or maybe even you even have majority of stock in the company, but somebody in the company can file, you’re okay.  USCIS has indicated that is their present stance.  You must have an employer/employee relationship if you want to be able to start your own business on H-1.

In addition to that, remember H-1 is for a specific employer.  So if you want to have a concurrent employment with your own company or you want to change companies and go over full time to your own company, you can do that, but you have to process a H-1, either a concurrent H-1 or a successive H-1.  One of the things you need to remember is, if you own majority stock in the company, or if you have influence over the management of the company, it will be very difficult if not impossible for you to do a Green Card through PERM through your own company.

Where does that leave us?  There’s a whole history behind this H-1.  I won’t go through the history.  USCIS has gone up and down.  “You can do it.”  “You cannot do it.”  There is a whole history behind this.  But the bottom line today is, you can do it, but it definitely requires some in-depth consulting with a lawyer.  Make sure you are not getting into a situation which is going to hurt your stance.

Here is another question I get asked. 

I have an EAD through 485.  Can I now start my business?

Sure.  On the side, you can, as long as you don’t leave your current job.  But, remember, you will then no longer be on H-1.  You will be on EAD if you start working for your own company.

I actually have a whole list of visas.

Can I do business on E-2?

Yes, of course.  E-2 visas, which are treaty investor visas, are meant to do business.  E-1, treaty trader, the same thing.  But only a few countries in the world have a treaty with the United States to do E-1/E-2 visas, so you have to make sure that the country you come from has that.

If I’m here on a tourist visa or a B-1, which is called a business visa, can I do business?

The answer is, you can negotiate contracts, you can shake hands, and you can even set up a company, but, if you actively participate in business, you are violating the terms of B visa.  B-1, which is the business visa, is a misnomer.  You start thinking, I have business visa; maybe I can start a business.  But you can’t do it on B-1.

Can I start a business on F-1 visa?

Of course not.  You are a student.

What if I am on my optional practical training and I have my F-1 EAD? 

Maybe, but only for the time you have the EAD.  Again, that is something to be explored.  Don’t just jump into it.  Make sure you understand the ramifications of what you’re doing.

What about on a G visa?

On G-4, of course, the primary applicant of G-4 is engaged in working for a multinational organization such as the World Bank or the IMF.  They cannot do business, but what about their dependents?  I haven’t looked into it specifically.  I suspect that they can, because they do get an EAD and that EAD is not confined to a specific purpose, but I would have to check on that.  I’m just speaking off the top of my head.  I was primarily answering the H-1 question, but I want to share with you what I know.  So, G-4, probably yes. 

H-4?  Absolutely not. 

H-1?  As long as you can be fired. 

I visa?  No. 

J-2 visa?  Yes, as long as you have an EAD.  

K visa?  K visas are all work authorized, so, yes, you can do business. 

L-1?  No, because you’re working for a company.   

L-2?  Yes, because you get an EAD. 

M Visa?  No.

I went through the whole gamut, just to give you a rough idea; more so, to sensitize you to who can and who cannot do business.

Thank you for listening.

Changes to Visa Validity for Iranian Student Applicants in F, J, and M Visa Categories

Media Note Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC
May 20, 2011


[Also available in Persian<</a>]


As of May 20, 2011, qualified Iranian applicants for visas in the F, J, and M categories for non-sensitive, non-technical fields of study and research and their dependents will be eligible to receive two-year, multiple-entry visas. This is an increase in the current visa validity of three months, single entry.

This change will allow Iranian students and exchange visitors to travel more easily, furthering our goal of promoting the free flow of information and ideas. This important decision is being taken as the global community witnesses the Iranian Government’s increasing censorship and isolation of its own people.

Iranians currently in the United States on a three-month, single-entry visa in one of these categories must reapply outside the United States at a consular post in order to obtain two-year, multiple-entry visas. Keep in mind that the validity of a visa refers to the time period the visa holder has to enter the U.S. It has no bearing on the length of stay permitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials at the port of entry. Iranian students and exchange visitors in good standing in the United States do not need to apply for a new visa until after they depart the United States.



Memo from DOS on J, F, M Visas - 2009 February

 Reference Document: STATE 017314, Date 2/09


Updated List of SEVP Approved Schools

ICE updated its list of Student and Exchange Visitor Program approved schools.

M Visa Law

8 CFR Sec. 214.2(m) Students in established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than in language training programs

(1) Admission of student
(i) Eligibility for admission . A nonimmigrant student may be admitted into the United States in nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15)(M) of the Act, if: (Paragraph (m)(1)(i) revised effective 1/1/03; 67 FR 76256 )  

Student Visa Overview

Student Visa Overview

The U.S. provides several nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States.

B Visa—Visitation for Short Course of Study

If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so with a visitor visa (B Visa), which is easier to obtain than a student visa.  You should inquire at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  However, if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa.

For more information about the B Visa for temporary visitation, click here.

There are four main types of student visas:

F Visa—Academic Studies

The F-1 Visa is for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs and enrolled in a school in the U.S.  F-2 Visas are available for family members of F-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on F Visa on the left.

M Visa—Vocational Studies

The M-1 Visa is for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.  M-2 Visas are for family members of M-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on M Visa on the left.

H-3 Visa—Training and Special Education Exchange

The H-3 Visa is for individuals seeking non-medical education and non-graduate training not available in their country and individuals participating in a special education exchange program.  H-4 Visas are available for family members of H-3 Visa holders.

For more information, click on H-3 Visa on the left.

J Visa—Exchange Visitor Program

The J-1 Visa is for individuals who wish to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.  J-2 Visas are for family members of J-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on J Visa on the left.

Apply Early

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview.  However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas.  Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.

 Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period.  Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy.  To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.

Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001, involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

F Visa – What is it?

F Visa - What is it? 
Nonimmigrant Visas
Green Cards
Common Topics