Doing vocational studies in the United States

Ask the Embassy

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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Q. I would like to study marine engine repair and boat fabrication in the US, and I have a friend that wants to go to flight school, also in the US. Is this possible, or can you only attend traditional colleges as an international student?

A. In a word, Yes. You can pursue these courses of study in the United States but you must have a student visa to study in the US. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F visa or an M visa. You would most likely be assigned an M-1 visa classification to pursue these courses of study. The process for attaining M-1 and F-1 visas IS essentially the same. The main difference between M-1 and F-1 visas is that M-1 visas generally cover vocational or non-academic courses of study, while F-1 visas generally cover courses in which the successful completion of the full course of study leads to the attainment of specific education or professional objectives. Essentially, F-1 visas cover traditional colleges and universities, and M-1 visas cover trade and vocational schools.

With M-1 visas you still must show the ability to pay for your course of study; genuine student intent; and a residence abroad which you intend to return to upon completion of your course of study.

Q. How will I know if I should apply for an F visa or an M visa?

A. The first step is to apply to a SEVP-approved school in the United States. After the SEVP-approved school accepts your enrolment, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The SEVP-approved school will issue you a Form I-20 indicating the visa (F or M). After you receive the Form I-20 and register in SEVIS, you may apply at a US Embassy or Consulate for a student (F or M) visa. You must present the Form I-20 to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. Visit the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee. Also, visit the Department of State Education USA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, and an overview of the application process. You can also visit the DHS Study in the States school search page to search for SEVP-certified schools.

Q. The trade school I'm applying to offers working internships during the school year and paid internships during the summer break, am I able to work and earn money in this manner while attending my course of study?

Except for temporary employment for practical training, an M-1 student may not accept employment.

A 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 authorised prior to starting any work by the designated school official (the person authorised to maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS. Any work you perform without prior approval from USCIS would result in a violation of your visa status and could lead to a revocation of your visa and travel privileges.

Q. Actually my course of study is only one week long, and I won't be receiving academic credit. Does this still fall under the M-1 visa category?

A. For short periods of recreational study, a visitor (B) visa may be appropriate. A visitor (B) visa permits enrolment in a short recreational course of study, which is not for credit toward a degree or academic certificate. Study leading to a US-conferred degree or certificate is never permitted on a visitor (B) visa, even if it is for a short duration. For example, a student in a distance learning programme who requires a period of time on the institution's US campus must obtain a student (F or M) visa prior to entering the United States.

More detailed information on student visas is available on

You can find more information about how to travel to the U.S. on our website, Keep on top of Embassy news on our Facebook page, and by following @USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

For safety and security reasons, the US Embassy asks that all individuals arrive at the embassy no more than 15 minutes before their designated appointment time.

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