Foreigners with M-1 visas may come into the U.S. to attend vocational schools in California. The two main requirements for getting an M-1 visa are
- being accepted to a vocational/technical school, and
- having sufficient funds to study full-time.
M-1 visas cost a total of $510. Foreigners with M-1 visas must take a full course load and are not allowed to have a job. They have only thirty (30) days to stay in the U.S. after their training ends.
In this article, our California immigration lawyers answer frequently-asked questions about M-1 vocational student visas in California. Click on a topic to jump to that section.
- 1. Can I get an M-1 visa in California?
- 2. Which California schools take M-1 visa students?
- 3. How do I apply for an M-1 visa?
- 4. How much does it cost to get an M-1 visa?
- 5. How long does it take to get an M-1 visa?
- 6. Can I transfer schools on an M-1 visa?
- 7. Can I work while on an M-1 visa?
- 8. How long are M-1 visas good for?
For information on academic student visas, go to our article on F-1 academic student visas.
1. Can I get an M-1 visa in California?
M-1 visas may be issued to non-citizens who meet these five prerequisites:
- The foreigner is not a U.S. citizen;
- The foreigner has already been accepted by a vocational school pre-approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
- The foreigner intends to leave the U.S. after the vocational program ends.
- The foreigner has connections to his/her home country, such as financial assets, parents, spouses, and/or children.
- The foreigner has enough money to cover his/her room and board, tuition, and other living expenses while in the U.S.
Note that M-1 visa students are required to maintain a full course load and achieve the diploma, associates degree, or certificate applicable to their training.1
2. Which California schools take M-1 visa students?
Several junior colleges, community colleges, and career institutes in California welcome M-1 visa students through SEVP. A sampling of SEVP-approved schools in Los Angeles include:
- UCLA Extension
- Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre
- The Lee Strasberg Theatre
- L.A. Vocational Institute
- Cinema Makeup School
- Advanced Computing Institute
International students flock to Los Angeles especially to study acting and other aspects of film production. See a full list of California SEVP vocational schools.2
3. How do I apply for an M-1 visa?
The first step is for the foreigner to get accepted to a SEVP-approved vocational school. Part of this process is showing the school that the foreigner has health insurance and enough money to support him/herself.
The second stop is for the foreigner to complete an I-20 form. An I-20 form is simply a certificate of eligibility to apply for an M-1 visa.
The third step is to complete the formal M-1 visa application–the DS-160 form.
Finally, the foreigner will attend a visa interview and bring supporting documentation, including:
- a passport
- a travel itinerary
- dates of the last five (5) occasions the foreigner traveled to the U.S. (if applicable)
- a résumé
Note that there is no cap on the number of foreigners who can get M-1 visas in any one year.3
4. How much does it cost to get an M-1 visa?
The SEVP fee comes to $350, and the M-1 visa fee comes to $160.4
5. How long does it take to get an M-1 visa?
It can take as little as three months, but the time frame may last up to a year.5
6. Can I transfer schools on an M-1 visa?
M-1 students may transfer schools within six (6) months of either:
- coming to the U.S., or
- switching to M-1 status from another non-immigrant visa status.
Note that M-1 transfer students are held to the same academic and financial requirements as before the transfer.6
7. Can I work while on an M-1 visa?
No. But in some cases, M-1 visa holders can take part in an Optional Practical Training (OPT) program after school ends.7
8. How long are M-1 visas good for?
M-1 visas expire 30 days after the vocational program ends. However, students who violate their visa terms waive the 30-day grace period and must leave the U.S. right away.8
Call a California immigration attorney…
If you are a non-citizen who would like to come to California for vocational training, contact our Los Angeles immigration attorneys for a free consultation. We can help you through the M-1 visa application process.
Go to our California visa main page.
Also see our article on M-1 visas in Nevada.