If you are considering coming to the United States as a student, you may be still in the planning phase and feel confused about the alphabet of visas offered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Unfortunately, the names of the visas do not correspond with the first letter of their purpose, in most cases.
This article will discuss the following to help you to plan your stay in the United States:
F visa vs. M visa
An F student visa covers a variety of educational categories. The U.S. Department of State lists the following:
F and M visas for spouses and children
Foreign nationals who are approved for an F or an M visa to the United States may be able to bring their marital partner and their unmarried minor children with them. These dependents would be issued an F-2 or an M-2 visa.
The children would be able to attend school while they are in the United States residing with their parents. Each dependent would be issued a Form I-20 by the main beneficiary’s education institution, so that they can apply for their visas.
Student Visa vs. Visitor Visa
Some may believe that they can circumvent the whole Form I-20 process by just arriving in the USA on a visitor visa and enrolling in school. Unfortunately, this will not work.
B1/B2 visitor visa holders are not authorized to go to school or work in the United States. Although a new student visa can be issued up to 120 days before the school program starts, an F or M visa holder may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the start of the instructional program. Alternatively, continuing F or M visa students may enter the United States at any time prior to the start of their program, so long as they are currently enrolled in an SEVP-approved program and in SEVIS.
Can you go from an F-1 or M-1 visa to a green card?
Although the intention for F-1 or M-1 students should be to depart the United States upon completion of their program, some may have the opportunity to remain in the USA. Many students do practical training, such as CPT, OPT, and/or STEM-OPT as part of their studies. This may lead to a dual intent H-1B visa through a sponsoring employer.
Those who are getting a master’s degree or a Ph.D. may want to consider applying for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW).