First American
Immigration Center


f1 Visa, j1 visa, m1 visa, opt, Duration, derivatives visa

Student Visa

Our higher education system is one of the things that makes America exceptional.  For foreign national students wishing to come to the United States to obtain higher education, there are three types of visas, the F1 visa, J1 visa and M1 visa.  The F1 and J1 visa have the added bonus of allowing you to work in the U.S while you study.  The M1 visa does not allow for employment.  

F-1 Visa- The F1 visa is the most commonly obtained student visa in the US and is for academic study or English language program.  Students with F1 visas must be full-time students.  However, it also allows for part-time employment on campus.  Students are also allowed one year of OPT (Optional Practical Training) following completion of their studies.  However, this must be completed prior to the expiration of the I-20 visa.

J-1 Visa- Foreign nationals needing practical training to complete their academic training not available in their home country can apply for the J1 visa.  The J1 visa is similar to the F1 in that it allows the student to work with close to the same restrictions, so long as the exchange visitor program sponsor gives permission.

M-1 Visa- The M1 visa is for students enrolling in technical/vocational/nonacademic programs.  With this visa, students are not allowed to work during their studies.  A requirement of this visa is that the student show evidence that they have sufficient funds to pay for their tuition and all of their living expenses while they are here in the US completing their course of study.

At the moment, student visas are valid for a period of time known as “duration of status.” This means that international students in the U.S. can stay indefinitely as long as they maintain their status as students. Students can fall out of status by failing to maintain a full-time course of study or working without authorization, but as long as they follow the regulations associated with their student visa, they can stay in the U.S., transfer to other institutions and progress from one academic level to another. Effectively, the duration of their time in the U.S. is dictated by the duration of their academic programs.

Holders of F-2, M-2 and J-2 visas are also allowed to study in the US provided they meet their chosen institution’s criteria. They do not have to apply for an F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa, but can apply if qualified.

J-2 visa holders can enroll as recreational or degree-seeking students, either full- or part-time, and discontinue their program at any time. They can also petition for a change to F-1 student status if they haven’t completed their academic program by the time the principle J-1’s status has ended. However, this is only if the J-1 visa holder is not subject to the two-year home residency requirement.

F-2 and M-visa holders are not allowed to work, and must secure an appropriate work visa if seeking employment. J-2 visa holders may request work authorization from USCIS by submitting form I-765.

The authorization process can take up to 3 months. The maximum amount of time granted to work on F-1 OPT status is 12 months per degree level. F-1 students may apply to use some or all of the available 12 months of practical training during the course of study or may save some or all of the full twelve months to use after graduation.

Pre-Completion OPT

  • Pre-completion OPT:  F-1 students may apply to participate in pre-completion OPT after they have been enrolled in school for one full academic year. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session.

Post-Completion OPT

  • Post-completion OPT:  F-1 students may apply to participate in post-completion OPT after completing their studies. Students authorized for post-completion OPT may work part-time (at least 20 hours per week) or full-time.