Amongst the US non-immigrant visas, student and exchange visas are also very demanded. Educational qualifications in the US are highly prestigious and this makes students across the world want to attend US institutions.

US Study and Exchange Visas

The United States visa system is very specific and detailed, categorizing every type of foreigners that wish to enter the country according to their purpose of entry.
The US is supportive of international education, welcoming foreign students and exchange visitors who prior to their entry to the US for study purposes must first obtain a visa. Educational qualifications in the US are highly prestigious and this makes students across the world want to attend US institutions.
However, before applying for a visa, students and exchange visitors must be accepted by their schools or program sponsor in order to be eligible and also fulfill the general requirements in order to obtain a study visa.

There are four types of US student visas depending on the specific reason the international student wants to enter the US:

  • F-1 visa – for attending academic education starting from elementary to graduate school, including language courses.
  • M-1 visa – for students enrolled in vocational and non-academic education, excluding language courses.
  • J-1 visa – for studying when various organizations sponsor you.
  • Q-1 visa – for participants in an international cultural exchange program (which also provides opportunities for foreign nationals to come work and train in the US)

F-1 Visa

The F-1 is a US visa for foreign students who wish to attend educational institutions in the US, of these levels:

  • Private elementary school (non-US citizens are not allowed to attend US public elementary schools on an F-1 visa)
  • High school
  • Seminary
  • Conservatory
  • University and college
  • Other institutions, such as a language training program

The main condition to apply for such a visa, is that the applicant must already be accepted into one of the above mentioned educational institutions. And also proof that he or she has strong ties with his / her country and does not intend to further stay in the US upon graduation.

Citizens coming from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program also need an F-1 visa in order to be allowed to study in the US.

Foreign students in the US with an F1 visa are strongly suggested to get Health Insurance for Students due to the high healthcare costs in the United States.

M-1 Visa

The M-1 visa is designed for students enrolled in vocational and non-academic education, excluding language courses. Students who wish to enroll in any studies as the ones listed below must apply for an M-1 visa:

  • Technical courses,
  • Cooking classes,
  • Flight school,
  • Cosmetology, and
  • Any other course which is considered vocational.

And though the foreigners that come to the US under this visa are allowed to get a driver’s license, open a bank account and work under some certain circumstances, they are still not allowed to do the following:

  • They are not permitted to work full-time out of campus
  • They cannot complete their programs as part-time students
  • They are not allowed to change their program or transfer to another institution after six months of beginning their program
  • They are not permitted to continue higher education in the US to get any other type of degree

J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa has been designated for students and exchange program participants, who belong to one of the groups listed below:

  • Au Pairs
  • Camp Counselor
  • Government Visitors
  • Interns
  • International Visitors
  • Physicians
  • Professors and Research Scholars
  • Short-term scholars
  • Specialists in different areas
  • University students
  • Secondary school students
  • Teachers
  • Trainees
  • Work and travel participants

This visa does not have a limit on how many people can enter the US under this visa. The residents of countries under the Visa Waiver program also need to get a visa to the US if they are coming to the US as part of a program

There are specific requirements for each of the groups mentioned above, for both the applicant and the sponsor. The visa application fee is $160 whereas the SEVIS I-901 fee is $180.

J1 visa holders in the US are required to obtain a Health insurance plan for exchange visitors.

J-1 visa validity

The validity of a J-1 visa varies from category to category and also on the holder. Upon visa expiration, the J-1 visa holder has 30 days to leave the US and go back to their home country. The holder is not eligible for a J-1 visa for another two years. However, he or she can enter the US on a Tourist or Business Visa.

Those who come to the US under this visa program cannot bring dependents to the US.

Q-1 Visa

The Q-1 visa or else known as a Visa for Participants in an International Cultural Exchange Program, which gives the opportunity to adult internationals to come work and train in the US and also the opportunity to share their culture and traditions with people in the US.

Since the Q-1 visa programs are administered by USCIS, all procedures must go through USCIS. There is no cap for the Q-1 visa, therefore the applicant only has to fulfil the criteria to be eligible to get the visa.

Q-1 visa validity

The validity for a Q-1 visa is 15 months at most. However, if you have received a visa for a shorter period of time, once in the US, you and your sponsor can apply to get it extended. After 15 months you must return to your home country and you cannot apply for another Q-1 visa for another 1 year.

The Q-1 visa holder cannot bring dependents with to the US.