International student’s looking to study in the United States will need to obtain the proper student visa to enter the country legally. The three options for students are the F1, J1, or M1, and while each allows students to enter the country, they each have unique parameters and entitlements that come with them.
For students coming to the U.S. for academic studies, an F1 visa will need to be obtained. It applies to students attending an English Language or other academic program and is one of the most common visas issued for students studying in the U.S. To qualify for the F1, a student will need to be enrolled in and maintain the full-time student minimum course load for the duration of their visa. The only exception to the rule is during the summer session, when part-time enrollment, and sometimes even no enrollment will be allowed. Certain institutions may also require that the student attend at least one in-person class.
The F1 visa also allows students to work as long as it is part-time and on-campus employment. This can include work-study programs as long as the employment is less than 20 hours each week. The visa will also cover one year of occupational practical training after the completion of the academic course. In all cases, studies should be completed by the expiration date that is listed on the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, or I-20 form.
The J1 is a student visa designed for students to get practical training in programs or areas that would not be available to them in their own country and is necessary to complete their academic program. The employment allowances and restrictions are the same as the F1 visa. The only difference is permission must be obtained from the exchange visitor program sponsor before any employment can start.
For students who have been looking to pursue a non-academic, vocational path to their education, the M1 visa will need to be obtained. It is designed for students in vocational or technical programs. With this visa, students are not allowed to work during their period of study. They must also be able to provide financial evidence that they will be able to support their tuition costs and their living expenses during the duration of their studies.
International students on a visa in the U.S. must meet the health insurance requirements for the state where they plan to attend school. Some schools will offer health programs that meet these requirements. Otherwise, students will be required to obtain their own plan.
Social Security Numbers
If you have received an offer for a form of employment during your studies, such as an internship or apprenticeship, you will be eligible to receive a U.S. social security number. To successfully apply for a new social security number, you will need to:
- Ask the department offering the employment to complete an SSN Form for On-Campus Employment and send it to your CGE advisor.
- Wait to receive the form after your CGE advisor has signed it.
- Request an appointment with the state’s Social Security Administration Office or stop in if in-person visits are allowed
- Wait until you receive confirmation of an appointment. This can take up to two weeks.
- Bring to your appointment the signed SSN Form for On-Campus Employment, your passport, a completed I-94, your I-20, and a completed SSN application form.
During your appointment, you will receive a receipt for your application which you will need to take to the representative handling payroll for the department where you will be employed. Once your social security card arrives, you will need to provide it to them as well.
While obtaining a student visa can be a lengthy process, most schools have representatives that are available to assist you so that the process can be streamlined, and you can address any problems you may encounter. If you are unsure about which type of visa you need or which steps in the process still need to be completed, contact the institution you plan to attend.