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U.S. Department of State 
95/08/01 Visas:  Foreign Student Visas 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
 
 
 
                                 FOREIGN STUDENTS 
 
The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant visa 
categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" 
visa is for academic studies, and the "M" visa is for nonacademic or 
vocational studies. 
 
BACKGROUND REQUIREMENTS 
 
Scholastic Preparation 
 
The student visa applicant must have successfully completed a course of 
study normally required for enrollment.  The student, unless coming to 
participate exclusively in an English language training program, must 
either be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended 
course of study, or the school must have made special arrangements for 
English language courses or teach the course in the student's native 
language. 
 
Financial Resources 
 
Applicants must also prove that sufficient funds are or will be 
available from an identified and reliable financial source to defray all 
living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study 
in the United States.  Specifically, applicants must prove they have 
enough readily available funds to meet all expenses for the first year 
of study, and that adequate funds will be available for each subsequent 
year of study.  The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that 
sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living 
costs for the entire period of intended stay. 
 
Acceptance Form 
 
An applicant coming to the United States to study must be accepted for a 
full course of study by an educational institution approved by the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).  The institution must send 
to the applicant a Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for 
Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students.  
The nonacademic or vocational institution must send to the student a 
Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student 
Status For Vocational Students.  Educational institutions obtain Forms 
I-20A-B and I-20M-N from the INS.  
 
VISA INELIGIBILITY / WAIVER 
 
The nonimmigrant visa application Form OF-156 lists classes of persons 
who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas.  In some instances 
an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly 
classifiable as a student, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and 
be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. 
 
APPLYING FOR A STUDENT VISA 
 
Applicants for student visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy 
or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence.  
Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, 
it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of 
permanent residence. 
 
Required Documentation 
 
Each applicant for a student visa must submit: 
 
1)   An application Form OF-156, completed and signed.  Blank forms are 
available without charge at all U.S. consular offices; 
 
2)   A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a 
validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period 
of stay in the United States.  If more than one person is included in 
the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application; 
 
3)   One photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm) for each applicant 
aged 16 and older, showing full face, without head covering, against a 
light background;  and 
 
4)   For the "F" applicant, a Form I-20A-B.  For the "M" applicant, a  
Form I-20M-N. 
 
Other Documentation 
 
Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the 
consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign 
country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will 
depart the United States when they have completed their studies.  It is 
impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since 
applicants' circumstances vary greatly. 
 
U.S. PORT OF ENTRY 
 
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the 
United States.  The INS has authority to deny admission.  Also, the 
period for which the bearer of a student visa is authorized to remain in 
the United States is determined by the INS, not the consular officer.  
At the port of entry, an INS official validates Form I-94, Record of 
Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. 
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 
 
Employment 
 
An F-1 student may not accept off-campus employment at any time during 
the first year of study; however, the INS may grant permission to accept 
off-campus employment after one year.  F-1 students may accept on-campus 
employment from the school without INS permission.  Except for temporary 
employment for practical training, an M-1 student may not accept 
employment. 
 
Family Members 
 
A spouse and unmarried, minor children may also be classified for a 
nonimmigrant visa to accompany or follow the student.  Family members 
must meet all visa eligibility requirements, including evidence that 
they will have sufficient funds for their support, and that they will 
depart the U.S. when the student's program ends.  Spouses and children 
of students may not accept employment at any time. 
 
FURTHER INQUIRIES 
 
Questions on how to obtain Forms I-20A-B and I-20M-N should be made to 
the educational institution.  If the institution does not have the 
forms, it needs to contact the local INS office.  Questions on visa 
application procedures at the American consular offices abroad should be 
addressed to that consular office by the applicant. 
 
 
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
PUBLICATION 10075 
Bureau of Consular Affairs 
Visa Services Directorate 
August  1995 
 
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