Planning to come to the U.S. for a vocational study program, on an M-1 visa? Don't forget that you'll need to abide by the terms of that visa in order to complete your stay and qualify for future visas to enter the United States with. Obviously that means complying with the basics and attending your program rather than, say, taking a job. But what are the limits of what you're allowed to do? Here are some important benefits or possibilities while in the U.S. on your M-1 visa.
If you begin a program of vocational study in the U.S. and decide it's is not the school or program for you, act quickly. M-1 visa holders can freely transfer only during their first six months of school. After that, you may transfer only if you can show that:
For example, if your school closes, this might be a “circumstance beyond your control” that USCIS would recognize. You can transfer only to another vocational program, not to an academic program requiring an F visa.
Your first step would be to apply to and be accepted by a new school, which must send you a new Student and Exchange Visitor Information Systems (SEVIS) record Form I-20. Next, you must inform your current designated school official (DSO) of your intent to transfer. Finally, you need to put together:
Submit all this per the instructions on the I-539 page of the USCIS website. If approved, you will receive an approval notice and a new Form I-20, endorsed by USCIS.
If USCIS doesn’t send you a decision within 60 days, you may take your chances and transfer schools while you wait. However, if USCIS ultimately denies your transfer application, you will automatically fall out of status and either have to apply for reinstatement or face possible removal proceedings in Immigration Court .
As an M visa holder, you are not allowed to work on or off campus while you are still completing your study program. Your spouse and children are similarly not allowed to work.
After you have successfully completed your studies, however, you can be approved for a period of paid (or unpaid) practical training, up to six months. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) calculates the number of months based on how long you have been studying: You will get one month of work permission for every four months of full-time study.
Make sure you’ll be applying at the right time. You can’t apply earlier than 60 days before the end of your studies; but you can’t apply later than 30 days after the end of your studies. Then, you'll need to pull together or prepare the items described below. The forms are available for free download from the USCIS website.
Submit all this per the instructions on the I-539 page of the USCIS website. Once USCIS approves your application, you will receive a plastic work permit card with your photo on it and an expiration date. This will be good for a maximum of six months. You are not allowed to work until you receive this card.
To apply, you must fill out Form I-539, per the instructions provided, and submit it to USCIS before the end of your grace period. When approved, you will receive a new Form I-94 showing the date by which you must leave the United States.
Because you are changing status, not receiving an actual visa, this will be good for the length of your stay only. If you leave and need to return, even before the expiration of your permitted stay, you will need to visit a U.S. consulate and reapply for an entry visa. In most cases, U.S. immigration authorities allow B-2 visitor stays of no more than six months, although technically the legal maximum is one year.