Boston Career Institute (BCI Inc.)
M-1 Visa Information and FAQ

BCI has prepared the following M-1. and M-2 visa FAQs to provide a better understanding of immigration for international students These entries provide basic information, sometimes about fairly complex topics, and will often link to more detailed information.

If you would like to study as a full-time student at BCI and do so at our facilities in the United States, you will need a student visa. There are two non-immigrant visa categories for person wishing to study in the United States. These visas are commonly known as the F and M BCI only administers M-1. Visas.

BCI makes every effort to provide complete answers to these common questions. However, each person’s individual circumstances differ. So while these questions and answers serve as a general guide, they may not provide all the information you need to determine whether it is appropriate to travel or whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will readmit you to the United States. You can contact your designated school official, officials at your embassy or consulate or your legal counsel for further assistance.

Please remember that the CBP officer at the port of entry decides whether to admit nonimmigrants in to the United States. The facts and circumstances presented at the time you apply to enter are the basis of this decision. SEVP cannot guarantee that CBP will admit or readmit you into the United States.

WHAT IS AN M-1 VISA?

The M-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows foreign students wishing to pursue vocational or non-academic studies, other than language training, to enter into the U.S.

To qualify for an M-1 visa, you must:

  • Prove your intention to enter into the U.S. temporarily
  • Attend an approved vocational study program
  • Engage in a full course of study

HOW DO I QUALIFY FOR M-1 VISA?

On M-1 visa, you may:

  • Enter the U.S. as a full-time vocational or non-academic student
  • Transfer from one school to another
  • Work legally on-campus on a part-time basis
  • Work legally off-campus on an assignment that’s related to your field of study

WHAT PRIVILEGES DO I ENJOY ON M-1 VISA?

On M-1 visa, you may:

  • Enter the U.S. as a full-time vocational or non-academic student
  • Transfer from one school to another
  • Work legally on-campus on a part-time basis
  • Work legally off-campus on an assignment that’s related to your field of study

WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF M-1 STUDENT VISA?

On M-1 student Visa, you may:

  • Transfer from one school to another only with the permission of the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service)
  • Never be permitted to change your course of study
  • Work legally off-campus only with the permission of the USCIS
  • Take dependents to stay with you in the U.S. but they may not work
  • Note: Once you are six months into the program of studies, you are prohibited from changing your course of study except under truly exceptional circumstances.

CAN I WORK ON M-1 VISA?

Yes and No. You may not work on M-1 visa. However, you may apply for practical training related to your studies. If approved, you will be allowed to engage in off campus work in the nature of “practical training”. You will be limited to a maximum of six months total practical training time.

HOW TO APPLY FOR EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION ON M-1 VISA?

While applying for Employment Authorization the documents required are:

Form I-538, Certification by Designated School Official, to the USCIS certifying that the:

  • Proposed employment is for the purpose of practical training
  • Training will be related to your studies
  • Same type of training is not available in your country of residence
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization ($340.00)
  • Form I-20M-N signed by the Designated School Official (DSO)
  • Form I-539, Application for Extension of Status ($300.00)

HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE U.S. ON MY M1 VISA?

You may stay in the U.S. on M1 visa for one year, or for as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in a vocational program plus thirty days to prepare to leave the country. Maximum of three years at the institute. The consulate in your country is ultimately responsible for placing an expiration date on your visa, which cannot exceed 5 years. Nevertheless, even if you visa is expired while you are an enrolled student, your status is legal for all purposes except re-entry should you leave the country.

CAN I APPLY FOR EXTENSION OF STAY ON MY M-1 VISA?

Yes, you may apply for extension of stay on M-1 visa 45 days prior to the completion of your studies. If you’re wishing to pursue practical training, you must apply at least 90 days prior to completing your course of study. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you have completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time.Status ($300.00)

ARE THERE ANY TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON M-1 VISA?

No, there are no travel restrictions on M-1 visa. M-1 students may leave the U.S. and be readmitted after temporary absences. When making your travel plans, please remember that you must be a full-time student to keep your M-1 student status. Upon your return to the U.S. you should provide the immigration inspectors with:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid M-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (if necessary)
  • Current Form I-20M-N signed by your designated school official. You should have the Designated School Official sign your Form I-20M-N each time you wish to temporarily travel outside the U.S.
  • New Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant M-1 Student Status, if there have been substantive changes in your course of study or place of study
  • Proof of your financial support

HOW DO I APPLY FOR M-1 VISA?

While applying, the M-1 visa documents required are:

  • A valid passport and any previous passports you have held which are still in your possession
  • Fully completed and signed application Form DS-156 and Form DS-158
  • Recent passport-size photographs of you taken on a plain white background. Face must be thumb size, full face, without glasses or head covering
  • A police certificate issued within the last year if you are 14 years or older
  • Original Form I-20M-N issued by the school you will attend
  • Electronic verification received at the Embassy from your school that you have been accepted for enrollment
  • Evidence of sufficient funds

Note: All male students between 16-45 years must also complete Form DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application

CAN I APPLY FOR EXTENSION OF STAY ON MY M-1 VISA?

Yes, you may apply for extension of stay on M-1 visa 45 days prior to the completion of your studies. If you’re wishing to pursue practical training, you must apply at least 90 days prior to completing your course of study. If approved, you will be allowed to have one month of practical training for every four months of study you have completed. You will be limited to six months total practical training time.Status ($300.00)

CAN I ENTER THE U.S. ON MY M-1 VISA BEFORE SCHOOL BEGINS?

Yes, you may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the commencement of your study program.

What Is The Eligibility To Transfer Schools On M-1 Visa?

To be eligible to transfer to another school on M-1 visas, you must:

  • Currently be a full-time student
  • Intend to be a full-time student at the new school
  • Prove that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the U.S.
  • Maintain the same educational objective in the new school

Note: You may only transfer to another school within the first six months from the date you were admitted to the U.S. to begin your studies or from the date you changed your nonimmigrant status to become an M-1 student.

HOW DO I APPLY FOR USCIS PERMISSION TO TRANSFER SCHOOLS?

To transfer schools on M-1 visa, you must:

  • File Form I-539, Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status, with the USCIS
  • Submit your current Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant M-1 Student Status
  • Submit a complete Form I-20M-N from your new school
  • Submit Form I-94, Arrival-Departure documents, of your spouse and children (if applicable)

Note: You may transfer to another school sixty days after filing this application. However, if your application is denied after you transfer, you will be considered to be out of status. This means you may be required to leave the country.

WHAT DUTIES MUST I FULFILL TO REMAIN IN GOOD M-1 STATUS?

To remain in good M-1 status, you must:

  • Pass your course work every semester
  • Pay tuition fees on time
  • Maintain an international address to which you intend to depart upon completion of studies
  • Always maintain the same educational objectives

CAN I CHANGE STATUS FROM M-1 FOLLOWING THE COMPLETION OF MY COURSE OF STUDY?

Yes, you may apply for change of status to most other categories of non-immigrant visas. However, you may not change to F status or H-1B status if the job offered is based on skills gained through studies while in M status.

CAN I BRING MY DEPENDENTS ON M-1 VISA?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may come with you to the U.S. on M-2 non-immigrant visa.

CAN MY DEPENDENTS WORK ON M-2 VISA?

No, your spouse and children may not accept employment on derivative M-2 status.

WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE TO BRING MY DEPENDENTS ON M-2 VISA?

To bring your dependents on M-2 visa, your dependents must:

  • Visit the U.S. embassy or consulate with you when you apply for your M-1 student visa
  • Be prepared to prove their relationship with you
  • Provide the U.S. embassy staff with a copy of your Form I-20M-N and proof of their relationship with you if they plan to follow you at a later date

CAN MY DEPENDENTS WORK ON M-2 VISA?

No, your spouse and children may not accept employment on derivative M-2 status.

CAN I TAKE A HOLIDAY IN THE U.S. ON M-1 VISA AFTER I HAVE COMPLETED MY STUDY PROGRAM?

While on M-1 visa you may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after the completion of your study program, or in total one year from your date of admission, whichever is shorter. If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for Change of Status from M-1 to B-2 with the USCIS.

WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE I-94/I-94W, ARRIVAL-DEPARTURE DOCUMENT, FROM MY LAST VISIT TO THE U.S.?

While on M-1 visa you may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after the completion of your study program, or in total one year from your date of admission, whichever is shorter. If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for Change of Status from M-1 to B-2 with the USCIS.

DO I NEED ANY VACCINATIONS TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR M-1 VISA?

Vaccinations are no longer required for temporary travel to the U.S. However, if you are intending to study or work, you should contact the school or prospective employer as they may have specific requirements.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN F-1 AND M-1 VISA PROGRAM?

The F-1 visa gives you the option to transfer to a university after you have completed your community college studies. On M-1 visa, you study a vocational program for two years maximum of three years and then you must return to your home country. M-1 students are not allowed to continue on to the university level.

HOW CAN I OBTAIN A COPY OF THE I-94/I-94W ARRIVAL-DEPARTURE DOCUMENT?

The airline or shipping company will give you the I-94/I-94W, Arrival-Departure document, when you check in for your flight or in the case of a cruise, aboard the ship.

WHAT CAN I DO TO EXPEDITE MY APPLICATION FOR M-1 VISA?

Your patience is highly appreciated. According to the latest U.S. Department of State regulations, applications for studies and research in certain academic fields need advisory opinions from Washington. It takes a minimum of four weeks. Once the review is complete, the Consular Section will notify you of the outcome. You may call the Consular Section to check on the status of your case or leave your best phone number of contact. However, it is not possible to adjudicate your case before the review is complete.

ARE SERVICES PERFORMED BY FOREIGN STUDENTS AND EXCHANGE VISITORS COVERED BY SOCIAL SECURITY?

No, if you are performing work connected to your studies on M-1 status, you are not subject to Social Security coverage.

HOW CAN I SPEAK WITH A BCI REPRESENTATIVE?

Send an email to BciSevis@BCIedu.us requesting a scheduled telephone or skype interview. Or, you may call us in the United States by dialing Country Code – 011 and telephone number 617.860.2548 and ask for SEVIS coordinator. If you have special language needs please contact us by email first.

I WANT TO TRAVEL TO ONE OF THE ISLANDS ADJACENT TO THE UNITED STATES. MAY I RETURN IF MY VISA HAS EXPIRED?

No. An M nonimmigrant cannot automatically revalidate a visa when traveling to the adjacent islands. You may travel to these islands only if you have a valid visa.

WHICH ISLANDS ARE DEFINED AS “ADJACENT ISLANDS”?

The definition of adjacent islands is in INA, Section 101(b)(5):

  • Saint Pierre
  • Miquelon
  • The Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Bermuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Jamaica
  • The Windward and Leeward Islands
  • Trinidad
  • Martinique
  • Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea

DO I NEED A VALID VISA TO VISIT PUERTO RICO OR THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS?

No. You will need a valid Form I-20 and a valid, unexpired Form I-94. Be sure that you do not have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A TERMINATED RECORD IN SEVIS?

Your DSO can tell you your SEVIS record status and give you appropriate travel-related advice.

I WANT TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, BUT MY SEVIS RECORD IS IN TERMINATED STATUS. MAY I RETURN IF I TRAVEL?

If you need to travel on a terminated record, you must talk to your DSO. A DSO who has requested a data fix will put your Help Desk ticket number on your Form I-20 and report your pending travel to SEVP.

There is no guarantee that CBP will readmit you to the United States if you travel on a terminated record. In most cases, CBP will allow you to re-enter the United States if you are otherwise admissible and your DSO has properly annotated your Form I-20. It is likely, however, that CBP will send you to secondary inspection while they determine whether you are eligible to return to the United States.

MAY I TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES IF I HAVE A FORM I-539, “APPLICATION TO EXTEND/CHANGE NONIMMIGRANT STATUS,” REQUEST FOR EXTENSION OF STAY APPLICATION PENDING?

Yes, you may travel. However, you must return at least 15 days prior to your current program end date.

MAY I RE-ESTABLISH M-1 STUDENT STATUS BY OBTAINING A NEW INITIAL FORM I-20 AND RE-ENTERING THE UNITED STATES?

Yes, you may re-establish M-1 student status. However, in SEVIS, you will be an Initial student. You must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, and you will lose any time that you have built up towards qualification for practical training.

MAY I RE-ENTER THE UNITED STATES DURING THE 30-DAY GRACE PERIOD AFTER FINISHING MY PROGRAM OR AFTER FINISHING OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING (OPT)?

No.

MAY I RE-ENTER THE UNITED STATES IF I HAVE A PENDING REQUEST FOR OPT?

No.

MAY I RE-ENTER THE UNITED STATES IF I LEFT WHILE ON OPT?

If USCIS and your DSO have approved your OPT but you depart before you get a job, your OPT ends and you cannot re-enter. If you have a job, however, you may travel and re-enter to resume work.

ARE THERE ANY OTHER REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES?

Previous questions give the general requirements for M-1 student re-entry. However, because individual circumstances vary, consult your DSO, embassy officials or legal advisor before traveling. Discussing your travel plans as soon as possible will allow time to ensure you have proper documentation for travel.

Some countries will require a visa. If you are not returning to your home country, check the requirements of the destination country. You may also need an in-transit visa for countries where you are making a connecting flight. Be sure to check before you travel. Most countries have immigration websites that provide visa information.

CAN I STAY IN THE UNITED STATES IF MY STUDENT VISA HAS EXPIRED?

Yes, as long as you are student in good standing and have not violated your status, you may legally remain in the United States with an expired M-1 visa. As an M-1, you may stay for up to one year from the date you arrive in the United States, also according to your I-20 in SEVIS.

CAN I RENEW MY STUDENT VISA WHILE IN THE UNITED STATES?

No. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/. If you need to stay longer than one year to complete your program of study, you may work with your school official to apply for an extension with USCIS.

CAN I RENEW MY VISA WHILE OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES IN A COUNTRY OTHER THAN MY HOME COUNTRY?

Yes, but the Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/.

Before you travel to a country other than yours to renew your visa, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate.

If you exit the United States and apply for a visa, you cannot return to the United States until the visa is issued. This could require a lengthy stay. If the visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States as a student.

CAN I GO TO CANADA OR MEXICO AND APPLY FOR A NEW VISA?

In some cases, you can. Contact the individual U.S. embassy or consulate in Canada or Mexico. However, you cannot return to the United States until your visa is issued. If the visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States as a student. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/. You can also visit www.nvars.com, the site that provides appointments for consulates in Canada and Mexico.

Applying for a new visa is not the same as automatic visa revalidation. You cannot apply for a new visa and take advantage of automatic visa revalidation at the same time.

WHAT IS AUTOMATIC VISA REVALIDATION?

Automatic visa revalidation allows most M-1 students to take a trip of less than thirty days to countries contiguous to the United States and reenter on an expired visa provided you have proper documentation and have not applied for a new visa during the visit. This process revalidates your visa (making it eligible for the single trip), but does not renew it.

WHAT IS THE INITIAL ENTRY FOR M-2 NONIMMIGRANTS (SPOUSES AND MINOR CHILDREN)

The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may come with the M-1 student to the United States in M2 non-immigrant status. The M-1 must provide a copy of all dependents passports with their own request for the M-1 I-20 and must also provide financial support documentation ($2500 per dependent; $7500 max) They should go with the M-1 to the US embassy or consulate to apply for the M2 visa at the same time the M-1 is applying for their own visa. Dependents should be well prepared to show their relationship to the student (marriage license; birth certificates). (If the spouse and/or children will follow the M-1 student at a later date, the M2 should provide the US embassy with a copy of the M-1’s Form I-20.) The M2 status is dependent upon on the M-1 status; this means that if the M-1 student changes their status, the M2’s must change also; if M-1 loses their status, the M2’s status is lost also; when the M-1 leaves the US at the end of their program or by the date on their I-94 card – WHICHEVER IS EARLIER, the M2’s must leave also

YOUR M-2 SPOUSE MAY NOT ENGAGE IN FULL-TIME STUDY AND YOUR M-2 CHILD MAY ONLY ENGAGE IN FULL-TIME STUDY IF THE STUDY IS IN AN ELEMENTARY OR SECONDARY SCHOOL (KINDERGARTEN THROUGH TWELFTH GRADE).

What documents do the spouse and minor children of a continuing M-1 student need to reenter to the United States after traveling abroad?

If you are the spouse or minor child of a continuing student you need to have the following:

  • A current SEVIS Form I-20 in your name (and one for each M-2 traveling)
  • A valid passport (see section 2.B.) unless you are from a visa exempt country
  • A valid visa unless you are from a visa exempt country or, in some cases, you are traveling to a contiguous country
  • The primary (M-1) must be in active student status

DO M-2 NONIMMIGRANTS HAVE TO TRAVEL WITH THE PRIMARY (M-1)?

No. However, you must be able to show that your primary (M-1) has been admitted and has maintained student status. We recommend that you consult with the DSO from your primary’s school to ensure the M-1 is in status before traveling. You will need the documents listed in section 2.B.

If your primary has optional practical training (OPT) approved, you will need additional documentation. Make a copy of the primary’s Form I-20 with the page 3 annotations and/or EAD (employment authorization document) and be prepared to present it at the consulate and POE.

IF THE PRIMARY (M-1) TRAVELS, CAN THE M-2 NONIMMIGRANT FAMILY MEMBERS REMAIN IN THE UNITED STATES?

M-2 nonimmigrant family members may stay in the United States without the primary if the primary:

  • Is in valid status
  • Will return after a temporary absence using the same SEVIS ID number

WHAT IF I DO NOT HAVE A VALID PASSPORT?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

WHAT IF MY M-2 VISA EXPIRED?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

I wish to travel to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands (other than Cuba) adjacent to the United STATES. CAN I RETURN IF MY M-2 VISA IS EXPIRED?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

WHAT IF I DO NOT HAVE A VALID PASSPORT?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

WHAT IF MY M-2 VISA EXPIRED?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

I wish to travel to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands (other than Cuba) adjacent to the UNITED STATES. CAN I RETURN IF MY M-2 VISA IS EXPIRED?

See the related questions in the M-1 section

CAN I REENTER IF MY PRIMARY HAS OPT PENDING?

No. You can travel after OPT is approved. (See traveling without your primary.)

ARE THERE ANY OTHER REQUIREMENTS FOR M-2 NONIMMIGRANTS TO TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES?

The questions above outline the general reentry requirements for M-2 nonimmigrants. If you have questions, consult with the DSO at your primary’s school or seek advise from your embassy or legal advisor. However, if you are not returning to your country of citizenship, you should check the requirements of the country you are visiting. Some countries will require a visa. You may also need a visa for countries where you are making a connecting flight. Be sure to check before you travel.