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Which Visa Classification is Right for Me?

January 12, 2015
Individuals from around the world who want to come to the United States need to obtain a visa from the U.S. Department of State prior to entering the country. There are several types of visas to apply for depending on the reason for your visit and duration of stay. If you want to come to the United States to study, you must have a student or exchange visitor visa. After you are accepted to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, you will be able determine the type of visa you need, as each program requires a different visa type.
Below are the types of visas and schools that require them: 
F-1 visa — International students attending an academic program, such as a university or college, public high school, private elementary school, religious seminary, conservatory or another academic institution, including a language-training program, all require an F-1 visa. Academic programs typically provide a degree or certificate after successful completion of the program of study. 
M-1 visa — International students attending a non-academic vocational study or training school, not including a language-training program, require an M-1 visa for study. A vocational or trade school typically refers to programs that are career-focused and offer instruction related to job training. Types of trade schools include cosmetology, flight and other technical training programs. 
J-1 — Foreign citizens participating in work and study-based exchange visitor programs may need a J-1 visa. The Department of State approves certain programs which enable foreign nationals to come to the United States to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. To learn more about this classification, please visit the Department of State’s J Exchange Visitor Program website
Remember, applying for and obtaining a visa is required to travel to the United States; however, it does not guarantee you entrance into the country. For more information about the types of programs you can study in the United States and to learn more about the process, click through our Study Guide to the States!
* Please note that the Visa Waiver Program does not apply to F-1 and M-1 students or their dependents. Entry into the United States in F or M nonimmigrant status requires a visa.
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