Vocational Student Visas Are Also Known as M-1 Visas

Immigrants who are students are eligible for special types of visas. Vocational student visas, also called M-1 visas, are designed for those immigrants who are enrolled in vocational programs in the United States. The USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, provides specific guidelines that must be met in order to qualify for the M-1 visa.

Requirements for M-1 Visas

Those who wish to obtain a vocational student visa must meet specific criteria. The requirements include:

  • Must be enrolled in a vocational program
  • The school must be approved
  • The student must be enrolled full-time
  • Must be proficient in English (or working towards proficiency)
  • Must have funds available to pay for educational and living expenses
  • Must have a residence in your home country

It is important to know that a full time student usually attends school for at least 18 hours per week if the courses are mostly classroom study. If the courses are mostly  shop or laboratory work, a full time student must attend 22 hours of classes weekly. If enrolled in a community college, you must take at least 12 credit hours per term.

Vocational Education

To qualify as a vocational student, the educational program must offer a certificate or degree, such as an associate’s degree. Some types of vocational study programs include mechanical studies, technical vocations, cooking, cosmetology, or flight school, among others. The programs included are those considered non-academic in nature. These types of programs are often completed within a year. The M-1 visa is typically issued for a period of one year or for the length of time of the program. Students who do not finish the coursework within the designated time period may be able to apply for an extension.


Students who are M-1 visa holders are able to engage in practical training after they have completed their course of study. Practical training is also sometimes called on-the-job training. The student must first successfully complete their studies and the work must be related to their area of study. The work must be authorized by the designated school official, DSO, of their school. Authorization must be obtained prior to the start of work.

Application for M-1 Visas

The applicant must provide proof that he or she meets the requirements of the visa. The application must be submitted, along with a non-refundable fee. The applicant should apply to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their permanent country of residency. Applicants must have a passport that is valid for at least one year beyond the anticipated end-date of the vocational program. If you are seeking a vocational student visa it may be helpful to consult with a qualified immigration attorney before submitting the application.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Marriage and Green Cards, or other Immigration Law matters, please feel free to contact Phil D. Ortega at  480.461.5330, log on to udallshumway.com,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.