The United States is home to some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the world, and every year, thousands of students come from other countries for the chance to learn at these institutions. In most cases, a temporary student visa can get an international student into the country for a set amount of time, depending on the student’s plan of action for higher education.
Based on data from the Institute of International Education, the 2013-2014 academic year brought more than 886,000 students to the country, which is nearly double the number of students enrolled in American universities 10 years ago. As international students continue to apply to and enroll in colleges here, the student visa system is struggling to keep up with the demand.
What Types of Student Visas Are Offered?
There are many options for students traveling to the U.S. to study at colleges and universities via non-immigrant visa programs. Most programs require students to return to their home countries once their studies are over (or they graduate), at which point their visas expire.
- F-1 Visa: F-1 visas are available to students who are living full-time at colleges and universities in the U.S. Moreover, with an F-2 visa, spouses and children can accompany students who have an F-1 visa. Students in Mexico and Canada who study in the United States are considered “border commuters,” and may enter the country on an F-3 visa for school.
- J-1 Visa: A J-1 visa is available for students who are participating in exchange programs for professional training and education. Spouses and minor children can come into the country along with a J-1 visa holder.
- M-1 Visa: M-1’s are available for students who are attending vocational or technical schools. Dependents of these visa holders can travel in under an M-2 visa; border commuters can use M-3 visas.
- B-2 Visitor Visa: This visa is available for international students who are enrolling in short courses purely for recreational study. These courses cannot count as credits towards an academic degree.
Graduation = Expiration Date
Any student who holds an F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa must leave the country once his or her education is completed, which is typically after graduation from a particular program or institution. In some cases, a visa is approved only for a set amount of time (two semesters or four years), and the student must leave once that time has expired, regardless of whether the program is completed in that timeframe. Any student who wishes to extend his or her stay in the country after graduation for work or otherwise must apply for a different kind of visa.
Student visa holders typically have restrictions on where and how much they can work while they are in the country for school. F-1 visa holders can work up to 20 hours per week on their campus, and they can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) if it corresponds with their field of study. M-1 and F-1 visa holders are able to apply for general work authorization as well.
For students who want to be immersed in America’s culture and take advantage of the educational offerings in our country, it’s important to know the legal requirements for doing so. For more information on student visas and the potential for immigration, contact the New Jersey immigration lawyers at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA.