Student & Exchange Visitor Visas

Studying in the United States offers a world-class education and diverse cultural experiences. At Veda T Maniquis – Attorney at Law, we specialize in assisting students and exchange visitors in obtaining the appropriate visas to pursue their academic and cultural aspirations in the U.S.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 student visa is the most common type of student visa in the United States.  The F-1 visa is reserved for nonimmigrants who wish to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs.  An application for study pursuant to an F-1 visa is processed through the Student Exchange and Visitors Program (SEVP).  Vocational education is not included in the F-1 visa category.

During the first academic year, F-1 students are not authorized for off-campus employment but may accept on-campus employment of less than 20 hours per week (subject to restrictions and conditions).  Off-campus employment is permitted during school recess periods and after completion of the first academic year.

Three programs are available to F-1 students who seek to work off-campus after the completion of the first academic year:

  1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT): for students who have completed nine (9) months of an undergraduate degree program, or students pursuing a graduate degree program, to participate in an internship or training program that is part of the curriculum.
  2. Optional Practical Training (OPT): for a period of one year, either before or after completion of studies.  OPT employment is not limited to a specific employer but must be related to the student’s major area of study.
  3. STEM Optional Practical Training Extension (post-completion OPT): for students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees in designated degree programs.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 of an F-1 student may be issuedF-2 visas to accompany the F-1 visa holder.  Spouses cannot pursue full-time course of study at any level.  Children may attend primary and secondary school; however, they cannot pursue post-secondary education unless they too obtain a F-1 visa.  Neither spouses nor children are eligible to work in F-2 visa status.

M-1 Visas For Vocation Students

The M-1 visa is a student visa reserved for persons pursuing vocational and technical training. To obtain a M-1 visa, a designated school official must issue a Form I-20 for the qualifying student; the student must present the signed Form I-20 and supporting documentation at a United States embassy or consulate in the home country.  M-1 students are admitted into the United States for a period of up to one (1) year.  M-1 students may extend their stay to pursue practical training after the completion of their studies. A thirty (30) day grace period is given to prepare to leave the country upon completion of the course of study; a student who is in violation of status is not eligible for the grace period.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 of an M-1 student may be issued M-2 visas to accompany the M-1 visa holder.

J Visas For Exchange Visitors

The J-1 visa category is designated for exchange visitors participating in various cultural and educational programs to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.  The exchange visitor must be accepted into a designated Exchange Visitor Program.  Students must meet certain eligibility criteria and are sponsored by private or public entities that are approved by the U.S. Department of State.  J-1 exchange visitors are expected to leave the United States at the completion of their program and to return to their home country to utilize the experience and skills acquired during their stay in the United States.  Employment for a J-1 exchange visitor is authorized only pursuant to the terms of the exchange program.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 can accompany the J-1 visa holder in the J-2 visa classification.  J-2 visa holders are permitted to work in the United States if they receive work authorization.  They also are permitted to study without having to obtain a separate F-1 student visa.

J-1 Waiver

J-1 visa exchange visitors are often subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement. They are required to return home for a minimum of two years after their exchange visitor program. This requirement is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you are an exchange visitor who can’t return home for 2 years, you may want to apply for a waiver. Your J-1 Waiver application needs to be approved by The Department of Homeland Security before you can change status in the United States or receive a visa in certain categories.

Eligibility for a J-1 Waiver

You may request a waiver for the J-1 home residency requirement if you either received funding from your home government, an international organization, or are subject based on the skills list. This is usually done by requesting a “No Objection Statement” (i.e., a letter of no objection) from your country’s embassy in Washington, DC. Please be aware that getting a waiver if you received U.S. government funding is extremely difficult. Applicants for the residency requirement waiver may apply to the Waiver Review Division of the State Department for a recommendation that USCIS grant a waiver.

The basis of your waiver application must be under any one of the following five categories:

  1. No Objection Statement. A No Objection Statement may be issued by your home country government through its embassy in Washington, DC. Your embassy must send the statement to the Waiver Review Division. Your government’s No Objection Statement should state that it has no objection to you not returning to your home country to satisfy the two-year home-country physical presence requirement. It must also show that it has no objection to the possibility of you becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
  2. Request by an Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency. In case you are working on a project for a U.S. federal agency, and that agency has determined that your two years absence would be detrimental to its interest, that agency may request an Interested Government Agency Waiver on your behalf. The request must be signed by the head of the Interested Government Agency and submitted to the Waiver Review Division.
  3. Persecution Waiver. If you suspect that you will be persecuted based on your race, religion, or political opinion if you return to your home country, you may apply for a persecution waiver.
  4. Exceptional HardshipApplications for an Exceptional Hardship waiver must prove that your departure from the United States would cause exceptional hardship to your spouse or child, who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (LPR). Note that mere separation from the family is not sufficient to establish exceptional hardship.
  5. Request by a State Public Health Department (Conrad State 30 Program). In case you are a foreign medical graduate who obtained exchange visitor status to pursue graduate medical training or education, you may request a waiver based on the request of a State Public Health Department (or its equivalent).

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If you have any questions, always feel free to contact us.