What is the most common visa category for foreign students?

Foreign students can obtain student visas in one of three categories: F-1 student visa, M-1 student visa, and J-1 student visa; but the most common visa category for foreign students is the F-1 student visa.

F-1 Student Visa

Foreign students favor the F-1 student visa category because as long as the student is enrolled in a qualified academic program the student remains in lawful status. This may include periods of practical training and a 60-day grace period during which the student must depart the United States. Under the terms of the F-1 student visa, if the completion of your degree program takes five years, then you can remain long enough to complete the program. 

Other types of student visas tend to limit the time frame authorized to remain in the U.S. The F-1 student visa category also provides a means for families to remain together. If you are a married student and have children under 21 years of age, your children may be able to apply for F-2 or M-2 visas. 

M-1 and J-1 Student Visas

All student visa categories require you to have the means to financially support yourself. The F-1 student visa and M-1 student visa only require you to demonstrate that you have enough funds to support yourself while you are pursuing your proposed course of study. Your source of funds can be from family members. The J-1 student visa, however, not only requires that you demonstrate your ability to support yourself, but also to show that the support comes from sources other than your family. Other sources may include a full scholarship, for example. 

Depending on the situation, work opportunities can be better for students who have an F-1 student visa. Students with an F-1 student visa are allowed to work through on-campus opportunities. After they have been students for a period of time, they may qualify for off-campus opportunities as well. A J-1 student visa, however, does not permit the student to work unless the program he entered specifically authorizes employment in the U.S. 

Getting Help from an Immigration Attorney

Although the F-1 student visa is the most common category for students, you should still take the time to review all of the student visa options with an immigration attorney in order to decide which is best for your educational goals and personal situation.