Open the US immigration website and there’s an alarming number of visa types that can leave you scratching your head in dismay! As it is Jamboree’s mission to simplify all things abroad, we have complied a list of visas that you should know about as an international student.
Most international students who pursue their academic studies at a University or College in the US hold the F-1 visa. Technically speaking:
An F-1 visa is issued to students who are attending an academic program or English Language program at a US college or university. — ustraveldocs.com
This visa is a non-immigrant type of visa meant for temporary stay in the US. Once you have completed your academic program, you are expected to leave the US territory within 60 days, unless you have applied for and gotten approval to extend your stay and work under OPT.
F-1 students are required at all times to maintain the full-time student’s minimum course load of credit hours (9 for masters and 12 for UG).
This visa is meant for people who visit the US under various exchange programs. These include students from schools and colleges, trainees from organizations, research scholars and professors from institutions and participants of organized people-to-people programs.
A J-1 visitor may remain in the US until the end of the exchange program, as specified on his or her visa form. Once the program ends, the J-1 visa holder must leave US shores within 30 days.
The M-1 visa is issued to students who intend to seek vocational training at a community college or junior college or trade schools. Just like the F-1 visa, a student must possess the form I-20 from the designated school official before he or she can apply for the visa.
This is a visa that often makes headlines so you must be already familiar with it. For the uninitiated, the H1-B visa allows you to stay and work in the US after completing your OPT period. As the visa grant depends upon the sponsoring employer, most students under OPT aim to find one. The typical duration of stay is 3 years but it can be extended up to 6 years. Do you know that getting a masters in the US actually increases your chances of securing an H1-B visa?
Dependents (spouse and children under 21 years) of H1-B visa holders are issued H-4 visa. H-4 holders can remain in the US so long as the validity of the primary (H1-B) visa holds.
Applying for a visa is a step-by-step process. See what documents are required at each step in How to Apply for a US Visa as an International Student (link).