Educating Global Citizens
For foreign nationals who have worked hard in school and excelled among their peers, their college years represent an amazing opportunity to live and study in the United States. Indeed, U.S. embassies indicate that applications for student visas are rising each year, with foreign students lured to institutions across the United States. Using a student visa, such individuals can enjoy the rich academic life on American campuses, gaining the necessary education and skills to become global citizens of the future.
There are essentially three primary categories of visas available to those who wish to study in the United States. The most common are F-1 visas for academic students and J-1 exchange visitor visas for individuals participating in approved programs in the United States. The M-1 visa is also available for vocational and technical students. For all of these visas, spouses and children may also be eligible to live in the U.S. during the period of study.
Student Visa Privileges
As their name implies, the purpose of the class of student visas is to permit foreign nationals to study in the United States. Specifically, the visa entitles eligible participants to study in approved academic or foreign language programs. Prior to applying for a visa, students generally must already be accepted to the U.S. program they intend to attend. The application process entails submitting proof of eligibility, attending an interview at the appropriate U.S. consulate and paying the necessary fees.
Student Visa Restrictions
While those with student visas may travel to and from the United States as their needs dictate, they must travel using their student visas, as opposed to the Visa Waiver Program, which permits the citizens of specific countries to enter the U.S. without a visa. Additionally, students must be extremely careful about not overstaying their visa, which can have dire consequences, including a prohibition from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years.
Can I Work on a Student Visa?
Student visa holders are generally prohibited from working in the United States, as the primary purpose of their stay here is to study. There are several exceptions to this restriction, however, including on-campus work of 20 hours per week or less. There are also provisions that permit students to gain hands-on experience in their field through the following programs:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT)
While these programs permit students to seek limited periods of off-campus employment after the first academic year, it is extremely important for applicants to adhere to the guidelines so that they do not run afoul of restrictions on their eligibility. For students interested in continuing their careers in the U.S., it is also critical to plan early to determine which visa options may be available to them after the end of their periods of CPT, OPT or STEM OPT.
The Law Office of Maud Poudat, P.A. is here to assist you in navigating the immigration system as you transition to the next stage of your career.