The M-1 visa allows the holder to attend a recognized non-academic or professional educational institution in the United States. This visa is required if the applicant would like to attend a flight school in the United States, for example.
The educational institution in the U.S. must have a SEVIS registration. SEVIS, which stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a web-based U.S. government database that allows the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State to view data about all M-1 visa holders who are in the U.S. The educational institution must have a SEVIS registration in order for the I-20 form to be issued, which must be presented when applying for the M-1 visa at a U.S. consulate.
It should be noted that not all schools have a right to issue the I-20 form. Thus, you must inquire in advance whether the envisaged educational institution also has a SEVIS registration. You find a complete list of registered institutions here: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search
The applicant must also secure financing to cover the cost of training, room and board in the U.S. either by means of private resources or scholarships. In addition, applicants must prove that they are residents of their home country and, if necessary, provide additional evidence of their intention to return to this home country.
The M-1 visa is usually issued for one year. The student shall be able to remain in the United States for the entire length of time of the professional or continuing education program that is stated on the I-20 form. Should the training take longer than expected, an extension of up to 12 months may be requested through the respective educational institution. It is also possible to enter the U.S. on a M-1 visa up to 30 days prior to the beginning of the training program and to stay in the United States up to 30 days after the completion of the program.
Applicants must appear in person for an interview at one of the authorized U.S. consulates. The application for a M-1 visa can be submitted up to 120 days before the start of the training program.
In addition to the general application documents, applicants must submit documents pertaining to the educational institution, evidence of their permanent residence in their home country, and other documents confirming their intention to return to their country of origin. In addition, they must also provide evidence that they have the financial means to stay in the U.S. The application is usually processed at the U.S. consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age receive a derivative M-2 visa lasting the same period as the principal applicant’s M-1 visa. Once children reach the American age of majority, they must change their non-immigrant visa status or leave the country. Family members are not allowed to accept employment. Persons with a M-2 status are not allowed to apply for a general work permit (Employment Authorization Document EAD). M-2 visa holders can attend a public/private educational institution (kindergarten to high school).
If children wish to attend an institution of higher education (e.g., a university), they must apply for a stand-alone F-1 visa.