With entrance applications, essays, and exams to contend with, applying for college in the US presents a daunting variety of unique challenges. Unfortunately for many aspiring international students that challenge is further compounded by the confusion that often arises from the student visa application process. Part of these confusion stems from the fact that there is not just one catch-all US student visa but rather three distinct types, each with its own slightly different set of requirements. Thus the first thing students need to know is which of these types of US student visas do they in particular need?
Of the three types of US student visas, the US F-1 Visa is the most well-known for a good reason. Indeed, the F-1 is for all intents and purposes synonymous with the US student visa because it is the visa category for students attending the vast majority of educational programs in the US. Students interested in educational institutions as diverse as accredited colleges and universities, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories, and language training programs such as an ELP will all need to pursue the F-1.
Also known as the exchange visitor option, the J-1 visa is open to students who receive a significant portion of their financial support from an external source. Thus students who are funding their education with personal or family funds are not qualified to seek J-1 status but students receiving help from their sponsoring university, Rotary International, or the US government are eligible.
Finally, students pursuing a vocational, technical, or other nonacademic program are eligible for an M-1 student visa. Despite this distinction, M-1 students must meet the same language proficiency and financial solvency requirements expected of all types of US student visas and, of course, must be enrolled in a full course load to maintain their status.