The differences between F-1, J-1 and M-1 visas will be covered in this post to assist you in deciding which one best meets your needs. 

What is an F-1 Visa?

Academic students who wish to pursue a degree at a US university are granted the most popular type of student visa, the F-1. Students must be enrolled full-time in a program that results in a degree or diploma, possess a valid acceptance letter from a US university, and show they have the financial resources to sustain themselves. At the same time, they are in the US to qualify for an F-1 visa. F-1 visa holders are permitted to work both on and off campus with some limitations, such as not exceeding 20 hours per week while classes are in session. 

What is an J-1 Visa?

Students who desire to participate in an exchange program are eligible for the J-1 visa given to exchange travelers. Students must be admitted into an exchange program sponsored by the US government or another recognized program sponsor to qualify for a J-1 visa. Only under specific circumstances, such as with permission from their program sponsor and in jobs directly related to their course of study, are J-1 visa holders permitted to work. With rare exceptions, the J-1 visa also mandates that the holder returns to their home nation for at least two years following the conclusion of their program. 

What is an M-1 Visa?

Students seeking a US institution for vocational or technical training are given an M-1 visa. Students must possess a valid acceptance letter from a US college and show they have the necessary resources to support themselves. At the same time, they are in the country to qualify for an M-1 visa. Only after finishing their program and getting approval from their program sponsor are M-1 visa holders allowed to work. Transferring to a different university is also permitted with the M-1 visa in specific circumstances. 

Important Differences

  • SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fees apply to F-1 and J-1 visas. They must be paid by the student or program sponsor. Holders of M-1 visas are exempt from SEVIS payments. 
  • While J-1 and M-1 visa holders must depart the US within 30 days of finishing their studies, F-1 visa holders can stay in the US as long as they maintain their student status. 
  • The Optional Practical Training (OPT) program permits F-1 visa holders to work in their field of study for up to 12 months. J-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for Academic Training, which allows them to work for up to 18 months in their field of study. OPT and academic training are ineligible for M-1 visa holders. 

In conclusion, selecting the appropriate visa for studying in the US can be challenging. Academic students should use the F-1 visa, exchange visitors should use the J-1 visa, and vocational students should use the M-1 visa. When applying, it’s crucial to thoroughly assess your demands because each visa has unique requirements, limits, and perks. 


Can those with F-1 and J-1 visas apply for green cards?

Yes, F-1 and J-1 visa holders who fulfill specific requirements can be qualified to apply for a green card.

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