Unlike students with F-1 visas who may be eligible to work during their program of study under certain conditions, students with M-1 visas are not allowed to work on or off campus while they are pursuing their program of study.
Students with M-1 visas are also restricted when it comes to practical training. While students with F-1 visas have various training options, including an option for pre-completion optional practical training, students with M-1 visas have access to just one type of practical training (PT) employment, which is available only after they complete their vocational program to give them training experience in their vocational field.
Any PT must be recommended by a designated school official (DSO) and authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you work without authorization, you will violate the terms of your M-1 student visa and fall out of status. Once you fall out of status, you will be forced to leave the U.S.
To avoid falling out of status, make sure you know the rules before you start working. (These rules are applicable as of the date of this article — Nov. 6, 2017.)
The duration of PT employment depends on the individual student’s program of study. For every four months of full-time study, M-1 students will be eligible for one month of PT with a maximum of six months. For example, M-1 students enrolled in a 12-month full-time program will be eligible for only three months of PT.
To qualify for PT employment, M-1 students must show the following:
- Their chosen PT is directly related to their program of study;
- They have completed their program of study at a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP); and
- They have valid M-1 student status.
If you are an M-1 student and want to learn more about your training eligibility, you should speak with your DSO. You should also determine at this time if you need to apply to USCIS for an extension of status at the same time you apply for PT authorization, since M-1 students are admitted to the U.S. only until a certain date.
Here’s what you need to do to get authorization for PT:
- You must obtain your DSO’s approval. Your DSO can authorize PT employment for you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and provide you with an updated Form I-20 M/N, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status — For Vocational Students,” that shows DSO approval for PT employment.
- Once you have the new Form I-20 M-N, you must file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization,” along with a Form I-539, “Application to Change/Extend Nonimmigrant Status,” if necessary, within 30 days of receiving your recommendation. You must also pay the requisite fee to USCIS.
- If USCIS approves your application, you will receive a Form I-766 (EAD), which will specify the dates that you may work. Please note that you may not commence PT employment before you receive your EAD.
How far in advance can you get the process going?
You may apply up to 60 days before you complete your program of study, but you may not start working until after you complete your studies. The deadline for application is 30 days after completing your program of study.
Program post-completion caveat
What should M-1 students do after completing their program?
Always be mindful to maintain your visa status. If you are on an M-1 visa and have completed your program of study and any authorized period of PT, you have 30 days after the program end date on your Form I-20 to leave the U.S. The latest date you may remain in the United States is the “admit until” date on your Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” unless you filed for an extension with USCIS.
If you wish to extend your stay without violating your status, you should talk to your DSO and consider other options, such as transferring to another school, changing the level of education you are pursuing, and/or changing your visa status.
Susan Chu is a writer and editor who likes to write about trends in higher education.