Non-immigrant international students usually enter the United States using one of three visa types: F-1, J-1 or M-1. Each visa category is defined by its purpose for travel to the United States.
The F-1 Visa is for students attending a full-time degree or academic program at a school, college or university. The F-1 Visa is valid for as long as it takes the student to finish his or her course of study. An F-1 Visa also allows students to work on campus and in some situations even off campus.
The M-1 Visa is for students enrolled in non-academic or “vocational study.” The M-1 Visa is valid for one year, but students may apply for extensions for up to three years.
The J-1 College and University Student Program is one of the 15 J-1 program categories. J-1 university or college students must pursue a full course of study only at a post-secondary, accredited academic institution in the United States to maintain their J-1 status. The J-1 College and University Student Program offers study in all fields and opportunities to gain important career-related training as a student intern in a program that will fulfill the educational objectives for the student’s degree program in their home country.
J-1 university or college students, like all J-1 visa holders, have a cultural component to their program in addition to their academic work. This component gives J-1 students an opportunity to engage more fully with U.S. citizens and share their cultures with their U.S. host communities.
J-1 university or college students coordinate with the designated program sponsor’s Responsible Officer. Program sponsors are organizations designated by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Private Sector Exchange. These program sponsors monitor the health, safety and welfare of J-1 students throughout their program and ensure they are pursuing a full course of study at a U.S. post-secondary, accredited academic institution and maintaining their status.