In February 2006, the US Department of State issued a cable that will allow a student and her/his dependants to obtain their visas 120 days in advance of the start of the academic program. This cable indicated that an individual seeking initial entry to the U.S. as a student (or as the dependant of a student), on the F-1, F-2, M-1, or M-2, may be issued a visa up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on the primary applicant's SEVIS I-20 Form. However, even if the visa is issued early, the student and his/her dependents cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date indicated on the SEVIS I-20 Form issued by the school. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may issue an interim or final rule in the near future, increasing this period to 45 days. Currently, the rule is 30 days.
A person who previously has entered the U.S. in F-1, F-2, M-1, or M-2 status may apply for a visa and enter the U.S. at any time, as long as s/he is maintaining status as a continuing student, or the dependent of a student, and the SEVIS records are up to date. A J-1 or J-2 can also receive the visa at any time, but an initial J-1 or J-2 currently can only enter up to 30 days in advance of the start date.
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