The F visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education (academic studies and/or language training programs) in the United States. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States. Prospective F-1 students must apply at the schools and receive a form I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa. F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the U.S., as their opportunities for legal employment are quite limited. F-2 visas are given to dependents of an F-1 student. F-2 visa-holders are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools.
The M visas are issued for vocational students who wish to pursue education in nonacademic vocational institutions. Language training programs are NOT considered as vocational training. Prospective students must apply at the institutions and receive a form I-20 just as an F-1 visa applicant would. M-1 students must prove that they are able to support themselves and their dependents (if any) in the U.S. as the law limits compensated employment opportunities during their stay.
Applicants of 14-79 years of age are required to be interviewed by consular officers when applying for F visas. Applicants who are 13 years or younger or 80 and older are generally not required to be interviewed. During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.
Your spouse and unmarried, minor children who intend to reside with you during your study may apply for F-2 or M-2 visas. Your school must issue them an individual Form I-20, which is required to apply for their visas. You must provide a copy of your F-1 or M-1 visa and provide proof of relationship. Your minor children are permitted to attend school in the United States while accompanying you.
Students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must have a Form I-20 endorsed for OPT, and apply to USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). When authorized, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to the eligible F-1 student's area of study.