There are three types of student visas to allow a foreign student to study in the United States.
F Academic students
Students applying for a program which requires more than 18 hours of study in a week require an F1 visa. This includes all undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs like MS, MBA, etc. For employment, F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year. However, they may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. After the first academic year, F-1 students may engage in three types of off-campus employment:
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) (pre-completion or post-completion)
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Optional Practical Training Extension (OPT)
F-2 visas are available for spouses or children accompanying F-1 visa recipients. Spouses are not able to work but may accompany and/or apply for their own visa to the U.S. to work or study.
M Vocational students
A type of student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. While the process remains similar to an F1 visa, the difference is that upon entering, the M1 visas are time stamped and students cannot overstay their visit. Once they have completed their studies, M-1 students may do practical training. Like F-1 students, their off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official.
J Exchange Students
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for students, visiting scholars or lecturers pursuing an exchange program. For example, Fulbright scholars and many students on short-term study abroad programs from Indian universities will travel to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.
J1 visa is usually sought by working professional who goes to America on an exchange program, hence the name Exchange Visitor Visa. These may include a 10-month vocational training or some research fellowship, etc. Whichever be the case, the applicants would be notified for the same by the respective institutions. Spouses or children accompanying J-1 Visa recipients may travel on a J-2 Visa. Please note that spouses are able to work when permission is obtained in advance.