The M visa is available to international students who come to the US to pursue a full-time course of study at an established vocational school or other nonacademic school that has been approved by the INS. Typical institutions that accept M students include community and junior colleges that provide vocational and technical training, vocational high schools, and other schools that provide nonacademic training, other than English language instruction. Students are designated M-1 and their spouses and children are M-2.
The most basic requirement for a course of study to qualify for an M-1 visa is that it must lead to a specific educational or vocational objective. The student must engage in a full course of study, the definition of which depends on the type of institution.
Before a foreign student can obtain M-1 status they must first receive a Form I-20 issued by the school that provides information about the school and the student. The school must have accepted the student. After the school issues the I-20, it sends it to the student abroad, who then applies for a visa at their local US consulate. A prospective student who has not yet decided on a school can request a B-2 prospective student visa, and once in the US they can seek M-1 status. Note, however, that is a prospective student does make his or her intentions clear at the time of entry, the INS could very well deny the case.
M-1 students are admitted for a period of one year, or for the amount of time required to complete the course of study. They are also given 30 days grace period in which to depart following completion of the course.