Getting a Student Visa to Study in Los Angeles / Southern California


Southern California, and Los Angeles in particular, is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the world, including UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, San Diego State, Fullerton, and Occidental College, just to name a few. Students flock from all over the world to Southern California to attend these schools, and for good reason as the region provides immense benefits and features for students that go far beyond the classroom.

But for international students who are not green card holders or American citizens, it will be necessary to obtain a visa to legally enter the United States and study at one of these schools. The primary two student visas are the F-1 and M-1 visas.

It is critical to obtain entry to an accredited school as a prerequisite to obtaining a F-1 or M-1 visa, but that is not the end of the story. There are other legal requirements essential to obtaining a student visa, and an experienced Los Angeles immigration attorney can be helpful in making sure the process is done correctly and smoothly so as to ensure that you are able to enter the U.S. legally to continue your studies.


Eligibility for F-1 and M-1 Visas

The M-1 student visa is for vocational students (students receiving training for a specific vocation) while the F-1 student visa is for students working towards an academic degree. Your school will likely be able to tell you which type of visa you are eligible for based on the program you are entering.

While many eligibility requirements and immigration conditions are the same for both the F-1 and M-1 visas, there are some key differences. Namely, students with a M-1 visa are not able to change their course of study while in the U.S., while F-1 students can do so through a simple process. In addition, M-1 visa holders cannot work while on the visa, while F-1 visa holders are able to do some types of on-campus jobs.

Beyond being accepted to an accredited school, other requirements for receiving an F-1 visa or M-1 visa include, among other things:

  • Demonstrating that you will return to your home country after your visa expires
  • Demonstrating that you are indeed going to use the visa to study and not for an ulterior motive
  • Showing that you have a full-time course of study at your school
  • Proving you have knowledge of English, i.e. can pass the TOEFL.
  • Proving you have adequate financial resources for your time in the U.S.

Both M-1 and F-1 visa holders may be eligible to legally bring spouses and minor children with them to the U.S. during their time of study.


Applying For a Student Visa While in the U.S.

You may apply for a student visa either from your home country or while in the U.S. If you do choose to apply for the student visa while in the U.S., you will also need to show that:

  • You are legally in the U.S.
  • You did not illegally enter the U.S.
  • You have not illegally worked in the U.S.

To obtain a visa, you will need to prepare a change of status application and submit it to the proper authorities. Your immigration attorney can walk you through all steps of this process and provide ongoing advice regarding your immigration options and obligations (and those of your immediate family) throughout your time in the U.S.


Contact the Los Angeles Immigration Attorneys at Gastelum Law

At the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC, our attorneys have experience in all aspects of immigration, including obtaining visas, green cards, citizenship, and in avoiding deportation. With offices in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, we have the ability to work with clients from all backgrounds, and our professionals speak English, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, and Farsi. Contact the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum and Associates, PLC today to discuss your immigration matter.