Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange

F1 or M1 students who meet the following criteria are not required to have a national interest exception to travel to the United States:

  1. hold a valid F-1 or M-1 visa, and
  2. are in possession of a valid I-20, and
  3. are traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK or Ireland, and
  4. have not been physically present in Brazil, Iran, or China within last 14 days of arrival in the United States

If your F1 or M1 visa is still valid and you intend to resume your studies or undertake Optional Practical Training (OPT), you can travel directly to a United States Port of Entry to apply for admission. This also applies to F-2 and M-2 derivative visa holders. Admission to the United States is at the discretion of CBP officials at the U.S. Port of Entry and all travelers are subject to questioning. No assurances are given in advance.

If you have a valid visa and you will be traveling to undertake OPT, you should carry your annotated Form I-20 and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) in addition to your valid visa and valid passport.

We strongly recommend that all current and prospective F-1 and M-1 students contact their Designated School Official (DSO) to ensure their course of study meets all DHS requirements before they book their travel and review the comprehensive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) FAQ. This includes important information about full course of study requirements and online learning, Form I-20, employment, and the SEVIS fee.

Students who do not currently have a valid visa should click on “How to Apply” below to determine their eligibility for a student visa and to make an appointment for an interview.

J visa exchange visitors should first read information published by the Department of State about current J visa processing and possible exceptions.

Applicants for certain J categories covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 should request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the exceptions listed in the Proclamation.

J- visa holders who believe they qualify for a national interest exception for exchange visitor related purposes must verify this with a Consular official before traveling to the United States. Please click here for more information.

The Student (F-1/M-1) Visa provides opportunities for qualified applicants to study at accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States. With thousands of academic programs, world-class institutions, and unmatched flexibility, the United States offers a wealth of higher-education opportunities. Visit the Department of State’s EducationUSA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, opportunities for scholars, admissions, and more.

The Exchange Visitor (J-1) Visa program provides countless opportunities for international candidates looking to travel and gain experience in the United States. The multifaceted programs enable foreign nationals to come to the United States to teach, study, conduct research, demonstrate special skills or receive on the job training for periods ranging from a few weeks to several years. To learn more about exchange visitor visa programs, program sponsors, and more, please visit

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries who intend to study cannot travel on the VWP or on visitor (B) visas, except to undertake recreational study as part of a tourist visit. Students must travel to the United States with student (F-1 or M-1) visas. For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.

For short periods of recreational study, a Visitor (B) visa can be used. Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, which is not for credit toward a degree or academic certificate, is permitted on a visitor (B) visa. Learn more about Visitor Visas.

Study leading to a U.S. conferred degree or certificate is not permitted on a visitor (B) visa, even if it is for a short duration. For example, distance learning which requires a period of time on the institution’s U.S. campus requires an F-1 visa.